why the potential of Bhoodan and Gramdan movements could not be fully utilized

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Question – Discussing the Bhoodan and Gramdan movements, explain why the potential of these movements could not be fully utilized. 1 April 2022

AnswerAfter independence, the condition of the farmers became pathetic due to the economic inequality created due to inequality in agricultural holdings. In an effort to improve the condition of the landless farmers, Vinoba Bhave started the Bhoodan and Gramdan movements in 1951 from Pochampally village of present Telangana, so that the landless poor farming society could be made accessible to dignified living by connecting them with the main stream.

Acharya Vinoba Bhave adopted Gandhian techniques and ideas like constructive work and trusteeship to start this movement. He started the padyatra through his organization Sarvodaya Samaj to motivate the landlords to donate at least 1/6th of their land to be distributed among the landless and less landed poor.

Initially, there were great expectations from the movement. Till the year 1956, 40 lakh acres of land was received as donation. Eminent personalities like Jayaprakash Narayan left active politics and joined this movement. By the year 1955, the Bhoodan movement had taken the form of gramdan or ‘gram donation’, indicating that the ownership of the entire land was collective, not individual. By the end of 1960, there were 4500 Gramdan villages in India. However, despite initial success, the Bhoodan and Gramdan movements lost their attractiveness and effectiveness as a method of social change by the 1960s. Its capacity remained unutilized for the following reasons:

  • Lack of effective redistribution: By the year 1957, out of 4.5 million acres of land received as donations, only 654,000 acres were redistributed to 200,000 families. The Bihar Government dissolved the State Bhoodan Committee due to its inability to distribute half of the land received from Bhoodan in the last thirty-eight years.
  • Lack of Utility: A large part of the land received as donation was unfit for cultivation, or included disputed land. Further, assistance was not provided to the poor beneficiaries for cultivating such land.
  • Lack of wide spread: Gramdan movement did not prove to be popular in non-tribal areas.
  • Lack of integration: The movement itself remained independent and, in the immediate period, failed to integrate with existing institutional means. Because of this its achievements did not match its prospects. It was also specified that Bhoodan would encourage the division of land and thus it would hinder the rational approach to agricultural transformation on a large scale.
  • Failed to bring about a change in mindset: For many landlords, the purpose of donating their land was to evade the Land Ceiling Act. In fact they were not inspired by high moral ideals.

Although it was not entirely successful in achieving its stated objectives, its achievements were widespread in the light of inequalities. This movement was a unique attempt to bring about revolutionary institutional changes in the history of independent India, not by law, but through public awareness and participation. This was the first serious and comprehensive attempt at the principle of trusteeship. This created a favorable environment for political dialogue and the movement for land redistribution.

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