1st Five Year Plan
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Introduction || APPENDIX (CH-4) || APPENDIX (CH-9) || ANNEXURE (CH-12) || APPENDIX (CH-14) || APPENDIX (CH-24) || APPENDIX (CH-29) || Conclusion
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Chapter 12:

The Land Problem

The future of land ownership and cultivation constitutes perhaps the most funda mental issue in national development. To a large extent the pattern of economic and social organisation will depend upon the manner in which the land problem is resolved. Sooner or later, the principles and objectives of policy for land cannot but influence policy in other sectors as well.

2. In the three preceding chapters, we have set out at some length the state of the agricultural economy, the approach to agricultural development in relation to the process of national development as a whole, and, finally, the practical implications of the food probelm. In this chapter and the next we consider what may be described as the social policy for bringing about those changes in the pattern of production and distribution and in the structure of the rural economy which will serve to establish increasing equality of status and opportunity and, at the same time, help fulfil the targets of agricultural production which are central to the success of the Five Year Plan. In other words, from the aspect of the national economy as a whole, the conclusions to be emphasised are:—

  1. increase of agricultural production represents the highest priority in planning over the next few years; and
  2. the agricultural economy has to be diversified and brought to a much higher level of efficiency.

From the social aspect, which is not less important than the economic, a policy for land may be considered adequate in the measure in which, now and in the coming years, it reduces disparities in wealth and income, eliminates exploitation, provides security for tenant and worker and, finally promises equality of status and opportunity to different sections of the rural population.

3. The achievement of these economic and social aims is as much a part of the purpose of the Five Year Plan as the fulfilment of targets in industry or transport or agriculture. While broad principles and directions of policy can be indicated, it is necessary to remember that the form and manner of their application and the adaptations to which they are subject will differ widely in different parts of the country. In the main, land policy has to be worked out in terms of local needs and conditions. The texture of relationships concerning land, conditions of economic life, the social, composition of rural communities and the pattern of occupational distribution differ widely, so that no generalisation can have more than a limited value. Nevertheless, developments in one State arc often significant enough to exert influence elsewhere. On account of the abolition of feudal tenures, which is in progress in many States, the system of land holding over the greater part of the country is beginning to approximate in substance to the ryotwari system. Proposals for land reform raise important questions of policy and finance which call for close co-operation and consultation between the Central and State Governments. Even though the pace of land reform and of economic development cannot be the same all over the country, it is desirable that as between different States there should be a broad, common approach in land reform programmes and, as an essential aspect of the implementation of the Five Year Plan, the stages in which land reforms are to be carried out should be worked out by the Central Government and the States.

4. Problems of land reform may be viewed in two ways, namely, (i) from the point of view of agricultural production and (ii) from the point of view of different interests in the land. The first aspect is the subject of land management legislation, the second of land reform legislation. To fulfil its braoder objectives, land policy should include both elements, for, it is only in an economy in which production and employment expand that the community can realise fully the benefits of changes in the social and economic structure. Although, between the two aspects of policy, there is no conflict of principle, land reform will be fruitful in the measure, in which each step is marked by a balance of emphasis. The main outlines of policy have to be conceived in terms of different interests in land and, at the same time, the effects on production of each measure that may be proposed have to be foreseen and provided for. The interests in question are: (i) intermediaries, (2) large owners, (3) small and middle owners, (4) tenants-at-will and (5) landless workers. These different interests cannot be considered in isolation from one another, for, any action affecting one interest must either give something to or take something away from one or more of the other interests. As social and economic adjustments affecting individual interests come into effect, a new social structure takes the place of the old. It is best that the period of transition and uncertainty should be short, so that the new social pattern can develop its own organic unity and can begin to evolve from within.

Intermediary Rights

5. The abolition of intermediary rights has been the major achievement in the field of land reform during the past few years. In varying degrees these rights had a long history behind them and, until quite recently, in some States, they were the essential elements of power in the feudal structure. As a result of the elimination of these rights, in States which had zamindari, jagirdari or other similar tenures, the State has now come into direct contact with the occupier of the land. Zamindari has been abolished in Uttar Pradesh., Madhya Pradesh and Madras and is in the process of abolition in Bihar. Legislation already enacted in Assam and Orissa is shortly expected to be enforced, and West Bengal, which has had serious problems to reckon with since Partition, is engaged in framing legislation for the abolition ofzamindari. Legislation for the abolition of jagirdari has been enacted in Rajasthan, Madhya Bharat, Hyderabad and Saurashtra and also in some of the smaller States in Central India. It has not yet come into effect, however, except in Hyderabad and Saurashtra. la States such as Bombay, Punjab and PEPSU, elements of superior rights which existed have been eliminated or are in the process of being eliminated. The amendment of Article 31 of the Constitution in 1951 'cleared the way for the completion of these reforms.

6. Although the abolition of intermediary rights can be described as the completion of one important phase of land reform, two principal problems have not yet been fully solved. These relate to (i) payment of compensation to zamindars and-jagirdars, and (2) establishment of the necessary revenue administration. In a number of States compensation is expected to take the form of non-negotiable bonds carrying a rate of interest and repayable within a period which may extend to 40 years. The question arises whether the compensation to be paid could serve to some extent as a source of investment in public enterprises. One suggestion which has been made is that the bonds issued to zamindars, while they remain non-negotiable for periods to be indicated, might be made convertible into shares in projects undertaken by the State Governments concerned or even by the Central Government. The arrangement may have certain advantages both from the side of Government and from the side of the person who converts his compensatory bonds into shares in public enterprises. The suggestion, however, needs to be further examined with reference to conditions in the principal States in which Zamindari has been or is expected to be abolished.

7. The question of revenue records and revenue administration in Zamindari and jagirdari areas is of paramount importance. From information which has been collected from a number of States, it is apparent that the subject needs urgent attention. In the temporarily settled areas, there has long been a framework of revenue administration which, if strengthened, will be capable of assuming new responsibilities consequent upon the abolition of zamindari. In most of the permanently settled areas and in the jagirdari areas, however, there is scarcely any revenue administration on behalf of the Government and the effective implementation of land reforms becomes a matter of some doubt. The responsibilities which a Government -assumes with the abolition of zamindari are not confined to the collection of rent, for, important obligations relating to waste lands, forests, fisheries and other miscellaneous rights have to be accepted. We have referred to this aspect already in the chapter on the administration of district development programmes and suggest that the States concerned should give high priority to the solution of administrative problems which arise from the abolition of zamindari and, in particular, to the building up of sound revenue administrations.

8. A revenue administration depends, in the last resort, upon a good system of village records. In States like West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Rajasthan and Ajmer, there are scarcely any village records. In Hyderabad and certain other areas, over large tracts, there existed a system of village records maintained by zamindars and jagirdars through their own petty employees. These records were seldom of adequate quality and could not be fully relied upon. Records of rights and other land records become even more important at a time when rapid changes affecting land have become a normal feature of legislative activity. It would not in fact be too much to say that in some States because of defective revenue records the implementation of reforms already enacted will remain incomplete and may even raise new problems which will come in, the way of good administration.

Substantial Owners Of Land

9. The growth of population and repeated sub-division have led to a system of distribution in land in which large estates are an exception and the vast majority of holdings are relatively small in size. Legislation for the abolition of zamindari and for the protection of tenants has already reduced to some extent the degree of disparity which existed in the distribution of land.

10. Information concerning the distribution and size of holdings is available only to a meagre extent. As a result of an enquiry addressed to State Governments, a certain amount of information which was readily available has been obtained and is given in the annexure to this chapter. Even in States which have an adequate system of land records, the data have to be corrected for the changes which have taken place during recent years on account of the abolition of intermediary rights or the merger of new territories. The data are also defective in that they do not distinguish between cultivated and uncultivated land and, in respect of land under cultivation, between irrigated and unirrigated land. Secondly, they do not indicate the effects of the tenancy legislation of the past few years. Under this legislation large numbers of tenants have acquired either rights of occupancy or of protected tenants and, at the very least, have obtained greater security of tenure. In considering the distribution of land as it exists at present for purposes of policy, it is important to know how much land is under the direct management of owners as distinguished from that held on lease by tenants. Before making other proposals on the subject, the first recommendation which we have to make is that during 1953 all States in In-lia should cooperate in undertaking a census of land holding and cultivation. The lines on which this census should be held and the details of the information which should be secured should be worked out by an expert group and the operations should be so planned that they do not place excessive burden on revenue administrations in the States. In this connection, it may be observed that areas in which village records and the revenue administration are not adequate will present special problems. Unless the preliminary step that we have recommended is taken, we believe that it will be difficult to give practical effect to a number of other steps which remain to be taken in the field of land reform.

11. If allowance is made for factors such as quality of land, area under tenants and the elimination of zamindari and jafirdari rights, the general picture is one of numerous small holdings, a large proportion of them being uneconomic, a small number of middle peasants and a sprinkling of substantial owners. For reasons mentioned above, it is not possible at this stage to indicate the approximate numbers in each group. It is safe to suggest, however, that substantial owners who are directly engaged in managing their land without the intervention of tenants constitute a very small number.

12. If it were the sole object of policy to reduce the holdings of the larger owners with a view to providing for the landless or for increasing the farms of those who now have uneconomic fragments, the facts at present available suggest that these aims are not likely to be achieved in any substantial measure. The question whether some limit should not be placed on the amount of land that an individual may hold has, therefore, to be answered in terms of general principles rather than in relation to the possible use that could be made of land in excess of any limit that may be set. We have considered carefully the implications of the various courses of action which are possible. It appears to us that, in relation to land (as also in other sectors of the economy) individual property in excess of any norm that may be proposed has to be justified in terms of public interest, and not merely on. grounds of individual rights or claims. We are, therefore, in favour of the principle that there should be an upper limit to the amount of land that an individual may hold.

13 The idea of an upper limit for land has already, been given effect to in two different ways, namely, (i) as a limit for future acquisition and (2) as a limit for resumption for personal cultivation. Uttar Pradesh has, for instance, prescribed 30 acres as the limit for future acquisition. Similarly, where land is held by tenants, a land-owner may be permitted to resume up to a prescribed limit for personal cultivation. In Bombay this limit is set at 50 acres, in the Punjab at 50 "standard" acres, in Hyderabad at five times an economic holding, and in Uttar Pradesh, where the tenancy problem and the course of legislation differ from those of ryntwari areas, the limit for resumption is a holding of 8 acres. Although a number of States have not yet imposed limits for future acquisition and for resumption for personal cultivation, we consider that the determination of these limits is an essential step in land reform. Certain areas may, however, present special problems. It may happen, for instance, that in some States there may be a great deal of land requiring reclamation. Reclamation programmes may necessitate long period leases of comparatively fair-sized blocks of land where schemes for State farming or cooperative colonisation may be highly uneconomical or prohibitive in cost. Whether the expression 'future acquisition' should also include within its meaning the 'right to inherit' needs to be considered from the point of view of legislation for the imposition of estate duties which is now before Parliament. On this subject, therefore, at present we do not make any recommendation.

14. The question how the limit for resumption for personal cultivation or for future acquisition should be determined needs to be considered. In theory, there are five possible criteria with reference to which the limit may be fixed. Thus, the limit may be a varying multiple of (i) land revenue, (ri) value of the gross produce of land, (lii) value of net produce (or income) of land, (w) sale value of land, and (v) lease value of land. Each of these criteria may prove useful in particular circumstances, but their limitations should be appreciated. Apart from the fact that in several parts of trie country no land revenue assessment exists, different districts have been assessed at different times and on the basis of varying assumptions as to prices, yields and crop maturities. Comparisons of land revenue rates are, therefore, more valid as between different classes of land within a district than as between different districts assessed at different times and in varying circumstances. Statements about the value of gross produce of land are generally made on rough calculations and are sometimes misleading. The only satisfactory way of calculating the value of gross produce would be^to prepare fresh estimates on the basis of a standard series of prices for^commodities^ which go into the produce estimates prepared for different areas during settlement operations. This would be a laborious procedure which could hardly be commended and, frequently, the relevant basic information would not be available. The value of net produce for an acre of land is calculated after making allowance for expenses of cultivation which may have to be borne by an owner of land as distinct from the tenant. In view of the rapid changes in tenancy conditions which have been and are taking place, it is not possible to use this criterion. On account of tenancy reforms and other factors, the average sale value of different classes of land is also a less useful criterion now than it was in the past. Moreover,^ decade of high prices has somewhat distorted the picture. Similar considerations apply to the test of lease value which is further vitiated by the fact that little accurate statistical information covering a sufficient number of instances is, available and also because much of the land is leased on the basis of a share in the crop.

15. In the last analysis any particular method of determining a limit implies an average level of income or, in real terms, an average quantity of agricultural produce which it is proposed should become some kind of maximum for an individual agricultural family. It is sometimes suggested that the fair course would be to determine the maximum holding of land in terms of an average anuual income. This would give an accurate measure of the change in the rural social structure which was sought to be brought about and would also ensure that widely different standards for reducing disparities in income were not adopted for the agricultural and non-agricultural sectors in the economic life of the country. There is force in these considerations. It has to be recognised however, that calculations of the amount of land of given quality in any area which may be expected on an average to yield a specified income are subject to so much guess-work that without much more statistical information than is at present available, there are real difficulties in applying the criterion of average income. In actual land reform operations, as the work of resettlement of displaced persons on evacuee agricultural lands shows, there must be considerable flexibility in approach and, considerations of theory apart, it becomes necessary to adopt those criteria which will serve best against the background of the tenures and revenue arrangements peculiar to a State. Within a State, of course, for its different regions, the same criteria have to be followed. As one method of determining a limit, which may often prove applicable in practical work and is here used by way of illustration, it may be useful to apply a rough and ready criterion such as, for instance, a multiple in terms of what may be regarded as a "family holding" in any given area. A family holding may be denned briefly as being equivalent, according to the local conditions and under the existing conditions of technique, either to a plough unit or to a work unit for a family of average size working with such assistance as is customary in agricultural operations. Another possible method of indicating a limit may be to propose an average level of money income which the permissible holding may be expected to yield. The limit which may be appropriate has to be determined by each State in the light of its own circumstances but, broadly speaking, following the recommendations of the Congress Agrarian Reforms Committee, about three times the family holding would appear to be a fair limit for an individual holding.

16. Whether the principle of imposing a limit on holdings should receive retrospective effect and be applied to existing holdings raises wider issues than the limits proposed for futu-e acquisition and for resumption for personal cultivation. The central question involved is whether, in the event of a limit being imposed, lands in excess of the limit can be acquired for consideration which falls short of fair compensation, that is, their market value at the time of acquisition. Merits of the proposal apart, we are advised that such a course would not be consistent with the provisions of the Constitution. We would suggest that the problem needs to be considered in terms somewhat different from those in which proposals are commonly made.

17. The problem of land held by substantial owners falls into two distinct parts, namely, (') land now under the cultivation of tenants-at-will, and (n) land under the direct management of owners. Keeping in view the limit for resumption of personal cultivation, we suggest that for areas in excess of this limit the general policy should be to enable the tenants to become owners. To achieve this object, the following measures have to be taken simultaneously. First, tenants have to be given security of tenure which could well extend to the conferment of occupancy rights. Secondly, it would be necessary to determine the principles on which (o) the price of land should be fixed and ( and ) payment should be made by the tenant. Depending again upon the local conditions, the most convenient course might be to fix the price of land as a multiple of its rental value, and payment might be made in instalments spread over a period. We suggest that there is advantage in the Government establishing direct contact with tenants upon whom these rights are conferred and collecting land revenue from them rather than through owners, the price of land being recovered along with the land revenue. Payment of compensation to owners of land can be made in bonds much in the manner already adopted or proposed for intermediary rights.

18. Where land is managed directly by substantial owners and there are no tenants in occupation, public interest requires the acceptance of two broad principles :

  1. There should be an absolute limit to the amount of land which any individual may hold. This limit should be fixed by each State, having regard to its own agrarian history and its present problems. The census of land holding and cultivation, which it is proposed to hold during 1953, will give the data relevant to this decision.
  2. The cultivation and management of land held by an individual owner should conform to standards of efficiency to be determined by law.

It is suggested that each State should enact suitable land management legislation. Under this legislation standards of cultivation and management should be laid down. Specific obligations should be prescribed, for instance, in respect of sale of surplus produce to the Government, production and sale of improved seed, wages and conditions of living and employment for agricultural workers, investment in farm improvements, etc. The legislation should also provide for suitable machinery for enforcing the various obligations. The legislation could be applied, in the first instance, to these holdings which exceed a limit to be prescribed, which may be equal to or larger than the limit for resumption for personal cultivation, and future acquisition, depending upon the conditions in a State,

19. As a practical approach to the problem of large individual holdings, it would be best to divide substantial farms which are directly managed by their owners into two groups, namely, those which are so efficiently managed that their break-up would lead to a fall in production, and those which do not meet this test. For the latter category, the land management legislation should give to the appropriate authority the right to take over for the purpose of management the entire farm or such portion of it as might be in excess of the limit for resumption of personal cultivation and, secondly, the right to arrange for cultivation of lands so taken over. For the cultivation of such lands, preference could be given to co-operative groups and to workers on the lands which pass into the control of the land management authority. The proposals made above would provide for a large measure of redistribution of land belonging to substantial owners. In the legislation a date might be indicated with effect from which the law would be enforced in respect of farms in excess of the prescribed limit. Generally speaking, in order to set up the machinery for land management and to undertake the necessary survey before the law can be enforced effectively, a period of about two to three years might be necessary.

Small And Middle Owners

20. The expressions 'small' and 'middle' owners cannot be denned precisely but, for most purposes, it might be sufficient to consider owners of land not exceeding a family holding as small owners and those holding land in excess of one family holding but less than the limit for resumption of personal cultivation (which may be three times the family holding) as middle owners. In the case of small and middle owners, the social considerations which apply are of a different order from those relevant to the circumstances of the larger owners. The general aim of policy should be to encourage and assist these owners to develop their production and to persuade them to organise their activities, as far as a possible, on co-operative lines. Small owners include many who have uneconomic holdings which are also seriously fragmented. The experience of consolidation of holdings in Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Bombay has established the value of this measure for small holders. We suggest that since the idea of consolidation of holdings is well understood by the peasants and they are prepared to meet a large part of the cost, in all States programmes for the consolidation of holdings should be expanded and pursued with vigour. The second important measure which has been taken in some States for the benefit of small holders relates to the fixation of a minimum holding below which subdivision is not permitted. There has been no investigation yet into the practical working of measures for the prevention of sub-division below a minimum such as have been taken in Bombay and Uttar Pradesh. It is, therefore, difficult to say to what extent they have proved immediately beneficial. They are, however, sound in conception and, while they need to be observed more closely in practice, we think that they could be extended.

21. The suggestion is sometimes made that in the event of redistribution of land belonging to substantial owners, those who have uneconomic holdings should receive additional lartd in order that their holdings may become economic. The effect of the proposals that we have made earlier in respect of lands of substantial owners will be to confer rights which will develop into ownership mainly on those tenants and workers who are already engaged in the cultivation of lands in excess of the limit for resumption for purposes of cultivation. In the ordinary course, therefore, there may not be much land available for the purpose of enlarging the holdings of uneconomic owners. The problem of uneconomic holdings has certain wider aspects to which we shall refer later. The solution lies more in the direction of evolving a suitable system of co-operative management of the land of a village and the organisation of co-operative farming groups rather than in attempting too many little adjustments in the holdings of individual owners or cultivators of small plots.

22. Lands belonging to small and middle owners may be divided into two categories, namely, those under direct cultivation, and those leased to tenants-at-will. The problems which the former present are those of finance, technical assistance and organisation of co-operative activity. As regards the latter, two considerations are important. In the first place, any measures which are taken to protect the tenants of small and middle owners should be simple to administer and, as far as possible, the problems which they raise should be solved at the village level b; the people themselves. Secondly, care should be taken to ensure that measures for the protection of small and middle owners do not operate seriously to reduce the movement of the people from rural areas into other occupations, whether in towns or in villages. The pressure on land is already heavy and is growing. Voluntary movement of villagers into other vocations has considerable advantage for the development of rural economic life, especially in conditions in which those who go out of the village for work retain their village roots and are encouraged to maintain an active sense of obligation towards the village community of which they continue to be members. There is little to be gained by treating the leasing of land by small and middle owners as examples of absenteeism to be dealt with along the same lines as lands belonging to substantial owners which are cultivated by tenants-at-will. At the same time, steps have to be taken to afford adequate protection-to the tenants of small and middle owners.


23. The central question to be considered in respect of tenants-at-will who are engaged in the cultivation of lands belonging to small and middle owners relates to the terms on which the latter may resume land for personal cultivation. A distinction may be made between those small and middle owners who cultivate themselves and those who do not. Land could only be resumed for cultivation by an owner himself or by the members of his family. We suggest that resumption should be permitted on this ground for the number of family holdings not exceeding three which can be cultivated by the adult workers belonging to an owner's family with the assistance of agricultural labour to the extent customary among those who cultivate their own lands. A period may be prescribed—five years for instance—during which an owner may resume for personal cultivation. If he fails to do so during this period, the tenant should have the right to buy the land he cultivates on terms similar to those suggested earlier for the tenants of the larger landholders.

24. The rigiits of tenants who cultivate the lands of small and middle owners need to be defined. The two principal questions to be considered relate to the period of tenancy and the rent which the tenant may have to pay. We suggest that the tenancy should ordinarily be for five to ten years and should be renewable, resumption being permitted, as suggested earlier, if the owner himself wishes to cultivate. As regards the determination of rent, in recent years in various States, rents have been steadily reduced. In Bombay the rent of agricultural land was reduced to one-third of the produce (or its value) for unirrigated lands and to one-fourth of the produce for irrigated lands. In the Punjab, rent has been reduced from one-half to one-third of the produce for lands cultivated by owners whose holdings exceed the limit prescribed for resumption of personal cultivation. The determination of rent has to be regarded essentially as a question for consideration in the light of local conditions. The essential principle would appear to be that the rent of land should be so fixed that, having regard to his expenses of cultivation and other risks, a fair wage remains for the cultivator. While it is difficult to suggest a generally applicable maximum rate of rent, over the greater part of the country, a rate of rent exceeding one-fourth or one-fifth of the produce could well be regarded as requiring special justification.

Landless Workers

25. Schemes of land distribution are likely to confer somewhat restricted benefits on agricultural workers other than tenants. This is because in any scheme of distribution or resttlement the first claim will be that of tenants already working on lands which may be taken over from the larger owners. In view of this difficulty, the contribution which the movement for making gifts of land, which has been initiated by Acharya Vinoba Bhave, has special "alue, for, it givas to the landless worker an opportunity not otherwise easily available to him.

26. It would be difficult to maintain a system in which, because of accidents of birth or circumstance, certain individuals are denied the opportunity of rising in the social scale by becoming cultivators and owners of land. It is, therefore, necessary to consider the problem in terms of institutional changes which would create conditions of equality for all sections of the rural population. The essence of these changes lies in working out a co-operative system or management in which the land and other resources of a village can be managed and developed so as to increase and diversify production and to provide employment to all those who are able and willing to work. The growth of industrialisation and of tertiary services is essential if any scheme of agricultural reorganisation is to succeed. Given this condition, whether the rural economy will expand and its techniques develop rapidly enough will depend largely upon the manner in which it is reorganised.

Co-Operative Farming

27. Small and uneconomic holdings are at the root of many of the difficulties in the way of agricultural development. With the growing pressure on land, their number is increasing. Where agriculture does not require much investment, natural conditions are favourable and the cultivators are skilltui and industrious, it is possible that the average yield on small farms may be higher than the average for many of the larger farms. The problem in India is to secure a large increase in production over the entire area now under cultivation. This calls for the application on a wide scale of scientific knowledge and increased capital investment in various forms. These conditions are easier to secure where land is worked and managed in fairly large units than in the form of petty and fragmented holdings. In a farm of substantial size it is possible to eliminate several wasteful operations and to ensure better planning of the use of land, including selection of crops, rotation, soil conservation, development of irrigation and introduction of improved techniques. Economies which cannot be availed of by small farms are available to large ones. iy its very nature a larger unit of operation and management can secure more credi: and finance and can apply these to greater advantage, can diversify its economy and can make a relatively greater contribution to the solution of the country's food problem.

28. For these reasons it is important that small and middle farmers, in particular-should be encouraged and assisted to group themselves voluntarily into co-operative farming societies. These societies may be formed on conditions such as the following :—

  1. The area under a co-operative farming society should not be less than a prescribed minimum. This could be fixed according to circumstances, as, say, four to six times the family holding in an area. It is perhaps not necessary to' prescribe a maximum for a co-operative farming society ,
  2. Preference should be given to co-operative farming societies in the matter of supplies, finance, technical assistance and marketing ;
  3. In undertaking consolidation proceedings, preference might be given to villages in which, co-operative farming societies are formed ;
  4. Preference should be given to co-operative farming societies in leasing agricultural waste lands belonging to the Government or taken over from private owners with a view to development. Suitable assistance in bringing such lands under cultivation should also be given ;
  5. It could be provided that so long as a co-operative farming society continues, no adverse tenancy rights would accrue against those of its members who might not engage in personal cultivation. The object of this concession is not to affect in any way the rights of existing tenants (as they should enter the co-operative farming society as members) but to encourage individual small and middle owners to join together to form co-operatives.

A widespread extension of the practice of co-operation in non-farm as well as farm operations will be a major determining factor in achieving the rapid re-organisation of the village economy.

Co-Operative Village Management

29. While the extension of co-operative farming and co-operative activities generally will do much to develop the social and economic life of the village and, in particular, will benefit small and middle landholders, the scope of rural organisation has to be conceived in wider terms. We have referred already to the fact that without a basic reconstruction of the village economy it is not possible to create conditions of equality of opportunity for the landless agricultural workers. Even after the problems relating to lands belonging to substantial owners have been dealt with, there remains considerable disparity of interest between the small and middle owner, the tenant and the landless worker. Concessions to one section at the expense of another may certainly benefit a few, but intrinsically the measures which may be taken may not promote sufficiently the rapid increase of agricultural production or the diversification of rural economic life or the growth of greater local employment. The possibility of achieving greater social justice through regulation of contractual terms between different constituent elements in the village is soon exhausted. Apart from sharpening the conflict of interests within the rural community, proposals for further regulation become in effect proposals for sharing poverty. While the objective of family holdings with increasing emphasis on co-operative methods of organisation may represent the most practical method of translating into practical action the principal of 'land for the tiller', the effective fulfilment of this very principle requires that there should be a more comprehensive goal towards which the rural economy should be developed.

30. For several reasons it has become imperative that at the village level there should be an organisation deriving its authority from the village community and charged with the main responsibility for undertaking programmes of village development. In an earlier chapter we have suggested how these functions may be taken over by the village panchayat and how the panchayat may be strengthened for the purpose. In relation to land policy the role of the village panchayat becomes an extremely important one, because there are certain problems which none but the panchayat can deal with. These may be briefly mentioned :

  1. Tenancy legislation frequently proves infructuous because of the lack of administrative arrangements for enforcing it. It is known, for instance, that entries in revenue records relating to personal cultivation are not always correct where the owners in question have a fear of losing their lands to tenants in the event of future tenancy legislation ;
  2. While it is necessary to safeguard the interests of small and middle owners and permit them to resume land for personal cultivation, some way must be found for ensuring that the tenant who is thereby displaced has land to cultivate. It would make for cumbrous arrangements if a small owner's right to resume land for personal cultivation were made subject on each occasion to the proviso that a certain amount of land must be left for cultivation with the person who happens to be his tenant. Proposals of this character, have a limited value ut the fact has to be reckoned with that they are very difficult to work and may cause much continuing friction and frustration in the daily life of the village community;
  3. It AS necessary that tenants, even when they are displaced by small owners, should be able to obtain at least a minimum holding for cultivation. What the minimum should be can be determined with reference to local conditions, but the limit below which under the law, sub-division of holdings is not permitted, may be found to be a useful indication. If, for sheer lack of land, it is not possible to provide a minimum holding, then the obligation to provide work in some other form ensues ;
  4. When lands belonging to substantial owners who do not meet the standards of efficiency prescribed by the land management legislation have to be settled with new tenants, the selection has to be made by some organisation at the village level ;
  5. The cultivation of village waste lands is the responsibility of the village panchayat and for this purpose arrangements for cultivating these lands have to be made.

31. For the performance of the functions described above, the only answer appears to be that he village panchayat should become the agency for land management and land reform in tht. village. In other words in the case of all owners any leasing of land should be done, not directly, but through the village panchayat. Experience of the practical working of restrictions on subletting suggests that these restrictions do not work out well in practice and the need for permrtting some subletting is not adequately met through the listing of a few exceptions in favour, for instance, of those who are, for any valid reasons, unable to look after their lands. In addition to being the agency through which leases of private lands belonging to small and middle owners take place, the village panchayat has also to be the body principally concerned with the management of lands belonging to substantial owners which are made available for cultivation and for village waste lands. If the village panchayat has all these functions, then it may be possible for it to provide, at any rate, holdings of minimum size for landless cultivators. Its capacity to do so may frequently be limited by the amount of land available in relation to the number of workers who have to be provided. This very factor suggests the need for planning development over groups of villages such as are comprised in community projects, and for vesting in the village panchayat functions which go beyond the management of those lands in the village which are not cultivated by their owners. In other words, the conception of co-operative management has to be extended to include the entire land of the village as well as activities for creating non-agricultural employment and providing social services.

32. The system of co-operative reorganisation which will be found most feasible in practice has to be evolved by village communities out of the practice of co-operation in various directions and according to their own needs and problems. From the side of the Government what is needed is that village communities should receive sufficient guidance and assistance and, secondly, that the law should give them the means for bringing about the necessary changes in the management of land. There are at present in progress throughout the country a number of experiments in co-operative farming and in the organisation of various activities on co-operative lines. If systematic study of this experience were made, useful suggestions which could assist the progress of co-operative effort throughout the country would emerge. There is need also for an expanding programme of training and experiments in cooperative farming and co-operative organisation. For this purpose, in the Five Year Plan Rs. 50 lakhs have been provided by the Central Government.

33. The second aspect has to be dealt with mainly through the land management legislation; It is suggested that such legislation might include a provision conferring upon the village panchayat rights of management of village lands which are either lying uncultivated or are not directly cultivated by their owners. Secondly, it could be provided that if, for instance, a majority of the owners and occupancy tenants in a village wished to enter upon co-operative management of the land of the village, their decision should be binding on the village as a whole. To ensure confidence among all concerned, it could also be prescribed that those who express themselves in favour of co-operative management should as a body hold permanent rights in at least one-half of the land of the' village, no individual holding being reckoned for this purpose in excess of the limit prescribed for resumption of personal cultivation.

34. The primary object of co-operative village management i6 to ensure that the land and other resources of a village can he organised and developed from the stand-point of the village community as a whole. The rights of ownership are determined by the land reforms legislation of a State. Even after a system of co-operative management is established, the rate of rent or ownership dividend to be allowed to an owner in respect of his land will be determined on the basis of the tenancy laws of a State. What the land management legislation enables a village community to do is to manage the entire area of a village, both cultivated and uncultivated, as if it were a single farm. According to circumstances, the actual cultivation could be arranged, as might be found feasible, in family holdings, through small groups working blocks of land in the village on co-operative lines or through a combination of arrangements adapted to the operations to be carried out. As techniques develop and the manpower requirements of occupations other than farming increase, still larger blocks of land could be worked co-operatively. According to their needs and experience, village communities will discover the arrangements which serve them best. There has to be a great deal of trial and experiment before patterns of organisation which will best promote the interests of the rural population can be evolved. Nevertheless, it is important to work towards a concept of co-operative village management, so that the village may become a vital, progressive and largely self-governing base of the structure of national planning and the existing social and economic disparities resulting from property, caste and status may be obliterated.

Central Organisation For Land Reforms

35. In the years following the achievement of freedom, it was natural that State Governments should endeavour to translate their programmes of land reform into action with the utmost speed. Some States carried out exhaustive enquiries before undertaking legislation. These enquiries were quite adequate for the first steps in land reform which related to the abolition of intermediary rights. Detailed information concerning the holding and cultivation of land, to which reference has been made earlier can be collected from village records. As a rule, however, such information is not available in the form and detail now required for a State as a whole or for individual districts. The stage has now been reached when new measures of land reform should be based on objective assessment of the working of measures already introduced. Since land reform affects every aspect of rural life, the evaluation of land reform programmes requires trained investigators. Within each State, therefore, there is need for some machinery for investigating and reporting upon the progress of measures of land reform. In the Central Government also there is need for an organisation which could pool knowledge and experience gained in the States and could suggest lines for further investigation. When millions of persons are affected by measures proposed by the Central Government or by the States or by political parties, it becomes a matter of the greatest importance that proposals should be tested with reference to data which have been correctly ascertained and embody experience which has been carefully evaluated. Equally, it is important to maintain a continuous record of information concerning progress in the implementation of land reform programmes adopted by the States. To assist in the process, we recommend the establishment in the Central Government of a land reforms organisation. The details of the organisation which will be needed in connection with the implementation of a national programme . of such vital importance as land reform and co-operative reorgnizatioa of the rural economy will need to be worked out carefully. We believe that such an organisation will prove to be of considerable value both to the Central Government and the States and will hsip the progress of land reforms.

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