A large part of eastern India was under permanent settlement, and land was in the hands of the Zamindars, and some of them were absentee Zamindars who lived in cities, and had appointed a chain of intermediaries in various layers, to collect rent from the peasants. Thus, naturally, the entire burden fell on the shoulders of the peasants. It was thus important to remove intermediaries.
If we look closely, from 1915 onwards, issues relating to peasants were an integral part of our nationalist movement. The abolishment of the Zamindari system was a crucial part of the National Movement. In fact, the first movement of Mahatma Gandhi in India, was related to peasants, i.e. Champaran Satyagraha (1917) against indigo cultivation followed by a movement in 1918 at Khera in Gujarat. Later, the issues regarding peasants were raised during the Bardoli Satyagraha in 1928. Apart from Gandhian movements, we also find various peasant organizations, who were independently fighting for the rights of peasants of middle and lower level. One such movement was the ‘Awadh Kisan Sabha’ led by Madari Pasi in U.P.
Also, the inclusion of the issues related to agriculture and peasants stating their inclusion in the list of Fundamental Rights and Economic Programme by the INC in its Karachi session of 1931, reiteration of the demands made at the Karachi session (1935) during the Faizpur Afrarian Programme in 1936, resolution for the abolition of Zamindari system passed by the Kisan Conference held in Allahabad in 1935 presided by Sardar Patel, Bihar Kisan Sabha by Swami Sahajanand Saraswati, and Andhra Riyad Association by NG Ranga were other important steps taken with regard to the abolition of Zamindari and upliftment in the conditions of peasants.
All India Kisan Sabha
In 1936, the All India Kisan Sabha was formed at Lucknow. This was presided over by Swami Sahajanand Saraswati. The secretary of this association was NG Ranga. They worked for the abolishment of the Zamindari system, reduction of land revenue, institutionalization of credit. These were some of the demands raised by the All India Kisan Sabha, who hoped that the INC would help them. In fact, in the 1937 elections, the Kisan Sabha supported the Congress with great hope- and the INC too in their speeches and writings, had promised that many reforms would be brought by the INC if voted to power. The INC got a good number of seats, and formed majority in as many as 8 provinces. The INC was in power for almost 28 months, and some legislations were brought especially in Bihar, where the land revenue was fixed at the rate of 1911 and the tenants who were tilling their lands for the past 12 years were now to become owners. This was thus a positive response from the INC who did have certain inherent contradictions. A good number of the INC leaders were Zamindars themselves, while the peasants and workers came from another class. Thus this class clash within the INC was a hurdle, in implementing all the schemes that were visualized by Gandhi, Nehru and others. So by and large the INC failed to meet all the promises they had claimed to fulfill to the peasants. The peasants thus became disillusioned with the INC government. Thus, the All India Kisan Sabha felt betrayed by the INC and this is why, when in 1942, Mahatma Gandhi gave a call for the Quit India Movement, the peasant leaders such as Swami Sahajanand Saraswati appealed to the peasants not to support Gandhi or the INC. This exposed the inherent contradictions within the INC- but nonetheless, the INC as an organization, and in its manifesto, in its idealogy had always spoken about the welfare of the peasants and reforms to benefit them. However, the leftists, and the communists always accused the INC that there were no structural reforms suggested and attempted by the INC seriously, and whatever reforms they attempted were superficial and basically to protect the interests of Zamindars and Mahajans, etc.
In 1938, the National Planning Committee also talked about the reforms related to land and peasants, and so did the Bombay Plan of 1944-45.