2.C. The Likely Impact of the Land Reform Regulation of
1972 on the Land Tenure Situation
In 1972, a new land reform law was enacted with the following
- Ceilings of ownership: 150 acres of irrigated or 300
acres of non-irrigated land, or 12 000 Produce Index Units,
whatever is more, plus 2 000 PIUs for ownership of tubewell
- No compensation to landowners for area appropriated,
free distribution to tenants and landless.
- No exception for seed and mechanized farms, but right
of prior transfer of land to heirs (wife, sons, daughters,
father, mother, children of deceased sons and daughters).
- The landlord decides which of his plots of land he will
- Uncompensated confiscation of former state land of more
than 100 acres which was in the hands of civil servants.
- Security of tenure to tenants who can be evicted only
if they pay no rent, misuse the land, do not cultivate properly
- The landowner has to pay all taxes, water rates and seeds,
while expenses for fertilizers and pesticides are shared.
Extra levies and begar are not allowed.
The likely impact of this law on the land tenure situation
will be analysed in two sections in terms of its influence
on landlords and its influence on tenants.
The category of landlords can be affected in their ownership
rights and in their relation with tenants. It is to be expected
that the area above ceilings, which falls under acquisition
by the land commission, will be rather limited for the following
1. The legitimization of transfers to future heirs by the
law will reduce considerably the area individually owned.
Most landlords have divided their land among family members
in anticipation of a land reform. Since, in their earlier
manifestos, the important political parties had included a
paragraph asking for lower ceilings on land ownership, the
new provisions of the land reform were not unexpected. With
the large number of legal heirs, even big estates could be
brought under ceiling limits.
2. A considerable percentage of the land held by big landlords
is waste or unused land. As the right to select the land for
surrender is vested with the landlords, they are likely to
give up such tracts, thus reducing the size of their holdings,
but not their cultivated area and income derived therefrom.
Such waste and unused land, on the other hand, is not always
fit for redistribution to tenants because of the high expense
involved in its reclamation. Often, such land is uncultivated
because of shortage of water and therefore cannot be cultivated
3. Permitting alternative application to acres or Produce
Index Units as basis for ceilings allows an escape of considerable
magnitude because these two attributes are not equal. As PIUs
have been determined earlier in 1947, and as the productivity
of the land has much increased in the meantime, the application
of PIUs will under many conditions, result in 50 percent (or
more) larger areas than those limits fixed by law.
Therefore, although it is unlikely that the law will result
in a large-scale transfer of ownership from landlords to tenants
(perhaps more can be expected from redistribution of government
land), it might well induce a further increase in self-cultivation
by landowners and the abolishment of tenancy, doing further
into commercial farming might compensate for any losses of
land incurred through the reform and overcome the impact of
tenancy regulations on landlords. As will be explained under
the impact of the law on tenants, it is quite possible, legally,
to apply an abolition policy to tenancy.
The effects of the agrarian reform on tenants will also
be rather limited. As the amount of cultivated land available
for distribution will be very limited (except unknown amounts
of state land) only few tenants will become owners. (This
raises doubts about the provision for free distribution of
land under the reform law, as this will benefit a small number
of former tenants while discriminating against the mass who
will not get anything - not to speak of the capital formation
aspect of this arrangement). Even the stipulations to increase
security of tenure are not likely to have the desired result.
The law asks the landlord to pay the water rate but this does
not apply to tubewell water. Above all, it does not stipulate
the rent. This means that the tenant cannot be evicted but,
by increasing the rent, he may be induced to give up his tenancy.
As the new technologies will require changes in the rent system
in any case, because of new and different inputs, this can
even be done in disguise.
In short, while the latest land reform law, like the one
enacted in 1959, will definitely have an important psychological
and political effect, it is unlikely that it will have a major
direct effect on the tenure situation.