[Land Reforms] Land Satyagraha & other Civil Society movements in India during 70s and 80s

polity2 Comments

Laxmikanth (English)Laxmikanth Hindi
  1. Great Land Struggle, 1970s
  2. Land for Tillers Freedom (LAFTI), Tamil Nadu, 80s
  3. Land Satyagraha, Chattisgarh, late 80s

Great Land Struggle, 1970s

WHEN1970s
WHO?
  • Bhartiya Khet Mazdoor Union, All India Kisan Sabha and Communist Party of India
  • Nearly 15 lakh agricultural workers, poor peasants, the tribals, workers and the poor from the towns
  • Trade unions and students, the youth and the women’s organizations came forward and directly participated in the struggle.
TYPEmilitant mass movement
WHY? to highlight the fact that land is concentrated in the hands of a few landlords, former princess, zamindars and monopolists and to alert public attention to the urgent need for radical agrarian reforms.

OBJECTIVES/ACTIONS

  1. Occupy the government lands, forest lands, the land belonging to landlords, monopolist, black marketeers.
  2. Start cultivating on ^above land
  3. Landless fight for full ownership of land
  4. Tenants fight to reduce rent
  5. Tribals fight for tribal land grabbed by forest contractors and moneylenders from the plains.
  6. Urban poors fight for vacant land for housing
  7. Everyone fight to get radical amendments to the present ceiling laws and distribution of surplus land.

TWO PHASES:

PHASEWhatWho?
JULY, 1970Occupying government land and forest landall the states, except Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Manipur and J & K,
AUGUST, 1970Occupying huge farms of landlords, former princes, Monopolists like Birlas etc.all states, except Assam (due to heavy flood) and Kerala (due to Mid-term election) participated.

Overall, More than 2 lakh acres of land was occupied, more than lakhs of people arrested.

OUTCOMES

  1. While Bhoodan movement silently faded away from public memory and political arena silently, but the great land Satyagraha, created ripples in the public mind and ruling party.
  2. Before the land struggle, the Union and the state governments never felt the urgency of solving the land problem. But now, Every state government came out with figures & plans to distribute wasteland among the poor.
  3. For the first time, land distribution started in actual practice, and some landless people got Pattas of land.
  4. Birlas were exposed as the biggest land grabber of India. Their farms in Uttaranchal and Punjab were distributed to farm labourers.
  5. Government appointed Central Land Reform Committee to address agrarian inequalities in the country.

Land for Tillers Freedom (LAFTI), Tamil Nadu, 80s

LAFTI was founded by Krishnammal and her husband Jagannathan in 1981.

Features/Actions by LAFTI

  1. Earlier we saw how rich farmers in Tamilnadu transfereed their land to fake trusts/charitable organizations/ schools, hospitals and dharrnashalas to avoid land ceiling.
  2. LAFTI organized people against such illegal holdings and pleaded government to takeover such land and redistribute it among the landless poor.
  3. Highlighted the loopholes in the land related acts. LAFTI petitioned the President of India about the weaknesses in the Benami transection ordinance and how landlords evaded ceilings.
  4. Negotiated with banks and landlords for a reasonable price for the purchase of land. And then redistributed it among landless.
  5. Generally, the nationalized bank charged a high rate of interest (14%) for offering loan for the land transfer projects. LAFTI appealed to the government of India to reduce interest rate to 4%.
  6. Requested government to waive stamp-duty and registration fees for transferring land to landless.
  7. Started its own banking scheme, titled “LAFTI Land Bank”, by involving 10000 landless families. These 10000 people deposited. Re. 1 per day or Rs. 10 per week or Rs. 500 per year for five years.
  8. With this money and help from the government in the form of exemption of stamp duties and registration fees, LAFTI planned to transfer 500 acres of land per year to the landless families.

Land Satyagraha, Chattisgarh, late 80s

CAUSES/REASONS:

  1. Land ceiling act were not implemented because nexus between the land mafia, landlords, bureaucrats, politicians.
  2. Under government’s land distribution schemes- the landless were provided with Pattas (land ownership document) but landmafias / rich farmers / forest contractors did not allow them to physically occupy the land.
  3. State Government made it mandatory for all the landlords to give back tribal land to the tribals. But these landlords would appeal in higher courts and matter kept pending for years.
  4. The tribals lacked the money and means to fight such legal battles. State government didn’t come to their help.
  5. Most of the landless were SC/ST. They were forcibly pushed out of their ancestral land, working as bonded labour because of indebtedness to the rich landlords or village traders.
  6. By 1980’s, there were 4000 bonded labourers in Raipur district alone.

PROGRESS/RESULT:

  • 1988: Land Satyagraha launched in Raipur district. Spearheaded by bonded labours
SloganAction
Zamin Ka Faisla, Zamin Par Hoga (All land issues will be settled on the land itself).
  • Staging dharnas (sit-ins), hunger strikes on the disputed land.
  • All the concerned officials, including from police to Patwari, Tehsildar to magistrate should come the disputed land and settle the matter.
Zamin Do Ya Jail Do” (give us land or imprisonment).
  • Peasants would court arrest and go to jail in a peaceful manner.
  • 1993: thousands of villages courted arrest
  • Finally government officials refused to arrest people as there was no room left in Jails.
Chakka-JamBlocking traffic on the mains roads.
“Jaun Khet man nagar Chalahi, wohi khet ke malik ho” (land to the tiller)
  • directly plough the fields with or without government intervention.
  • At almost all the places, the poor, landless, and small farmers went in large numbers with their ploughs and bullocks, to register their claim over the ancestral land.
  • At some places people were able to register their control over the land, whereas in other places the official, in connivance with the landlords and the powerful politician, forcibly dispossessed the people from the land.

The land Satyagraha initiated a new dimension, a new movement, among the people to take control over their resources.
Mock Question: Explain the four significant outcomes of the great land struggle.

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So far 2 Comments posted

  1. Amit

    Land Satyagraha, Chattisgarh, late 80s
    Chattisgarh in 80’s ???

  2. sai

    chattisgarh was formed in late 2000, how come it be in existence in 1986

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