Ceilings for Landed Property

In South Asia, efforts to limit the amount of landed property and to redistribute land have only become effective in the course of time and with much delay. In the beginning, the main concern was to limit the amount of landed property that could be acquired in the future; that is, an attempt was made to prevent large scale landed property from newly developing.Later, ceilings were fixed for the amount of landed property allowed, and land exceeding those amounts was to be expropriated. At first, the ceilings in the two countries, especially in Pakistan, were high so that only a few landowners were affected. Subsequently passed laws reduced the ceilings each time.

The actual enforcement, especially in the period during which the first laws were valid, was by far not as strict as stipulated according to the word of the law. These laws already foresaw many exceptions. In Pakistan, for example, the law did not apply to seed farms, mechanized farms, and fruit growing areas, thus making an exception for the better cultivated and especially the self-cultivated areas. In many cases, land was allowed to be distributed among the family members before the laws were enforced..Due to the large number of children, a family could often retain a large amount of land, and some areas were even transferred to unborn children. Other laws fixed the ceilings varyingly according to the size of the family.

Usually, it was left up to the landlords to decide which areas they wanted to cede if their property exceeded the ceiling. The result was that much of the land which was surrendered consisted of burial sites, waste land, and other unusable areas. A reform law in Pakistan allowed those concerned to decide whether they wanted to have the land ceiling measured in acres or in produce index units. Since the produce index units had not been adjusted over 25 years, the ceilings were raised by an average of 50% when they were utilized as the basis. The result of all these obstacles to which many wearisome law suits can be added was, finally.that this measure had a limited effect. Specifically, only a relatively small amount of land was available for distribution. Most of this land was used to enlarge marginal farms so that the number of actual new farmers is quite insignificant in comparison with the number of landless people. Inversely, the laws brought about only abolition of large scale landed property, in India more than in Pakistan. Only the upper stratum of landowners were more severely affected and expropriated.