Agriculture and Land Development-Land Reform Programmes in India

Agriculture and Land Development-Land Reform Programmes in India

The primary goal of the Land Reforms Programmes in India is to increase farm production and rural employment as well as reduce poverty by improving the efficiency of agricultural systems. Read this article to learn more about this concept.

The Land Reforms Programmes in India is implemented by the states through the Department of Agriculture and Land Use Management (DALUM). The states initiate and coordinate land reforms programs but are supported by the central government in terms of advice, technical assistance and credit. In addition, other agencies such as the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) also provide funding to several land redistribution schemes.

The program has two major components. The first is the land purchase and distribution of new land to agricultural households. The second is the provision of credit, inputs, irrigation and other services to tribal households who are given the title deeds of their land. The program was launched during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee ministry in April 1998. The program is part of a comprehensive rural development and poverty reduction initiative, which has also included agri-input subsidies and other measures to increase food production and incomes for the rural poor.

The Fifth Schedule states that the land ceiling is to be implemented for every village purpose. Every village is to prepare a comprehensive scheme for the distribution of surplus land and annually from out of such distribution and the proceeds from the sale thereof, to provide for village poor and other public purposes. In rural areas, all arrangements made concerning this matter will be called “Village Panchayats” or by any other appropriate name.

Land Reforms Programmes in India: An Overview

In the past, Land Reforms Programmes in India were widely proclaimed as a more effective and equitable means of redistributing land. Fewer difficulties, logistical problems, and administrative costs would have been associated with such an endeavour that would have allowed small-scale farmers to take ownership of their lands. 

Moreover, it would have ensured their better economic prospects by ensuring that they had access to larger tracts of land. But, as Land Reforms Programmes in India have been implemented, they have been widely viewed as highly ineffective, if not counterproductive. Resultantly, they have prompted policymakers to look out for alternative means that would deliver the same objective of land reforms.

It was believed that only when large tracts of land were brought under state control agricultural productivity would increase, and rural poverty would reduce, thereby ensuring long-term economic growth and stability for the country. 

But even with these wide-reaching objectives, the land reforms programmes in India have failed to deliver the desired results. For instance, since independence, the State has undertaken several initiatives aimed at acquiring land from the landowners. 

However, despite these efforts, only about 0.1 per cent of agricultural land has been redistributed in an egalitarian fashion. This compares with over 75 per cent of agricultural land that remains under tenancy arrangements (Majumdar and Ravi 1999: 166).

Tenancy Reforms

To the actual tenancies, a law called the “Land Reforms Act” was enacted by the Central Government in 1967. The features of the Act included:

In 1969, Tamil Nadu enacted a law, “Tamil Nadu Tenancy and Agricultural Lands (Restriction on Transfer) Act, 1969”, which became effective in that State on 2 February 1970. The Act prohibited the transfer of agricultural land by Hindu farmers to non-Hindu tenants. It also restricts all new instances of alienation of agricultural land since 1 April 1963. The Arpan Land Reforms Commission report had urged the States to enforce eviction on private tenants. In 1972 Punjab enacted a law, the “Punjab Tenancy (Amendment) Act, 1972”, which became effective in that State on 10 August 1972.

Consolidation of Holdings

In the first step, the Government of India consolidated all holdings through voluntary registration by landowners. As a result, some large landowners had their holdings merged with other owners’ parcels and consequently lost land in proportion to the size of their ownership.

Compulsory Purchase

The second step was compulsory purchase for owners who refused to voluntarily register. For example, one owner had not registered any land but still used it as collateral for a loan from a state bank that planned on building a dam on the territory where this person owned property. Under the Land Ceiling Act of 1894, this owner was required to register all his land so that the bank could take a larger loan.


After the area had been consolidated and any owners who did not voluntarily register their lands had been compensated as per law, the land was redistributed using criteria such as need and availability. For example, in Uttar Pradesh, the land was redistributed to large tenants on the condition that they allocated portions of it for landless people for cultivation.


These above-mentioned programs have achieved significant results in improving rural livelihoods with increased food production and higher employment levels from both newly acquired land and from re-using land that had been degraded due to farming activities.