Post Independent India: Land Reform Movements

Bhudan Movement

  • The Bhudan movement was started from Pochampali in Telangana.
  • They did padyatras and asked rich peasants to give 1/6th of their land so as to collect 50 million acres of land, but despite their best efforts, they could only collect 8.7 lakh acres of land, which they distributed among the poor and the landless. The 8.7 lakh acres of land was less than 1 million acres.

Gram Dan Movement

  • This movement was started in Orissa in 1955.  This was also based on the same philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi.
  • This belief was that the villagers should collectively own the land, and not individually. This seemed to be very idealistic, but in reality, it did not happen, as most of the people who owned the land were not ready to either donate or distribute their land. Thus very little land could be collected and distributed.
  • It is important to note here that land reform movements were successful in 3 states in particular, in India. These include, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir, and Kerala. In J&K, the Sheikh Abdullah government distributed land among the people during the 1950’s.
  • The communists in the 1970’s and 1980’s were successful in distributing land in the states of West Bengal and Kerala. Operation Burga was very successful in West Bengal, and the success of land distribution in West Bengal can be attested by the fact that around 25% of the total land distributed in India, came from West Bengal alone.
  • This means that if 100 acres of land were distributed in the entire country, then 25 acres came from West Bengal alone. What is also interesting to note here is that West Bengal accounts for only 3% of the total agricultural land available in the country. That is, suppose, if the country has only 100 acres of agricultural land, then West Bengal accounts for 3 acres. Thus, keeping in mind this fact, land distribution in West Bengal was a major success.
  • But, states like Bihar, U.P., Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Gujarat, the narrative was different. The problems of dacoity in the Chambal valley, in U.P. and M.P, and that of naxalism in recent past in Jharkhand, Bihar, and Chattisgarh, and parts of Andhra Pradesh is basically linked with the failure of the implementation of land reforms in post-independent India in these states.
  • We also find that apart from the structural efforts made by the Union Govt. of India and various state Governments, there was also an attempt to reform the productivity through various other technological and economical means.

For example, the Green Revolution which was initiated in the 1960’s from the western states of Northern India, and then in different phases percolated in different parts of India, was another great effort and was directly linked with land reforms. In this project, the Government tried to provide irrigational facilities, to areas where water was not available all throughout the year. Thus, the construction of various canals and dams were initiated, like the Bhakra Nangal Dam, Indira Gandhi Dam, etc.

At the time of independence, the agricultural growth of India was between 0 to 0.5% and the population was rising at 3% per annum. This would have obviously resulted in a food crisis. India from the 1940’s to the new millennia, has journeyed a long distance- to have turned the imminent food crisis, and ensure food security.


The provision of High yielding variety (HYV) seeds went a long way in improving the agricultural output per unit acre of land. Also, our system of ploughing land was also outdated.  Only 3% of Indian farmers were using modern machines, such as tractors, etc. while the rest were still using the wooden plough that was pulled by oxen which was an ancient tradition. Providing institutionalized credit to the farmers was also important.  

RBI had conducted a survey in 1954, according to which, only 7% peasants in those days, were reaping the benefits of institutionalized credit through bank loans, etc. Whereas, the remaining 93% were still taking credit from traditional money lenders. The Mahajans were very influential and proved to be powerful tools of exploitation in the rural areas. Unfortunately, despite the best of efforts, these elements could not be removed from many villages of India. Today, various forms of subsidies are provided to the farmers (electricity, fertilizers, seeds).


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