1. Prologue
  2. What is Land reform?
  3. Land reforms: broad vs narrow sense
    1. What are the objectives of Land reforms?
    2. Increase production
    3. social justice
    4. Economic development
    5. Improve standard of living
  4. Post-Freedom: Towards land reforms
  5. Why Abolish Zamindari?
  6. First Amendment, 1951
    1. #1: SEBC
    2. #2: Freedom of Speech
    3. #3 Freedom of Profession
    4. #4: Land Reforms
    5. #4 Minor modification
  7. Timeline of Zamindari Abolition by States
  8. Zamindari Abolition Acts: Salient Features
    1. #1: Compensation
    2. #2: Common Land/resources
    3. #3: Ownership transfer
    4. #4: Personal Cultivation
    5. #5: Direct payment of land revenue
  9. Zamindari Abolition: Limitations/Obstacles/Negative points
    1. #1: Land reform Delayed= Land reform Denied
    2. #2: Personal cultivation
    3. #3: New form of Zamindari
    4. #4: Not much for Ryotwari
  10. Zamindari Abolition: Benefits/Positive points
    1. #1: Agro Production increased
    2. #2: Emancipation
    3. #3: Changed rural power structure
    4. #4: Towards an Egalitarian Society
    5. #5: Rise of middleclass
  11. Mock Questions
  12. Appendix: the 9th Schedule


So far in the [Land Reform] series, we’ve seen:

  1. Three land tenure system of the British: Their features, implications.
  2. Peasant struggles for land reforms in British Raj: causes and consequences.
  3. Land reforms, Before independence: by Congress governments in Provinces, their benefits and limitations.

Now we look into land reform measures after the independence. But first, Let’s once again recap the meaning and importance of land reforms.

What is Land reform?

Agro productivity is affected by two type of factors:

  1. land tenure system
  2. size of land holdings
  3. land distribution
  1. climate, soil, rainfall
  2. farm mechanization
  3. farming techniques: use of hybrid seeds, fertilizer, pesticides, irrigation methods

Reforms related to ^institutional factors are called land reforms.

Let’s check some more definitions

def1 Land Reforms is a planned and institutional reorganisation of the relation between man and land
def2 Land Reforms mean deliberate change introduced into system of land tenure and the farming structure
def3 Land reforms imply such institutional changes which turn over ownership of the farms to those who actually till the soil, and which raise the size of the farm to make it operationally viable.”
def4 Land reforms mean, such measures as, abolition of intermediaries, tenancy reforms, ceiling on land holdings, consolidation and cooperative farming etc.
def5 Improving land tenure and institutions related to agriculture.
  • redistribution of property rights
  • For the benefit of the landless poor.
  • integrated program
  • to remove the barriers for economic and social development
  • Caused by deficiencies in the existing land tenure system.

Ya but why learn so many definition? Ans. UPSC may directly give you a definition and ask you to ‘comment’ on it-just like they do in public administration paper I. Example

Mock Questions:

  1. Land Reforms is a planned and institutional reorganisation of the relation between man and land. Comment.
  2. Land reform is not confined to just redistribution of property rights among the landless poor. Comment.
  3. Examine the change introduced into system of land tenure and the farming structure during first five year plan.
  4. Define Land reforms. Examine its role in removing the barriers for economic and social development in India.

Land reforms: broad vs narrow sense

broad sense narrow sense
concerned with land rent, land ownership, land holding, land revenue+ credit, marketing, abolition of intermediaries, etc. Concerned only with land ownership and land holdings.

What are the objectives of Land reforms?

or Why do we need land reforms?

Increase production

  • Tenant farmer has no motivation to improve agricultural practices because
    • He doesn’t own land=can’t get loans through banks / formal institutions.
    • He doesn’t own land=why bother?
    • He has to pay heavy rent to the landowner=hardly any surplus income left to invest in hybrid seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, machinery etc.
  • In other words, the agrarian structure that we inherited from the past (Zamindari, landlessness etc.) obstructs increase in agricultural production. Land reforms will remove these obstructions.
  • Land ownership/ tenure security will motivate farmers to work harder, invest more and thus produce more =more income=standard of life improved + poverty decreased.
  • For Development of Indian agriculture the importance of land reforms is greater than that of technological reforms. (according to Nobel prize-winner Gunnar Myrdal and K.N. Raj, etc.)

social justice

  1. Zamindari abolition= also eliminates Begari (forced labour)
  2. Land ceiling = reduces the inequality of income and land ownership among villagers. Provides land to landless labourers.
  3. Tenancy reforms= reduces rents. Landowner cannot evict a tenant farmer as per his whims and fancies.

1+2+3= Rural power structure changed. Upper caste domination decreased. Empowerment of SC/ST/OBC farmers, agri.labourers.

Thus land reform=> Social justice + Egalitarian society.

Economic development

  1. on one hand: land reform increase production
  2. on the other hand, land reforms will also provide social justice.
  3. Abolishing intermediaries (Zamindar, Talukdar, Jagirdar etc)= the State directly comes in contact with farmers. This direct relation will help in rural Development and agri. Development as per five year plans.

1+2+3=long term economic development.

Improve standard of living


  1. agro production increased
  2. social justice given
  3. Economic development achieved.

1+2+3= villagers’ standard of living automatically increases.

Mock Questions

  1. “Land reforms have been treated as an integral part of eradicating poverty, and increasing of agricultural production.” Comment.
  2. Explain the role of Land reforms in providing social justice and moving towards an egalitarian society.

Post-Freedom: Towards land reforms

At this time, we had two set of victim-farmers

  1. Those refugee-farmers who migrated from Pakistan.
  2. Those exploited by zamindars, landlords and moneylenders.

So first question: what was done for those refugee farmers?

  • Government settled them in Eastern parts of current Punjab (because from this area, muslim farmers had migrated to Pakistan so land was available)
  • First, each refugee farmer family given 4 ht. of land, irrespective of how much land they owned in Pakistan. Government also gave them loans to buy seeds/fertilizers, so they can start temporary cultivation.
  • Later, each refugee family was asked file application regarding how much land they owned in Pakistan.
  • These claims were verified by village assemblies and each family was allotted proportional land in Punjab. by 1950 this work was finished.

Now moving to the second type of victim-farmers: those exploited by zamindars, landlords and moneylenders. What was done for them?

  • November 1947:  the AICC appointed a special committee to draw up an economic programme for the Congress.
  • name of this committee= Economic Program committee
  • Chairman= Nehru.
  • Other members: Maulana Azad, N.G. Ranga, G.L. Nanda, Jayaprakash Narayan etc.

For land reforms, committee recommended that:

  1. All intermediaries between the tiller and the state should be eliminated
aka Zamindari abolition. Covered in this article.
  1. Maximum size of holding should be fixed. The surplus land over such a maximum should be acquired and placed at the disposal of the village cooperatives.
aka Land ceiling. Covered in next article.
  1. Present land revenue system to be replaced by progressive agricultural income tax.
Not covered in any article. because income from agriculture is exempted from income tax. And therefore, many filmstars use fake papers to claim they are ‘farmers’. (and then they dance in Dawood’s Party @dubai, earn money, manipulate the account books to show that cash coming from their ‘agriculture’ income and thus evade tax.)
  1. All middlemen should be replaced by non-profit making agencies, such as cooperatives.
  2. Pilot schemes for cooperative farming among small land holders
aka Cooperative farming. Will be covered in future article.
  1. Consolidate small land holdings and prevent further land fragmentation.
Aka consolidation of land holdings. Will be covered in future article.

Let’s start with Land Reform Method #1: Zamindari Abolition. But first question:

Why Abolish Zamindari?

  1. Force the tenants to provide demand free labour (Begari)
  2. evict tenants as per their whims and fancies = no tenure security
  3. Enjoyed lavish lifestyle, did not add anything to agriculture productivity, yet charged high rent – they were like today’s Middleman @APMC Mandi that we saw under [Food processing] article series.

Therefore, it was necessary to remove these intermediaries,

  1. Because Art. 23 prohibited Begari. But at the grassroot level, Begari couldnot be stopped unless Zamindari itself was abolished.
  2. Because Art. 38 wanted to minimize inequality of income, status and opportunities. When Zamindars control ~40% of India’s cultivated land, there was no opportunity / status for tenant farmers working under them.
  3. Because Art. 39 wanted equitable distribution of the material resources of the community for common good. But in villages, these Zamindars control ponds, lakes, forests, grazing lands etc. and didn’t allow others to freely access them.
  4. Because Art.48 wanted to organize agriculture and animal husbandry on modern-scientific lines but Zamindars were orthodox rent-seeking mindset, and tenant farmer had neither the money nor the motivation to ‘scientific farming’.
  5. Because First Five year plan also asked for abolition of intermediaries/zamindars to increase agro. Production, farmer’s income, to provide social justice and move towards an egalitarian society.

First Amendment, 1951

  • You already know that First amendment =>9th schedule, whatever laws listed this schedule, courts cannot inquire into them. But first Amendment is not just about 9th Schedule /Zamindari abolition. It dealt with many other issues as well.
  • Microsoft released Windows 8 Operating System. Later, they realized limitations, problems with Win8, so recently they released an upgrade Windows 8.1 to fix it.
  • Similarly, Constitution came into force from January 1950. But from January 1950 to May 1951 (=~15 months), government realized variety of deficiencies/problems with Constitution. So, cameup with First amendment to fix those issues in 1951.

#1: SEBC

Before Amendment

Art. 15: State cannot discriminate against any citizen…..

So according to this (original) provision, if government provided reservation or any welfare scheme for SC/ST/OBC/PH, then general category could approach court saying we’re ‘discriminated’ against and hence our fundamental right is violated.

Another Angle:

DPSP Art.46: State should promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people and protect them from social injustice.

But this Directive principle cannot be implement because of Art.15

so, government had to fix this inconsistency with Art.15.

After the 1st Amendment

  • Article 15 shall NOT prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes (SEBC) of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
  • In other words, if government makes law for SEBC/SC/ST, they cannot be challenged in courts on the grounds that Art.15 is violated.

#2: Freedom of Speech

before Amendment Some courts held the 19/1/a (freedom of speech) so comprehensive and sacrosanct that

  • Even if a person advocated murder, violence or hatred against any caste/religion/person/nation, he could not be convicted.
  • What if an ACIO leaked national security related data to a journalist? Both could still claim immunity on the grounds of freedom of speech.
after State can make law to put “reasonable” restriction on freedom of speech, with respect to:

  1. National security
  2. friendly relations with foreign countries
  3. public order, decency or morality
  4. contempt of court
  5. Defamation or incitement to an offence.

#3 Freedom of Profession


Art. 19(1)(g): The citizen has right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.

Now suppose

  1. A person without MBBS degree, starts a clinic.
  2. A person without doing any pharmacy course, opens a medical store

But if the State authorities tried to stop him, he could approach courts saying my fundamental right is violated!

Another angle: According to Industrial licensing policy, atomic energy is reserved for public sector. But an entrepreneur could challenge this in court and start his own private nuclear plant. (=risky and dangerous from national security point of view)


  1. The State CAN make laws to prescribe professional or technical qualifications necessary for practicing any profession or carrying on any occupation, trade or business. in other words, if you open a clinic without doing MBBS, you can be jailed and you cannot claim protection under Art.19
  2. The State can make laws to carry out any trade/business/service by itself or thru its corporations. And can exclude any businessmen, citizen or private industries from carrying out those activities. In other words, if state reserves atomic energy or railways for public sector only then private entrepreneur cannot approach court saying his fundamental right under Art.19 is violated.

#4: Land Reforms


  • by 1949: Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Madras, Assam and Bombay states introduced Zamindari abolition bills.
  • They all used the report of the Uttar Pradesh Zamindari Abolition Committee (chaired by G.B. Pant) acting as the initial model.
  • but Zamindars approached courts, raising issues like ‘our right to property’ has been violated or we’re not given fair compensation etc.
  • Hence Union government came up with provisions to prevent courts from entertaining such pleas.


Added three things to the constitution

  1. two new articles (31 A and B)
  2. one schedule (9th Schedule)

Art 31A:

  • State can make laws to acquire any estates / rights related to estates.
  • Estate =also includes any jagir, inam or muafi or other similar grant;
  • Rights= also includes rights of any proprietor, sub-proprietor, under-proprietor, tenure-holder or other intermediary- with respect to land revenue.
  • And courts cannot declare such law void, on the ground that it violates fundamental rights.
  • (But) if such law is made by a state legislation, then it cannot claim immunity under Art.31A, until it receives assent from the President of India.
  • Sidenote: later Fifth Amendment added more laws that cannot be challenged in courts.


  • The Acts and regulations listed in 9th Schedule of the constitution = cannot be challenged in courts on the ground that they are violating fundamental rights.
  • Meaning, courts are prohibited from doing any judicial review of the items listed in 9th Schedule.

9th Schedule:

  • The first Amendment act listed 13 acts and regulations in 9th schedule.  all meant for abolishing Zamindari. Meaning Zamindars could not approach courts against those laws. (boring list given @bottom of this current article)
  • Later 14th Amendment, 34th Amendment etc. also added more laws related to land reforms in this 9th Schedule. You can read more about them in Laxmikanth’s appendix for constitutional amendments.

#4 Minor modification

A few minor amendments in respect of articles 341, 342, 372 and 376.

Anyways we digressed much from the Zamindari abolition topic so let’s come back.

So far we’ve seen:

  1. what is land reform
  2. what are the objectives of land reform
  3. post-independence, how we moved towards land reform
  4. we saw how first amendment 1951
    • modified freedom of speech
    • modified freedom of profession
    • Protected Zamindari abolition/law reform laws via Art 31A, 31B and 9th Schedule.

Now let’s talk about the actual Abolition of Zamindari:

Timeline of Zamindari Abolition by States

Era States that abolished Zamindari
1948 to 50s Madras, Bombay and Hyderabad states
1951 Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Assam
1952 Orissa, Punjab, Swarashtra and Rajasthan
1953 Vindhya Pradesh and Bhopal
1954 West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi

Zamindari Abolition Acts: Salient Features

Since land = falls under State list, so state legislatures had to enact the zamindari abolition. Meaning no uniformity. Different states have different provisions. But let’s check the common features of all such state acts.

#1: Compensation

  • Ownership and land revenue related rights of the zamindars = abolished.
  • Lands transferred to the (superior) tenants.
  • State governments gave compensation to Zamindars ~670 crore rupees.
  • Some states created “Zamindari Abolition fund” and gave “Bonds” to Zamindars as compensation. These bonds could be redeemed after a period of 10 to 30 years. (why long term bonds? why not pay all cash upfront? think about the fiscal deficit angle!)
State Compensation to Zamindar
Jammu Kashmir No compensation paid to them. And this also led to Hindu-Muslim bitterness because Almost all Zamindars were Hindu (in Jammu region).
Uttar Pradesh Compensation according to Zamindar’s income.

  • Small Zamindar= Annual income times 20
  • Big Zamindar= Annual income times (2 or 4)

In other words- compensation formula inversely related to Zamindar’s income during British raj.

#2: Common Land/resources

  • Example wasteland, grazing land, ponds, wells, forest area surrounding the village.
  • earlier Zamindars controlled such common land/resources and
    • charged fees from villagers, if they wanted to use it.
    • did not allow SC/ST to full access these common land/resources.
  • These Zamindari Abolition acts, transferred the ownership of such common land/resources to Village Panchayat. And Forest area= gone to Forest department.

#3: Ownership transfer

  • Bhumidhar=tenant farmers, who cultivated Zamindar’s land.
  • In Uttar Pradesh, Bhumidhar can become owner of the land after paying 10 times the annual rent to his Zamindar.

#4: Personal Cultivation

  • Land which was cultivated by the zamindar himself = exempted from purview of these acts. Zamindar was permitted to keep this land.

#5: Direct payment of land revenue

Now Farmer was made directly liable for paying land revenue to the state government. (Because Zamindar is no longer the ‘middleman’ in land revenue hierarchy.)

Zamindari Abolition: Limitations/Obstacles/Negative points

#1: Land reform Delayed= Land reform Denied

After laws were passed, Zamindars went to SC/HC to stay the law implementation. This greatly reduced the effectiveness of these legislations.

^to understand this, let’s check the #Epicfail of Bihar:

1946 Bihar government passed resolution to abolish Zamindari.
1949 Act was passed State assembly but landlords approached the courts and the government too felt it necessary to repeal the legislation.
1950 State legislature passed New Act, with some amendments. But Zamindars again approached courts.
1951 Union government brings 1st Amendment, gives immunity to all such Zamindari abolition acts/ regulations from judicial review.

But Even, after the law was finally implemented, the Zamindars refused to cooperate with the revenue authorities and tried all means to scuttle it implementation.  The petty revenue officials at Village and Tehsil level, either turned blind eye or actively sided with Zamindars for bribes. Thus many years had passed by for the intention of Zamindari abolition became a reality.

#2: Personal cultivation

  • Most state laws permitted Zamindars to keep part of land for personal cultivation. But the definition was vague. Zamindars misused this loophole to evict tenant farmers and keep most of the land with themselves.
  • (Counter argument: Zamindar started capitalist farming in the area- led to increase in Agro-productivity)

#3: New form of Zamindari

  • Main beneficiaries of zamindari abolition were the occupancy tenants or the upper tenants or superior tenants- They had direct leases from the zamindar, and now they became virtual landowners.
  • But now these new landowners leased the same land to inferior tenants/sharecroppers- based on oral and unrecorded agreements.
  • These inferior tenants/sharecroppers could be evicted as per the whims and fancies of the new landowner.
  • Thus, even after the abolition of Zamindari, the system of ‘intermediaries’ and exploitation continued.

#4: Not much for Ryotwari

  • At the time of freedom, less than 50% of cultivated land was under zamindari tenure. The remaining areas (ryotwari/Mahalwari) did not have Zamindari system but they too had system of ‘intermediaries’  i.e. big farmer/moneylender leasing land to small farmers- then charging excessive rent and exploiting them.
  • The Zamindari abolition did not bring much relief to these people.


  • the Main objective of Zamindari abolition = there should be no ‘intermediary/middleman’ between the State and the land Revenue payer (farmer). But this objective was not achieved.
  • Therefore, many economists do not attach much significance to Zamindari abolition.
  • They opine Zamindari abolition merely changed the hierarchy of land revenue administration, but did not bring any change in the method of farming nor in the nature of agricultural units.

Anyways, enough of negative points, let’s check some positive points:

Zamindari Abolition: Benefits/Positive points

  1. ~1,700 lakh hectares of land was acquired from the intermediaries (zamindars) and as a consequence, about two crore tenants were brought into direct relationship with the government.
  2. Many millions of cultivators who had previously been weak tenants or tenants-at-will were became superior tenants= virtual owners. =DPSP Art. 39 fullfilled (right to adequate means of livelihood for all citizens)
  3. Many absentee zamindars actually started direct ‘personal cultivation’ (so the State cannot take away their land). They had money to buy high yielding seeds, pesticides, fertilizers, machineries=agro productivity increased.
  4. The entire process occurred in a democratic framework
  5. virtually no coercion or violence was used (unlike the land reforms in China, Russia or Cuba.)
  6. Finished in remarkably short period. Perhaps because Zamindars were isolated during and after freedom struggle due to their soft corner for the British.

#1: Agro Production increased

Zamindar collected Revenue. Government directly collects land Revenue from farmer.
neither the zamindars, nor the cultivators took interest in improvememt of agriculture land
  1. Cultivators have got ownership rights and hence take keen interest in land improvement and increase in agriculture production.
  2. Government created an enabling atmosphere- agri. cooperative society, regional rural banks etc. to provide cheap credit. Subsidy on fertilizers, cheap electricity, irrigation etc.

=DPSP Art. 48 fullfilled (modern and scientific agriculture and animal husbandry)

#2: Emancipation

  • After abolition of Zamindari, the agricultural laborers no longer forced to give free labors=Begari, Bonded labour declined. Art. 23 fullfilled.
  • Bargaining power of agri. laborers increased=>higher wages=>declined poverty.

#3: Changed rural power structure

  • Public land such as village ponds, grazing grounds, village streets etc. which was used by the Zamindar’s as personal property, have been declared as community property. =DPSP Art. 39 full filled (material resources of community).
  • This disarmed the Zamindars of economic exploitation and dominance over others. Thus, Transferred power from Zamindars to peasants.

#4: Towards an Egalitarian Society

  • Abolition of intermediaries=> asset distribution=> egalitarian society.
  • The Planning Commission estimates that after Abolition of Zamindari, at least twenty million tenants were brought into direct relationship with the governments.
  • empowerment of those who have out of the development process.
  • = DPSP Art.38 fullfilled. (securing a social order, minimize inequality of income, status, facilities and opportunities.)

#5: Rise of middleclass

  • Since the intermediaries were removed=>farmers don’t have to pay heavy rent=>these farmers could generate profit=>could sent their kids to school and colleges.
  • So in a way, land reforms helped in expansion of Indian middleclass.

Mock Questions

  1. Zamindari abolition merely changed the hierarchy of land revenue administration, but did not bring any change in the method of farming nor in the nature of agricultural units. Comment
  2. Critically evaluate the signification of Zamindari abolition as a measure of land reforms.
  3. Analyse the impact of Zamindari abolition on rural power structure. Do you agree with the opinion that it didn’t really benefit the marginalized sections of rural society?
  4. Explain how Zamindari abolition helped fullfilling the directive principles of state policy.
  5. Land reforms could not have been initiated without enactment of the First Amendment. Comment.
  6. “Land reforms have been treated as an integral part of eradicating poverty, and increasing of agricultural production.” Comment.
  7. Explain the role of Land reforms in providing social justice and moving towards an egalitarian society.
  8. Land Reforms is a planned and institutional reorganisation of the relation between man and land. Comment.
  9. Land reform is not confined to just redistribution of property rights among the landless poor. Comment.
  10. Examine the change introduced into system of land tenure and the farming structure during first five year plan.
  11. Define Land reforms. Examine its role in removing the barriers for economic and social development in India.

In the next article, we’ll the second measure of land reform: “Land Ceilings”.

Appendix: the 9th Schedule

the first amendment had added 13 laws in the 9th schedule. And Art.31B prohibited courts from doing judicial review on them. Here goes the boring list only for information:

  1. The Bihar Land Reforms Act, 1950 (Bihar Act XXX of 1950).
  2. The Bombay Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1948 (Bombay Act LXVII of 1948).
  3. The Bombay Maleki Tenure Abolition Act, 1949 (Bombay Act LXI of 1949).
  4. The Bombay Taluqdari Tenure Abolition Act, 1949 (Bombay Act LXII of 1949).
  5. The Panch Mahals Mehwassi Tenure Abolition Act, 1949 (Bombay Act LXIII of 1949).
  6. The Bombay Khoti Abolition Act, 1950 (Bombay Act VI of 1950).
  7. The Bombay Paragana and Kulkarni Watan Abolition Act, 1950 (Bombay Act LX of 1950).
  8. The Madhya Pradesh Abolition of Proprietary Rights (Estates, Mahals, Alienated Lands) Act, 1950 (Madhya Pradesh Act I of 1951).
  9. The Madras Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotwari) Act, 1948 (Madras Act XXVI of 1948).
  10. The Madras Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotwari) Amendment Act, 1950 (Madras Act I of 1950).
  11. The Uttar Pradesh Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act, 1950 (Uttar Pradesh Act I of 1951).
  12. The Hyderabad (Abolition of Jagirs) Regulation, 1358F. (No. LXIX of 1358, Fasli).
  13. The Hyderabad Jagirs (Commutation) Regulation, 1359F. (No. XXV of 1359, Fasli).