Abolition of the 'Intermediaries'

In 1951, as the first agrarian reform measure, the intermediaries, the numerous revenue collectors who often did not have a definite function, lost their rights. Considerable problems cropped up because of the large number of very different cases. This measure did not aim at abolishing the ownership of large amounts of land, but only of specific rights. Among those who were affected were numerous small zamindars who earned low incomes from a few acres of land. Often, this was their only source of income, and they had come legally into possession of it, either through purchase or inheritance. Illegal methods my also have played a role when the titles were acquired, but some jagirs were conferred in return for important services. For all the above as well as constitutional reasons, the government took over these rights in return for quite high compensations whose rates increased inversely to the amount of income earned from the land. The compensation was paid in installments without binding conditions for its use and burdened the government in India with Rs. 6.3 billion and in Pakistan with Rs. 360 million.

An exceptional situation arose in the former jagirs which had often been very badly administered. Not only was the government forced to make considerable investments in health services, schools, etc.to bring these regions ro the same level as the rest of the country, but ithbad to take over the jagirdars' staff as well as pay their pensions. An additional burden resulted from the fact that many jagirdar families were not in a position to make a new start in life. After having spent the sum they had received as compensation, they became destitute, and it became necessary to draw up special rehabilitation programmes.

Since the measures aimed at abolishing specific legal conditions, land which belonged to the same people under other legal conditions was not affected by this measure. Nor was land expropriated that was self-cultivated. To provide them with a basis for existence, those who until then had not cultivated any land themselves, were granted the right to dismiss tenants of land up to three times the size of an average family farm before expropriation was enforced. The term "self cultivation" was not clearly defined and gave rise to many manipulations. The zamindars began to let hired labourers cultivate land they tad leased to tenants until then and even persuaded illiterate tenants to give up their rights. This abuse took on such proportions that special laws had to be passed to cancel the voluntary waives made during the last years. In spite of this, the number of protected tenants decreased considerably.

Despite all these problems, by the mid fifties, the intermediaries had been abolished in the two countries. The farmers in these regions more than 20 million in India alone had come into direct contact with the government whose tax revenues increased considerably. However, the above described higher burdens largely counterbalanced this increase. For the farmers, this meant freedom from the arbitrariness of the zamindars and of the numerous "abwabs," but the tax burden remained the same with the only difference being that the government was now the recipient. At any rate, the legal status of the "occupancy tenants" was now clearer. However, only those who were well off could avail themselves of the possibility of purchasing land rights since most of the actual tenants lacked the necessary funds to that end. The larger cultivators could thus enlarge their farms and became the new lessors in the village. These measures did not affect in any way the large number of subtenants who had leased land from occupancy tenants.