Land Reforms

Agrarian reforms should go beyond meeting demands of the agitating farmers


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Land reforms


The farmers’ agitation in India has attracted worldwide attention and support.

Story of land reforms in India

  • Being a state subject, various states implemented reforms with varying degrees of effectiveness and equity.
  • Objectives: The objectives were the same: Abolition of feudal landlordism, conferment of ownership on tenants, fixing land ceilings, distribution of surplus land, increasing agricultural productivity and production, etc.
  • However, owing to manipulations in land records, much surplus land was not available for distribution among the landless tillers.
  • Less than one per cent of the total land in the country was declared as surplus.
  • The relevant criteria for land entitlement should have been employment and main source of income.

Change in social structure after land reforms

  • The ex-tenants, after getting land made use of several programmes —Green Revolution technology, bank nationalisation and priority sector lending, urbanisation and expanding urban markets.
  • They cornered a disproportionate share of various subsidies.
  • The tenant-turned-capitalist farmers formed political parties, which produced strong state-level leaders, who controlled state-level planning, fiscal policies and politics.
  • In place of a strong Centre and weak states, came a weak Centre and strong states.
  • Rich farmers have formed strong power blocs, with unquestioned clout and bargaining power, not only in north-western India but also in states like Maharashtra.

Need for agrarian reforms

  • Farmers are seeking legal safeguards against market fluctuations, especially against any downward pressure on agricultural prices.
  • While they welcome every rise in prices, they demand legal protection against price falls, a legitimate stance.
  • Even as agricultural prosperity must be promoted,it should not be just shared between farmers (especially rich ones) and urban consumers, but by all.
  • Farm workers, in particular, must benefit from it.

Reforms for farmworkers

  • Agricultural land should be pooled and equally distributed among farm households.
  • Non-farm households should not be permitted to hold farmland.
  • Land reforms should be a central subject; while agriculture can remain a state subject.
  • Such a programme will empower and enrich marginalised and excluded individuals and social groups.
  • It should be the kernel of a justiciable universal property right that must form an integral/inalienable part of Article 21 (Right to Life) of the Constitution.


The right to life is hollow without a right to livelihood. Through an effective land reforms programme, let’s build a prosperous India based on equity and justice.

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