Miles to go

A little over a year before the Janadesh march, a working group appointed by the Planning Commission had termed land reforms in India a "forgotten agenda'. It minced no words in explaining why. "Policy makers are finding existing land reforms enacted on the basis of central guidelines of early seventies not only unwanted roadblocks but also obnoxious to the free play of capital in the land market,' said the working group on land relations set up for the 11th Five Year Plan in its report in July 2006.

A legal framework was needed for settling all disputes regarding land ownership, said the group. More importantly, it suggested stopping indiscriminate, large-scale, environmentally damaging and socially harmful transfer of agricultural land for non-agricultural use. But no one was listening. Not until 25,000 landless people marched to Delhi.

From the abolition of zamindari and distribution of land to the landless to the bhoodan (gift of land) movement, episodic attempts at reform have been stymied by the dominant classes in rural society since independence.

Surplus land distribution
Prior to independence, a large part of agricultural land was held by intermediaries under the zamindari and other tenurial systems; tenant farmers who tilled the land had to pay high rents. Issues relating to land and land tenures are state subjects, with the central government playing an advisory role. By 1961-62, all states had passed laws enforcing ceilings on land but the pattern of ceilings varied across states. The central Land Reforms (Fixation of Ceiling on Land) Act, 1971, tried to bring about uniformity by capping the ceiling for a family of five at 11.3 hectares (ha) of wetland and 21.9 ha of non-irrigated land. The land possessed by a family above these limits was called

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