Land reforms in India

Land reforms aim at redistributing ownership holding from the viewpoint of social justice, and reorganizing operational holdings from the view point of optimum utilisation of land. These aims at providing security of tenure, fixation of rents, conferment of ownership, etc..

The entire concept of land reforms aims at the abolition of intermediaries and bringing the actual cultivator in direct contact with the state. The scope of land reforms, therefore, includes: (i) abolition of intermediaries, (ii) tenancy reforms, i.e., regulation of rent, security of tenure for tenants and conferment of ownership on them; (iii) ceiling on land holdings and distribution of surplus land to landless agricultural labourers and small farmers; (iv) agrarian reorganisation including consolidation of holdings and prevention of sub-division and fragmentation; (v) organization of co-operative farms; and (vi) improvement in the system of record keeping.

Due to Zamindari Abolition, about 30 lakh tenants and share croppers acquired ownership rights over a total cultivated area of 25 lakh hectares throughout the country. Further, it led to the abolition of about 260,000 Zamindars and intermediaries and acquisition of large amount of forested, barren and waste land by the Government. It also led to the emergence of a middle class of peasantry which is playing a pivotal role in agricultural development.

Land reforms in India had envisaged that beyond a certain specified limit, all lands belonging to the landlords would be taken over by the State and allotted to small proprietors to make their holdings economic or to landless laborers to meet their demand for land. Ceiling on landholdings is, therefore, an effective measure for redistribution of land and achieving the goal of social justice.

Need of land reforms:

The land reforms were needed to change all the systems or institutional factors, which were responsible for the low productivity of agriculture and poverty among the rural poor. At the time of independence the agrarian society was divided into four classes landlords or big farmers, the intermediaries-cum- cultivating holders, the tenants the actual cultivators and agricultural labourers.

There was unjust and defective land tenure system which deprives a large number of cultivators the ownership rights and to make any decisions about the land they hold and cultivate. The system of land tenure is still oppressive.

Out of 100 people engaged in agriculture, only 10% are the big land owners who owns enough land, the rest 90% whether small cultivators, marginal cultivators or landless labourers have not all the facilities held by the big landowners and as a result they cannot do full just with the agricultural activities

Measures adopted under land reforms:

Under land reforms various institutional measures have been adopted to improve agricultural productivity and the status of the actual tillers by the central and state government from time to time. The government abolished the zamindari system. It was the curse of the Indian agriculture that those who cultivated land were not its owners. Land was owned by zamindars. They performed no economic activities but devoured large part of the production.

The tillers who cultivated the land were poorly paid. With the removal of zamindari system and intermediaries about 20 million tenants were given the occupancy rights. Tenancy reforms have provided security of the tenure to tenants, regulated rent and conferred ownership rights on tenants. This was the second steps taken by the government.

The third measure taken was the consolidation of scattered and small land holdings. Consolidation of holdings means allocation of compact plot of land in exchange for the several small plots held by the owner of the land to make them economically viable. The government of India has passed laws for compulsory consolidation of holdings. The step to solve the problem of fragmentation of land was co-operative farming.

Under this system, a large tract of land owned by different house-holds may be jointly cultivated by them. The constant updating and maintenance of land records was also undertaken. The chakbandi system was also one of the measures taken under land reforms.

Land ceiling was another steps taken under land reforms, ceiling on holding means a prescribed area of land left with the zamindars after the abolition of Zamindari System. The surplus land is taken from the zamindars and distributed among the tillers of land and weaker sections of society; Laws regarding ceiling limit which was 30 acres have been passed by the government and about 3 million hectare of land has been declared as surplus. But, it is not sufficient.

Success and failure of land reforms:

The objectives of land reforms were to bring about economic efficiency and social justice. Efforts have been made to improve the condition of labourers through the abolition of Zamindari system, ceiling acts, redistribution of land and minimum wages acts etc. still their condition is deplorable. The implementation of the land reforms programme in India failed in its endeavour.

A majority of the agricultural labourers continued to be confronted with socio-economic difficulties and could not benefit from the land reforms measures. The progress of consolidation of land holdings is not satisfactory only 1/4 of the land has been consolidated and this has been completed only in Punjab, Haryana and Western U.P. The distribution of surplus land is also not satisfactory.


In some of the states like Keraia, political will and intervention has led to the success of land reforms. All states except Nagaland and Meghalaya have passed ceiling acts. The five-year plans propose to lessen the sufferings of the landless people. With the removal of intermediaries, the cultivators came in direct contact with the government. A considerable area of cultivable waste land and private forest-land which came under the hand of the government was distributed among the landless and agricultural labourers.

In the ninth-five-year plan, it had been pointed out that rural poverty is largely among the landless and the marginal farmers. The plan proposed redistribution of surplus land, tenancy reforms for recording rights of tenants, consolidation of holdings etc. The tenth five-year plan also carries further the reforms in the agricultural sector which were earlier neglected.

It can be said that if land reform measures are effectively and whole-heartedly implemented it would be successful in lessening the problems of rural people. With the Green Revolution land reforms have been also contributed in increasing agricultural production and somewhat improving the condition of the rural people.