1. Prologue
  2. Bhoodan Movement (Donation of Land)
    1. Bhoodan: Mechanism/procedure/features
    2. Bhoodan: Positive
    3. Bhoodan: Obstacles, Limitations, Problems
  3. Gramdan (Donation of the Entire Village)
    1. Gramdan: Concept/Principles
    2. Gramdan Mechanism
    3. Gramdan: Benefits
  4. Pardi Satyagraha, Gujarat, 50s
  5. Mock Questions


  • So far we’ve seen: British Tenure system, peasant revolts and three main land reforms after independence viz. (1) Zamindari Abolition (2) Land ceiling (3) Tenancy protection Acts.
  • In this article, we’ll check some people’s/NGO/Civil society movements for land reforms in India. Their achievements/limitations. by the Naxalbari related matter ignored here. You’ll find neat coverage ot it under September competition under internal security folder click me  
  • In the next article we’ll come back to government actions: cooperative farming, consolidation of land holdings and computerization of records.
Bhoodan Gramdan

Timeline: Civil society / NGO movements for land reforms after Independence

Bhoodan Movement (Donation of Land)

1951 First Bhoodan in village Pochampalli, Nalgonda District, Andhra (the hotbed of Telengana movement)By local Zamindar V. Ramchandra Reddy to Vinoba Bhave.
1953 Jayaprakash Narayan withdrew from active politics to join the Bhoodan movement

Bhoodan movement had two components:

  1. Collect land as gift from zamindars and rich farmers.
  2. Redistribute that gifted/donated land among the landless farmers.

Bhoodan: Mechanism/procedure/features

  1. (Hierarchy) Vinoba: Sarvodaya Samaj=> Pradesh Bhoodan Committees in each region=> local committees and individual social workers @grassroot.
  2. He and his followers were to do padayatra (walk on foot from village to village). Persuade the larger landowners to donate at least one-sixth of their lands.
  3. Target= 50 million acres. (~1/6 of total cultivable land in India)
  4. When a Zamindar/rich farmer gifts/donates a land, the Bhoodan worker would prepare a deed.
  5. These Deeds forwarded to Vinoba Bhave @Sevagram for signature.
  6. Bhoodan Worker took help of Gram Panchayat, PAtwari (village accountant) to survey the beneficiaries and land fertility.
  7. First preference given to landless agricultural laborers, then to farmers with insufficient land.
  8. A date was fixed, entire village gathered and the beneficiary family was given land.
  9. Those who receive the donation are asked to sign a printed application requesting for land, after which they are presented with certificates of having received land.
  10. No fees charged from the beneficiary.
  11. Beneficiary was expected to cultivate the land for atleast 10 years. He should start within three years of the receipt of land.
  12. These Rules/procedures were relaxed by taking local conditions, cultures in account.

Many state governments made legislation to facilitate donation and distribution of Bhoodan land. Example: Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, U.P., Delhi and Himachal Pradesh.

Subsequently, the movement was widened into Gramdan. States again passed special legislation for management of Gramdan villages.

Bhoodan: Positive

  • In the initial years the movement achieved a considerable degree of success, especially in North India- UP, Bihar.
  • By 1956: receiving over 4 million acres of land as donation.
  • By 1957: ~4.5 million acres.
  • The movement was popularised in the belief that land is a gift of nature and it belonged to all.
  • The donors of land are not given any compensation. This movement helped to reduce the gap in haves and have-nots in rural areas.
  • This movement was un-official. The landlords were under no compulsion to donate their land, it was a voluntary movement.  One of the very few attempts after independence to bring about land reform through a movement
  • Promoted the Gandhian the idea of trusteeship or that all land belonged to God.
  • Communist leader E.M.S. Namboodiripad
    • the Bhoodan and Gramdan movement stimulated political and other activity by the peasant masses
    • has created a favourable atmosphere for political propaganda and agitation
    • for redistribution of the land
    • for abolition of private ownership of land
    • for the development of agricultural producers’ cooperatives.

Bhoodan: Obstacles, Limitations, Problems

Slow progress
  • After ’56 movement lost its momentum.
  • While nearly 4.5 million acres of Bhoodan land was available- barely 6.5 lakh acres was actually distributed among 200,000 families (1957)
  • In some cases the donors took back their land from the Bhoodan workers for certain reasons.
  • This created doubts in the minds of some people about the continuity of the movement.
Bribes village leaders, or allotting authorities, demanded money from the poor for recommending their names for allotment. As a result, many underserving villagers also got land e.g those already having land/ those involved in trade-commerce.
Greed Bhoodan movement created land hunger among landless.Some of them applied multiple times in the name of wives, children etc. to get more and more free land.
Donating bogus land big landlords donated those land which were unfit for cultivation (or under court litigation). Such donations served no real purpose.
Disputed land
  • Sometimes Bhoodan workers would even accept disputed land as gift. Without verification.
  • Later the Matter would be stuck in court litigations and beneficiary would get nothing.
  • In the later phase, Bhoodan workers got associated with one or another political parties. Some of them tried to ‘use’ the Bhoodan organization as a means to gain political clout and dividends at the time of election.
  • Thus as the years passed, Bhoodan workers lost credibility and respect among villagers=>land gifts declined.
  • Since Bhoodan workers became political agents, Some landlords / Ex-Zamindars donated land as ‘bribe’ to Bhoodan workers- with hope of getting favourable returns e.g. ticket in local election, road-contracts, building contracts etc.
  • And if they (landlords) were not given such favours- they’d forcibly take back the Bhoodan land from the beneficiary later on.
  • Mere allotment of land=insufficient. Because landless farmer also needed seeds, fertilizer, irrigation etc.
  • Often the beneficiary couldn’t arrange loans for these inputs.
bureaucratic apathy
  • District officials were slow and inefficient in finishing the formalities of Bhoodan land transfers.
  • donated land remained idle for a number of years and the revenue for it had to be paid by the donor.
  1. The average size of land given to beneficiary=0.5 to 3 acres.
  2. Result: land fragmentation + diseconomies of scale + ‘disguised unemployment’ without any noticeable rise in agro-production.
Marxist Criticism
  1. Bhoodan’s main purpose was to ‘serve as a brake on the revolutionary struggle of the peasants’
  2. Thus idea of Bhoodan= reactionary, class collaborationist.
Missed the bigger picture
  1. Bhoodan based on Gandhian idea of trusteeship. Some Socialists wanted this movement to realize the potential of trusteeship and launch mass civil disobedience against injustice.
  2. The Sarvodaya Samaj, however, on the whole failed to make this transition: to build an active large-scale mass movement that would generate irresistible pressure for social transformation in large parts of the country.
  • All these loopholes, slowly and steadily, made the movement dysfunctional.
  • 1999: Bihar government dissolved the State Bhoodan Committee for its inability to distribute even half the Bhoodan land available over the past thirty-eight years.
  • Thus, Vinoba’s lofty ideal remained more as a philosophy and was never realized fully.

Gramdan (Donation of the Entire Village)

First Gramdan 1952: by the village of Mongroth in U.P.1955: Orissa, Koratpur district.

At a later phase, this progamme was extended to other states in Bihar, Maharashtra, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Gramdan: Concept/Principles

  1. Gramdan may be defined as an experiment in collective village living.
  2. Original idea comes from Gandhi’s reply to Jamnalal Bajaj: “it is far better for a hundred families in a village to cultivate their land collectively and divide the income therefrom than to divide the land any how into a hundred portions”.
  3. Vinoba Bhave popularized ^this concept of Gandhi.

Gramdan Mechanism

The villagers have to sign a declaration saying, “We are vesting the ownership of all our land to the “Gram Sabha” of the village.

  1. This Gram Sabha/ Village council will unanimously nominate ten to fifteen persons who will form an executive Committee.
  2. This executive Committee will be responsible for the day-to-day administration of the village.
  3. The decisions of the Committee will be ratified by the Council.

In other words, Gramdan=A Gram Sabha like institution collectively owned and managed entire land/farms of the villagers.

Gramdan: Benefits

  1. In an ideal gramdan village, there will be no landowners, and no absentee landlords.
  2. The labourers will give all their earnings to the village community, which will then distribute it according to needs.
  3. Thus, gramdan acts as the ideal unit for putting the principles in the practice, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”.
By 1960 Approx.Gramdan Villages
Orissa 1900+
MH 600
Kerala 550
Andhra 480+
Madras 250

Gramdan movement was considered superior to the Bhoodan movement because:

land fragmentation, inefficient cultivation, distribution of poverty, decline in marketable surplus , donation of uncultivable land, legal and other difficulties of redistribution, etc. Nope
Nope Economies of scale
Benefits only the person who gets the land Sarvodaya of entire village. Everyone benefits.
  • possible to correlate with economic planning in the country.
  • 2nd FYP recognized that Gramdan village have great significance for co-operative village development.

Limitation of Gramdan? Gramdan was successful mainly in villages where class differentiation had not yet emerged and there was little if any disparity in ownership of land or other property. E.g. Tribal villages. But didn’t find cooperation from other villages in the plains or villages near urban centers.

Pardi Satyagraha, Gujarat, 50s

  1. Socialist workers: Iswarbhai Desai, Ashok Mehta.
  2. Kisan Panchayat: a non-political body with no affiliation to any political party.
  3. Tribals from Pardi and Dharmpur Taluka
WHEN 1953-1967


  1. 75% of the agro land was owned by 100 big landlords.
  2. These landlords were not interested in farming. They kept the land as such- so grass automatically grew and sold profitably in Bombay fodder trade.
  3. Local tribals would get labour work in such ‘fodder-farms’ for only 1-2 months during harvesting. They remained jobless and starving for remaining months. While the landlords made decent profit with almost none investment or efforts.


  • Redistribution of land was not on their agenda. (Themselves declared it)
  • Satyagrahi would enter in the private land and start tilling to grow foodcrops and court arrest.
  • Tribals to boycott grass cutting work. even outside labour would not be allowed do the work. Picketing. As a result, the grass dried up at many places.
  • With time, movement found support from public and political parties
  • Bhoodan and Gramdan movements also started but failed thanks to poor response from landlords.

Result? Almost #EPICFAIL because:

  1. 1960, Gujarat created out of Bombay state. New state government made some promises=>Iswarbhai and other Satyagrahi joined the Congress party. Hence momentum/pressure was lost.
  2. 1965: War between India Pakistan. The CM (Balwant Rai Mehta) died in plane crash. New CM (Hitendra Desai) did not show much interest in fulfilling promises made by previous CM.
  3. Landlords went to Gujarat Highcourt court. Although HC rejected their plea, but state government did not show any urgency to implement the agreements.
  4. 1966: Ishwarbhai Desai decide to quit congress and launch a new Satyagraha, but he died. And others were unable to provide effective leadership/direction to the movement.
  5. 1967: A new agreement between the government, the landlords and the Satyagrahis. But the implementation carried out at a snail’s pace.

Mock Questions


  1. Critically examine the philosophy, the concept and the working of Bhoodan and Gramdan movements in India.
  2. It is far better for a hundred families in a village to cultivate their land collectively and divide the income therefrom than to divide the land any how into a hundred portions. Comment.
  3. Write a note on the Lacunae in Bhoodan and Gramdan Movements.
  4. Bhoodan was an experiment in Gandhian idea of trusteeship. Comment.
  5. Evaluate the impact of Bhoodan and Gramdan movements as measures of land reforms. In what way Gramdan was superior to Bhoodan movement?
  6. Discuss the significant movements initiated by people for land reforms in India after independence.
  7. critically evaluate non-governmental initiatives in the area of land reform