Can Farmland for the Landless Become A Reality On A Large Scale in India -Bharat Dogra
More than half of rural households in India are landless, or almost so. This deprives them of the most obvious asset needed for sustainable livelihoods and food security in villages–farmland.
After agriculture the next most important source of rural livelihood in India is dairy farming but here too the household with farmland has free access to crop residues which is increasingly not available to landless households who have to incur extra costs and hence lose the competitive edge as well.
A big question of our times is—can the rural landless households also hope to become small farmers by getting at least some farmland of their own, maybe only a small patch of farmland, maybe just do bigha zamin, but farmland of their own?
Post-independence India believed so, and land for the landless was mentioned as one of the important planks of the land reform effort as envisaged in the government and planning commission documents of those days. Even if the commitment was more on paper than in practice it was there.
Then for a time during the days of Mrs. Indira Gandhi as Prime Minister this commitment appeared to increase for a short time at least, and was revived occasionally by some Chief Ministers, for example Ms. Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh, or in somewhat more sustained ways in left-ruled a states like Kerala and W.Bengal.
However steadily in recent years this overall limited commitment also went into a further sharp decline and we haven’t heard much of this since then, except for a few months when a big foot-march on this and related issues was organized by the Ekta Parishad and associated organizations and some follow-up action was initiated by the government.
Despite this neglect experience has shown that even small plots of secure farmland supported by water conservation and some irrigation can be a good support for food security and a more secure place of dignity in village. Households who get a chance to have their own farmland generally are willing to work very hard to get good yields, and with some exposure to training for avoiding external inputs which are costly in economic and ecological terms , these farmers can be very successful in this, as they are willing to put in the extra work needed for this.
If improving food security, reducing poverty and hunger, improving yields in sustainable ways are our objectives, then a program of farmland for the landless can play a very important role in this.
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Countercurrents.org, 9 April, 2021, https://countercurrents.org/2021/04/can-farmland-for-the-landless-become-a-reality-on-a-large-scale/?fbclid=IwAR3iIb79vO77Xfd0dvodlS8XIg09Zvgbvf65Uf9FOICvdtUPjPjLzVAP7y0