Weaknesses in Zamindari Abolition

The weaknesses associated with the abolition of the Zamindari System is an important topic area in Post-independent Indian history, which comprises the GS Paper- I of the Civil Services (Mains) Examination. Students are advised to go through this chapter in detail.

Here, we briefly outline some of the weaknesses.

Weaknesses and Issues  

  • The problem that arose was that two-three laws were required together at the same time with correct synchronization for its proper implementation, which did not occur.
    For example, the tenancy law was also required at the same time, but it came almost after a decade. Thus what happened was that although the Zamindari system was abolished however in the absence of tenancy reforms and ceiling law, the effect of the Zamindari abolishment law was very limited.  
  • Another reform that was needed was tenancy reforms, in which, security, the reduction in rent, and ownership was a big issue. Here once again, the idea was:
    To collect land from the rich and distribute among the poor. This required ceiling laws. But, the ceiling laws were passed very late, around 1959. The problem with ceiling laws itself was that most of the states had different sizes of landholdings.
  • There was no standard size of landholding. Also, the land was allotted on an individual basis and not on a family basis. Thus many people started registering land in the name of other family members, and in the names of those who weren’t even alive, and in the names of those who didn’t exist (Benami).
  • This happened because the people who would verify were the ‘Patwaris’. The Patwaris were former revenue agents of the same Zamindars. Thus, this was a nexus between the lower-level officials and the Zamindars.
  • When the bills were brought in the respective assemblies, most of the elected representatives (MLA’s) discussed these bills were discussed for two long months, and in some cases even years. They did everything possible to delay the bill so that it doesn’t become an act. Finally, when it became an act, they did everything possible to prevent its implementation- where they dragged cases into courts (from the lowest courts to the highest).
  • This resulted in a huge volume of cases pending in courts- regarding land-related issues even today. These legal and technical routes to prevent the effective implementation of the act were resorted to by the Zamindars and the clever middlemen, with the net result that the land on-the-ground was not transferred to the tillers but on paper, it had been transferred.
  • For instance, in the 1961 census, it was showing that almost 36% of people owned land. This means that 64% of people did not own land at that time. But, in the 1971 census, it showed that almost, 94.1% of people owned land which was a big jump from 1961 levels. But, this data was not an actual reflection of the ground realities and were false.
  • Another problem that arose was that when tenancy reforms were being implemented and the land was about to be distributed, the tenants did not have any documents to confirm whether they were really tenants or not.
  • So, when these kinds of laws were being passed, the owners, started removing the tenants from the land, and on paper started showing that they were ‘self-cultivators’, only to hire different tenants in the near future. Thus, the ceiling act, the tenancy reforms, and the Zamindari abolishment Act did not happen together, and all the three of them had problems in implementation. The failure of implementing these laws caused immense frustration, and in an attempt to follow Gandhian ideals, some Gandhians started the Bhudan movement.  

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