In this essay we will discuss about Agricultural Labourers in India. After reading this essay you will learn about: 1. Definition and Categories of Agricultural Labourers 2. Magnitude of Agricultural Labourers 3. Conditions 4. Factors Responsible for Poor Condition 5. Measures Adopted by the Government to Improve the Conditions 6. Suggestions for Improving the Conditions.


  1. Essay on the Definition and Categories of Agricultural Labourers
  2. Essay on the Magnitude of Agricultural Labourers
  3. Essay on the Conditions of Agricultural Labourers in India
  4. Essay on the Factors Responsible for the Poor Conditions of Farm Workers
  5. Essay on the Measures Adopted by the Government to Improve the Conditions of Farm Workers
  6. Essay on the Suggestions for Improving the Conditions of Agricultural Labourers

1. Essay on the Definition and Categories of Agricultural Labourers:

Agricultural labourers are those persons who work on the land of others on wages for the major part of the year and earn a major portion of their income as a payment in the form of wages for works performed on the agricultural farms owned by others.

The first Agricultural Labour Enquiry Committee of 1950-51 regarded those workers as agricultural workers who normally worked for 50 per cent of more days on the payment of wages.


The second Agricultural Labour Enquiry Committee, 1956-57 accepted a broad view and included all those workers into agricultural labourers who were badly engaged in agriculture and allied activities like animal husbandry, dairy, piggery, poultry farming etc.

This first committee again classified the agricultural workers into two different categories such as:

(a) attached labourers are those workers who are attached to some other farmer households on the basis of a written or oral agreement.

These attached workers are working as per the wishes of their masters and are not free to work at any other place. They are working both in the house and farms of their masters. Thus, these attached labourers are working as serfs or servants and they are also known as bonded labourers.


(b) On the other hand, casual labourers are those workers who are free to work in any farm on the payment of daily wages.

In India these casual labourers include:

(a) small farmers having a very small size of holdings who devote most of their time working on the farm of others;

(b) landless labourers who exclusively work for others;


(c) tenants who work on leased land but work most of the time on the land of others;

(d) sharecroppers who also work as agricultural labourers.

2. Essay on the Magnitude of Agricultural Labourers:

During the pre-British period, the number of agricultural labourers was very much insignificant. The census of 1881 showed that the total numbers of landless labourers were 7.5 million and in 1921 their number increased to 21 million which constituted nearly 17.4 per cent of the total working population of the country.

The number of agricultural labourers has again increased to 27.5 million in 1951, 31.5 million in 1961 and 47.5 million in 1971. In 1981, the total number of agricultural workers has increased to 55.4 million which was only 22.4 per cent of the total working population.

Again as per 1991 census total number of agricultural workers has increased to 74.6 million which constituted nearly 23.5 per cent of the total working population of the country.

Moreover, the percentage of landless labourers as a proportion of rural labour force has increased from 18 per cent in 1964-65 to 25 per cent in 1981. Official data further shows that about 61 per cent of the rural households either have no land or hold uneconomic holding of less than 1 hectare. These 61 per cent of households in India own just 8 per cent of total cultivable area of the country.

The increase in the number of agricultural labour has resulted from increase in the size of population, decline of cottage and village industries, eviction of small farmers, uneconomic holdings, growing indebtedness and growth of capitalist farming.

3. Essay on the Conditions of Agricultural Labourers in India:

Agricultural labourers are the most exploited unorganised class of the rural population of the country. From the very beginning landlords and zamindars exploited these labourers for their benefit and converted some of them as slaves or bonded labourers and forced to continue the system generation after generation.

It led to wretched condition and total deprivation of the rural masses. After 50 years of independence, the situation has improved. But they remain largely unorganised, and as a result their economic exploitation continues. Their level of income, standard of living and the rate of wages have remained abnormally low.

Agricultural Wages and Income:


In India, the agricultural wages are very low. The First Agricultural Labour Enquiry Committee in its report mentioned that the per capita annual income of agricultural labour families was as poor as Rs 104 in 1950-51 and the annual average income of the household was Rs 447.

The average annual income of the household then declined to Rs 437 in 1955-66 and then it increased to Rs 600 in 1963-64 and then increased significantly to Rs 1,671 during 1974-75.

After the introduction of improved farming methods and mechanisation of the level of income of middle and rich farmers increased but at the same time due to fall in the demand for labour real wages declined. As per the study conducted by Prof. Pranab Bardhan during the period 1960-61 to 1967-68, it was revealed that the agricultural production rose by 6 per cent but the agricultural wages declined in all the states excepting Kerala where the labourers were to some extent organised.

G. Parthasarathy estimated that in 1984-85, the daily money wages varied between Rs 6 and Rs 11 in all the states excepting Punjab, Haryana and Kerala where the level of wages is little bit higher. But the minimum daily wage required for maintaining a minimum subsistence standard of living is Rs 22.


Thus, the level of agricultural wages prevailing in India is very poor and thus the living conditions of agricultural labourers in India are indeed pathetic.

Employment and Other Working Conditions:

In India the agricultural labourers are facing severe unemployment and underemployment problem as there is no alternative sources of employment. Although the system of bonded labour is abolished but according to NSS (32 round) about 3.5 lakh bonded labourers still exist in India.

Workers will have to work from dawn to dusk as there are no fixed hours of work and there is no provision for leave and other benefits.

Growing Indebtedness:

As the level of income of the agricultural labourers is very poor, thus, they are seeking loan from village moneylenders continuously. There is growing indebtedness among the agricultural labourers as the debt per agricultural labour household has increased from Rs 47 in 1950-51 to Rs 347 in 1974-75.


Moreover, the landlord-labourer relationship is also not so healthy in India.

4. Essay on the Factors Responsible for the Poor Conditions of Farm Workers:

Following factors are responsible for the poor conditions of agricultural labourers in India:

(i) Unorganised:

Agricultural labourers in India are totally unorganised as they are ignorant, illiterate and widely scattered. Thus, the farm workers have no capacity to bargain for securing a fair wage level.

(ii) Low Social Status:

Farm workers mostly belong to depressed classes and thus they are lacking the courage to assert their basic rights.

(iii) Seasonal Unemployment:

As the agricultural operations are seasonal thus the farm workers are often facing the problem of seasonal unemployment and under-employment. Farm workers on an average get employment for about 200 days in a year.

(iv) Absence of Alternative Occupations:

In the absence of alternative occupation in the rural areas the farm workers are not getting alternative jobs when they suffer from seasonal unemployment.

(v) Growing Indebtedness:


Agricultural labourers in India are highly indebted. As the level of wages is very poor thus the farm workers have been borrowing from landlords and become bonded labourers ultimately.

Thus, considering these above factors it can be said that the agricultural labourers in India are living in inhuman conditions and in the absence of organised status they are deprived of all the basic amenities of life.

5. Essay on the Measures Adopted by the Government to Improve the Conditions of Farm Workers:

In order to improve the conditions of agricultural labourers in India both the central as well as the state Governments have taken various steps since independence. These measures are as follows:

(i) Abolition of Bonded Labour:

In order to remove agrarian slavery after independence Indian constitu­tion has undertaken legislative measures to abolish the practice of bonded labour. Accordingly, the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976 was passed and about 2.51 lakh bonded labourers were identified and freed in different parts of the country and 2.29 lakh of such labourers were rehabilitated till March, 1995.

Considering various estimates of bonded labourers, a large number of bonded labourers are yet to be liberated in India.

(ii) Minimum Wages Act:

In 1948, the Minimum Wages Act was passed and the state Governments was advised to fix the minimum wages accordingly. But due to some practical difficulties most of the states could not fix minimum wages till 1974. At present most of the states excepting Jammu & Kashmir, Nagaland and Sikkim have enacted necessary legislations for fixing minimum wages.


But due to excessive supply of labour, lack of organisation among rural workers, uneconomic holdings etc., agricultural labourers could not reap much benefit out of this Act.

(iii) Distribution of Landless Laborers:

After passing legislation for fixing ceiling on land holdings, state Government acquired surplus lands and distributed it among the landless labourers. About 74 lakh acres of land were acquired as surplus land and out of which 45 lakh acres were distributed among 41.5 lakh landless labourers. But most of these lands distributed are found unsuitable for cultivation.

(iv) Provision for Housing Sites:

Various states have passed necessary legislations for providing housing sites (01 sq. metres) to agricultural labourers. The Second and Fourth Plans have undertaken various steps for this purpose. Again under Minimum Needs Programme and 20-Point Programme, high priority is being accorded to rural house site-cum-house construction scheme.

As per an estimate, there were nearly 12.2 million houseless families as on March 1985. The Seventh Plan made a provision of Rs 5,777 crore for developing house sites and construction of houses for these labourers.

(v) Various Employment Schemes:

For providing alternative source of employment among the agricultural labourers various schemes have already been launched by both the central and the state Governments. These schemes include Rural Works Programme (RWP), Crash Scheme for Rural Employment (CSRE), Employment Guarantee Scheme (EGS) by the Government of Maharashtra, Food for Work Programme (FWP), National Rural Employment Programme (NREP), Rural Landless Employment Guarantee Programme (RLEGP), Jawahar Rozgar Yojana (JRY) etc.

Among all these schemes NREP and RLEGP got maximum importance. NREP was introduced during the Sixth Plan by central Government to generate gainful employment to the extent of 300-400 million mandays annually along with creation of durable community assets and improving the standard of living of rural poor.


RLEGP was launched in August 1983 for providing employment to landless cultivators. Again in 1989-90 both NREP and RLEGP were merged into JRY. The seventh plan generated employment to the extent of 3,497 million mandays.

(vi) Special Agencies:

During the Fourth Plan two special agencies—Small Farmers Development Agency (SFD\) and Marginal Farmers and Agricultural Labourers Development Agency (MFALA) were developed for conducting Various works like irrigation, land leveling, soil conservation, dairy development, piggery development, poultry breeding etc. During the Fifth Plan both agencies were merged into a single programme.

(vii) 20-Point Programme:

The Government introduced the 20-point economic programme in July 1975 in which steps were taken to improve the economic condition of landless workers and other weaker sections of the society in the rural areas.

These steps include speedy implementation of ceiling laws and then distribute the surplus land among the landless, making provision for housing sites for landless labourers, abolition of bonded labour, liquidation of rural indebtedness and moratorium on recovery of loans from landless workers and reviewing of the minimum wage legislation etc.

6. Essay on the Suggestions for Improving the Conditions of Agricultural Labourers:

In spite of introducing various measures undertaken by the Government, the condition of agricultural labourers still remained precarious.

Under such a situation, following suggestions can be offered for improving conditions of agricultural labourers:


1. To implement the Minimum Wage Act seriously and to revise the minimum wages periodically considering the changing price level.

2. To improve their bargaining power, the agricultural workers should be organised through the formation of unions of farm labourers under the protection and support of the government.

3. To abolish serfdom among the landless agricultural labourers totally.

4. To rehabilitate the agricultural labourers on the acquired land declared surplus under ceiling laws and also on the newly reclaimed land.

5. To create alternative sources of employment by developing small scale and cottage industries in the rural areas.

6. To improve- the conditions of agriculture by adopting improved intensive methods and multiple cropping for raising the productivity of agricultural labourers.

7. To improve the working conditions of agricultural labourers by enforcing fixed hours of work, banning child labour etc.

8. To promote co-operative farming in the rural areas.

9. To improve the standard of living of agricultural labourers by organising special programmes like Minimum Needs Programme.

10. To introduce social security measures for the agricultural workers and also to introduce compulsory insurance on marginal contribution and also to institute old age pension schemes for the agricultural workers by the government.