|3rd Five Year Plan||
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REVIEW OF PROGRESS
To bring about improvements in the economic conditions of agricultural labourers and to remove the social disabilities from which they have suffered in the past are among the major tasks of planned development. The two principal problems are the place of a^riciillural labour in the future rural economy and provision of work. In the past the village economy was rooted in a scheme of stratification largely based on caste and occupation. As a result of various measures of social reform and the efforts made since Independence, the social handicaps associated with agricultural labourers, and with backward classes generally, have gicatiy diminished. At the same time, the economic problems of these sections of the population, especially the need for larger opportunities for work, have been thrown into sharper relief. It is one of the primary objects of the Five Year Plans to ensure fuller opportunities for work and a better living to all sections of the rural community and, in particular, to assist agricultural labourers and the backward classes to come up to the level of the rest. Their problems undoubtedly constitute a challenge, and the obligation rests upon the community as a whole to find satisfactory solutions for them.
2. The size of the problem of agricultural labour varies from region to region, depending on such factors as pressure of population, availability of land for cultivation, differences in the extent of irrigation and double cropping, fertility of Inad, cropping patterns and opportunities available for seasonal migration and for employment outside agriculture. However, the broad features can be discerned from the results of the two all-India Agricultural Labour Enquiries undertaken in 1950-51 and 1956-57 and the surveys of the Programme Evaluation Organisation. The concepts in the two Agricultural Labour Enquiries were different to some extent and the data are not wholly comparable. Generalisations for the country as a whole have also several limitations. What both Enquiries bring out is the enormous size of the problem, the widespread underemployment that exists, and the fact that increase in population has borne harshly on this section of the population. These general conclusions are also reflected in the results of bench mark surveys undertaken by the Programme Evaluation Organisation.
3. The problem of agricultural labourers is part of the wider problem of unemployment and under-employment in rural areas. Even though with the development of agriculture and irrigation, there has been increase in production and in the total volume of work, this is shared among much larger numbers. Those sections of the rural population who are landless and are not actual cultivators have benefited much less than others; in some areas their conditions may have actually worsened. Tlie basic problems of the rural economy are low income, low productivity and lack of continuous employment. To the extent these problems are solved through the more intensive programmes of development to be implemented in the Third Plan, the economic conditions and prospects of agricultural labourers should also improve. It has, however, been always realised that the various programmes for the development of the rural economy, which are undertaken in the interest of the rural population as a whole must be supplemented in several directions by special measures for assisting agricultural labourers in improving their living conditions and obtaining a fair share of the wider opportunities which are now being developed in the villages through the community development and other programmes.
4. The First Five Year Plan included proposals for the settlement of agricultural labour and protection against ejectment from homesteads. Not much progress was made in schemes for land resettlement. The Minimum Wages Act, 1948, was applied to employment in agriculture. Experience shows that levels of agricultural wages are bound up to a considerable extent with increases in levels of agricultural productivity and the greater use of money as the medium of exchange. Accordingly, it was decided that in enforcing minimum wages, the first attention should be given to low wage pockets in different States, and these should be identified.
5. In the Second Five Year Plan, in addition to programmes of development, in agriculture and irrigation and the expansion of the community development programme, Rs. 200 crores were provided for the development of village and small industries. In rural programmes high priority was suggested for schemes intended Jto benefit the weaker sections of the population like agricultural labourers and artisans and others. The Plan also envisaged a number of special schemes for the benefit of agricultural labourers, including schemes for resettlement, grant of house-sites, formation of labour cooperatives, etc. In September, 1957, the National Development Council proposed that from lands obtained through the application of agricultural ceilings and those donated in B'noodan and Gramdan, a programme for resettling 300,000 families oŁ landless workers should be undertaken. Legislation regarding ceilings was still in its early stages, and the scheme coald not be implemented in the form proposed. However, individual States continued with the resettlement schemes which they had formulated, and a number of these were assisted by the Central Government. In some States, notably Punjab, Bombay, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar, labour cooperatives were promoted.
6. About 10,000 families were settled in Bihar on Bhoodan lands under two schemes for which the Central Government provided assistance. Assistance was also provided for developing a number of Gramdan villages in Orissa. Of the total area of 4.4 million acres donated as Bhoodan, about 900,000 acres have been distributed so far. Difficulties regarding the title to the lands donated and other procedural and organisational matters account for the slow progress.
7. During the Second Plan, a number of State Governments took steps to provide house-sites free or on a subsidised basis to landless agricultural labourers and protected them from forced ejectment. In Andhra Pradesh, house-sites are granted to bona fide applicants, preference being given to those who own no sites. In Madhya Pradesh, land for house-sites is set aside generally in the village abadi and, if there is some Government land, it is allotted free of any premium and assessment. In Madras, Government wastelands in the villages are assigned to persons without houses. Where Government lands are not available for assignment as house-sites to 'Harijans' and others, the sites on which they arc actually living or some other suitable sites are acquired and assigned free of cost to those who do not own a house or a house-site. The Government of Maharashtra have directed that ordinarily the provision of house-sites should take precedence over other uses of land situated close to the village. It is further provided that house-sites required by agricultural families should be granted by the Collector to agriculturists upto two gunthas in area and up to the value of Rs. 200. In Mysore, if no Government land is available for the grant of house-sites, private land is acquired on payment of compensation and allotted to the agriculturists for house-sites. In the Punjab, schemes have been formulated under which subsidies are given to landless persons for purchase of lan.l and for securing suitable house-sites.
PROGRAMMES IN THE THIRD PLAN
8. It is apparent from the experience of the first two Plans that while special schemes in the interest of agricultural labourers are useful. they can touch only tlie fringe of the problem. Ultimately, it is by achieving rapid and intensive development in the rural areas as part of. the process of economic development for the country as a whole that the landless sections of the population can be substantially benefited. The Ihird Plan provides for large investments in the development of the rural economy. The total outlays in the public sector on agriculture, community development and irrigation will amount to over Rs. 1700 crores. Agricultural production is expected to increase by about 30 per cent. About 20 million acres of land will be benefited by irrigation and 11 million acres of agricultural land will come under soil conservation.
9. In the village and small industries programme, there is a total provision of Rs. 92 crores for khadi, ambar khadi and village industries and small scale industries and industrial estates will be extended to rural areas. All towns and villages with population exceeding 5000 and nearly 50 per cent of villages with a population range of 2000 to 5000 are expected to be electrified. If effective use is made of these facilities considerable additional employment will be created. The village and small industry programme as a whole is estimated to provide part-time employment or fuller employment for 8 million persons and whole-time employment for about 900,000 persons. Given full implementation of tlie Plan, these figures are by no means the limit of what can be achieved.
10. Through the extension of educational facilities to the entire age group 611 years and the development of other social services, some of the handicaps of the weaker sections will diminish. A village water supply programme at a total cost of Rs. 35 crores is being taken up with the object of providing good drinking water in all villages by the end of the Third Plan. The Plan includes programmes estimated to cost Rs. 114 crores for the welfare of backward classes. A considerable part of this amount will benefit agricultural workers. In the, community development programme, the emphasis must always be on undertaking development which will benefit the weaker sections. Under the village housing project scheme, Rs. 5 crores have been allotted for the acquisition of land in villages for allotment as house-sites to agricultural labourers. Thus, to a very large extent it is through the ellective implementation of these various programmes and ensuring that their benefits reach the agricultural labourers and the backward sections generally that the conditions will improve. In a word, the Plan itself, implemented efficiently and with close attention to its basic social and economic aims, is the largest part of the answer to the problem of agricultural labourers and the weaker sections of the rural community.
11. The plans of States provide for about Rs. 4 crores for resettlement schemes. It may be expected that when surplus lands become available as a result of the imposition of ceilings, such additional resources as are required for their settlement by landless persons and others will be made available by the States through the annual plans. In addition, at the Centre a sum of Rs. 8 crores has been allocated for resettlement schemes for landless labourers. A committee set up by the Government of India has recently surveyed lands classified as "other uncultivated lands excluding fallow lands" and "fallow lands other than current fallows", and has identified nearly a million acres of land in blocks of over 250 acres. When blocks of less than 250 acres are surveyed by district authorities, further areas should become available. These, together with the land to be reclaimed under agricultural programmes are expected to amount to about 4 million acres. The Central Advisory Committee on Agricultural Labour recently set up by the Planning Commission visualises that efforts will be made to settle about 700,000 families of landless labourers in the course of the Third Plan over an area of 5 million acres. This goal should be kept in view and lands suitable for resettlement identified to make such a programme feasible. In this connection, it will be necessary to extend surveys of lands fit tor settlement to the block and village level. Wherever there is opportunity for settlement, this should be utilised, even though only a small number of families may be benefited in each case. Where land is allotted, steps should be taken to provide credit and other assistance, so that the persons settled are able to rehabilitate themselves effectively.
12. In some ways the most significant development proposed in the Third Plan, whose benefits will go largely to agricultural labour, is the programme for undertaking works projects in rural areas which has been described earlier in the Chapter on "Employment and Manpower". Under this programme, it is hoped to provide additional wage-employment in rural areas for about 100 days in the year, specially during the slack agricultural seasons, for about 2.5 million persons by the last year of tlie Plan. The programme will specially concentrate on schemes for agricultural development like irrigation, flood control, land reclamation, afforestation and soil conservation, road development projects, provision ol rural amenities and village housing projects. In the rural works programme. labour co-operatives and other construction organisations will have a large role. They will be expected to carry stocks of tools, obtain contracts, organise the necessary cadres and work closely with panchayat samitis and panchayats. A permanent solution to the problem of under-employment can be achieved only when scientific agriculture comes to be universally adopted and the rural economic structure is greatly strengthened and diversified. Efforts in these directions will also be intensified during the Third Plan. Meanwhile, the large-scale programme of rural works will provide considerable relief and will help to accelerate the pace of development in rural aieas.
13. In a real sense, the problems of agricultural labour are to be traced to the long period of stagnation in the rural economy and the persistence of a rigid social structure largely based on caste. These basic deficiencies are being gradually removed, and the processes of social and technological change have to be hastened. Successive Five Year Plans seek to harness the natural resources of the country, increase production and employment, and provide greater amenities to rural areas. Reorganisation of the rural economy along co-operative lines and emphasis on the role and obligations of the community are intended not merely to raise agricultural productivity and diversify the rural economic structure but, equally, to bring about as rapidly as may be possible an integrated society in which there will be equal opportunity for every member of the community irrespective of caste or status. In other words, in the structure of the rural economy which the Five Year Plans attempt to build up, agricultural labourers will participate fully and on equal terms with others, and will achieve effective economic and social equality with the rest of the rural population. A close watch on the progress actually achieved in these directions should be maintained through special studies and evaluation and review by the Central Advisory Committee on Agricultural Labour and similar bodies proposed to be set up in the States.
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