2.2.2 Consequences of the Agrarian Reforms

If one takes stock of the 15 years of agrarian reforms in India and Pakistan, the difference between the objectives of the reforms at the time of independence and the actual results is particularly striking. In simple terms, one say that the reforms were directed against the feudal landlords and against the poor tenants and agricultural labourers, whereas they benefitted the rural middle class, especially the upper middle class.

The top of the traditional upper class, especially the revenue collectors who bad no definite function, were eliminated as well as the largest landowners, especially in India. But large scale landed property was not abolished, only restricted, and land concentration was thus somewhat reduced. These measures were especially directed against the landlords who did not cultivate their own land or at least manage its cultivation, but restricted themselves to collecting rent. This old feudal upper class was decisively weakened and today no longer plays an important role in these countries.

But the lower class, among whom great expectations were aroused but not fulfilled, is the actual loser in the agrarian reform process. The landless and the sharecroppers were not affected at all by the reform measures and benefitted from land allotments only in specific cases. A large number of the previously protected tenants were deprived of their rights owing to the transition to self cultivation and quite a number of them new cultivate the same land, but under less favourable conditions. They now have only short term lease contracts, and these sometimes still comprise supplementary agreements. They are not beneficiaries, but the losers in the agrarian reform process.

Those who actually benefitted from the agrarian reforms belonged to the rural middle class, i.e., small landlords and larger owner cultivators. The emphasis on the promotion of owner cultivation in the laws and the way in which this term was defined resulted in a concentration of land in the hands of this middle group. Former landlords, who cultivated the rest of their land after part of it had been expropriated, were forced downwards into this middle group. From below, economically sound cultivators who had the means to buy the titles to the land they cultivated rose into the group. They all increased the number of economically viable medium sized farms.

This middle stratum consisting of small landlords and large cultivators became, after the old feudal landlords had been eliminated, the main stratum in these countries and held not only a large number of the parliamentary seats, but exercised great influence due to their being related to high officials and members of the military. Many members of this stratum deal intensively with the cultivation of their land, partly because they want to balance out their losses resulting from losing land by cultivating their land more intensively, partly as a reaction to the more advantageous prices for agricultural products that arose in the course of time. But their more commercial attitude towards agriculture is of considerable importance. Their aim was not to skim off high rents, but to achieve profits through appropriate methods of cultivation, and this was further encouraged by the government's agrarian policy.

This change of attitude again had an unfavourable effect on the lower stratum. The replacement of feudal landlords by commercial farmers led to a transition from traditional to contractual labour relations. Thus the tenants and agricultural labourers were further deprived of the minimal securities which the former reciprocal relations with, and concern of, the landlords represented and were thrown into the struggle for life without any protection so that, in view of the prevailing market conditions, they could only be losers. By bringing about such a change, the agrarian reforms established the basis for further changes. They became more drastic in the case of the Green Revolution and showed their actual implications.