Peasant struggles in India have a continuous history since 1930s. Discuss the reasons why agrarian movements in India have not led to agrarian reforms.

Peasant struggles in India have a continuous history since 1930s. Discuss the reasons why agrarian movements in India have not led to agrarian reforms.


  • Introduce with peasant struggles pre-Independence
  • Discuss why their struggle achieved little
  • Highlight some post-independence agrarian reforms and give reasons for their limited success
  • Conclude appropriately
Model Answer :

Several agrarian movements, like the Kisan Sabha movement in Bihar, the Tebhaga Movement in Bengal and Telangana Movement during 1946-48, took place in pre-independence India to protest against the deplorable state of peasantry. Their fight was against exorbitant rents and illegal levies by Zamindars, arbitrary ejection of tenants and anti-peasant colonial economic policies.

Some agrarian reforms were achieved under the Congress Ministries formed after 1937 elections. However there were inherent limitations:

  • These movements did not show much interest in problems of agricultural labourers.
  • The colonial British government resisted any meaningful reform.
  • The outbreak of World War II which brought about the resignation of the Congress Ministries and launching of severe repression against Left Wing and Kisan Sabha leaders because of their strong anti war stance.

Even though pre-independence agrarian movements didn’t register immediate success, they created fertile ground for further reforms. This is evident in the post-independence movements like the Naxalite Movement (1967 onwards) seeking to secure rights for the marginalized sections of the agricultural community, New Farmers’ Movements that got onto the national political stage in 1980s led by the Shetkari Sangathana and other Farmer agitations like the one by Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.

These reforms had following weakness which restricted its success:

  • Lands reforms were scuttled by the vested interests of Zamindars who exploited their political clout and complexities of legal process.
  • A major weakness of these movements was their failure to create a sustained movement on large issues. The movements started with small demands like debt relief and got fizzled out when they were met.
  • They rarely went beyond landowning peasants’ issues, and did not include the needs of landless labourers, women etc in their agenda.
  • The excessive dependence of these movements on political parties and leaders
  • In the aftermath of the green revolution, the disparity among farmers belonging to different regions has been on the rise. The farmers of one region no longer identify with the causes of the farmers from other regions.

Despite all these challenges, it would be wrong to conclude that there have been no agrarian reforms in India. Some measure of land reforms, abolition of Zamindari system, forming of cooperatives, tenancy rights to the tiller, government support like MSP, fertilizer subsidy, credit and crop insurance have led to significant improvement in the lives of farmers.

Subjects : History Modern