At the time of Independence the agrarian structure was characterized by parasitic, rent-seeking intermediaries, different land revenue and ownership systems across regions, small numbers of land holders holding a large share of the land, a high density of tenant cultivators, many of whom had insecure tenancy, and exploitative production relations.
India’s land policy in the decades immediately following its independence was dominated by legislative efforts to address the problems identified by the Kumarappa Committee.
Land Reforms help to improve socio-economic conditions of the country
- Abolition of the zamindari system: It included abolition of Zamindari, Ryotwari and Mahalwari systems.
- Tenancy reforms: Ensured Rent Regulation, Security of land tenure and conferment of ownership rights on tenants.
- Ceilings on landholdings: To deter the concentration of land in the hands of a few. It ensured redistribution of land from big landlords to landless labourers.
- Consolidation of landholdings: It prevented the fragmentation of land holdings. It brought down the cost of cultivation and reduced litigation among farmers and generated higher incomes.
- Cooperative farming: Here farmers pool their resources and distribute the income as per their share.
- Land Records: Helps in reducing litigation, security for land owners in case of opting for tenancy, better credit availability to small farmers.
Impact of Land Reforms
- The elimination of intermediaries.
- Equitable distribution of Land and increased access of land to the poor and landless.
- Security of tenure especially to occupancy tenants.
- Increase in Rural Wages.
- Security of tenure for rural tenants
Challenges that still exist
- Benami transaction meant redistribution was not done in spirit. The Landholders still continued to hold their control over the land.
- Large Scale litigation
- Land ceiling fixed was different for different states
- Land consolidation was a lengthy and cumbersome process
- Cooperatives were dominated by landholders and the upper class.
The Constitution of India also made land a state (provincial) subject. So, only state (provincial) legislatures have the power to enact and implement land-reform laws. However, the central government played a significant advisory and financial role in land policy based on its constitutional role in social and economic planning (a role held concurrently with the states).
Land policy in India has undergone broadly four phases since Independence.
1. The first and longest phase (1950 – 72) consisted of land reforms that included three major efforts: abolition of the intermediaries, tenancy reform, and the redistribution of land using land ceilings. The abolition of intermediaries was relatively successful, but tenancy reform and land ceilings met with less success.
2. The second phase (1972 – 85) shifted attention to bringing uncultivated land under cultivation.
3. The third phase (1985 – 95) increased attention towards water and soil conservation through the Watershed Development, Drought-Prone Area Development (DPAP) and Desert-Area Development Programmes (DADP). A central government Waste land Development Agency was established to focus on wasteland and degraded land. Some of the land policy from this phase continued beyond its final year.
4. The fourth and current phase of policy (1995 onwards) centres on debates about the necessity to continue with land legislation and efforts to improve land revenue administration and, in particular, clarity in land records.