2nd Five Year Plan
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Chapter 16:
Approach To The Problem

In the First Five Year Plan an account was given of the magnitude of the problem of agricultural workers as revealed by the population census of 1951 and the approach to the problem in relation to the rest of the plan was briefly explained. Reference was also made to certain measures which were contemplated in the interest of landless workers such as the fixation of minimum wages, the allotment of house sites, the formation of labour cooperatives and resettlement schemes for landless workers. During the past three or four years the problem of landless workers and their place in the economy has drawn wider attention. At the same time, in implementing the proposals which were made in the First Five Year Plan, the intrinsic difficulties of the problem have come to be perhaps better appreciated.

2. When the First Five Year Plan was presented the only data available were those provided by the population census in 1951. These showed that out of a total rural population of 295 million, 249 million were engaged in agriculture, and, of these about 20 per cent. were returned as cultivating labourers and their dependents. Cultivating labourers represented a total population of about 49 million. States in the eastern and southern parts of the country, which together have an agricultural population of 117 million, accounted for about 27 million or 55 per cent. of the total population of cultivating labourers. More recently the results of the Agricultural Labour Enquiry which was carried out during 1950-51 have become available in a series of reports. The extent of the problem is indicated in a more comprehensive manner by this enquiry than by the general census of population. In determining the size of a problem the definitions adopted are of considerable significance. For the purposes of the population census, a cultivator was distinguished from a "cultivating labourer" as a person who took the "responsible decisions which constitute the direction of the processes of cultivation" Broadly, all cultivating labourers were employees of cultivators. In rural life many individuals, whether farmers or artisans or labourers, have to eke out their existence by doing work of more than one kind and a person may be both a cultivator and a labourer or both an artisan and a labourer, doing what comes his way at a given time in the year. From this aspect the definition of agricultural labourer adopted in the Agricultural Labour Enquiry, although not without its difficulties, is likely to reflect th6 actual situation more closely. According to this definition an agricultural labourer was a person who, for more than half of the total number of days on which he actually worked during the year, worked as an agricultural labourer.

3. On this definition the agriculural Labour enquiry revealed that about 30.4 per cent. of rural families were agricultural labourers, half of them being without land, and the rest being in possession of some land. As will be seen from the statement given below, in some States agricultural workers represent a serious problem, notably, in Bihar, Orissa, Madras, Mysore, Travancore-Cochin, Hyderabad, Madhya Bharat and Madhya Pradesh.

Census zones and major States Density of Population Percentage of rural to total population — Percentage of agricultural labour in rural population
Total land With land Without land
1 2 3 4 5 6
All India* 312 88.7 30.4 15.2 15.2
North India 557 86.3 14.3 5.7 8.6
Uttar Pradesh 557 86.3 14.3 5.7 8.6


1 2 3 4 5 6
East India 344 90.0 32.7 19.0 13.7
Assam 106 95.0 10.7 6.7 4.0
Bihar 572 93.1 39.9 25.6 14.3
Orissa 244 95.9 43.0 23.8 19.2
West Bengal 806 75.0 23.8 10.5 13.3
South India 450 80.0 50.1 27.3 22.8
Madras 446 80.0 53.0 28.3 24.7
Mysore 308 76.0 42.0 27.4 14.6
Travancore-Cochin 1015 84.0 39.5 20.8 18.7
West India 272 65.0 20.4 8.8 11.6
Bombay 323 69.0 20.4 9.6 10.8
Saurashtra 193 66.3 20.0 2-2 17.8
Central India 181 80.0 36.7 14.6 22.1
Madhya Pradesh 163 86.5 40.1 14.9 25-2
Madhya Bharat 171 81.9 19.9 7.5 12.4
Hyderabad 227 81.0 42.1 19.5 22.6
North West India 123 80.0 9.0 2.7 7.1
Rajasthan 117 83.0 9.3 3.7 5.6
Punjab 338 81.0 10.1 1.6 8.5
PEPSU 347 81.0 13.2 0.6 12.6
Jammu and Kashmir 522 89.0 3.4 2.7 0.7

including Jammu and Kashmir.

4. As many as 85 per cent. of agricultural labourers had only casual work, mostly in connection with harvesting, weeding, preparation of soil and ploughing. The average annaal income per family from all sources was Rs. 487 and the average income per capita was Rs. 104 compared to the national average in the same year of Rs. 265. The extent of employment varied under different conditions in various parts of the country, the average being 218 days in the year, 189 days in agricultural work and 29 days in non-agricultural work. Thus, it might be said that there was work for wages for about seven months in the year, total unemployment for rather more than three months and some kind of self-employment for less than 2 months. About 15 per cent of agricultural workers were "attached" to landowners and worked for them on the average for 326 days. Compared to "attached" agricultural workers, casual labourers had work only for 200 days in the year. "Want of work" was given by casual workers as the reason for being unemployed for more than 74 per cent. of the days on which they had nothing to do. Some 16 per cent. of agricultural workers had no wage earning employment at all during the year.

5. Apart from the results of the Agricultural Labour Enquiry precise data regarding rural unemployment and under-employment are not yet available. Such studies as have been made, however, leave no room for doubt that agricultural workers constitute a vast and complex problem which has far-reaching implications not only for the rural economy but also in relation to the entire process of economic and social development as it may be visualised over a period of 15 to 20 years. In this perspective among aspects to be kept in view are the following:—

(i) In rural areas there is no sharp distinction between unempoyment and under-employment. On the basis of data in the Agricultural Labour Enquiry it is estimated that 2.8 million agricultural workers maybe totally unemployed in rural areas. A number of other estimates have also been made, although the definitions adopted by them vary a great deal. There appears to be an agreement on the broad conclusion that under existing conditions, with present techniques of agriculture being continued, if cultivating units were to approach what might be described as family holdings affording possibility of fairly full-time work in agriculture for a family of average size. agricultural production could be maintained with about 65 to 75 per cent. of the number of workers now engaged in it In other words, on certain assumptions, one-fourth to one-third of the existing labour force in agriculture may be surplus to its requirements. During the harvesting season of course, as in every country, labour requirements are larger.

(ii) The growth of population has greatly accentuated the problem of agricultural workers. In a recent study an attempt has been made to compare occupational data for different censuses. There are difficult questions of procedure and definition to be resolved. Neverthless the data available provide some broad indications. In the course of 50 years from 1901 to 1951, the total working force increased by about 25 million from 117 to 142 million. The working force in agriculture increased by almost identical amount from 73 to 98 million while the working force in non-agricultural occupations stood at about the same figure as at the beginning of the century. Thus, increase of non-agricultural employment in urban areas has been counterbalanced in almost equal degree by decrease in rural areas. Whereas, at the beginning of the century, 62.5 per cent of the working force was engaged in agriculture, by 1951 the proportion stood at about 70 per cent. Thus, the general trend until very recently appears to have been in the direction of increased dependence on agriculture. In relation to agricultural workers developments of the past few decades including growth of population, development of modem industry and trade and the increasing disintegration of the traditional economic basis of rural life all converge at the two principal points—place in the social structure and employment opportunity. Step by step the social handicaps from which agricultural workers belonging to scheduled castes and other backward classes suffer have dimi-n-ished or are diminishing rapidly. The economic problem of finding adequate work opportunities has, however, become more intense. This is the situation as much for the bulk of the farmers as for the bulk of agricultural labourers although it is true that a much higher proportion among agricultural labourers have income and consumption standards at levels below the national average.

6. In the main, it is against the background of these basic features of the economic situation that measures for rehabilitating agricultural workers have to be devised. Feudal rights, maldistribution in the ownership of land, exploitative wage rates and social disabilities of all kinds have doubtless to be eliminated, and progress in these directions is already being made. These aspects of the problem are considered in the chapters relating to land reform and agrarian reorganisation and the welfare of backward classes. The pattern of village development envisaged for the future clearly assumes that the distinction within the village community between those who have land and those who are landless must disappear and that there should be equality of status and opportunity. The correct distinction then will be between workers with varying skills who may be engaged in different occupations, both agricultural and non-agricultural. It is also agreed that in implementing schemes of rural development the first concern should be to ensure that the under-privileged and the lower income groups receive the maximum benefit The imposition of ceilings on agricultural holdings and the development through cooperative management of land and other resources of the village in the interest of the entire community are accepted policies. To an extent, when the proportion of agricultural workers wh.o own some land increases, certain benefits in terms of social status and economic opportunity will no doubt accrue. At the same time, the data obtained during the Agricultural Labour Enquiry showed that although 50 per cent of agricultural labourers have holdings of nearly three acres per family, differences in standards of consumption between those agricultural labour families who have land and those who do not have land are not so marked. The conclusion suggested is that while redistribution of land in favour of the landless has an essential role in the process of social and economic change, its effects in terms of higher living standards and fuller employment are limited. The problem, therefore, is—

  1. to bring about large increases in agricultural production including animal husbandry, horticulture, etc.;
  2. to expand" work opportunities within the rural economy specially through intensive development of village and small industries and agricultural processing;
  3. through a measure of redistribution of land and provision for educational facilities and concessions, to raise their social status and enable them to develop greater confidence, initiative and ability to avail of economic opportunities; and
  4. to improve the living conditions of agricultural workers.

7. The total working force is expected to increase by 19 million between 1951—61 and 23 million between 1961—71, that is, by 42 million over a period of 20 years or by 33 million during the next three plan periods. If the economy develops at the sort of rates indicated in Chapter I, it is reckoned that the proportion of the labour force engaged in agricultural occupations 20 years hence may be about 60 per cent in place of the present proportion of 70 per cent. At this point the problem of the agricultural worker merges with the wider problem of the rate and pattern of growth of the national economy as a whole, a subject which has already been considered earlier in this report.


8. Once the structural relations in economic life begin to be transformed and the process goes forward with speed, the welfare and interests of all sections of the community become inter-related and interdependent. In other words, increase in agricultural production, expansion of economic opportunities, redistribution of land and the provision of social amenities for agricultural workers are seen as aspects of an integrated approach to the basic problems of poverty. Necessarily for a considerable time, weaker sections of the community, such as agricultural workers, must have special consideration and the plan should provide for programmes which will benefit them in special measure. Thus, the development of more intensive and diversified agricultural production and of a more diversified occupational structure in rural areas will increase the volume of rural employment and bring increasing opportunities to agricultural workers. In national extension and community project areas the organisation of programmes designed to assist the weaker sections of the community, especially small farmers, landless tenants, agricultural labourers and artisans, has been given a high priority during the second five year plan. For village and small industries the plan provides Rs. 200 crores. For the welfare of backward classes Rs. 90 crores have been provided. The programme for the expansion of education and health will bring strength to agricultural workers and other weaker sections in the community and enable them to take fuller advantage of new opportunities as they arise. In each area a conscious effort should be made to see that having regard to numbers, the resources provided under the plan are devoted to the welfare of agricultural workers and other under-privileged sections in reasonable proportion. In the main, this objective has to be achieved by formulating detailed schemes with special reference to local conditions and needs. At the same time, measures such as resettlement schemes, formation of labour co-operatives, the allotment of house sites and the enforcement of minimum wages should receive special attention.

9. During the first plan a provision of Rs. 1.5 crores was made for schemes for the resettlement of landless labourers. A number of schemes have been in operation such as land colonisation schemes in Madras and Andhra, schemes for settling Harijans on land in a number of States and the setting up of a farm of 10,000 acres in Bhopal by the Central Government for which landless labourers were selected with a view eventually to their settlement as owners of land. In the second five year plan, apart from a provision at the Centre, 14 States have schemes estimated to cosfabout Rs. 5 crores for the settlement of about 20,000 families of landless workers on 100,000 acres of land.

10. With the imposition of ceilings some land will become available for resettlement. It has been proposed in the chapter on Land Reform and Agrarian Reorganisation that in each State after data relating to the census of land holdings and cultivation have been studied and the areas likely to become available assessed, detailed schemes for the resettlement on land of landless workers should be drawn up. To the extent they are made available, Bhoodan lands should also be brought into the scheme for resettlement on surplus lands. It has of course to be recognised that since, on lands which become available, tenants ousted on account of resumption for personal cultivation and persons with uneconomic holdings have also to be provided, the areas available are bound to be somewhat limited. It has been pointed that while special personnel for organising the resettlement of landless workers will be required, the resources needed for development should be provided from agriculture, national extension and community development, village industry and other programmes for which provision exists in the plan. The setting up of Boards, including non-official members, have been recommended at national and State levels, for advising on schemes for the rehabilitation of landless workers and reviewing progress from time to time has been recommended. These Boards should consider the problems of rehabilitation of agricultural workers from all aspects, including resettlement on land.

11. A considerable proportion of the outlay under the second five year plan will be on construction works, both large and small. It has been recommended that to the greatest extent possible labour and construction cooperatives rather than contractors should be utilised. Extension personnel should regard the organisation of such cooperatives as a special responsibility. In each development block of Taluka there should be a labour cooperative union to which labour cooperative societies in individual villages are affiliated. In the case of medium and large projects the block or taluka union should be assisted in obtaining assignments of work on standard terms and, in turn, it should mobilise local labour from the villages. For smaller schemes village labour cooperatives could be given contracts directly and helped in executing them. The development of labour and construction cooperatives can be of material assistance in increasing work opportunities in rural areas and increasing the incomes of landless workers. Given the necessary organisation, there is no reason why in a fairly short period strong labour cooperative unions possessing their own tools, equipment and even transport cannot be brought into existence. In the initial stages, besides technical guidance and help in management, loans for acquiring tools and other essential equipment should be given to taluka or block labour cooperative unions. In this connection it may be mentioned that the experience gained in the woking of forest labour cooperatives has been encouraging.

12. In several States laws or regulations have been enacted for providing house sites in villages to agricultural workers. It should be the responsibility of the village community as a whole to provide plots of land for house construction to landless agricultural workers. In some cases a measure of assistance in the construction of cheap houses with local materials may also be feasible. House sites for agricultural workers should be made available free of cost.

13. During the first five year plan minimum wages have been fixed over their entire territories in the States of Punjab, Rajasthan, Ajmer, Coorg, Dalhi, Plimachal Pradesh, Kutch and Tripura. In Assam, Bihar, Bombay, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Mysore and Vindhya Pradesh minimum wages have been fixed for certain specified areas which represented low-wage pockets. In a number of other States minimum wage legislation has not yet been implemented. It is realised that under existing conditions pressure of population on land and abundance of the supply of labour, enforcement of minimum wages presents difficult problems. Neverth-less, the ultimate effect of legislation relating to minimum wages is to improve wage levels in rural areas. It is, therefore, recommended that minimum wages should be prescribed in all States and for all areas and, despite the limitations, .a steady effort should be made to enforce the wage rates which are fixed.

14. Steps are being taken to work out at regular intervals consumer price indices for agricultural workers. These indices will facilitate fixation and revision of minimum wages from time to time. A scheme has also been included in the plan for repeating the Agricultural Labour Enquiry with a view to evaluating the effect of the first five year plan on the conditions of Agricultural labour.

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