Bhoodan Movement Essay Contest

Land Reforms: Bhoodan Movement and Green Revolution!

Land Reforms:

The important land reforms introduced after independence in our coun­try are:

(1) Abolition of zamindari system;

(2) Accepting the fundamental principle that lands belonged to those who do the tilling;

(3) Enacting Land Ceiling Act;

(4) Encouraging Bhoodan and Sarvodaya movements; and

(5) Devising suitable rational basis for obtaining land revenue. The proposal ‘land belonging to the tiller’ was meant to redistribute rural in­come to the advantage of those who work in the fields and to the disadvantage of those who do not.

Another effect of this proposal was that control of a very considerable amount of land was to pass from rent- receivers to tenants, crop-shares and labourers. What were the possible measures to effect this proposal through legislation?

(i) To provide that at the death of non-tilling owners, their rights in land could pass only to those who already are actual tillers, or

(ii) The legislation might lay down that no further transfers of agricultural land may occur except to those who are now tillers and who propose to till the land with their own lands, or

(iii) To take away forthwith the rights in the land of non-tiller landowners and compensation be provided to them or providing them re­habilitation grants to take up other occupations. But the programme of abolishing proprietary rights was not easy to implement.

Bhoodan Movement:

With the disappointing progress of legislative land reform, Acharya Vinoba Bhave’s Bhoodan (land-gift) movement offered a promising way forward. The focus was on improving the position of the landless. Assum­ing that there were 50 million landless peasants in India, Vinobaji set himself the task of collecting land-gifts of 50 million acres so that one acre could be given to each landless peasant. He called upon the landowners to give to the Bhoodan movement one-sixth of their holdings.

Since roughly 300 million acres were under cultivation in 1951 in India, the gifts would have totalled up to the required 50 million acres. These gifts were then to be distributed to the landless under the guidance of Bhoodan workers. The movement got off to a good start as within three years (1952 to 1954) more than 3 million acres of land were received as Bhoodan.

However, the movement soon slowed down. It was found that much of the land do­nated was rocky, barren or otherwise agriculturally poor or was under dispute in litigation. Further, distribution of land created more problems. Out of a total of 3.75 million acres of land received by May 1955,about C.2 million acres (or 5%) could be redistributed.

The district and leaders were far from enthusiastic. They associated themselves with the Bhoodan only to enlarge or strengthen their following. Vinobaji resisted these efforts. The appeal was to the rich and landed peasants who opposed all types of land reform in their vested interests. Thus, like ceilings, Bhoo­dan also failed.

The Green Revolution:

The green revolution which aimed at increase in agricultural productiv­ity, was brought about in 1966. The introduction of high-yielding varieties of wheat, rice, maize, millet, etc., benefited the larger landholder more than the small landholder. This was because it required a reliable supply of water, costly fertiliser, high quality of seed, and pesticides, and use of machinery.

These could be afforded only by the richer farmers. Ac­cording to P.C. Joshi in Punjab, Haryana and some other regions, the trend that emerged was that small landowners rented their land to big farmers who needed a larger land-spread to use their machinery profitably. On the one hand, this enriched the larger landholder on the other hand, it increased the number of landless labourers most of whom are low caste and untouchables.

Before independence, though about 70 per cent of the rural popula­tion was engaged in agriculture yet agricultural production was so low that we were dependent on foreign countries for our food supply. The low agricultural production was the result of British policy of collecting land revenue, lack of use of modern technology in agriculture, lack of credit facilities to small owners of land, exploitation of small cultivators by zamindars and jagirdars, and lack of interest on the part of cultivators to accept new models of cropping.

The result of the British policy of land revenue was that many cultivators who were unable to pay taxes had either to sell or mortgage their land or turn for help to money lenders. Be­cause of this, the proportion of landless and land labourers increased from 13 per cent of the rural population in 1891 to 38 per cent in 1951 (Patel, 1952).

When population of the country in the early 1950s was growing at the rate of 0.67 per cent, the agricultural output was growing at the rate of 0.5 per cent. The land reforms introduced after independence further led to the concentration of land in the hands of the larger landowners. The principle of land reform was land to the tiller’.

The large landowners, an­ticipating this type of legislation, had got evicted long-term tenants prior to the enactment of legislation. Many tenants had voluntarily given up their land rights to the owners out of fear. Thereafter, the large land owner rented out his land to short-term or seasonal tenants, or cultivated it himself with the help of casual labour.

By 1953-54, the upper 10 per cent of landowners owned more than half of the land, 47 per cent owned less than 1 acre per household, and 23 per cent were landless. The agricul­tural production which was growing at the rate of 3 per cent per year in 1951-52 increased to 6 per cent in 1994-95, 10 per cent in 1996-97, but de­creased to 6 per cent in 1998-99.

It is estimated that using high-yield techniques, the upper 10 per cent of land­holders could produce enough food to feed urban and other non-agricultural population of India. This means that about 48 million cultivators’ families would be pushed off the land. This is a wrong as­sumption. Commercialisation of agriculture and the green revolution of last three decades would neither affect the cultivators adversely nor spell the demise of patronage system in the villages.

  1. Prologue
  2. Bhoodan Movement (Donation of Land)
    1. Bhoodan: Mechanism/procedure/features
    2. Bhoodan: Positive
    3. Bhoodan: Obstacles, Limitations, Problems
  3. Gramdan (Donation of the Entire Village)
    1. Gramdan: Concept/Principles
    2. Gramdan Mechanism
    3. Gramdan: Benefits
  4. Pardi Satyagraha, Gujarat, 50s
  5. Mock Questions


  • So far we’ve seen: British Tenure system, peasant revolts and three main land reforms after independence viz. (1) Zamindari Abolition (2) Land ceiling (3) Tenancy protection Acts.
  • In this article, we’ll check some people’s/NGO/Civil society movements for land reforms in India. Their achievements/limitations. by the Naxalbari related matter ignored here. You’ll find neat coverage ot it under September competition under internal security folder click me  
  • In the next article we’ll come back to government actions: cooperative farming, consolidation of land holdings and computerization of records.

Timeline: Civil society / NGO movements for land reforms after Independence

Bhoodan Movement (Donation of Land)

1951First Bhoodan in village Pochampalli, Nalgonda District, Andhra (the hotbed of Telengana movement)By local Zamindar V. Ramchandra Reddy to Vinoba Bhave.
1953Jayaprakash Narayan withdrew from active politics to join the Bhoodan movement

Bhoodan movement had two components:

  1. Collect land as gift from zamindars and rich farmers.
  2. Redistribute that gifted/donated land among the landless farmers.

Bhoodan: Mechanism/procedure/features

  1. (Hierarchy) Vinoba: Sarvodaya Samaj=> Pradesh Bhoodan Committees in each region=> local committees and individual social workers @grassroot.
  2. He and his followers were to do padayatra (walk on foot from village to village). Persuade the larger landowners to donate at least one-sixth of their lands.
  3. Target= 50 million acres. (~1/6 of total cultivable land in India)
  4. When a Zamindar/rich farmer gifts/donates a land, the Bhoodan worker would prepare a deed.
  5. These Deeds forwarded to Vinoba Bhave @Sevagram for signature.
  6. Bhoodan Worker took help of Gram Panchayat, PAtwari (village accountant) to survey the beneficiaries and land fertility.
  7. First preference given to landless agricultural laborers, then to farmers with insufficient land.
  8. A date was fixed, entire village gathered and the beneficiary family was given land.
  9. Those who receive the donation are asked to sign a printed application requesting for land, after which they are presented with certificates of having received land.
  10. No fees charged from the beneficiary.
  11. Beneficiary was expected to cultivate the land for atleast 10 years. He should start within three years of the receipt of land.
  12. These Rules/procedures were relaxed by taking local conditions, cultures in account.

Many state governments made legislation to facilitate donation and distribution of Bhoodan land. Example: Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, U.P., Delhi and Himachal Pradesh.

Subsequently, the movement was widened into Gramdan. States again passed special legislation for management of Gramdan villages.

Bhoodan: Positive

  • In the initial years the movement achieved a considerable degree of success, especially in North India- UP, Bihar.
  • By 1956: receiving over 4 million acres of land as donation.
  • By 1957: ~4.5 million acres.
  • The movement was popularised in the belief that land is a gift of nature and it belonged to all.
  • The donors of land are not given any compensation. This movement helped to reduce the gap in haves and have-nots in rural areas.
  • This movement was un-official. The landlords were under no compulsion to donate their land, it was a voluntary movement.  One of the very few attempts after independence to bring about land reform through a movement
  • Promoted the Gandhian the idea of trusteeship or that all land belonged to God.
  • Communist leader E.M.S. Namboodiripad
    • the Bhoodan and Gramdan movement stimulated political and other activity by the peasant masses
    • has created a favourable atmosphere for political propaganda and agitation
    • for redistribution of the land
    • for abolition of private ownership of land
    • for the development of agricultural producers’ cooperatives.

Bhoodan: Obstacles, Limitations, Problems

Slow progress
  • After ’56 movement lost its momentum.
  • While nearly 4.5 million acres of Bhoodan land was available- barely 6.5 lakh acres was actually distributed among 200,000 families (1957)
  • In some cases the donors took back their land from the Bhoodan workers for certain reasons.
  • This created doubts in the minds of some people about the continuity of the movement.
Bribesvillage leaders, or allotting authorities, demanded money from the poor for recommending their names for allotment. As a result, many underserving villagers also got land e.g those already having land/ those involved in trade-commerce.
GreedBhoodan movement created land hunger among landless.Some of them applied multiple times in the name of wives, children etc. to get more and more free land.
Donating bogus landbig landlords donated those land which were unfit for cultivation (or under court litigation). Such donations served no real purpose.
Disputed land
  • Sometimes Bhoodan workers would even accept disputed land as gift. Without verification.
  • Later the Matter would be stuck in court litigations and beneficiary would get nothing.
  • In the later phase, Bhoodan workers got associated with one or another political parties. Some of them tried to ‘use’ the Bhoodan organization as a means to gain political clout and dividends at the time of election.
  • Thus as the years passed, Bhoodan workers lost credibility and respect among villagers=>land gifts declined.
  • Since Bhoodan workers became political agents, Some landlords / Ex-Zamindars donated land as ‘bribe’ to Bhoodan workers- with hope of getting favourable returns e.g. ticket in local election, road-contracts, building contracts etc.
  • And if they (landlords) were not given such favours- they’d forcibly take back the Bhoodan land from the beneficiary later on.
  • Mere allotment of land=insufficient. Because landless farmer also needed seeds, fertilizer, irrigation etc.
  • Often the beneficiary couldn’t arrange loans for these inputs.
bureaucratic apathy
  • District officials were slow and inefficient in finishing the formalities of Bhoodan land transfers.
  • donated land remained idle for a number of years and the revenue for it had to be paid by the donor.
  1. The average size of land given to beneficiary=0.5 to 3 acres.
  2. Result: land fragmentation + diseconomies of scale + ‘disguised unemployment’ without any noticeable rise in agro-production.
Marxist Criticism
  1. Bhoodan’s main purpose was to ‘serve as a brake on the revolutionary struggle of the peasants’
  2. Thus idea of Bhoodan= reactionary, class collaborationist.
Missed the bigger picture
  1. Bhoodan based on Gandhian idea of trusteeship. Some Socialists wanted this movement to realize the potential of trusteeship and launch mass civil disobedience against injustice.
  2. The Sarvodaya Samaj, however, on the whole failed to make this transition: to build an active large-scale mass movement that would generate irresistible pressure for social transformation in large parts of the country.
  • All these loopholes, slowly and steadily, made the movement dysfunctional.
  • 1999: Bihar government dissolved the State Bhoodan Committee for its inability to distribute even half the Bhoodan land available over the past thirty-eight years.
  • Thus, Vinoba’s lofty ideal remained more as a philosophy and was never realized fully.

Gramdan (Donation of the Entire Village)

First Gramdan1952: by the village of Mongroth in U.P.1955: Orissa, Koratpur district.

At a later phase, this progamme was extended to other states in Bihar, Maharashtra, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Gramdan: Concept/Principles

  1. Gramdan may be defined as an experiment in collective village living.
  2. Original idea comes from Gandhi’s reply to Jamnalal Bajaj: “it is far better for a hundred families in a village to cultivate their land collectively and divide the income therefrom than to divide the land any how into a hundred portions”.
  3. Vinoba Bhave popularized ^this concept of Gandhi.

Gramdan Mechanism

The villagers have to sign a declaration saying, “We are vesting the ownership of all our land to the “Gram Sabha” of the village.

  1. This Gram Sabha/ Village council will unanimously nominate ten to fifteen persons who will form an executive Committee.
  2. This executive Committee will be responsible for the day-to-day administration of the village.
  3. The decisions of the Committee will be ratified by the Council.

In other words, Gramdan=A Gram Sabha like institution collectively owned and managed entire land/farms of the villagers.

Gramdan: Benefits

  1. In an ideal gramdan village, there will be no landowners, and no absentee landlords.
  2. The labourers will give all their earnings to the village community, which will then distribute it according to needs.
  3. Thus, gramdan acts as the ideal unit for putting the principles in the practice, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”.
By 1960Approx.Gramdan Villages

Gramdan movement was considered superior to the Bhoodan movement because:

land fragmentation, inefficient cultivation, distribution of poverty, decline in marketable surplus , donation of uncultivable land, legal and other difficulties of redistribution, etc.Nope
NopeEconomies of scale
Benefits only the person who gets the landSarvodaya of entire village. Everyone benefits.
  • possible to correlate with economic planning in the country.
  • 2nd FYP recognized that Gramdan village have great significance for co-operative village development.

Limitation of Gramdan? Gramdan was successful mainly in villages where class differentiation had not yet emerged and there was little if any disparity in ownership of land or other property. E.g. Tribal villages. But didn’t find cooperation from other villages in the plains or villages near urban centers.

Pardi Satyagraha, Gujarat, 50s

  1. Socialist workers: Iswarbhai Desai, Ashok Mehta.
  2. Kisan Panchayat: a non-political body with no affiliation to any political party.
  3. Tribals from Pardi and Dharmpur Taluka


  1. 75% of the agro land was owned by 100 big landlords.
  2. These landlords were not interested in farming. They kept the land as such- so grass automatically grew and sold profitably in Bombay fodder trade.
  3. Local tribals would get labour work in such ‘fodder-farms’ for only 1-2 months during harvesting. They remained jobless and starving for remaining months. While the landlords made decent profit with almost none investment or efforts.


  • Redistribution of land was not on their agenda. (Themselves declared it)
  • Satyagrahi would enter in the private land and start tilling to grow foodcrops and court arrest.
  • Tribals to boycott grass cutting work. even outside labour would not be allowed do the work. Picketing. As a result, the grass dried up at many places.
  • With time, movement found support from public and political parties
  • Bhoodan and Gramdan movements also started but failed thanks to poor response from landlords.

Result? Almost #EPICFAIL because:

  1. 1960, Gujarat created out of Bombay state. New state government made some promises=>Iswarbhai and other Satyagrahi joined the Congress party. Hence momentum/pressure was lost.
  2. 1965: War between India Pakistan. The CM (Balwant Rai Mehta) died in plane crash. New CM (Hitendra Desai) did not show much interest in fulfilling promises made by previous CM.
  3. Landlords went to Gujarat Highcourt court. Although HC rejected their plea, but state government did not show any urgency to implement the agreements.
  4. 1966: Ishwarbhai Desai decide to quit congress and launch a new Satyagraha, but he died. And others were unable to provide effective leadership/direction to the movement.
  5. 1967: A new agreement between the government, the landlords and the Satyagrahis. But the implementation carried out at a snail’s pace.

Mock Questions


  1. Critically examine the philosophy, the concept and the working of Bhoodan and Gramdan movements in India.
  2. It is far better for a hundred families in a village to cultivate their land collectively and divide the income therefrom than to divide the land any how into a hundred portions. Comment.
  3. Write a note on the Lacunae in Bhoodan and Gramdan Movements.
  4. Bhoodan was an experiment in Gandhian idea of trusteeship. Comment.
  5. Evaluate the impact of Bhoodan and Gramdan movements as measures of land reforms. In what way Gramdan was superior to Bhoodan movement?
  6. Discuss the significant movements initiated by people for land reforms in India after independence.
  7. critically evaluate non-governmental initiatives in the area of land reform

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