Land reform is a state subject in federal India. Land reform legislations, implemented in its early post-Independence period, resulted in the abolition of the zamindari system; redistribution of ceiling surplus land; tenancy reforms; regulation of sharecropping; and the provision of homestead lands to landless households, among others. However, the “unfinished task of land reforms” is enormous, especially given the large size, diversity, federal structure and uneven progress across states. Monitoring in India, then, is more practicable when done on a state level. Association of Voluntary Agencies for Rural development (AVARD) has chosen to start monitoring in Bihar, based on the recent report and recommendations of the Bihar Land Reforms Commission. At the national level, monitoring will check particularly the passage of the national land reforms policy and land use plan, and the implementation of other significant land-related policies such as the Forest Rights Act. Monitoring would ascertain the status of land reforms to strengthen dialogue by looking at: access to land and homestead; sharecropping; landlessness; protection of land of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes; land disputes; budget; land records and maps; and the reordering of the governance structure.

Access to Land

  • Most of the landholdings in India are small and marginal. The proportion of small and marginal landholdings (107.62 million) has increased from 63% in 1971-1972 to 83.29% in 2005-2008, covering 41.14% if India’s total agricultural land (Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India. Agricultural Census of 1971-1972 and 2005-2006).
  • In 1971-1972, large and medium-size holdings were owned by the top 10% of landowners and covered 54% of the total area. By 2005-2006, the proportion of owners of large and medium-size holdings had declined to 5.78%, and their combined area had been reduced to 35% of all land (Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India. Agricultural Census of 1971-1972 and 2005-2006).
  • As mentioned in the Committee on State Agrarian Relations and Unfinished Task of Land Reforms (2008), 2.7 million ha of land has so far been declared ceiling surplus (about 85%); out of which, 2.3 million (87 per cent) ha were taken possession of by the government and 1.9 million ha were distributed to 5.5 million households (37 per cent to the SCs and 16 per cent STs). There has been no further progress in the implementation of land ceiling legislation.
  • 43% of the rural population is still absolutely and near landless, owning less than 0.2 ha per household (India Rural Development Report in 1992). And according from National Sample Survey Organization (2003-2004) data, population of absolutely and near landless has increased to 60%.

Food Security and Nutrition

  • According to ‘The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012,’ India remains home to the largest number of undernourished people in the world: 217 million (17.5% of its population) as of 2012 (FAO, IFAD, and WFP, 2012). Moreover, ‘2012 Global Hunger Index’ (released by IFPRI on 11th October 2012) ranks India at 65 with a score of 22.9 among 79 countries.
  • The Global Survey Report in 2012 stated that 42% children in India are underweight and 58% children are stunted by two years of age.
  • Income poverty declined from 55% in early 1970s to 28% in 2004-2005. However, more than 300 million are still below the poverty line (Oxfam India, 2005).
  • The report of the Expert Group on Methodology for Estimation of Poverty (GoI, 2009) chaired by S.D. Tendulkar shows that overall poverty in India was 37.2% in 2004 to 2005 (Oxfam India, 2005).
  • The proportion of underweight children in 2005-2006 was 36% higher in rural as compared to urban India (49 cases in rural and 36 in urban). Similarly, the proportion of stunted children was 32% higher in rural areas as compared to urban areas (Oxfam India, 2005).
  • India is among the countries with highest prevalence of anemia affecting 75% children below 5 years, 51% women of 15-59 years and 87% pregnant women (Health, Nutrition, and Population, 2005).
1Source: Association of Voluntary Agencies for Rural Development (AVARD). Hunger and Malnutrition in India: Status, Causes and Cures.