Land reforms encompass institutional measures aimed at modifying the prevailing system of land ownership and management. The purpose of these reforms is to safeguard the productivity of agricultural land from the uncertainties of time.
At present, India is grappling with the issue of fragmented landholdings, with nearly 67% of Indian farmers possessing land holdings below 1 hectare. To address this, it is crucial to implement appropriate reforms such as cooperative farming to ensure economic viability, as well as enact proper tenancy laws that grant agricultural benefits to tenant farmers rather than landowners.
Since India gained independence, the following land reforms have been implemented:
1 . First phase (till 1960s):
- Elimination of the Zamindari system.
- Introduction of tenancy laws, which provide security of tenure, reduce rent, and grant ownership rights to tenants.
- Implementation of land-ceiling laws.
- Placing these laws in the 9th schedule of the constitution to protect them from judicial review.
- Enactment of land acquisition acts by states like Rajasthan and Punjab in 1953.
- Promotion of the Bhoodan and Gramdan movements, which encouraged voluntary surrender of excess land for redistribution.
- Facilitation of cooperativization.
2. Second phase:
- Technological reform through the Green Revolution.
- Abolishment of the right to property [A. 19(1)(f)] as a fundamental right.
Several factors contributed to the success of these land reforms:
- Political determination to incorporate the 9th schedule into the constitution and abolish the right to property.
- The implementation of these reforms was particularly successful in states like Kerala and West Bengal, where communist governments remained in power for several decades.
- Growing literacy and awareness regarding land rights and constitutional provisions.
- Emergence of various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and cooperatives that aided farmers in benefiting from these laws.
- Introduction of high yield variety (HYV) seeds, inorganic fertilizers, and subsidies on diesel and electricity, which significantly increased agricultural productivity during the Green Revolution.
Land reforms continue to be an ongoing process, and the post-independence reforms have helped many landless farmers acquire their rightful share of land. Given the present circumstances, it is imperative to promote new reforms such as proper crop rotation, organic farming, and sustainable agriculture to address the current challenges effectively.