10 Things To Know About Zamindari Abolition Act
Among the key issues that the makers of the Constitution had to deal with was India's feudal set-up, which had severely affected the country's social fabric in pre-Independence India. Land ownership was concentrated among a select few, while the rest struggled to make ends meet. To bridge this the government introduced many land reforms, including the Zamidari Abolition Act, 1950.
MakaanIQ takes a look at the highlights of this Act:
- A pioneering Act: The Zamidari Abolition Act, 1950, was the first major agrarian reform of the Indian government after the country's Independence in 1947.
- The social structure: The Mughals had circumscribed the hereditary status of the zamindars; it was the British who uplifted their status and made them subordinates of the crown.
- The states that led the way: Although the process of the abolition of the zamindari system was started long before the Constitution was enacted, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Madras, Assam and Bombay had introduced zamindari abolition Bills by 1949. These states used the report of the Uttar Pradesh Zamindari Abolition Committee (chaired by GB Pant) as the initial model. But zamindars approached the court, saying their fundamental rights had been violated.
- 'Fundamental' right to property: When the Constitution was passed, the right to property was a fundamental right under Articles 19 and 31. Under the first Amendment Act, the government in 1951 dropped the right to property from the list of fundamental rights. This gave immunity to the government's land reform Acts. This was a precursor to the abolition of the zamindari system, which had plagued the social fabric of the country.
- The beneficiaries: The main beneficiaries of the Act were the occupancy tenants or superior tenants who had direct leases from zamindars and had become virtual landowners.
- Compensation: State governments across the nation acquired 1,700 lakh hectares of land and gave Rs 670 crore as compensation to zamindars. Some states created funds and gave landowners bonds that could be redeemed after 10 to 30 years.
- Loophole in the Act: As land is a state subject, most states permitted zamindars to cultivate a part of their land and keep it to themselves. But zamindars used this loophole and started cultivating land on their own (so that the state does not take away land from them).
- Plugging the gap: Later, Article 31(a), 31(b) and Ninth Schedule were added to the Constitution to prevent zamindars from taking legal recourse. Laws by the government could no longer be challenged and the state was empowered to make laws and acquire any estate or land.
- End of bonded labour: The Zamindari Abolition Act also made begari or forced/bonded labour a punishable offence.