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So far weve seen: British Tenure system, peasant revolts and three main land reforms
after independence viz. (1) Zamindari Abolition (2) Land ceiling (3) Tenancy protection
In this article, well check some peoples/NGO/Civil society movements for land reforms
in India. Their achievements/limitations.
In the next article well come back to government actions: cooperative farming,
consolidation of land holdings and computerization of records.

@Mains 2013 Players: If running out of time and find this article too lengthy then just
read Bhoodan+Gramdan+directly Jan Satyagraha 2012 and skip the topics in between.
Bhoodan Movement (Donation of Land)
1951 First Bhoodan in village Pochampalli, Nalgonda District, Andhra (the hotbed of Telengana
movement)By local Zamindar V. Ramchandra Reddy to Vinoba Bhave.
1953 Jayaprakash Narayan withdrew from active politics to join the Bhoodan movement
Bhoodan movement had two components:
1. Collect land as gift from zamindars and rich farmers.
2. Redistribute that gifted/donated land among the landless farmers.
Bhoodan: Mechanism/procedure/features
1. (Hierarchy) Vinoba: Sarvodaya Samaj=> Pradesh Bhoodan Committees in each region=>
local committees and individual social workers @grassroot.
2. He and his followers were to do padayatra (walk on foot from village to village).
Persuade the larger landowners to donate at least one-sixth of their lands.
3. Target= 50 million acres. (~1/6 of total cultivable land in India)
4. When a Zamindar/rich farmer gifts/donates a land, the Bhoodan worker would prepare a
5. These Deeds forwarded to Vinoba Bhave @Sevagram for signature.
6. Bhoodan Worker took help of Gram Panchayat, PAtwari (village accountant) to survey
the beneficiaries and land fertility.
7. First preference given to landless agricultural laborers, then to farmers with insufficient
8. A date was fixed, entire village gathered and the beneficiary family was given land.
9. Those who receive the donation are asked to sign a printed application requesting for
land, after which they are presented with certificates of having received land.
10. No fees charged from the beneficiary.
11. Beneficiary was expected to cultivate the land for atleast 10 years. He should start within
three years of the receipt of land.
12. These Rules/procedures were relaxed by taking local conditions, cultures in account.
Many state governments made legislation to facilitate donation and distribution of Bhoodan land.
Example: Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Orissa,
Punjab, Rajasthan, U.P., Delhi and Himachal Pradesh.
Subsequently, the movement was widened into Gramdan. States again passed special legislation
for management of Gramdan villages.
Bhoodan: Positive
In the initial years the movement achieved a considerable degree of success, especially in
North India- UP, Bihar.
By 1956: receiving over 4 million acres of land as donation.
By 1957: ~4.5 million acres.
The movement was popularised in the belief that land is a gift of nature and it belonged
to all.
The donors of land are not given any compensation. This movement helped to reduce the
gap in haves and have-nots in rural areas.
This movement was un-official. The landlords were under no compulsion to donate their
land, it was a voluntary movement. One of the very few attempts after independence to
bring about land reform through a movement
Promoted the Gandhian the idea of trusteeship or that all land belonged to God.
Communist leader E.M.S. Namboodiripad
o the Bhoodan and Gramdan movement stimulated political and other activity by
the peasant masses
o has created a favourable atmosphere for political propaganda and agitation
o for redistribution of the land
o for abolition of private ownership of land
o for the development of agricultural producers cooperatives.
Bhoodan: Obstacles, Limitations, Problems
Slow progress
After 56 movement lost its momentum.
While nearly 4.5 million acres of Bhoodan land was available- barely
6.5 lakh acres was actually distributed among 200,000 families (1957)
In some cases the donors took back their land from the Bhoodan
workers for certain reasons.
This created doubts in the minds of some people about the continuity of
the movement.
village leaders, or allotting authorities, demanded money from the poor for
recommending their names for allotment. As a result, many underserving
villagers also got land e.g those already having land/ those involved in trade-
Bhoodan movement created land hunger among landless.Some of them applied
multiple times in the name of wives, children etc. to get more and more free
Donating bogus
big landlords donated those land which were unfit for cultivation (or under
court litigation). Such donations served no real purpose.
Disputed land
Sometimes Bhoodan workers would even accept disputed land as gift.
Without verification.
Later the Matter would be stuck in court litigations and beneficiary
would get nothing.
In the later phase, Bhoodan workers got associated with one or another
political parties. Some of them tried to use the Bhoodan organization
as a means to gain political clout and dividends at the time of election.
Thus as the years passed, Bhoodan workers lost credibility and respect
among villagers=>land gifts declined.
Bribes Since Bhoodan workers became political agents, Some landlords / Ex-
Zamindars donated land as bribe to Bhoodan workers- with hope of
getting favourable returns e.g. ticket in local election, road-contracts,
building contracts etc.
And if they (landlords) were not given such favours- theyd forcibly
take back the Bhoodan land from the beneficiary later on.
Mere allotment of land=insufficient. Because landless farmer also
needed seeds, fertilizer, irrigation etc.
Often the beneficiary couldnt arrange loans for these inputs.
District officials were slow and inefficient in finishing the formalities of
Bhoodan land transfers.
donated land remained idle for a number of years and the revenue for it
had to be paid by the donor.
1. The average size of land given to beneficiary=0.5 to 3 acres.
2. Result: land fragmentation + diseconomies of scale + disguised
unemployment without any noticeable rise in agro-production.
3. Bhoodans main purpose was to serve as a brake on the revolutionary
struggle of the peasants
4. Thus idea of Bhoodan= reactionary, class collaborationist.
Missed the
bigger picture
5. Bhoodan based on Gandhian idea of trusteeship. Some Socialists
wanted this movement to realize the potential of trusteeship and launch
mass civil disobedience against injustice.
6. The Sarvodaya Samaj, however, on the whole failed to make this
transition: to build an active large-scale mass movement that would
generate irresistible pressure for social transformation in large parts of
the country.
All these loopholes, slowly and steadily, made the movement dysfunctional.
1999: Bihar government dissolved the State Bhoodan Committee for its inability to
distribute even half the Bhoodan land available over the past thirty-eight years.
Thus, Vinobas lofty ideal remained more as a philosophy and was never realized fully.
Gramdan (Donation of the Entire Village)
First Gramdan 1952: by the village of Mongroth in U.P.1955: Orissa, Koratpur district.
At a later phase, this progamme was extended to other states in Bihar, Maharashtra, Assam,
Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
Gramdan: Concept/Principles
1. Gramdan may be defined as an experiment in collective village living.
2. Original idea comes from Gandhis reply to Jamnalal Bajaj: it is far better for a hundred
families in a village to cultivate their land collectively and divide the income therefrom
than to divide the land any how into a hundred portions.
3. Vinoba Bhave popularized ^this concept of Gandhi.
Gramdan Mechanism
The villagers have to sign a declaration saying, We are vesting the ownership of all our land to
the Gram Sabha of the village.
1. This Gram Sabha/ Village council will unanimously nominate ten to fifteen persons who
will form an executive Committee.
2. This executive Committee will be responsible for the day-to-day administration of the
3. The decisions of the Committee will be ratified by the Council.
In other words, Gramdan=A Gram Sabha like institution collectively owned and managed entire
land/farms of the villagers.
Gramdan: Benefits
1. In an ideal gramdan village, there will be no landowners, and no absentee landlords.
2. The labourers will give all their earnings to the village community, which will then
distribute it according to needs.
3. Thus, gramdan acts as the ideal unit for putting the principles in the practice, From each
according to his ability, to each according to his needs.
By 1960 Approx.Gramdan Villages
Orissa 1900+
MH 600
Kerala 550
Andhra 480+
Madras 250
Gramdan movement was considered superior to the Bhoodan movement because:
land fragmentation, inefficient cultivation,
distribution of poverty, decline in marketable surplus
, donation of uncultivable land, legal and other
difficulties of redistribution, etc.
Nope Economies of scale
Benefits only the person who gets the land
Sarvodaya of entire village. Everyone
possible to correlate with
economic planning in the country.
2nd FYP recognized that Gramdan
village have great significance for
co-operative village development.
Limitation of Gramdan? Gramdan was successful mainly in villages where class differentiation
had not yet emerged and there was little if any disparity in ownership of land or other property.
E.g. Tribal villages. But didnt find cooperation from other villages in the plains or villages near
urban centers.
Pardi Satyagraha, Gujarat, 50s
1. Socialist workers: Iswarbhai Desai, Ashok Mehta.
2. Kisan Panchayat: a non-political body with no affiliation to any political party.
3. Tribals from Pardi and Dharmpur Taluka
WHEN 1953-1967
1. 75% of the agro land was owned by 100 big landlords.
2. These landlords were not interested in farming. They kept the land as such- so grass
automatically grew and sold profitably in Bombay fodder trade.
3. Local tribals would get labour work in such fodder-farms for only 1-2 months during
harvesting. They remained jobless and starving for remaining months. While the
landlords made decent profit with almost none investment or efforts.
Redistribution of land was not on their agenda. (Themselves declared it)
Satyagrahi would enter in the private land and start tilling to grow foodcrops and court
Tribals to boycott grass cutting work. even outside labour would not be allowed do the
work. Picketing. As a result, the grass dried up at many places.
With time, movement found support from public and political parties
Bhoodan and Gramdan movements also started but failed thanks to poor response from
Result? Almost #EPICFAIL because:
1. 1960, Gujarat created out of Bombay state. New state government made some
promises=>Iswarbhai and other Satyagrahi joined the Congress party. Hence
momentum/pressure was lost.
2. 1965: War between India Pakistan. The CM (Balwant Rai Mehta) died in plane crash.
New CM (Hitendra Desai) did not show much interest in fulfilling promises made by
previous CM.
3. Landlords went to Gujarat Highcourt court. Although HC rejected their plea, but state
government did not show any urgency to implement the agreements.
4. 1966: Ishwarbhai Desai decide to quit congress and launch a new Satyagraha, but he
died. And others were unable to provide effective leadership/direction to the movement.
5. 1967: A new agreement between the government, the landlords and the Satyagrahis. But
the implementation carried out at a snails pace.
Great Land Struggle, 1970s
WHEN 1970s
Bhartiya Khet Mazdoor Union, All India Kisan Sabha and Communist Party of
Nearly 15 lakh agricultural workers, poor peasants, the tribals, workers and the
poor from the towns
Trade unions and students, the youth and the womens organizations came
forward and directly participated in the struggle.
TYPE militant mass movement
to highlight the fact that land is concentrated in the hands of a few landlords, former
princess, zamindars and monopolists and to alert public attention to the urgent need for
radical agrarian reforms.
1. Occupy the government lands, forest lands, the land belonging to landlords, monopolist,
black marketeers.
2. Start cultivating on ^above land
3. Landless fight for full ownership of land
4. Tenants fight to reduce rent
5. Tribals fight for tribal land grabbed by forest contractors and moneylenders from the
6. Urban poors fight for vacant land for housing
7. Everyone fight to get radical amendments to the present ceiling laws and distribution of
surplus land.
PHASE What Who?
JULY, 1970
Occupying government land and
forest land
all the states, except Andhra Pradesh, Tamil
Nadu, Manipur and J & K,
Occupying huge farms of landlords,
former princes, Monopolists like
Birlas etc.
all states, except Assam (due to heavy flood)
and Kerala (due to Mid-term election)
Overall, More than 2 lakh acres of land was occupied, more than lakhs of people arrested.
1. While Bhoodan movement silently faded away from public memory and political arena
silently, but the great land Satyagraha, created ripples in the public mind and ruling party.
2. Before the land struggle, the Union and the state governments never felt the urgency of
solving the land problem. But now, Every state government came out with figures &
plans to distribute wasteland among the poor.
3. For the first time, land distribution started in actual practice, and some landless people
got Pattas of land.
4. Birlas were exposed as the biggest land grabber of India. Their farms in Uttaranchal and
Punjab were distributed to farm labourers.
5. Government appointed Central Land Reform Committee to address agrarian inequalities
in the country.
Land for Tillers Freedom (LAFTI), Tamil
Nadu, 80s
LAFTI was founded by Krishnammal and her husband Jagannathan in 1981.
Features/Actions by LAFTI
1. Earlier we saw how rich farmers in Tamilnadu transfereed their land to fake
trusts/charitable organizations/ schools, hospitals and dharrnashalas to avoid land ceiling.
2. LAFTI organized people against such illegal holdings and pleaded government to
takeover such land and redistribute it among the landless poor.
3. Highlighted the loopholes in the land related acts. LAFTI petitioned the President of
India about the weaknesses in the Benami transection ordinance and how landlords
evaded ceilings.
4. Negotiated with banks and landlords for a reasonable price for the purchase of land. And
then redistributed it among landless.
5. Generally, the nationalized bank charged a high rate of interest (14%) for offering loan
for the land transfer projects. LAFTI appealed to the government of India to reduce
interest rate to 4%.
6. Requested government to waive stamp-duty and registration fees for transferring land to
7. Started its own banking scheme, titled LAFTI Land Bank, by involving 10000 landless
families. These 10000 people deposited. Re. 1 per day or Rs. 10 per week or Rs. 500 per
year for five years.
8. With this money and help from the government in the form of exemption of stamp duties
and registration fees, LAFTI planned to transfer 500 acres of land per year to the landless
Land Satyagraha, Chattisgarh, late 80s
1. Land ceiling act were not implemented because nexus between the land mafia, landlords,
bureaucrats, politicians.
2. Under governments land distribution schemes- the landless were provided with Pattas
(land ownership document) but landmafias / rich farmers / forest contractors did not
allow them to physically occupy the land.
3. State Government made it mandatory for all the landlords to give back tribal land to the
tribals. But these landlords would appeal in higher courts and matter kept pending for
4. The tribals lacked the money and means to fight such legal battles. State government
didnt come to their help.
5. Most of the landless were SC/ST. They were forcibly pushed out of their ancestral land,
working as bonded labour because of indebtedness to the rich landlords or village traders.
6. By 1980s, there were 4000 bonded labourers in Raipur district alone.
1988: Land Satyagraha launched in Raipur district. Spearheaded by bonded labours
Slogan Action
Zamin Ka Faisla, Zamin Par
Hoga (All land issues will be
settled on the land itself).
Staging dharnas (sit-ins), hunger strikes on the disputed
All the concerned officials, including from police to
Patwari, Tehsildar to magistrate should come the disputed
land and settle the matter.
Zamin Do Ya Jail Do (give
us land or imprisonment).
Peasants would court arrest and go to jail in a peaceful
1993: thousands of villages courted arrest
Finally government officials refused to arrest people as
there was no room left in Jails.
Chakka-Jam Blocking traffic on the mains roads.
Jaun Khet man nagar
Chalahi, wohi khet ke malik
directly plough the fields with or without government
ho (land to the tiller) At almost all the places, the poor, landless, and small
farmers went in large numbers with their ploughs and
bullocks, to register their claim over the ancestral land.
At some places people were able to register their control
over the land, whereas in other places the official, in
connivance with the landlords and the powerful politician,
forcibly dispossessed the people from the land.
The land Satyagraha initiated a new dimension, a new movement, among the people to take
control over their resources.
Bhu-Adhikar Abhiyan, MP, 1996
Ekta Parishad is an NGO from Madhya Pradesh (1984). On principles of Samvad, Sangharsh,
Rachna (dialogue, struggle and construction). They conducted survey in MP and found two
main problems faced by SC/ST:
1. Land belonging to Scheduled tribe was illegally sold to outsiders thanks to land mafia,
forest contractors and corrupt bureaucrats.
2. Non Occupant Patta Holder leased their land poor farmers (occupant cultivators) and
exploited them via high rent and random eviction.
Ekta Parishad has launched a peoples movement with the following objectives.
3. Give Patta (land ownership document) to occupant cultivators.
4. To oppose the policy of inviting tenders from private companies, instead of giving land to
the landless.
5. To enforce joint ownership of husband and wife on the property. (recall the lack of
gender equity in land ownership)
6. Scrap the afforestation programmes funded by the World Bank. Because the money was
7. To resolve the problems of settlement of revenue land.
Result? Government appointed a Committee but it was meaningless eyewash.
Janadesh, 2007
By Ekta Parishad and sister organization / civil society / NGOs
~25000 landless tillers, labourers, Dalits and tribals, who have been deprived of their land
rights, marched from Gwalior to Delhi to assert the land rights of the poor.
1. Enact national land rights act.
2. setup national land authority.
3. setup land reforms council
4. fast track courts for land reforms
Result? These demands were met at least half-way by the government, but implementation and
follow-up was poor.
Jan Satyagraha 2012
About Ekta Parishad (NGO) so far weve seen:
Ekta Parishad had been working for Land reforms in MP since the 80s.=>State
government setup committee just for eyewash.
They organized Jansandesh. Government agreed but implementation was poor.
they consulted with many other NGOs/organizations to form a broader alliance
for land rights.
trained community leaders and activists from the weaker sections to run the next
peaceful movement
started Jan Satyagraha Samvad Yatra over 24 states to hold public meetings and
dialogues with people.
Ekta Parishad founder P.V. Rajagopal started Jan Satyagraha Yatra (foot march)
from Gwalior on 1
October 2012.
Their plan was to reach Delhi with 1 lakh people by 28
October 2012.
But Jairam (rural ministry that time), agreed with their demands and hence Yatra
stopped @Agra.
Jan Satyagraha 2012 demanded following:
#1: General Demands
1. Bhoodaan Land= do physical verification again and take back land from
encroachers/ineligible persons.
2. Womens Land Rights: To ensure that land owned by a family is recoded either in the
name of a woman or jointly in the name of the man and the woman.
3. Revisit land ceiling laws- implement them effectively.
4. Identify of lands encroached by ineligible persons and restore it back to original owner.
5. Identify tribal lands alienated to the non-tribals and restore it back.
6. Use MNREGA etc. schemes to doing irrigation projects, land development, wasteland
restoration etc. activities.
7. If government acquired land for industrial projects but it was untilized=>give it back to
8. Written Records of tenancy to help tenant farmers get bank loans.
9. Protect/provide burial grounds and pathway to burial grounds, especially to the most
vulnerable communities in the villages;
10. Land record management in most transparent manner
11. Statutory State Land Rights Commissions to monitor the progress of land reform.
12. State governments need to run campaigns to give land to Nomads and settle them
13. Protect the land rights of following vulnerable groups
Tribal Groups
Single Women
HIV Affected People
Siddhis (Gujarat & Karnatka)
Slum inhabitants
Leprosy affected people
Physically /Mentally Challenged People
Tea Tribes
Salt/Mine/Bidi Workers
Pastoral communities
Bonded Labourers
Internally Displaced People (due to infra.projects)
#2: PESA related Demands:
1. Harmonize state revenue laws with PESA 1996, to give gram sabha the power over land
2. For any sale/mortgage of land in the village- Gram Sabha must be notified in writing.
3. For any changes in land records, Gram Sabha must be notified in writing.
4. authorize Gram Sabha to call for relevant revenue records,
5. conduct a hearing and direct the SDMs to conduct hearings and restore illegally occupied
6. Expand the list of Schedule V villages to include more eligible villages under PESA
7. Enforce in letter and spirit, the Samata Judgment in all acquisition of tribal land for
private companies
8. Governments need to make amendments in State laws that are in conflict with PESA
within a period of one year.
#3: Forest Rights Act (FRA) related Demands
1. bank loan facilities for land grander under FRA
2. Give land rights to tribals who were earlier displaced due to National Parks and Wild life
3. Settlement of Forest Rights before land acquisition related projects are started.
4. The primitive tribal groups dont have any documents/evidences to prove their
occupation of land/residence. So they must be exempted from furnishing of evidence of
residence as required under Forest Rights Act.
5. Orange Areas in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, where large extent of land is under
dispute between Revenue Department and the Forest Department =>settle this matter
Outcome of Jan Satyagraha 2012?
Jan Satyagraha leaders agreed to discontinue their march, after Rural ministry agreed to setup
Task Force on Land Reforms to implement the following agenda:

Agenda Union government agreed that:
National land
reform policy
Land reform is state subject but we will come up with a national land reform
policy- with inputs from state governments, civil society and public.
like MNREGA and Forest rights act, well come up with new laws for
1. giving land to poors in backward districts
2. guarantee 10 cents of homestead to every landless poor household in
entire India.
well advice state governments to implement their existing laws to protect the
land rights of SC/ST.
well work with States to run Fast Track Land Tribunals/Courts for speedy
disposal of land dispute related cases particularly involving SC/ST.
Rural ministry with work with Tribal ministry and Panchayati raj ministry +
state governments for implementation of PESA 1996. (but then why were you
sleeping all these years?)
Tribal ministry has issued revised rules for Forest rights Act 2006. Well ask
States to implement them quickly.
well ask states to setup joint teams of forest+Revenue officials to do the
survey of the forest and revenue boundaries to resolve disputes