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Socio Economic and Caste census: Landlessness high in Kerala, West Bengal despite land reforms

Of the country’s total 17.92 crore rural households, 10.08 crore or 56 per cent do not own any agricultural land.

Written by Harish Damodaran | New Delhi | Updated: July 9, 2015 5:12 am
 land reforms, landlessness, landless farmers, landless labourers,  Socio Economic and Caste Census, SECC,  agricultural land reform, kerala landlessness, West bengal landlessness, india news, nation news In West Bengal, too, the proportion of rural households mainly dependent on cultivation as a source of revenue is comparatively low at 18.87 per cent.

States that have implemented land reforms have higher rates of landlessness than the national average, according to data from the Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC).

Of the country’s total 17.92 crore rural households, 10.08 crore or 56 per cent do not own any agricultural land. What is surprising, though, is that the incidence of landlessness is higher in Kerala (72 per cent) and West Bengal (70 per cent).

The percentage of rural households with no land in the two states — both known to have undertaken radical land reforms under Left-ruled governments in the past — is higher than even for the likes of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra or Odisha that have no record of carrying out any sustained land redistribution programme.

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One reason for this seeming discrepancy could be that the SECC data looks only at agricultural land and not homestead land, said Abhijit Sen, former member of the Planning Commission. Kerala, for one, has seen significant reduction in land under cultivation. Quite a bit of farmlands redistributed to erstwhile tenant-cultivators after imposition of land ceilings would, over time, have got converted to pure homesteads. Many agricultural households would have exited farming altogether.

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This is partly also borne out by the SECC data on sources of household income. While “cultivation” formed the main source of income for 30.1 per cent of all rural households in India, the figure for Kerala was as low as 10.25 per cent.

However, K P Kannan, former director of the Thiruvananthapuram-based Centre for Development Studies, felt that the 72 per cent landlessness figure “needs further confirmation”. While the gross cropped area in Kerala has fallen, it “has not dipped to the extent the SECC data would suggest”.

In West Bengal, the high landlessness is seen to be related to the fact that land reforms in the state were focused more on providing sharecroppers legal security of tenure and protection against eviction — through the Left Front government’s Operation Barga during the 1980s — than conferring ownership per se.

In West Bengal, too, the proportion of rural households mainly dependent on cultivation as a source of revenue is comparatively low at 18.87 per cent.

The states with the lowest rates of landlessness — defined by agricultural land — are Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh.

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  1. B
    Biju
    Jul 4, 2015 at 11:30 am
    How wonderful that every one jump in to bash communists for this. Why is TN & AP which were never ruled by communists having more landless people than kerala. And what about prosperous Punjab? They are not very behind as well. Same survey tells kerala has the highest home ownership in the country and most advanced social indices among all states. Will you attribute this as well to communists?
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    1. Kanu Patel
      Jul 4, 2015 at 10:31 am
      Potion density in Kerala and West Bengal is higher than other states of India. Where more people live in less area it is obvious that landless people will be more. Though I am against the policies of Comunists , the higher figures of landless people in the two states has nothing to do with their policies.
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      1. B
        Biju Mathew
        Jul 4, 2015 at 4:36 pm
        This socio economic and caste census; just like any other data collection in India is a joke, as most people don't disclose the actual data regarding them especially regarding wealth with the fear of possible future negative implications. 72/100 people in Kerala is landless is an utter joke, I would say.
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        1. M
          MarkModi
          Jul 4, 2015 at 5:12 pm
          Landlessness of Kerala means people don't have cultivating land other than homes. That means Keralites less depend on agriculture for lively-hood. Please interpret the data correctly.
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          1. A
            Ashif
            Jul 4, 2015 at 4:06 pm
            Why dont you read the complete article and find the real reason behind the numbers shown, rather than criticizing communists for one of the few good things they have done?!
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