(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
September 19, 2010
On Land Reforms
principal contradiction in
These were the imperatives if we wanted to overcome the low level of productive forces in agriculture, ameliorate the situation of poverty which has been overwhelmingly rural in nature, and raise the abysmally low standards of material life in the villages. These steps were needed to expand the internal market and make industrial expansion and overall development self-sustaining, which was possible only through measures to increase the purchasing power of the mass of Indian people. Carrying out radical land reform was important to break the continuing caste, class, gender and other social types of oppression also, which have assumed a particularly intense form in our rural areas. But, under the leadership of big capital, the modern Indian state miserably failed to address the very important agrarian question and the question of national development free from imperialist pressures.
The non-Left political forces, economists and planners in India have consistently underestimated the role of effective redistributive land reforms for breaking the economic and social power of the rural landed minority, thereby widening the social base of rural investment, and raising the rate of growth of output. They did not understand its importance as a precondition of mass poverty reduction and for providing an expanding market for industry, or its importance for reducing the old class, caste and gender based forms of inequality which express themselves in high levels of illiteracy, declining sex ratios, atrocities against dalits and the persistence of child labour. Only in states where the Left movement has been influential were some effective measures of land reform undertaken, with a very positive impact despite their relatively limited nature.
the first four decades of planned development in
the states of
In Kerala, 1.4 per cent of the landowners with above 10 hectares of land had been owning 31.8 per cent of land in 1956. That, however, came down later and 0.4 per cent of the landowners were owning 12.4 per cent of the land in 1970-71. Due to the land reforms effected there by Left-led governments, 26 lakh tenants got land and 5.5 lakh families got 10 cents of land and household rights. The present LDF government has started a campaign to provide a homestead plot and a house to all homeless families in the state under the EMS Housing Scheme, and its target is to construct five lakh houses. The LDF government has vigorously started distribution of at least one acre of land to all the landless tribal families, distribute the surplus and wasteland among the landless poor and provide land possession documents and pattas to the peasants in the hilly regions.
As for the
country as a
whole, however, the situation of land reforms is still dismal even
half-hearted measures have been taken in various states. According to
Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) data of 2003, 3.5 per cent of the
with four hectares or more land today own as much as 37.72 per cent of
total land in
establish the significant scope of redistributive land reforms in
In this situation, it is indeed a matter of concern that in many states of the country we see a distinct trend of reversal of whatever paltry land reforms had taken place there. In some states, the ceiling limit is being revised upward and, in others, the land in government possession is being assigned on long-term leases to big business and multinational companies (MNCs) at throwaway rentals. The penetration of the MNCs into the countryside in the form of contract farming and corporatisation, and the dilution of ceiling laws in many states to implement the neo-liberal model of ‘land reform’ on the pretext of land consolidation --- these are serious issues to be addressed immediately.
As a result of the ongoing agrarian distress, the peasantry, particularly the poorer sections, are increasingly being forced to sell their land and livestock. According to yet another NSSO survey, the proportion of landless households was around 35 per cent in 2006-07, compared to 22 per cent in 1992. In several states, land grabbing by the rural and urban rich including the real estate mafia is widespread. Land is being bought at distress prices from the peasants indebted due to the agrarian crisis, and moneylenders are taking illegal possession of the peasants’ lands. Any resistance is sought to be suppressed by using criminal means.
The proliferation of special economic zones (SEZs) is emerging as a serious threat to the peasantry. In such areas, under the garb of industrialisation, there are efforts to deprive the peasants of their land and place it at the disposal of real estate mafia. The model APMC Act aims to promote contract farming and this will gradually lead to dispossession of the peasants from their land. The UPA government is hesitant to incorporate the clauses suggested by the parliament’s standing committee to the Land Acquisition Amendment Bill and the Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill that could protect the interests of the peasants. This would allow market based land acquisition by undermining the state’s and the people’s right to determine land use policies, and the people’s right to fair compensation, resettlement and rehabilitation.
In this situation, the All India Kisan Sabha has decided to intensify the struggle to protect the limited gains of land reforms and to ensure that the government does not compromise the peasants’ interests for the benefit of the land mafias and MNCs.