Land Reforms in india
Around 70 percent of the country’s population lives in rural area. Accessibility to land is not only economically important to them; it also leads to a host of other benefits. As ‘land’ is a State subject under the Constitution, different States have evolved differently in the field of land management. In fact there may be different systems in different regions of the same State also.
The Central Government has only a limited role to play in this regard. But surprisingly most of the initiatives have come from the Central level only. The Central Government persuades and incentivizes the States through schemes or policy initiatives. India faces tremendous challenges on the issues related to land governance.
The following data will make it clearer India has approximately 2.16 million sq. Km. Of cultivable area India has about 18 percent of world’s population 15 per cent of world’s livestock population is to be supported from this land India has about 2 percent of world’s geographical area and 1.5 Percent of forest and pasture land
The per capita availability of land has declined from 0.89 hectares in 1951 to 0.37 hectares in 1991
The average agriculture land holding has declined from 0.48 hectares in 1951 to 0.16 hectares in 1991
95.65 percent of the farmers are within small and the marginal category owning about 62 percent of the land, while the medium and the large farmers who constitute 3.5 percent own about 37.72 percent of the total area
Most of the cases pending in the Courts relate to land disputes 7.9 million persons are without dwelling units to live in:
In the rural areas alone, there are more than 140 million land owners, owning more than 430 million records There are approximately 55 million urban households
In most of the States last cadastral survey was done around 70 to 80 years ago. In fact in some States, for example, North Eastern States this survey has not been done till now. The issues related to land may be described in following five divisions.
Land Reforms As stated above, access to land is of critical importance in large parts of India. Agriculture and primary sector activities based on land and other natural resources are the primary source of livelihood for a vast majority of economically vulnerable rural population of Indian.
So, land reforms initiatives have been undertaken to ensure equitable distribution of the Zamindari system after independence of the country.
Second round of major initiatives were taken in the year 1972 with the enactment of land ceiling laws in majority of the States.
These initiatives in land reforms can be broadly categorized into the following fields:
Land Ceiling-Ceiling limits have been prescribed by the States, above which a family can not own the land. The surplus land is taken over by the State Government and distributed to the land less persons.
Bhoodan Lands-The land owners who has large quantities of land were persuaded to surrender some parts of their lands voluntarily during the time of Shri Vinoba Bhave. These lands were also distributed to the land less persons.
Tenancy Reforms-Many land owners do not practice agriculture themselves. They lease out their lands to other needy persons on written or oral agreement for agriculture. Some States have enacted laws to protect the interest of the tenants in such cases.
Common Property Resources-The village commons are used by the community for various purposes like pasture lands, for collection of minor forest produce and fuel wood etc.
Some States have conferred rights to the community over such resources through enactments. Waste Lands-States also distribute the wastelands available with them to the land less persons.
Tribal Land Alienation-Scheduled Tribes living in various parts of India are particularly in a vulnerable position as their lives are intertwined with the land. Most of the States have enacted laws to protect their rights on the land. They cannot sell their lands to non STs. If land is alienated fraudulently from them, then the States proactively pursue such cases so that the land is restored to the tribals.
The issues related to land reforms are being considered by the Government of India at the highest level. In order to evolve a comprehensive policy on the matter, two very high level bodies have been formed as follows:
A Committee on State Agrarian Relations and the Unfinished Task in Land Reforms under the chairmanship of Minister of Rural Development
A National Council for Land Reforms under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister. The composition, terms of reference, etc. Of the Committee and the Council were notified in the Official Gazette on 9th January, 2008. The Committee has submitted its report for consideration of the National Council. In the mean time, it has been decided that the recommendations of the Committee may be examined by an appropriate Committee of Secretaries (CoS) before they are placed for consideration of the National Council for Land Reforms.
The CoS has submitted its recommendations on the Report which are being placed before the Council. The decisions of the Council on various land reforms issue will give a fresh impetus to the land reforms programmes in the States
Land Reform and Agriculture
Development Productivity in Agriculture is mainly dependent on two sets of factors-technology and institutional changes. The institutional reforms include the redistributional reforms include the redistribution of land ownership in favour of the cultivating classes.
Land reform usually refers to redistribution of land from the rich to the poor. Land reform involves the changing of laws, regulations or customs regarding land ownership. Land reform may consists of government-initiated of government-backed property redistribution generally of agriculture land.
Land reform can, therefore, refer to transfer of ownership from the more powerful to the less powerful. Such transfers of ownership may be with or without compensation; compensation may vary from token amounts to the full value of the land. India at independence inherited a semi feudal agrarian system.
The ownership and control of land was highly concentrated in the hands of a small group of landlords and intermediaries, whose main intention was to extract maximum rent, either in cash or in kind, from tenants.
In the years immediately following India’s independence, a conscious process of nation building considered the problems of land with a pressing urgency.
In fact, the national objective of poverty abolition envisaged simultaneous progress on two fronts: High productivity and equitable distribution.
Accordingly, land reforms were visualized as an important pillar of a strong and prosperous country. India’s first several five-year plans allocated substantial budgetary amounts for the implementation of land reforms. A degree of success was even registered in certain regions and states, especially with regard to issues such as the abolition of intermediaries, protection to tenants, rationalization of different tenure systems, and the imposition of ceiling on landholdings. In an agrarian economy like India with great scarcity, and an unequal distribution of land, coupled with a large mass of the rural population below the poverty line, there are compelling economic and political arguments for land reform.
Not surprisingly, it received top priority on the policy agenda at the time of Independence. In the decades following independence, India passed a significant number of land reform legislations.
The 1949 Constitution left the adoption and implementation of land and tenancy reforms to state governments. This led to a lot of variation in the implementation of these reforms across states and over time.
The most obvious argument in favour of land reform is equity. An argument in favour of land reform is also based on efficiency considerations.
Land reform legislations in India consisted of four main categories:
Abolition of intermediaries who were rent collectors under the pre-Independence land revenue system;
tenancy regulation that attempts to improve the contractual terms faced by tenants, including crop shares and security of tenure;
a ceiling on landholdings with a view to redistributing surplus land to the landless; and finally,
attempts to consolidate disparate landholdings.
Abolition of intermediaries is generally agreed to be one component of land reforms that has been relatively successful. The record in terms of the other components is mixed and varies across states and over time. Landowners naturally resisted the implementation of these reforms by directly using their political clout and also by using various methods of evasion and coercion, which included registering their own land under names of different relatives to bypass the ceiling, and shuffling tenants around different plots of land, so that they would not acquire incumbency rights as stipulated in the tenancy law. Most studies indicate that inequalities have increased, rather than decreased.
The number of landless labourers has risen, while the wealthiest 10 percent of the population monopolizes more land now than in 1951. Moreover, the discussion of land reforms since World War II and up through the most recent decade either faded from the public mind or was deliberately glossed over by the national government of India. Vested interests of the landed elite and their powerful connection with the political-bureaucratic system have blocked meaningful land reforms and/or their earnest implementation. The oppressed have either been co-opted with some benefits, or further subjugated as the new focus on liberalization, privatization, and globalization (LPG) has altered government priorities and public perceptions.
As a result, we are today at a juncture where landmostly for the urban, educated elite, who are also the powerful decision makershas become more a matter of housing, investment, and infrastructure building and land as a basis of livelihoodfor subsistence, survival, social justice, and human dignityhas largely been lost.
The Land Reforms (LR) Division has been, since the First Plan Period, playing a crucial role of evolving national consensus at various stages for taking up major steps towards effective land reforms which include abolition of zamindari and all intermediaries since the beginning of fifties, introduction of family ceiling limit in 1972 and monitoring the progress of distribution of ceiling surplus land as a part of the 20-Point Programme of the Government. But, despite this vision of the leaders of the nation, there was inertia, lack of sincerity by governments and pressure tactics of powerful land owing class discouraged land reforms in most of the states.
Moreover, land demand for industrial development and other complicated economic development issues have resulted in many thousands of marginal farmers and those who were living in agriculture oriented cottage industries were thrown out of their livelihood drove off their habitats, who have settled in the outskirts of big cities making slum clusters.
The National Government since independence has been continuing to play its advisory and coordinating role in the advisory and coordinating role in the field of land reforms as the subject is under exclusive legislative and administrative jurisdiction of the States as per Entry No. 18 of the List two (State List) of the VIIth Schedule of our Constitution.
Even then, agrarian reforms remained as a central issue of our National Agenda for rural reconstruction ensuring social justice to actual tillers as well as landless rural poor and thus for creating sustainable base for the overall growth of industrial and tertiary sector of our economy. Generating greater access to land by the landless rural poor is also considered as an important programme for poverty alleviation in the rural sector.
The UPA government’s latest land acquisition bill is expected to fill gaps in the archaic 1894 act and streamline the process of land acquisition and ensure fair compensation to farmers and landowners. But even before the bill was introduce in Parliament, murmurs of dissents were heard.
The Land Acquisition Bill, piloted by Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh, has drawn fire from critics for legitimizing purchase of vast tracts of land, which could be used to exploit tribals and marginal farmers with state and muscle power. Critics say the legislation has failed to strike a balance between development and displacement and its provisions are likely to be re-examined in the standing committee of Parliament. Pro-farmer critics too feel some key aspects need to be fixed.
For instance, some say a district level regulator should be out in place to resolve any dispute when small and marginal farmers are either forced or induced to sell and by powerful contractors.
On the whole, this bill recognizes land not only as property but as a means of livelihood. For the first time, rehabilitation and resettlement are part of the land acquisition process. It is clear on the rehabilitation and resettlement issue. No doubt the government can’t dictate how compensation funds are to be used as it would mean encroaching on privacy (stated by Ex RBI Governor Bimal Jalan), but, there is a need to raise the level of literacy, particularly female literacy.
Studies have shown that areas where female literacy is high, there is less wastage in welfare programmes. Also village-level institutions should be used to raise awareness so that farmers are better informed. Hope this Bill will help the poor, deserving and needy farmers and pave way for a transparent system facilitating development through empowerment of the poor
Land Reforms Modernization As stated above, the result of the decline of land revenue as major sources of revenue for the States was a declining investment in this sector through the Plan funds. This led to a gross neglect of the survey and maintenance of land records, making them hopelessly out-of-date and, therefore, unreliable. With the advent of the industrial and commercial sectors, land emerged as an important economic resource. For development to take place at a rapid pace it was imperative to have updated and accurate land records at all time. However, the traditional manual methods of maintenance of land records could not keep pace with the requirements of the modern State. It was the advent of modern technology which made the availability of real-time records an achievable objective.
Modernization of land records was first suggested by State Revenue Ministers in a Conference held in New Delhi in 1985. As a consequence, two programmes were launched by the Central Government, viz. Strengthening of Revenue Administration and Updating of Land Records (SRA& ULR), in 1987 − 88.
Computerization of Land Records (CLR), in 1988 − 89. Under these schemes, support was provided to the States and Union Territories for strengthening of the land records maintenance infrastructure, adoption of modern survey and information technology for updating and computerization of both textual and spatial records, digitization of maps, training and capacity building. The way the schemes were framer, the exit modes were not defined; nor were technology options for survey firmed up; neither was the system of monitoring emphatically spelt out.
Further, both the schemes of CLR and SRA& ULR excluded interconnectivity, geographic information system (GIS) mapping, connectivity with banks and treasuries, and Registration the last of which is a vital link in updating the land records. Progress was uneven across the country; some States moved forward rapidly, pooling together the Central Government support and their own resources and initiatives, e. g. Karnataka and Goa; others lagged behind, or made progress only in some areas, such as, computerization of outdated textual records.
Keeping in view the above position, the Cabinet approved on 21st August, 2008, the merger of these two Centrally-sponsored scheme of CLR and SRA& ULR, and their modification and replacement with the Centrally-sponsored scheme of the National Land Records Modernization Programme (NLRMP).
The NLRMP combines the key components of the two schemes, adds new components such as integration of textual and spatial records computerization of Registration and inter-connectivity between Revenue and Registration systems, firmed up modern technology options for survey and core GIS.
This integration and enhanced scheme has a its goal the introduction in the country of conclusive titling with title guarantee and indemnification, instead of the present land titling system which provides merely for Registration of deeds and documents and presumptive property titles.
The NLRMP has four major components computerization of property survey and preparation of maps using modern technologies computerization of the Registration process training and capacity building. The NLRMP is being implemented in a methodical manner and all the district in the country are expected to be covered by the end of the 12th Plan.
Further, the activities are being undertaken in a systematic manner, which are to converge in the district and district is the unit of implementation. So far 206 district in 29 States/UTs have been covered under the programme and funds to the tune of Rs. 518.63 crore have been released towards Central share.
Land Management Land figures as Entry 18 in the State list of the Constitution as land, that is to say, right in or over land, land tenures including the relation to landlord and tenant, and the collection of rents; transfer and alienation of agricultural land; land improvement, and agricultural loans; colonization. Entry 45 in the State list is Land revenue, including the assessment and collection of revenue, the maintenance of land records, survey for revenue purposes and records of rights, and alienation of revenues.
So, the land and its management fall in the exclusive domain of the States. Each State has a different set up for land and land records management. In most of the States Revenue Department handles the land records along with the other issues related to land management. Survey Department deals with the survey of lands, Consolidation Department deals with the consolidation of lands, and Gram Panchayats do undisputed mutations in some States. The change of the land records by any one of them makes the records of another obsolete. So, the records are out of date in most of the States and they do not reflect the ground reality.
Before independence, the revenue from the lands was a major consideration for the proper management of land and land records. But after independence as revenue from the lands dwindled, the land and land records management was also neglected. In fact in some of the States the land revenue has been abolished altogether. The surprising fact is that the States hardly give nay priority to this subject and most of the initiatives have been taken from the Central Level.
Land Acquisition Land is required for various development purposes. The Government uses the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 to acquire land in such cases. The indiscriminate use of this Act has caused various agitations and social unrest in the country.
The main objections have been that the good agricultural land is being acquired which is endangering the food security of the country, excess land is being acquired for a project which is further sold at a premium, market rate is not provided to the land owners, farmers are paid the rate of agricultural land while the land is used commercially, adequate rehabilitation and resettlement of the displaced persons is not being ensured etc.
To address these issues, the Central Government has notified a comprehensive National Rehabilitation Resettlement policy 2007 (NRRP-2007) on 31st October 2007.
The Policy provides for basic minimum requirements which must be extended to all the affected families, while the States, Public Sector Undertakings or agencies are free to put in place greater benefit levels than those prescribed in the policy.
To give legal backing to the above policy, the Central Government has introduced the Land Acquisition. Rehabilitation and Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill in the Lok Sabha on 7th September, 2011.