Land Ceiling and Consolidation of Land Holdings in India

The land ceiling acts define the size of land that an individual/family can own. In India, by 1961-62, all the state governments have passed the land ceiling acts. But the ceiling limits varied from state to state. To bring uniformity across states, a new land ceiling policy was evolved in 1971. In 1972, national guidelines were issued with ceiling limits as 10-18 acres for best land, 18-27 acres for second class land and for the rest with 27-54 acres with a slightly higher limit in the hill and desert areas. Before 1972, the basis of land ceiling was an individual as a unit instead of family. Since 1972, family is considered as the unit of application for land ceilings. And also certain exemptions were allowed for plantations of crops like tea and coffee, Bhoodan Yagya Committees, registered cooperatives, and other bodies.

The land ceiling also deals with the acquisition of surplus land and its redistribution among the small farmers and landless workers. But the progress of redistribution of surplus land has been unsatisfactory.

A number of factors such as separate ceilings for major sons, exemptions for religious and charitable institutions, benami transfers, falsification of land deeds, judicial interventions, loopholes in ceiling laws, non-availability of land records, inefficient administration and lack of political-will etc. account for the failure of the land ceiling. Other reasons include the generally poor quality of surplus lands and lack of financial and institutional support to bring these lands under cultivation.

Consolidation of Landholdings

The fragmentation of land implies a single farm consists of numerous discrete parcels, often scattered over a large area. It results in inefficient use of soil, capital, and labour in the form of boundary lands and boundary disputes and litigation costs. Efficiency of cultivation is considerably reduced and also prevents land improvement. Consolidation refers to reorganization of fragmented holdings into one plot. Of all the land reform measures, this has received the least critical appreciation. The land consolidation was resisted by the small and marginal landowners because of the fear of displacement among tenants and sharecroppers and lack of updated land records; the perceived advantage of having land in fragmented parcels in the event of floods and other natural calamities or acquisition for public purposes.

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