Land reform refers to all those institutional changes aiming at the redistribution of operational land holdings in favour of the less privileged classes from the view point of optimum utilization of land.
The objectives of economic planning and land reforms in India are to achieve maximum production and to attain a measure of social justice. It further seeks to reduce economic inequalities and avoid concentration of economic power and to prevent exploitation of the under privileged classes. To accelerate development of agriculture, it is necessary to bring about a change in the agrarian (agricultural) structure.
Since 1951, the Govt. has undertaken a number of land reform measures. In the following we are going to discuss the reforms and objectives behind these reforms.
1. Abolition of intermediaries:
Even before independence it was widely recognized that main cause of stagnation in the economy was due to the stagnation in the agricultural structure and that stagnation comes to a large extent by the exploitative nature in agrarian relation. The chief instrument of exploitation was the Zamindars, patronized and promoted by the Govt. It was on account of this reason that not only was the desirability of bringing about changes in agrarian relation accepted but was adopted as a kingpin of land reform policy.
Approximately 57% area of the country was under the Zamindari system on the eve of independence. In some states legislation was passed for the abolition of intermediaries. However, most of the work relating to enactment of laws and acquisition of areas was carried out during the period of The First Five Years plan.
It has been estimated that in all 173 million acres of land was acquired from the intermediaries. More than 20 million tenants were brought under direct relationship with the state. A Sum of nearly Rs 320 crore out of a total estimated amount of Rs 670 crore have been paid to the intermediaries as compensation in cash or in bonds. By June 92, 110.42 lakhs tenants had acquired ownership rights in 144.29 lakhs acres.
2. Tenancy reform
Provisions for Security of tenure and regulation of rent have been adopted. In several States, provision has also been made for bringing tenant into direct relationship with the state and conferring on them the rights of ownership in areas where intermediary tenures did not obtain. As result about 3 million tenants and shore croppers have acquired ownership of more than 7 million acres.
3. Ceilings on holdings
The ceiling legislation have been passed in all states, though the implementation there of has made progress in some states only. A ceiling on agricultural holding means statutory absolute limit on the amount of land which an individual may hold. According to a estimate (June 1997) 72.81 lakhs acres of land have been identified as surplus on the basis of revised ceiling laws. Out of this total, 49.75 lakhs acres had been distributed among the 47.59 lakhs land less. On the whole, the imposition of land ceiling has tended to reduce disparities.
4. Consolidation of holdings
With a view to enlarging the size of land holding; consolidation of uneconomic holdings was undertaken and substantial progress has been made in this connection in Punjab, Haryana, U.P., Maharashtra and H. P. Measures have also been initiated for the prevention of fragmentation.
5. Reorganization of agriculture
Besides measures like consolidation of holdings, ceiling on holdings, steps have been taken, to develop cooperative farming as measure to the reorganization of agriculture. More recently, to benefit the small farmers and to enable them to participate in the new farm technology, Small Farmer’s Development Agency has been set up in selected areas.