Issues related to Rural development in India

  • Rising prices of agricultural inputs, landholding size decreasing, non-availability of water, soil suitability and pest management.
  • Small and marginal farmers face a greater burden of debt
  • Large fall in food prices
  • The income of landless rural population is hardly enough to cover its consumption requirements.
  • Clime change impacting the monsoon.
  • Decline in land available for agriculture and its diversion for non-agricultural use.
  • More than 50% of people in rural India do not own land and have to depend on manual labour.
  • Sub-optimal utilisation of MSP.
  • Green Revolution caused regional and other disparities.
  • All these factors create a narrow window of economic benefit for the marginal farmer.
  • Data shows that over the years, MGNREGA wages have increased only in nominal terms with no increase in real wages.

including–literacy, more specifically, female literacy,  education  and  skill development–health, addressing both sanitation and public health

Land Reforms usually refers to redistribution of Land from rich to poor. Land reforms include Regulation of Ownership, Operation, Leasing, sale and Inheritance of Land. In an agrarian economy like India with massive inequalities of wealth and income, great scarcity and an unequal distribution of land, coupled with a large mass of people living below the poverty line, there are strong economic and political arguments for land reforms.

Land reform is the major step of government to assist people living under adverse conditions. It is basically redistribution of land from those who have excess of land to those who do not possess with the objective of increasing the income and bargaining power of the rural poor. The purpose of land reform is to help weaker section of society and do justice in land distribution.

The Indian Government was committed to land reforms and to ensure distributive justice as was promised during the freedom struggle. Consequently, laws were passed by all the State Governments during the Fifties with the avowed aim of abolishing landlordism, distributing land through imposition of ceilings, protection of tenants and consolidation of land- holdings.

Government land policies are implemented to make more rational use of the scarce land resources by affecting conditions of holdings, imposing ceilings and grounds on holdings so that cultivation can be done in the most economical manner.

Objectives of land reforms

  • To enhance the productivity of land by improving the economic conditions of farmers and tenants so that they may have the interest to invest in and improve agriculture
  • To ensure distributive justice and to create an egalitarian society by eliminating all forms of exploitation
  • To create a system of peasant proprietorship with the motto of land to the tiller
  • To transfer the incomes of the few to many so that the demand for consumer goods would be created.

Need for land reforms

  • To make redistribution of Land to make a socialistic pattern of society. Such an effort will reduce the inequalities in ownership of land.
  • To ensure land ceiling and take away the surplus land to be distributed among the small and marginal farmers.
  • To legitimize tenancy with the ceiling limit.
  • To register all the tenancy with the village Panchayats.
  • To establish relation between tenancy and ceiling.
  • To remove rural poverty.
  • Proliferating socialist development to lessen social inequality
  • Empowerment of women in the traditionally male driven society.
  • To increase productivity of agriculture.
  • To see that everyone can have a right on a piece of land.
  • Protection of tribal by not allowing outsiders to take their land.

Land reforms undertaken

The process of land reform after independence basically occurred in two broad phases.

  • The first phase also called the phase of institutional reforms started soon after independence and continued till the early 1960s focussed on the following features:
  • Abolition of intermediaries like zamindars, jagirdars, etc.
  • Tenancy reforms involving providing security of tenure to the tenants, decrease in rents and conferment of ownership rights to tenants
  • Ceilings on size of landholdings
  • Cooperativization and community development programmes.
  • The second phase beginning around the mid- or late 1960s saw the gradual ushering in of the so-called Green Revolution and has been seen as the phase of technological reforms.
    • Digitisation of land records:
      • Making land records available to all, to contain/check property frauds, became one of the objectives of the government of India in the late 1980s.
      • To address the same, the Digital India Land Records Modernisation Programme (DILRMP) was launched by the government of India in August 2008

Impact of land reforms

Agricultural Productivity

  • Earlier large tracts of wasteland belonging to zamindars/ big farmers remained uncultivated. These lands were given to landless labourers as a result of which there is increase in area under cultivation leading to food security.
  • Equal distribution of land will encourage intensive cultivation resulting in increased agricultural production leading to higher production levels.
  • Some farm management studies conducted in India testified that small farms yielded more production per hectare. It is so because family members themselves cultivate small farms.
  • Even one hectare of land is also an economic holding these days on account of improvement in agricultural technique. Hence, small size of holding due to ceiling will not have any adverse effect on agricultural production.
  • Atleast some of the Land owners shifted to direct ‘efficient’ farming in order to get ‘exemption’ from land ceiling.
  • Consolidation of landholdings ensures that small bits of land belonging to the same small landowner but situated at some distance from one another could be consolidated into a single holding to boost viability and productivity.


Social Equity

  • In a land-scarce country with a significant section of the rural population below the poverty line, the case for ensuring that everyone has access to some minimum amount of land seems compelling from  the  point  of
  • In a rural economy, whoever controls land, controls the power.
  • The tenancy laws have given the tillers protection from exploitation by providing them security of tenure and fixing maximum chargeable rents.
  • Land ceiling reduced this power inequality among villagers.
  • The intermediary rights have been abolished. India no longer presents a picture of feudalism at the top and serfdom at the bottom.
  • Promoted spirit of cooperation among villagers.
  • It will help develop cooperative farming


Problems in implementation of land reforms


Weaknesses with the zamindari abolition

  • The absence of adequate land recordsmade implementation of these acts difficult.
  • Personal cultivation: ‘Personal cultivation’ was very loosely defined which led to not only those who tilled the soil, but also those who supervised the land personally or did so through a relative, or provided capital and credit to the land, to call themselves a cultivator.
  • Moreover, in states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madras there was no limit on the size of the lands that could be declared to be under the ‘personal cultivation’ of the zamindar
  • Zamindars resorted to large-scale eviction of tenants, mainly the less secure small tenants.
  • Even after the laws were enacted the landlords used the judicial system to defer the implementation of the laws.
  • Zamindars refused to hand over the land records in their possession, forcing the government to go through the lengthy procedure of reconstructing the records.
  • Implementation of the law was made difficult with the collusion between the landlords and lower-level revenue officials.


Weaknesses of tenancy reforms

  • The provisions introduced to protect the small landowners were misused by the larger landlords with the active connivance of the revenue officials.
  • The inordinate delays in enacting and implementing the legislations
  • Voluntary surrenders by tenants also took place as they were ‘persuaded’ under threat to give up their tenancy rights ‘voluntarily’.
  • No tenancy rights to sharecroppers.
  • Most tenancies were oral and informal andwere not recorded.
  • Providing security of tenure to all tenants, met with only limited success.
  • The Green Revolution which started in some parts of India in the late 1960s aggravated the problems, with land values and rentals rising further.
  • The acquisition of ownership rights by tenants was achieved only partially.
  • Even today 5% farmers hold 32% of land holdings.
  • The right of resumption and the loose definition of ‘personal cultivation’ was used for eviction of tenants on a massive scale.
  • Voluntary surrenders by tenants also took place as they were ‘persuaded’ under threat to give up their tenancy rights ‘voluntarily’.
  • In West Bengal sharecroppers, known as Bargadars received no protection till as late as July 1970, when the West Bengal Land Reforms Act was amended to accord limited protection to them.
  • Most tenancies were oral and informal and were not recorded.
  • Providing security of tenure to all tenants, met with only limited success. There were still large numbers who remained unprotected. So reducing rents to a ‘fair’ level was almost impossible to achieve


Weaknesses in Land Ceiling Legislation

  • Post-independence India had more than 70 per cent of landholdings in India under 5 acres so the ceiling fixed on existing holdings by the states were very high.
  • In most states the ceilings were imposed on individual and not family holdings,enabling landowners to divide up their holdings in the names of relatives or make Benami transfers merely to avoid the ceiling.
  • Further, in many states the ceiling could be raisedif the size of the family of the landholder exceeded five.
  • A large number of exemptions to the ceiling limitswere permitted by most states following the Second Plan recommendations that certain categories of land could be exempted from ceilings.


Digitization of land records failed

  • Insufficient data: Lack of clear and sufficient data and mismanagement between the various agencies handling land records, the data registered at various government levels is not identical.
  • Progress over the past decade has been uneven, with some states, such as Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, doing better than the others. However, there are challenges, even in advanced states such as Maharashtra.
  • New digitized land records do a good job in reflecting ownership of land, but less so when it comes to recording encumbrances and area of land parcels.


Weaknesses of consolidation of land holdings

  • The programme failed to achieve its desired objective because the farmers are reluctant to exchange their lands for the new one.
  • The arguments given by the farmers is that their existing land is much more fertile and productive than the new land provided under land consolidation.
  • The farmers also complained about nepotism and corruption in the process of consolidation.
  • The farmers complained that the rich and influential often bribes and manage to get fertile and well-situated land, whereas the poor farmers get unfertile land.


Failure of cooperative farming:

  • Attachment with Land: The farmers are not willing to surrender the rights of land in favour of the society because they have too much attachment with it.
  • Lack of Cooperative Spirit: The spirit of cooperation and love is lacking among farmers. They are divided in various sections on caste basis.
  • Illiteracy: some of them are using the old methods of cultivation.
  • Lack of Capital: The co-operative farming societies are also facing the capital shortage problem and these are unable to meet the growing needs of agriculture. Credit facilities to these societies are also not sufficient.
  • Re-Payment of Debt: Sometimes debt is not re-paid in time which creates many problems for the financial institutions. Some members do not realize their responsibility and it becomes the cause of failure.



Success of land reforms

  • The most successful of all reforms were the abolition of intermediaries like zamindars.
  • There are enough studies to indicate that the quantum of absentee ownership in the 70s was much less serious than in the 50s. Absentee ownership had reduced much more in un-irrigated areas, than in irrigated areas. The transfer of land under the fore-warning impact of the tenancy and ceiling legislation to the resident cultivators was on a much larger scale in dry areas.
  • The greed of the big landowners was kept in check.
  • Collapse of the feudal structure.
  • It led to an increase in the landless labour, as former tenants were driven out.
  • Rich peasants preferred to avoid wage related disputes with the new labour and thus preferred more mechanization.
  • Tenancy reforms were most successful in Kerala and West Bengal.
    • In the late 1960s a massive program of conferment of titles to lands, to hutment dwellers and tenants were highly beneficial.
    • Operation Barga: In West Bengal Operation Barga was launched in 1978 with the objective of achieving the registration of sharecroppers and provide them permanent occupancy and heritable rights and a crop division of 1:3 between landowner and sharecropper.
  • Cooperatives and community development programs were started.

Factors responsible for the success of land reforms

  • Political mobilization during freedom struggle was also based on agrarian issues. This political awareness and education facilitated the acceptance of land reforms to advance the development of agriculture.
  • Political will of government. The government enacted laws and constitutional amendments to overcome several hurdles. Across political spectrum there was an acknowledgment and enthusiasm to facilitate these reforms.
  • Kissan Sabhas and Farmers Associations also helped farmers organize themselves and raise their demands.
  • The spirit of freedom struggle and attainment of Independence inculcated the feeling to usher in a new era in India, where prosperity, growth and wealth where to be shared equally.
  • Judicial backing and progressive interpretations of constitutional provisions aided in land reforms. Without abolishing Rights to property as fundamental right and providing for the exception of land reform legislations through IX schedule it would have been an uphill task to recognize land holdings.

Government initiatives


Digitisation of land records

  • Making land records available to all, to contain/check property frauds, became one of the objectives of the government of India in the late 1980s.
  • To address the same, the Digital India Land Records Modernisation Programme (DILRMP) was launched by the government of India in August 2008.
  • The main aim of the programme, was to computerise all land records, including mutations, improve transparency in the land record maintenance system, digitise maps and surveys, update all settlement records and minimise the scope of land disputes.
  • Digitisation would provide clear titles of land ownership that could be monitored easily by government officials, to facilitate quicker transactions. This will also reduce construction timelines and the overall cost for the developer, the benefits of which can be transferred to the consumer, making property prices more attractive.


Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013

  • Currently land acquisition is governed by the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 which came into force on January 1, 2014.
  • Prior to this, the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 governed land acquisition


Model Agricultural Land Leasing Act, 2016

  • Niti Aayog came up with the Model Agricultural Land Leasing Act, 2016. To review the existing agricultural tenancy laws of various states, the NITI Aayog had set up an Expert Committee on Land Leasing headed by T Haque.
  • The model Act seeks to permit and facilitate leasing of agricultural land to improve access to land by the landless and marginal farmers.
  • It also provides for recognition of farmers cultivating on leased land to enable them to access loans through institutional credit.
  • The Prime Minister’s Office has set up a Group of Ministers (GoM) to resolve differences over the proposed Model Agricultural Land Leasing Act, 2016.


Draft Model Contract Farming Act, 2018

  • Contract farming- Draft Model Contract Farming Act, 2018 has been released to strengthen rules and regulations regarding this.



On Panchayati Raj Diwas (April 24th), the Prime Minister of India launched ‘Swamitva Yojana’ or Ownership Scheme to map residential land ownership in the rural sector using modern technology like the use of drones. The scheme aims to revolutionise property record maintenance in India. The scheme is piloted by the Panchayati Raj ministry. The residential land in villages will be measured using drones to create a non-disputable record.

Property card for every property in the village will be prepared by states using accurate measurements delivered by drone-mapping. These cards will be given to property owners and will be recognised by the land revenue records department.

Present Coverage Area: The program is currently being implemented in six states – Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.


Benefits of the scheme

  • The delivery of property rights through an official document will enable villagers to access bank finance using their property as collateral.
  • The property records for a village will also be maintained at the Panchayat level, allowing for the collection of associated taxes from the owners. The money generated from these local taxes will be used to build rural infrastructure and facilities.
  • Freeing the residential properties including land of title disputes and the creation of an official record is likely to result in appreciation in the market value of the properties.
  • The accurate property records can be used for facilitating tax collection, new building and structure plan, issuing of permits and for thwarting attempts at property grabbing.


Need for and significance of the scheme

  • The need for this Yojana was felt since several villagers in the rural areas don’t have papers proving ownership of their land.
  • In most states, survey and measurement of the populated areas in the villages has not been done for the purpose of attestation/verification of properties.
  • The new scheme is likely to become a tool for empowerment and entitlement, reducing social strife on account of discord over properties.


  • The Digital India Land Records Modernization Programme dashboard shows that land records in 90.1% of villages across the country have been digitised across the country.
  • An analysis shows that only 61% of these villages have digitised mutation records. And the remaining 39% records may have digitised land records, but these have not yet been updated.
  • Only 41% have a clear record of rights; maps have been linked in only 40% of the cases. Survey or resurvey work has been completed in a meagre 11% villages.
  • A property card may help secure credit, but without clear titles
  • The large-scale tenancy that is envisioned to happen under the new farm reforms may not happen till the time the Centre rolls out a comprehensive land titling law.

States’ initiative

  • Digitization:
    • First, the Bhoomi Project in Karnataka led the way even before the Union government got into the act. The state government began to digitize land records at the turn of the century.
    • Second, the Rajasthan legislature passed the Rajasthan Urban Land (Certification of Titles) Act in April 2016.
    • Third, Andhra Pradesh has taken a leap into the future. Its state government has tied up with a Swedish firm to use new blockchain technology to prevent property fraud.
  • Tamil Nadu became the first state to pass Contract Farming Act, as per the central guidelines.

Co-operative farming and land reforms

Co-operative farming is a voluntary organization in which the farmers pool their resources. The object of this organization is to help each other in agriculture for their common interests. In other word it is a co-operative among the farmers of limited means.

Co-operative farming and land reforms

  • In India, majority of the holdings are too small. About 76.4 per cent of the total holdings in India are below the size of 2 hectares and on these again 28.8 per cent of total operated area is engaged into these marginal and small holdings.
  • Cultivation in such a small holding is uneconomic and unprofitable.
  • Farmers retain their right to land.
  • Cooperative farming enables them to consolidate their small units of land for better utilization.
  • Solves the problem of sub-division and fragmentation of holdings.

Other benefits

  • Use of Machinery: A poor farmer cannot purchase the machinery but a cooperative society can easily purchase the various machines. The use of machines will not only reduce the cost of production but will increase the per acre yield.
  • Supply of Inputs: A cooperative farming is in a better position to get the adequate and timely supply of essential agriculture inputs like fertilizer and seeds.
  • Creates Love and Brotherhood: A cooperative farming society creates the brotherhood and love for the members because they work for their common interest.
  • Fair Price of the Product: A co-operative farming society will bargain in the market and will sell the product at maximum price. The income of the individual farmer will increase.
  • Guidance and Training: A co-operative society guides the farmer to increase their efficiency and production.


Causes of failure of cooperative farming

  • Attachment with Land: The farmers are not willing to surrender the rights of land in favour of the society because they have too much attachment with it.
  • Lack of Cooperative Spirit: The spirit of cooperation and love is lacking among farmers. They are divided in various sections on cast basis. There is no unity among them, so they are not ready to become the member of the society.
  • Illiteracy: In poor countries farmers are mostly illiterate and they are not ready accept any change in the cultivation process. Still some of them are using the old methods of cultivation.
  • Lack of Capital: The co-operative farming societies are also facing the capital shortage problem and these are unable to meet the growing needs of agriculture. Credit facilities to these societies are also not sufficient.
  • Dishonesty: The management of cooperative often turns out to be dishonest. The selfishness of the members make the cooperative farming society ineffective.
  • Loss of Independence: Under co-operative farming, farmers face loss of independence in their farming operation which the farmers find it difficult to accept.
  • Re-Payment of Debt: Sometimes debt is not repaid in time which creates many problems for the financial institutions. Some members do not realize their responsibility and it becomes the cause of failure.


Measures needed

  • The government must invest capital so that the cooperatives become capable to shoulder the responsibility of guaranteeing purchase of crops at remunerative prices, it’s storage at Gram Sabha level, ensuring cheaper loans for rural families, providing food grains to poor families under PDS .
  • Kudumbashree of Kerala and AMUL model are successful models of cooperatisation and there is need to learn from it.
  • One must keep in mind the class character of cooperatives and they must be formed on class basis. Cooperative agrarian movement will resolve the questions of caste inequality, sex-based discrimination and environmental conservation.
  • Agro-processing units may be installed so that their labour power may be deployed in productive activities other than agriculture.

The cooperative farming has been tried successfully in various countries like United Kingdom, Germany, France and Sweden. The agricultural cooperative movement would play a huge role in safeguarding democracy and it may play an inspirational role in mobilising the people in unorganized sector and the youth.


Way forward

  • Adoption of model land leasing law as suggested by Niti Ayog to aid in drawing private investment to agriculture.
  • Promoting cooperative farming by establishing cooperatives at village level.
  • Governments providing the farm equipment’s and machineries on lease to small and marginal farmers to increase the productivity
  • Achieving the convergence of MNREGA with farming to address the issue of farm labour crisis haunting agricultural sector.
  • Consolidation of land holdings so that huge machineries can be utilized
  • FDI in agricultural sector
  • Co-operative farming
  • Use of land banks and land pooling

Land reforms have upheld the socialistic directive principles of state policy which aims at equitable distribution of wealth. The objective of social justice has, however, been achieved to a considerable degree. Land reform has a great role in the rural agrarian economy that is dominated by land and agriculture.

However, there have been challenges which need to be overcome to attain the true objectives of Land reforms. The pace of implementation of land reform measures has been slow. The manifold problems of our land are to be solved through the introduction of a suitable land policy.

New and innovative land reform measures should be adopted with new vigour to eradicate rural poverty. Modern land reforms measures such as land record digitisation must be accomplished at the earliest.

Thus, with an aspirational goal of India becoming a $5-trillion economy by 2025 the imperative need today is to unleash the power of land and reap fruits by bringing about the much needed Land Reforms which are waiting to see the light of the day.


  • like electricity, irrigation,   credit, marketing,  transport  facilities including  construction  of  village roads  and  feeder  roads  to  nearby highways,  facilities  for  agriculture research  and  extension,  and information dissemination
  • Reducing the agrarian crisis by focussing on the concerned areas and increasing the productivity levels of limited resources such as land, water etc. Marginal farmers should be given financial assistance.
  • Enhancing Livelihood of the people by providing active Employment opportunities. E.g.: MGNREGA
  • Reducing the disguised unemployment by providing skill training of allied agricultural activities. E.g: Sericulture, Bee-keeping, animal husbandry etc.
  • Reducing the inequality in incomes by providing Qualified Universal Basic income to targeted sections of society. E.g: Single women families, Old and widowed people etc.
  • Focussing on the reducing the regional poverty by enhancing the investments, infrastructure and developmental opportunities. E.g.: by inviting FDI.
  • Public Distribution System (PDS) should be optimised to ensure that the benefits reach the true beneficiaries.
  • Targeting to achieve the Total Fertility Rate and in turn controlling the population to the replacement levels.
  • A generalised logic had surfaced to justify and thereby encourage emigration from rural areas to cities.
  • According to this logic, providing basic amenities such as running water, electricity and jobs to rural people becomes easier if they move to a city.
  • This kind of thinking had considerable academic support.
  • Modernisation was a dominant paradigm of social theory that saw nothing wrong in the growth of vast slums in mega-cities and depletion of working-age people in villages.
  • Some social scientists did not mind declaring that the village as we had known it in Indian history was on its way to extinction. They argued that agriculture, the main resource of livelihood in the countryside, was no longer profitable enough to attract the young.
  • And handicrafts too were destined to die, they said, as craftsmen and women cannot survive without state support. Only pockets of support survived the powerful wave of market-oriented economic reforms.
  • It was something ‘natural’ that happens in the course of economic development in countries like ours. This general framework justified discriminatory funding in every sphere, including health and education.
  • No serious public investment could be made in villages. Even as medical education and teacher training became increasingly privatised, the availability of qualified doctors and teachers willing to work in villages dwindled.
  • Ideologically-inspired pursuit of economic reforms swept State after State, leaving little room for dissent or longer term thinking.
  • Privately-run facilities burgeoned, creating an ethos that boosted commercial goals in health care and schooling. Stuck between state minimalism and commercial entrepreneurship, villages lost what capacity they had for regenerating their economy or intellectual resources.
  • All such arguments and the data they were based on provided a comfortable rationale for policies that encouraged emigration of a vast section of the rural population to cities.

Post-Independence there has been a significant improvement, in the health status of people. Public health and health services have been synonymous in India. This integration has dwarfed the growth of a comprehensive public health system, which is critical to overcome some of the systemic challenges in healthcare. Poor strata of population have denied proper health care due to lack of universal healthcare. The above figures from a NSSO survey show the improving trend.