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Mainstream Vol XLV No.31

On Agriculture, Land Reforms and Industrialisation

Saturday 21 July 2007



Arup Kumar Sen’s write-up, “Land Acquisition and Industrialisation in West Bengal: Report of a Workshop” (Mainstream, July 7, 2007) reflects the concern of our intellectuals for balancing the development and displacement of poor masses.

In India, agriculture has been and continues to be the most important economic activity with the largest volume of employment. It is, therefore, essential to ensure the well-being of all those who make their contribution to the agricultural economy and its growth.

It was in 1947 that Pandit Nehru had declared that his government would spare no efforts in emancipating the poor peasants from the clutches of the unscrupulous landlords. This policy declaration was given effect to with the passing of the Zamindari Abolition Act. But nothing substantial has been done to improve the condition of the masses. If real land reforms had been effected and implemented, coupled with the modernisation of agriculture, there would have been a real and desirable transformation of the countryside.

There were significant peasant movements, just before independence, particularly in Telangana (Andhra Pradesh) as also in eastern UP and West Bengal mainly organised by the Leftists. Although these were suppressed, they indicated that the peasantry was becoming conscious of their rights.

The Congress Agrarian Reforms Committee, headed by J.C. Kumarappa, submitted a comprehensive report in 1949 that recommended several measures such as land to the tiller, full occupancy rights, prohibition of subletting of land and abolition of intermediaries. In 1950, the Communist Party adopted a political thesis of “land to the tiller”. It also outlined the strategy for the mobilisation of peasants for an agricultural revolution. Unfortunately most of the laws of imposition of ceiling on agricultural holdings have remained on paper. Despite abolition of the zamindari system, a new modern zamindari system is emerging.

There should be a balance between agriculture and industrialisation. Displacement of people for so-called development must be stopped at once. Sincere and solid efforts have to be made in a systematic manner for carrying out comprehensive land reforms and achieving their aims and objectives. To initiate the process, States governed by the Left parties, particularly West Bengal, must come forward.

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