03 October, 2010

Land Ceiling act

A Note on

The Recommendations of

The Committee on State Agrarian Relations

And Unfinished Task of Land Reforms

You can read the full report here:

(Since the report is voluminous those who are short of time can read the recommendations of the ceiling committee on page 72)

1. This Note is in response to the alarming “Recommendations of the Committee on State Agrarian Relations and Unfinished Task of Land Reforms” submitted in March 2009.

2. The most harmful part of the Recommendations is the erroneous understandings of the ceiling limits on land, ignorance of agricultural operations and the pernicious recommendations to implement ceiling limits on land holding. These recommendations display the Maoist bend of mind of the committee members and their total ignorance of agriculture and every type of economic activity.

3. Humanity passed through 5000 years of agrarian economy and 500 years of industrial economy into the knowledge economy. Having become world’s largest English speaking nation, with world’s largest youth population, India has tremendous advantages in the knowledge economy and is poised to become world’s biggest economy within a few decades.

4. Realizing this situation, India’s enemies are using jihadist and Maoist terrorism and tactics to stall India’s development. The strategy of these anti-national elements involves creating terror in India’s economic hubs, perpetuating rural backwardness through uneconomic land holdings, low capital investment in agriculture and outdated agricultural practices and making land scarce for industrialization and infrastructural development. The terror attacks in Mumbai and Bangalore, the constant clamour for land ceiling, the opposition to high technology farm inputs and agitations against infrastructure and industrial projects in various parts of the country, are external manifestations of this hidden agenda.

5. Unfortunately, some of India’s bureaucrats, social activists and so called intellectuals are working hand in glove with these anti-national elements, knowingly and unknowingly. Ever since Independence, the bureaucrats have formulated policies to enhance their power and enslave the Indian citizen in a plethora of restrictive legislations. This facilitates fulfillment of their desire for power and also satiation of their greed through corruption, as citizens are forced to bribe their way through. In addition, envy is a natural human frailty and India’s leftists, bureaucrats, social activists and few misguided intellectuals have found that envy is best satisfied through socialism. Land Ceiling Legislations are the most classic example of this twisted mentality.

6. In the Recommendations of the Committee on Land Reforms, we see a terrifying confluence of the terrorists, imprudent bureaucrats and misguided social activists. This is proved by the fact that the report appears to be the verbatim copy of the Approach Paper of CPI (ML) - New Democracy, presented at the Convention on 4th July 1997 at Hyderabad!

Lessons from Kerala Land Reforms Act and Land Utilization Regulations

7. India can learn many lessons from harm done by the Ceiling provisions of the Kerala Land Reforms Act and the Land Utilization Regulations. These are classic examples of how legislations cause colossal waste of national wealth.

8. The Kerala Land Reforms Act had two aspects. First, it ensured Fixity of Tenure in respect of non-governmental land to the homesteads (kudikidappu) and to the tenants. Second, the Ceiling provisions of the Land Reforms Act limited the extent of Agricultural lands that can be held by a person.

9. Absolute right to private property is the very foundation of entrepreneurship and economic development. Therefore it is necessary that the cultivating agriculturist has absolute, marketable, mortgageable and bankable title to the property cultivated by him. Only this will facilitate rising of equity capital and credit and generate motivation to preserve and develop the soil and land, and to cultivate crops.

10. It was the conferring of fixity of tenure that led to the development of capital intensive, scientific and economically viable agriculture in Kerala. This began with the grant of Government lands and permanent or semi- permanent (at least 100 years) lease of Government and private lands to the British Planters and local large farmers such as Mr. Murikan. Then came the fixity of tenure of Edavagai and other lands to the cultivating agriculturists of Travancore Area during the British/Maharaja’s Rule. The fixity of tenure enabled these Planters and cultivating agriculturists to raise finance and motivated them to clear up the jungle and reclaim the backwaters to grow Cash crops and rice profitably. They carried out extensive and scientific soil conservation practices such as construction of contour bunds or edakayyalas.

11. With the conferring of fixity of tenure under the Kerala Land Reforms Act 1964, all the cultivating agriculturists in Kerala, especially those in erstwhile Malabar Area got absolute, marketable, mortgageable and bankable title to the property cultivated by them. The priority lending for agriculture after 1970 and the mushrooming Land Mortgage and Cooperative Banking System enabled the medium and small agriculturists to invest in soil conservation practices and long term agricultural development. The success story of the Rubber Plantation Industry may be principally attributed to the conferring of the fixity of tenure under the Kerala Land Reforms Act 1964, to all Agriculturists including large scale Planting Companies.

12. It is pertinent to note that the Naxalite menace disappeared from Kerala after the extension of Rubber cultivation to Malabar, spurt in Rubber prices consequent to the 1973 oil price hike and the opening of job market in Gulf. Application of ceiling provisions to all lands will create uneconomic land holding and consequent rural poverty will boost Maoisim and spread of terrorism.

13. It is necessary to realize that some of the large scale Planting Companies had Government lands on lease terminable by first decade of 21st century and therefore refrained from investing in these properties for the last two or three decades, leading to sharp fall in productivity per hectare even in the case of Rubber. This has resulted in making these Companies economically unviable. (International hotel industry experts say that a similar effect is seen in hotel properties on lease, with the lessees neglecting the properties during the last one-third or quarter period of the lease after milking the properties dry in the initial period.) This shows the absolute necessity of making the provisions regarding fixity of tenure in the Land Reforms Act applicable to government lands also and to grant fixity of tenure to all persons including Companies who have leased government lands.

14.The positive results of fixity of tenure and negative results of leases whether short-term or long-term shows that sustainable agricultural development is possible only if the agriculturist who holds and cultivates the land has absolute, marketable, mortgageable and bankable title to the property cultivated by him.

15. While the provisions on fixity of tenure contained in the Kerala Land Reforms Act 1964 had salutary effects, the ceiling provisions negatively impacted agricultural development in Kerala. The ceiling provisions permit the cultivation of only Rubber, Coffee, Tea, Cardamom, Cocoa and Cinnamon to be grown in plantations above 6 hectares. The ceiling provisions has prevented the optimum use of land, lowered agricultural production and productivity, reduced overall agricultural

income and decelerated growth of GDP of the State. The ceiling provisions has marginalized and impoverished the farmers with average per family holding being brought down below half a hectare.

16. The coconut gardens and rice fields of Kerala are fragmented into uneconomic units. The ceiling provisions deprives the farmer of his fundamental right to cultivate the crop he wants in his land, which makes exit from one crop to another or use of land for other purposes totally impossible. As a result, we witness total abandonment of tea plantations and famine in High ranges. In the new millennium size will matter and small farmers will not be able to survive in many an agricultural crop.

17. Most of the rice paddy lands taken over by Government of Kerala as excess lands and distributed to the landless are left fallow. So also the dry land and cashew plantations lands taken over by Government of Kerala as excess lands and distributed to the landless have been denuded of tree. Productivity has dropped in every piece of excess land taken over by Government. There has been significant reduction in area under paddy and cashew as a result of the ceiling provisions. The ceiling provisions have therefore led to colossal waste of national wealth.

18. The Kerala Land Utilization Order is another law that prevents lands once used for cultivation of paddy and certain specified crops from being used for growing other crops or for other purposes. This has resulted in almost 5 lakh hectares of land being left totally unutilised and has caused a loss of GDP of Rs. 1,500 crores to Kerala. The farmers must be allowed to grow any crop or to utilize the land for any other purpose.

19. It is also necessary to note the dangerous effects of the Kerala Paddy Fields and Wet Lands Preservation Act. Instead of preserving, the legislation will permanently pollute the paddy fields and wet lands and deplete the soil value and water quality. As the property does not belong to the persons to whom the Government will give the land for cultivation, they will never be interested in preserving the lands. If the land is leased land belonging to another, the cultivating farmer will not be able to raise the finance for, nor will he be interested in, carrying out soil conservation practices or sustainable farming methods. This will lead to soil erosion and depletion of soil quality. The cultivating farmer will be more interested in maximising his short-term profits at the cost of long-term quality of land.

20. Even the short-term arrangement for intercropping by pineapple among Immature Rubber Plantations and Coconut Farms is seen to cause harm as many pineapple growers have been found to resort to application of chemical weedicides, interplanting with unauthorised crops, and adopt many other harmful farming practices. It is only the vigilance of the landowner in choosing reasonably ethical pineapple growers and the landowner’s constant watch on his property that has ensured that Kerala’s Rubber – Pineapple inter-planting has been so successful. Harmful farming practices is seen to have been adopted in the case of paddy lands, which is leased out earlier by Government of Kerala under the Land Utilisation Order.

Perpetuating Rural Poverty

21. Application of Ceiling provisions, followed by distribution of excess land will lead to further fragmentation of agricultural land into uneconomic holdings and land ownership by persons devoid of agricultural management skills leading to fall in productivity. The final owners would be earning far less than present agricultural workers per annum. For example, in Kerala, one Rubber tapper is sufficient to tap Rubber trees in 3 hectares. If he owns only the average holding of half a hectare he will earn less as a landowner than at present as a landless agricultural labourer. With agriculture wages reaching as high as Rs. 400 in Kerala, the earnings of landless agricultural labourer is far better than that of a small farmer.

Threat to Industrialization

22. Fragmentation of land into micro holdings will result making it impossible to obtain land for industrial and other development purposes. Even government will find it difficult to acquire land as it will lead to social unrest and riots.

Cost Overruns and Increase in Corruption

23. Industries and Developers will be forced to approach Government to get land acquired for them and get the said lands exempted from the ceiling provisions, leading to delays, cost overruns and colossal corruption.

States have found Land Ceiling Provisions Harmful

24. Most states which enacted Land Ceiling legislations have found it harmful. Many including West Bengal has increased the ceiling limits. Karnataka and Gujarat have almost removed the ceiling limits.

Education, Skill Training and Non – Farm Employment

25. The solution to rural poverty in India is to be found in education and impartation of skills to the rural folk to empower them to find employment in the vast manufacturing, trade and service industry that is opening up. At the same time values have to be imparted to them to free them from wrong lifestyles, superstitions, alcoholism, gambling and other social evils which deprive billions of people throughout the world of their hard earned money. Every effort should be made to encourage consolidation of land holdings into economic holdings.

Therefore all legislations imposing ceilings, limitations and controls on extent of land held and use of land must be repealed. Fixity of tenure of all agricultural land must be ensured in favour of the farmer. The farmers, who are cultivating land, should be freed from any harassment by erstwhile landlords and others to ensure that the farmers obtain absolute marketable title in their lands and also invest adequately in the land. So also, all Government lands held by farmers and companies must be assigned to such farmers and companies to ensure equity, adequate investment and proper development of such lands.

You can download and read the full report of the Govt. Of India on Land Ceiling by going to this link http://www.dolr.nic.in/agrarian.htm