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Essay on Land Reforms in India


In this essay we will discuss about Land Reforms. After reading this essay you will learn about: 1. Meaning of Land Reforms 2. Need or Role of Land Reforms in India 3. Objectives 4. Measures 5. Factors Responsible for Poor Performance 6. Suggestions for Attaining Success in Implementation.

Land Reforms in India Contents:

  1. Essay on the Meaning of Land Reforms
  2. Essay on the Need or Role of Land Reforms in India
  3. Essay on the Objectives of Land Reforms in India
  4. Essay on the Land Reform Measures Introduced in India
  5. Essay on the Factors Responsible for Poor Performance of Land Reforms
  6. Essay on the Suggestions for Attaining Success in the Implementation of Land Reforms

1. Essay on the Meaning of Land Reforms:

By the term ‘land reforms’, we mean reforms of institutional factors related to land. In order to raise the agricultural production and also increase the level of income and standard of living of the cultivators, institutional factors along with technical factors are playing an important role. These institutional factors include land tenure system, land holdings; farming structure, land distribution, intermediaries etc.

Land reform measures have been introduced by various underdeveloped and developing countries for attaining a rational land distribution pattern and viable farming structure. Accordingly, E.V. Long has rightly observed. “In most of the underdeveloped countries land reforms is one of the main cornerstones of agrarian policy.” In order to attain institutional changes in agrarian structure, land reforms are considered effective. Prof. Gunner Myrdal argued, in this connection, “Land reforms are a planned and institutional reorganisation of the relation between man and land.”


The term ‘land reforms’ has two different senses. In a narrow sense, land reforms are concerned with those reforms related to land ownership and land holdings. But in a broad sense, the term ‘land reforms’ is used to mean those measures of reforms necessary to raise agricultural productivity which include reforms relating to fixation of rent on land, abolition of intermediaries, credit and marketing arrangements etc.

The following are some of the important general measures incorporated in land reforms:

(i) Measure Related to Distributive Justice:

These measures are aimed to attain distributive justice in land sharing through abolition of intermediaries, redistribution of land among landless cultivators recovered through abolition of intermediary tenure and ceiling on land holdings.

(ii) Tenancy Measures:

Land reforms also include some tenancy measures like ceiling on land holdings, fixation of tenure, regulation of rent, remission of rents during natural calamities etc.

(iii) Measures for Agrarian Reorganisation:


These measures of agrarian reorganisation are mostly related to the size of holdings. The problems arising out of continuous fragmentation and subdivision of holdings are attempted to be removed through consolidation of holdings, co-operative farming etc.

2. Essay on the Need or Role of Land Reforms in India:

There is a great need for land reforms in a country like India where majority of its population is still depending on agriculture. One of the main reasons behind the backwardness of Indian agriculture is the defective land policy followed in the country.

Accordingly, Harold Man observed, “The fundamental obstacle to rural progress was not technical but the institutional framework of Indian agriculture.” There are number of defects of land policy pursued in India. The Planning Commission of India has underlined some defects of our land policy.

These are:


(i) Presence of multiplicity of intermediaries between the Government and cultivator,

(ii) Lack of adequate security of tenure,

(iii) Fixation of high rent and lack of incentive,

(iv) Large scale sub-division and fragmentation of holdings and the impediments arising out of it towards adoption of modern and scientific methods of cultivation,

(v) Unequal distribution of land,

(vi) Low productivity per hectare of land, and

(vii) Increasing inequality between rich and poor as a result of green revolution.

It is being increasingly felt by renowned economists like G. Myrdal and K.N. Raj that in order to develop agriculture of our country land reforms is considered much more important than technological reforms.

The following are some of the important land reforms in India:

(i) Economic Holding:


Land reforms can pave the way for creating economic holding through redistribution of land to small and marginal farmers. This will facilitate adoption of modern improved farming techniques.

(ii) Providing Incentives:

Removal of intermediaries and tenancy system followed by the system of giving ownership of land to actual cultivators through land reforms can ensure the benefit of cultivation to the tiller of the soil. This will create incentive in the minds of the farmers to devote much more effort and to raise the volume of investment for adopting new farming technology.

(iii) Increase in Productivity and Production:

Land reform measures have special importance for the farming community as the reform of the land tenure system and increase in the size of holding along with development of co-operative farming can lead to increase in productivity and the volume of productions.

(iv) Establishing Link between Government and Farmers:

Land reforms can establish a direct link between Government and farmers by abolishing intermediaries. This will facilitate the government to implement plan for agricultural development in a smooth manner.

(v) Attaining Social Justice:


Land reforms can pave the way for attaining social justice among the millions of farmers in India by transferring them ownership rights to land, fixing ceiling on land holdings and by abolishing the system of exploitation of farmers.

Thus it is found that land reforms have a special importance in a agricultural country like India. In this connection, the Seventh Plan document has rightly mentioned.

“Redistribution of land could provide a permanent asset base for a large number of rural landless poor for taking up land based and other supplementary activities. Similarly consolidation of holdings, tenancy regulation and up-dating of land records would widen the access of small and marginal land holders to improved technology and inputs and thereby directly lend to increase agricultural production.”

3. Essay on the Objectives of Land Reforms in India:

In agriculture and allied activities, land is considered as one of the basic inputs of production. Remodeling of existing agrarian structure is extremely essential in order to ensure the achievement of the desired objectives in agricultural production in conformity with-the well accepted concepts of social justice.


The main objectives of land reforms in India were to alter the pattern of land ownership and to bring a systematic structural change in rural society for the attainment of the goal of production and justice.

As mentioned in the Second Five Year Plan of the country, the objective of land reforms was to create necessary conditions for evolving an agrarian economy with high degree of efficiency and productivity and also to establish an egalitarian society as early as possible.

The Fifth Plan draft mentioned that “the objectives of land policy have been to remove such motivational and other impediments in agricultural production as arise from agrarian structure inherited from the past and also to eliminate all elements of exploitation and social injustice within the agrarian system so as to ensure equality of tenurial status and opportunity to all sections of rural population.”

Thus land reforms in India aim at conferring security of tenure, fixation of rents, conferment of ownership etc. through the abolition of intermediaries and bringing the actual tiller in direct contact with the state.

Following are some of the important objectives of land reforms in India.

(i) Rational Use of Resources:

One of the important objectives of land reforms in India is to make provision for more rational use of scarce land resources by changing the conditions of holdings, imposing ceilings on land holdings, so as run the cultivation process in a most economical manner without any waste of land, labour and capital.

(ii) Raising Production Level:


Another important objective of land reforms in India is to raise the production level of the agricultural sector by motivating the farmers to raise their output and also by giving incentives.

(iii) Removing Exploitation:

Removing exploitation of poor farmers is an important objective of land reforms. This can be attained by redistributing agricultural land in favour of less previleged class of farmers and also by improving the terms and conditions for possessing land for cultivation by actual tillers, through abolition of intermediaries.

(iv) Social Welfare:

Land reforms in India also aim at promoting social welfare for rural masses and also to end social injustice through equitable distribution of income. It makes arrangement for distributing land to landless cultivators by imposing ceiling on land holdings and also by acquiring ceiling surplus land. Moreover, by introducing tenancy reforms the level of social welfare of farmers, in general, can also be raised.

(v) Planned Development:

To attain planned development of agricultural sector on long term basis is another important objective of land reforms in India. Land reforms can pave the way for adopting modern methods of cultivation and farming through consolidation of holdings and also by establishing direct link between government agencies and farmers for the development of agriculture in a planned manner. In this connection, the Planning Commission has rightly observed, “Land reforms have been treated as an integral part of eradicating poverty, modernisation of agriculture and increasing the agricultural production programme.”

(vi) Raising the Standard of Living:

Another important objective of land reforms in India is to raise the standard of living of the rural poor through re-distributive packages and programmes. Upliftment of economic condition of landless agricultural labourers, small and marginal farmers can be made through land reforms.

To meet this objective various rural “development programmes like IRDP, JRY, EAS etc. are also designed to support land reforms as an effective measure to raise the standard of living of rural poor by widening their land base.

4. Essay on the Land Reform Measures Introduced in India:

In a country like India reforms has received a special importance. In our successive Five Year Plans, land reform programmes have been given a special importance. The main objectives of land reforms in India would be to alter the pattern of land ownership in the country and to bring about such a structural change in the rural society so as to ensure that the fruits of production are equitably enjoyed by those tillers who toil in the agricultural land.


These measures are as follows:

(i) Abolition of Intermediary Tenures:

Since 1948, steps were being undertaken by various state Governments for enacting legislation for the abolition of intermediary tenures like zamindaris; jagirs and inams which were possessing about 40 per cent of the area of the country. After the conferment of rights on land, nearly 30 lakh tenants and share-croppers acquired ownership rights over a total cultivated area of 62 lakh acre throughout the country.

Moreover, a considerable area of cultivable waste land, private forests etc. have already been acquired and administered directly by the state or local agencies like panchayats and a portion of this land is distributed among the landless cultivators. As a result of the abolition of intermediaries more than 2 crore cultivators have been brought under direct relationship with the state.

But inspite of all these attempts, a rentire class and absentee landlords still exist in our country. H. Venkatsubbiah has stated, “The Party and the Government at the Centre and in States began to give thought to curtailing the power of non- zamindari rentier only at a subsequent stage of their agrarian policy.”

(ii) Tenancy Reforms:

Tenancy problem in India is quite acute. The Fourth Plan documents has observed that about 12.7 per cent of the total agricultural population are tenants and tenants’ households constitute about 23.6 per cent of total cultivating household of our country.


Only a small proportion of the tenants of the country have acquired permanent rights and a great majority of those tenants (nearly 82 per cent) mostly in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal have insecure tenure. In India tenants are broadly divided into three categories—(a) Permanent tenants, (b) Tenants at will or temporary tenants and (c) Sub-tenants.

Measures of tenancy reforms include:

(a) Regulation of rent,

(b) Security of tenure, and

(c) Conferment of ownership of tenants.

(a) Regulation of Rent:


Before 1951 tenants in India had to pay 50 per cent of their total produce as rent. Thus the First and the Second Plan recommended that the volume of rent be reduced to the extent of 20 to 25 per cent of the total production.

Accordingly various states have enacted necessary legislation to regulate rents, even then large variations in the rates of rents fixed by different states still prevails. But due to the weakness of tenants and prevalence of widespread land hunger these legislations failed to regulate the rents perfectly, leading to a much of its breach than in its compliance.

(b) Security of Tenure:

Tenancy legislation in India has also made enough provision for security of tenure. The legislation made a provision that the tenants cannot be ejected from their land so long as they continue to pay rent.

Due to the enactment of tenancy legislation, Indian tenants have acquired complete security in only 9 per cent, and have acquired no security at all in 12 per cent of total cultivated area of the country.

(c) Ownership Rights:

Tenancy legislation enacted by various state Governments have offered these tenants their rights to purchase their holdings. States like Gujarat, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Union territories have already enacted necessary legislations in this regard.

But in the states like Assam, Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir and Tamil Nadu no such legislation has yet been enacted for conferring ownership rights by purchase. Nearly 3 million tenants and share croppers have already been able to acquire ownership rights over the land area of more than 7 million acres.

Besides, provision has also been made to offer compensation for permanent improvements and also for remission of rents to tenants during natural calamities.

(iii) Ceiling on Land Holdings:

Imposition of ceiling on landholdings considered as one of the very important measures towards land reforms in the country. In India land reforms had envisaged that beyond a certain specified limit, all lands belonging to a particular person would be taken over by the Government and then the same be allotted to the landless cultivators and small farmers.

Imposition of ceiling on land holding is quite justified on the ground that availability of land for cultivation in the country is not only very much limited but also the number of claimants of such land is numerous. Thus retaining of a huge area of land by a single household is not at all justified.

Thus imposition of ceiling on land holding can remove inequalities in land ownership and secondly redistribution of this surplus land will increase the scope of employment in the rural areas.

In India, legislation for the imposition of ceiling on land holding was implemented in two phases. In its first phase, i.e., till 1972, individual was taken as an unit and in its second phase, i.e., after 1972, family was taken as an unit in determining ceiling on land holdings. Besides, to have a more equitable distribution of land, ceiling limit was also gradually reduced in various states.

The imposition of ceiling on land holdings is a peculiar problem as it is subjected to the problems of malafied transfers, payment of compensation and allotment of surplus lands among the landless or displaced persons.

Till 1972, under the old ceiling laws about 23 lakh acres of land were declared surplus in India and out of which only 12.55 lakh acres were redistributed. States like Bihar, Orissa, Karnataka and Rajasthan failed to acquire any surplus land. Moreover, there was lack of uniformity about the adoption of this legislation between the different states of the country.

Thus in July 1972, a conference of Chief Ministers adopted the following major guidelines for the imposition of land ceilings in India:

(i) The ceiling limit of the best category irrigated land would range between 10 to 18 acres and that of inferior land will have a ceiling limit of 54 acres.

(ii) The unit shall be a family consisting of five members including husband, wife and minor children. If the size of family exceeds five additional land may be allowed and in that case the total area should not exceed twice the ceiling limit for a family.

(iii) The ceiling should not operate on those land held under plantation of tea, coffee, rubber, cardamom, cocoa and all other land held by industrial or commercial undertaking.

As per guidelines, the ceiling laws were amended in all states and were implemented retrospectively from January 24, 1971. Accordingly, 17 state Governments revised their ceiling laws. As a result of this revision 73.48 lakh acres of land were acquired by the State Governments as surplus out of which 44.92 lakh acres were distributed among 41.52 lakh landless cultivators.

Again 20.33 lakh persons, i.e., 45% of the beneficiaries were belonged to scheduled caste and scheduled tribe. Thus the progress in respect of ceiling on land holdings is found very slow in India.

In India, ceiling on land holding was never implemented in proper way. Mr. Ladenjinsky rightly stated, “while officially the states accepted the ceiling programmes, they rejected them in practice.”

Dr. Khusro rightly observed, “The scheme of motioning, through imposition of ceiling on present holding, ended virtually in a fiasco. Its breakdown is a supreme example of how a perfectly sound programme can come to naught on socio-political grounds.”

The successful implementation of land ceiling legislation needs a strong and efficient administrative machinery in villages where official machineries are easily influenced by powerful vested interests.

5. Essay on the Factors Responsible for Poor Performance of Land Reforms:

The factors which are mostly responsible for the poor performance of land reforms in India are as follows:

(i) Faults in Legislation:

The legislation enacted for land reforms in India is having certain built-in faults. These includes—unsatisfactory definition of personal cultivation; unlimited retention of land for personal cultivation; large-scale transfer of land by the Zamindars to their family members leading to a large scale evasion of land ceiling law; inadequate definition of tenant from the point of view of tenancy reform; forcible voluntary surrender of land by tenants to landlords due to omission of share croppers and informal tenants from the provision of the laws related to tenancy reform in some states and inadequate ceiling laws at the initial stage, leading to realisation of small areas as surplus followed by illegal transfer of land.

(ii) Lack of Political Will:

Strong political will determination and courage are very much important for the implementation of land reform measures related to restructuring property relations. But unfortunately, this is very much absent in Indian context which leads the land reform measures into a almost mere slogan.

The Report of Task Force on Agrarian Relations, in this connection, observed, Enactment of progressive measures of land reforms and their efficient implementation call for hard political decisions and effective political support, direction and control.

In the context of the socio-economic conditions prevailing in the rural areas of the country no tangible progress can be expected in the field of land reform in the absence of the requisite political will.

The sad truth is that this crucial factor has been wanting. The lack of political will is amply demonstrated by the large gaps between policy and legislation and between law and its implementation. Considering the character of the political power structure obtaining in the country it was only natural that the required political will was not forthcoming.

Thus, so long the required political will is not forthcoming; implementation of land reform measures in true spirit will be very difficult.

(iii) Bureaucratic Obstacles:

Bureaucratic obstacles are also another impediment in the path of implementation of land reform measures in India. Sometimes, enthusiastic administrators are demoralised by the political losses. The bureaucracy always tried to play safe by following a ‘lukewarm’ attitude. In some cases, even administrators have joined hands with the politician to grab the surplus land (declared).

In this connection, Wolf Ladejinsky observed, “These are officers and public men who have taken law into their own hands; misused their authority and influence and have occupied large areas by terrorising the local population, forcibly evicting the existing tenants and occupant in collision with police and field revenue staff. The local population is so scared of them, particularly of the officers, that they were not willing to tell the truth to the members of the Committee when they inspected the farms set up by some of them.”

Thus, the rich peasant power is dominating in every layer of Government and they are subverting the land reforms in such a manner that the implementation of land reform measures is becoming more and more difficult.

(iv) Uncoordinated:

The land reform policy in India is being implemented at a slow pace and also in a very uncoordinated manner leading to a total delay in implementing the reforms.

(v) Differences in the Laws related to Land Reforms:

The laws related to land reforms are having some differences in different states. This has resulted in slow pace of implementation in land reforms and also made it discriminatory. Moreover, these laws could not be implemented simultaneously at the national level in a smooth manner.

(vi) Litigation:

The faults and defects in laws related to land reforms has resulted in growing number of litigations which has dampen the spirit of reforms and has also delayed its implementation. At present, total amount of land declared surplus under provisions of Land Ceiling Act but remained under litigation stands at 9.59 lakh acres.

(vii) Incomplete Land Records:

Land records collected by the state Governments are incomplete. This has been creating difficulties in determining the ownership of land, leading to implementation of land reforms difficult.

(viii) Ineffective Implementation:

Another important reason behind the poor performance of land reforms is the lack of effective implementation of these measures. Due to this reason, the abolition of zamindari system was delayed and imposition of ceiling on land holdings could not derive a satisfactory result.

(ix) Non-Participation in Government Programmes:

The land reforms in India could not make much headway as a result of non-participation of the people in the Government programmes. In India, marginal and small farmers, tenants and landless agricultural labourers are showing very little interest in the implementation of land reforms as a result of their ignorance and poverty. All these have resulted in the implementation of the programme at a very slow pace.

Thus, considering all these factors it can be observed that under the prevailing situation it is very difficult to implement the various land reform measures in the country.

Accordingly, the Task Force observed:

“In a society in which the entire weight of Civil and Criminal laws, Judicial pronouncements and precedents, administrative tradition and practice is thrown on the side of the existing social order based on the inviolability of private property, an isolated law aiming at the restructuring of property relation in the rural areas has little chance of success. And whatever little chance of success was there that was completely evaporated because of the loopholes in the laws and protected litigation.”

6. Essay on the Suggestions for Attaining Success in the Implementation of Land Reforms:

In order to implement the land reform measures successfully the following suggestions are worth mentioning:

(i) Effective Implementation:

In order to attain success in land reform measures, steps be taken by the Government for implementing these measures efficiently and also in most effective manner. For this purpose, a time bound programme should be chalked out.

(ii) Efficient Administrative Machinery:

For implementing the land reforms at a quicker pace, the administrative machinery of the Government should become efficient upto district and tehsil level. The officials engaged in the department must acquire adequate knowledge on the laws related to land reforms for their smooth and speedy implementation.

(iii) Up-to-date Records:

For successful implementation of land reforms, up-to -date land records should be prepared and steps also be taken to up-date the land records continually through computerisation.

(iv) Simplifying Legal Methods:

For speedy and smooth implementation of land reform measures the legal provisions relating to it should be simplified. Special courts may need be set up for speedy disposal of cases in a most economic manner.

(v) Land Reform Laws:

Land reform laws should be made unchallengeable. Raj Krishna Committee has suggested, in this connection that the laws relating to land reforms should be incorporated in the Ninth schedule of the constitution so as to make it more firm and unchallengeable.

(vi) Popularising Laws:

In order to popularise the laws relating to land reforms there should be comprehensive publicity of such laws among the rural people. These laws should be published in different languages and be distributed through Block Development officials. This sort of publicity would arouse consciousness of the poor farmers about their rights and duties related to implementation of land reform measures.

(vii) Quick Distribution of Acquired Land:

Adequate steps must be taken to distribute the acquired ceiling surplus land quickly among the poor and landless cultivators for its best possible uses.

(viii) Lessening political Interference:

Political interference prevailing in the implementation of land Reforms should be reduced to the minimum level so that land reform laws can serve for the best interest of the country.

(ix) Village Societies:

Steps be taken for setting up village societies for the effective and efficient implementation of land reforms. Members, enrolling their names in such societies can take adequate suitable steps for the implementation of land reforms.

(x) Financial Assistance:

Farmers getting ceiling surplus land should get adequate financial assistance for the proper use of their land. The agriculture Department should also provide necessary knowhow and other assistance for the best utilisation of such land.

Thus, the main challenge before the land reform programme is to dislodge the vested interests on land and legal support offered by the judicial system to those vested interest groups in the guise of sanctity of private property.

In order to break such an impasse the following suggestions of the Task Force should be followed in true spirit:

(i) As the Judicial system is time consuming and dilatory, thus in respect of the implementation of various land reform measures, judiciary should not be involved.

(ii) Organisation of the poor peasantry in the form of strong militant trade unions is, no doubt, a pre­condition for the successful implementation of land reforms. Formation of land reform committee by the Government at the village, taluqa or district level having majority representation of marginal farmers, share croppers and landless cultivators for the implementation of land reform measures will be a good step in this direction.

In the mean time, some state Governments have barred the jurisdiction of civil courts in respect of ceiling on landholdings and also made subsequent provision in ceiling laws for necessary appeal and revisions through revenue courts and tribunals.

Moreover, necessary steps be taken to record the rights of the share croppers for providing security of tenancy. The Mid-term Appraisal of the Sixth Plan has commended the efforts and performances of the West Bengal Government in this respect and accordingly it observed, “In West Bengal, share croppers are being registered in the record of rights under a special programme to enable them to get the benefit of security of tenancy. The mechanisms evolved in this regard in West Bengal for the recorded share croppers and assignees of ceiling surplus land may be adopted with suitable modifications in other areas also.”

The Mid-term Appraisal also suggested to include these poorest segments of the community in rural development programmes like IRDP, NREP, DPAP etc. “for the productive use of land or to reap the benefit of security of tenancy.” But in real practice the Government has failed to establish such a linkage between the land reforms measures and rural, development programmes.

Accordingly, the Seventh Plan observed, “Land Reforms have been recognised to constitute a vital element both in terms of the anti-poverty strategy and for modernisation and increased productivity in agriculture.” But it was found that in real practice, “there was little or no linkage between this Programme and IRDP or the NREP/RLEGP, and it functioned in isolation.”

Thus, it can be finally observed that the land reforms in India are still far away from achieving its goals.

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