Land reform refers to efforts to reform the ownership and regulation of land in India. Or, those lands which are redistributed by the government from landholders to landless people for agriculture or special purpose is known as Land Reform.
Land reform (also agrarian reform, though that can have a broader meaning) involves the changing of laws, regulations or customs regarding land ownership. Land reform may consist of a government-initiated or government-backed property redistribution, generally of agricultural land. Land reform can, therefore, refer to transfer of ownership from the more powerful to the less powerful, such as from a relatively small number of wealthy (or noble) owners with extensive land holdings (e.g., plantations, large ranches, or agribusiness plots) to individual ownership by those who work the land. Such transfers of ownership may be with or without compensation; compensation may vary from token amounts to the full value of the land.
Land reform may also entail the transfer of land from individual ownership even peasant ownership in smallholdings to government-owned collective farms; it has also, in other times and places, referred to the exact opposite: division of government-owned collective farms into smallholdings. The common characteristic of all land reforms, however, is modification or replacement of existing institutional arrangements governing possession and use of land. Thus, while land reform may be radical in nature, such as through large-scale transfers of land from one group to another, it can also be less dramatic, such as regulatory reforms aimed at improving land administration.
Nonetheless, any revision or reform of a country’s land laws can still be an intensely political process, as reforming land policies serves to change relationships within and between communities, as well as between communities and the state. Thus, even small-scale land reforms and legal modifications may be subject to intense debate or conflict.
Land distribution has been part of India’s state policy from the very beginning. Independent India’s most revolutionary land policy was perhaps the abolition of the Zamindari system (feudal landholding practices). Land-reform policy in India had two specific objectives: “The first is to remove such impediments to increase in agricultural production as arise from the agrarian structure inherited from the past. The second objective, which is closely related to the first, is to eliminate all elements of exploitation and social injustice within the agrarian system, to provide security for the tiller of the soil and assure equality of status and opportunity to all sections of the rural population.”
Apart from larger disparities in land ownership, the significant aspect is causing concentration of land in few pockets of socially dominant section.
The prevailing massive poverty of the rural population as a serious limiting factor has been impeding the growth of modern industry.
Land reforms are also considered essential as it provides social justice to millions of cultivators. The land policy that changes tenurial relations in favour of the actual tiller means that the cultivator/small farmer is assured of getting the fruits of their labour and equality of income and wealth. Furthermore, the consolidation of scattered holdings will help to raise the income of the cultivator.
Land reforms will enable to bring about a close integration of agricultural economy with the planning process of the country. Such integration is only possible when cultivators will have a direct link with the state government. Eliminations of the heterogeneous and tenurial relations will result in some uniformity of the system throughout the country. Therefore, it smoothens the process of planning through authorities who find it easier to formulate and implement uniform policies.
Establishing Link between Government and farmers:
Land reforms can establish a direct link between Government and farmers by abolishing intermediaries. This will facilitate the government to implement plan for agricultural development in a smooth manner.
Costless Method of Increasing Production:
It helps in raising agricultural production without involving much use of capital. It is only possible when the relations of the cultivator with land are improved. In other words, it means that if he cultivator is assured for security of tenure, fair rent and right of ownership and free transferability.
Moreover, he is assured that he is the master of all that he produces and there is no scope of any king of exploitation. That is why, land reform is called a costless method of raising production. This has special significance in less developed countries like India. In short, institutional change which involves no cost but at the same time, helps to create a climate wherein cultivator puts hard work and takes more and more interest for the promotion of agriculture.
Promotion of Incentive:
Land reforms are needed for promoting incentive to the actual tiller of the land for promotion of agricultural production. These reforms assure them that they will not be exploited and get full reward for their labour. It is felt that for raising production, supply of inputs like seed, manure and other implements are pre-requisite and it should be stepped up immediately. As majority of Indian farmers who have small size of holdings are unable to purchase these inputs in a required quantity.
This results in inefficient utilization of manpower and land. The need of the hour is that they should be encouraged to make the optimum utilization of his resources. Thus, it is only possible when he is assured for the security of tenure and granted ownership right on his holding. Obviously, the significance of land reforms automatically enlarges its scope.
There are six main categories of reforms:
- Abolition of intermediaries (rent collectors under the pre-Independence land revenue system);
- Tenancy regulation (to improve the contractual terms including the security of tenure);
- A ceiling on landholdings (to redistributing surplus land to the landless);
- Attempts to consolidate disparate landholdings;
- encouragement of cooperative joint farming;
- Settlement and regulation of tenancy.
Land usage and Tenure
Land ownership and tenure can be perceived as controversial in part because ideas defining what it means to access or control land, such as through “land ownership” or “land tenure”, can vary considerably across regions and even within countries. Land reforms, which change what it means to control land, therefore create tensions and conflicts between those who lose and those who gain from these redefinitions.
Western conceptions of land have evolved over the past several centuries to place greater emphasis on individual land ownership, formalized through documents such as land titles. Control over land, however, may also be perceived less in terms of individual ownership and more in terms of land use, or through what is known as land tenure. Historically, in many parts of Africa for example, land was not owned by an individual, but rather used by an extended family or a village community. Different people in a family or community had different rights to access this land for different purposes and at different times. Such rights were often conveyed through oral history and not formally documented.
These different ideas of land ownership and tenure are sometimes referred to using different terminology. For example, “formal” or “statutory” land systems refer to ideas of land control more closely affiliated with individual land ownership. “Informal” or “customary” land systems refer to ideas of land control more closely affiliated with land tenure.
Terms dictating control over and use of land can therefore take many forms. Some specific examples of present-day or historic forms of formal and informal land ownership include:
- Traditional land tenure, as practiced by the indigenous tribes of Pre-Columbian North America.
- Feudal land ownership, through fiefdoms
- Life estate, interest in real property that ends at death.
- Fee tail, hereditary, non-transferable ownership of real property.
- Fee simple. Under common law, this is the most complete ownership interest one can have in real property.
- Leasehold or rental
- Rights to use a common
- Agricultural labor: Under which someone works the land in exchange for money, payment in kind, or some combination of the two
- Collective ownership
- Access to land through a membership in a cooperative, or shares in a corporation, which owns the land (typically by fee simple or its equivalent, but possibly under other arrangements).
- Government collectives, such as those that might be found in communist states, whereby government ownership of most agricultural land is combined in various ways with tenure for farming collectives.