- Ceiling Phase 1: Freedom to 1972
- Salient Features
|1946||(just before freedom) All India Kisan Sabha demanded a maximum limit of landownership of 25 acres per landholder|
|1947||Economic Program committee headed by Nehru, Recommended, ‘The maximum size of holdings should be fixed. The surplus land over such a maximum should be acquired and placed at the disposal of the village’|
During this phase, Land ceiling reform ran on following principles/features:
- States were given freedom to fix land ceiling based on soil conditions, irrigation facilities, agrarian history of the region etc.
- States had to conduct census of landholdings and classify agriculture land into two parts:
|Classification of land||What to do here?|
Sounds good on paper? Yes. But Land Ceiling during this phase=EPICFAIL. Why?
|by the end of 1961||most states passed land ceiling Acts|
|by the end of 1970||
|by the end of 1970||
So why did this happen? Why didn’t land ceiling acts achieve desired result? Because of following reasons:
- Initially States imposed the land ceiling on individual and not on family.
- So big farmers transferred their land to sons, daughters, wives, relatives (sometimes even non-existent/dead family member) to avoid crossing the ceiling.
- Many states provided extra-ceiling if family exceeded five members. Example Andhra Pradesh had allowing 6 to 72 acres (depending on the nature of land) per ‘extra’ member of the family.
- In these day, there was no family planning= large sized family=very few families ‘crossed’ the land ceiling.
Thus, land ceiling definition itself defeated the noble purpose of land distribution.
During this era, more than 70% of the landholdings were below 5 acres. Yet the ceilings were fixed too high, example:
|Andhra Pradesh||27-312 (depending on land quality)|
|Kerala||15 to 37.5 acres|
|Punjab||30 to 60 acres|
|West Bengal||25 acres|
|Maharashtra||18 to 126 acres|
Result? Very few people crossed the land ceiling. Hardly any surplus land taken away.
2nd Five year plan recommended following categories of land be exempted from “ceiling” laws:
- tea, coffee and rubber plantations, orchards,
- specialized farms engaged in cattle breeding, dairying, wool raising, etc.,
- sugarcane farms operated by sugar factories
- Efficiently managed farms on which heavy investments had been made.
- Land belonging to charitable trusts.
2nd Five year plan’s intention was good- it wanted to promote capitalist/progressive farming and make foundation for the future green revolution.
But State government implemented this policy in letter and not in spirit. Result?
- ‘Efficiently managed farm’ was vaguely defined. So many farmers evaded the ceilings by simply getting themselves declared ‘efficient’.
- Tamilnadu exempted land held by cooperatives from land ceiling act. So, Landlords transferring their lands to bogus cooperatives.
- Many rich farmers setup bogus charitable trusts in connivance with state officials, then transferred land to charitable trust and avoided ceiling.
- State governments took lot of time to pass the land ceiling legislation.
- This gave big farmers enough time to sell their excess lands, or to transfer it to their relatives and even make benami transfers.
- Landowners evicted tenants and resume cultivation by themselves (on paper) claiming they had shifted to “Efficient” farming (so the land ceiling cannot apply). But in reality they just hired sharecroppers/landless labourers to do all the work.
- Thus, by the time the ceiling legislations were in place, there were barely any holdings left above the ceiling and consequently little surplus land became available for redistribution.
- Third Five year plan also admitted this limitation.
- Recall that during Zamindari abolition, the Zamindars tried all tricks to resist government’s attempt. At that time, superior tenants/rich farmers supported government (with hope of getting land)
- Now as governments tried to put land ceiling on these superior tenants/rich farmers=they tried all tricks to resist land ceiling
- using their vote bank clout over political parties at state level=bills passed with lot of delay.
- conniving with petty revenue official at village and tehsil level to transfer land to family members and benami persons to avoid ceiling
- filling flimsy court cases to delay the implementation
Thus history repeated itself – those who sought land reform earlier, now became opponents of land reforms themselves. Anyways, so far first phase: 1947-1972, land ceiling is epicfail. Now let’s check the second phase:
- Evaluate the Impact of land Ceiling and distribution of surplus land on rural power structure post-independence.
- Examine the reasons behind dismal performance of land ceiling reforms in India.
- Write a note on the land ceiling reforms before 1972. Why were they unsuccessful?
[Land Reform] is a long topic, I’ve split it into several parts. Therefore, to get comprehensive list of all articles, visit Mrunal.org/Polity.