Land reforms refer to the efforts made by the government to reform the ownership and regulation of land. Land reforms play a great role in the rural agrarian economy.
During the pre independence period, there were three types of land tenure systems in India.
- The Zamindari System– This system was created by the East India Company as a result of the permanent settlement between Lord Cornwallis and landlords. In this system revenue was collected from farmers by the zamindars or the landlords.
- The Mahalwari System– This system was introduced by William Bentinck in Oudh and Agra and was latter extended to Madhya Pradesh. In this system the revenue was collected by village headman on behalf of whole village and here whole village was treated as a unit.
- The Ryotwari System– This system was introduced in Tamil Nadu and was extended to Maharashtra, East Punjab, Assam, Coorg and Baar. In this system the land revenue was collected was paid directly by the farmers to the state.
In all three systems, there was exploitation and deprivation. Zamindari system created a class of zamindars who did not work and took away surplus from the cultivators. The lives of tenants and sub tenants was miserable. In the post independent India, land reforms were introduced to stop the exploitation that had been prevailing in the land tenure systems.
The first and foremost step in doing so was abolition of intermediaries. The main reason of exploitation was zamindars. The Zamindari Abolition Act took four and a half years to become a law. Official documents state that zamindari has been abolished now and zamindars are now the big landowners. This has lead to a decline in the exploitation of tenants and the feudal rural structure has crumbled down.
Another step taken was the tenancy reforms. Under this, regulation of rent was done. Security of tenure was provided as well. This was done to protect tenants and grant them permanent rights in land. Ownership rights for tenants were also given.
Reorganisation of Agriculture was another land reform. Here ceilings on agricultural holdings were provided. Ceiling refers to the legal limit on the amount of land which an individual can hold. However, in rural India, implementing ceiling laws is rather difficult because of the balance of power is weighted against the landless.
Another land reform was the consolidation of holdings. This reform was done to solve the problem of fragmented land holdings. In this method one consolidated holding is provided equal to the total of scattered plots. The problem that arises in this reform is the fertility and location of the new land which is provided.
Cooperative farming is another land reform which has been advocated to solve the problems created by subdivision of holdings. In this method, farmers who have small land holdings work together for cultivation. It has many advantages. Expensive implements can be bought by clubbing money together. Market surplus of food grain can be obtained more easily. It also encourage the spirit of cooperation.