Adopted at the 20th Congress of the CPI(M), Kozhikode, April 4-9, 2012
On the Demand for Land Reform
The 20th Party Congress of the CPI(M) expresses its strong opposition to the present policies of reverse land reform, that is, the dispossession of the peasantry from their land, and the efforts to facilitate corporate takeover of land, including fertile agricultural land. This is reflected in the Approach document of the 12th Five Year Plan which encourages reverse leasing for consolidation of the landholdings and encourages corporate farming. In many States land ceiling laws have been changed to permit this.
There is extreme concentration of ownership of agricultural holdings in India As the NSSO report on landholdings shows, just 3.5 per cent of landowners own 37.72 per cent of the land. On the other hand, there is a shocking increase in the number of landless peasant households, from 22 per cent in 1992 to 41 per cent today. Clearly, agrarian distress, mainly for the small and marginal peasants, aggravated by neo-liberal economic policies, has forced the rural poor sections to sell their assets, including land and livestock and join the army of migrants in search of livelihoods, while the richer landed classes have benefited.
Although the UPA Government, under pressure from the Left parties, had included a commitment for land reform and distribution in its programme in 2004, it has refused to act even on the recommendations of the official committee report titled “An Unfinished Agenda of Land Reforms.”
It has been estimated that the potential of surplus land over the ceilings is 21 million hectares. Of this, only a fraction has been declared surplus, and even less actually distributed.
In contrast, the Left-led Governments in Tripura at present and in West Bengal and Kerala, when they were in office still hold the record for the best and most effective programmes of land reform. In West Bengal, over 11 lakh acres of land were distributed to landless families. Over 10 lakh families were given homestead land. Over 15 lakh sharecroppers were recorded and given inalienable rights. Women benefited through joint pattas and also land titles for single women.The total number of families who benefited from land reform in West Bengal alone will exceed 45 lakh, two-thirds of whome were SC ST or from minority communities, which accounts for 48 percent of total land reform beneficiaries in the country. In Kerala, due to land reforms, 26 lakh tenants got land and 5.5 lakh families got 10 cents of land each and homestead rights. The last LDF Government launched a campaign to provide homestead land and houses to all homeless families in the State under the EMS Housing Scheme and set the construction of 5 lakh houses as a policy target. It undertook to distribute a minimum of one acre of land to all landless tribal families, to distribute surplus and waste land to the landless poor, and to provide land possession documents and title deeds (patta) to peasants in hilly regions. Tripura has the best record in the country in distribution of land to tribals and in making these lands economically viable. The Central Government itself has had to admit that the implementation of rights guaranteed to tribals under the Forest Rights Act has been best implemented in Tripura by the Left led Government.
On the one hand the redistributive agenda of Land Reforms is not being taken up in most States despite the concentration of land in few hands and increasing landlessness. On the other hand, large scale forcible acquisitions and the conversion of agricultural and forest land into land for SEZs, mining, for corporates and the real estate promoters is taking place. Tribal communities are particularly badly affected. Several States have amended land ceiling laws and land use rules to facilitate this. In some States even where dalits have been given pattas they have not been given possession of the land, while in other cases like in Tamilnadu, they are being evicted.
The proposed Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Act to replace the draconian 1894 Land Acquisition Act, is totally inadequate and does not afford sufficient protection to the peasantry against forcible land acquisition and in fact gives exemptions to as many as 16 laws related to acquisition in areas like mining, SEZs, railways, national highways etc. where compensation provisions will not apply.
This Party Congress opposes the Bill in its present form and demands that it be redrafted according to the suggestions made by democratic organization of the kisans and tribals.
This Congress asserts that no redressal of the problems of the vast majority is possible without altering the correlation of forces in the rural countryside. The inequitous agrarian structure has been an obstacle to unleashing the productive forces, to enhanced productivity, to the modernization of agriculture and to rural development in general. The concentration of land in few hands and the hierarchical power relations revolving around caste, which are reinforced by inequality in land holdings, has also led to widening disparities in income and wealth.
The 20th Congress of the CPI(M) considers that resolving the land question and implementing thoroughgoing land reforms by breaking the land monopoly is central to the emancipation of the rural poor. Carrying out land reform is important to break the continuing caste, gender and other types of social oppression in rural areas.
The 20th Congress of the CPI(M) calls for mobilizing the landless and the rural poor to organize struggles for land distribution and for breaking land monopolies.