Research: Unfair Land Law Behind Telangana Agitation

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Dr Sanjay Chaturvedi, LLB, Ph.D.

Since last 50 years, the region of Telangana is fighting for biased land and imposed levies and restrictions. The land revenue code since its early first five-year plan had deprived of Telangana region and unbiased rules as compared to Andhra region.

The Telangana region comprises 10 districts: Hyderabad, Adilabad, Khammam, Karimnagar, Mahbubnagar, Medak, Nalgonda, Nizamabad, Rangareddy, and Warangal. The Musi River, Krishna and Godavari rivers flow through the region from west to east. Hyderabad and Warangal are the two largest cities in Telangana region. Warangal city is accorded world heritage city by UNESCO in March 2013.

Since Telangana was merged with Andhra state to form Andhra Pradesh state in 1956, there were several agitations in Telangana to invalidate the merger and to form Telangana state.

At present, tenancies are regulated under separate laws in the two regions of Andhra Pradesh, namely, the Telangana area and the Andhra area. The legislation applicable to Telangana area (the Hyderabad Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act) provides for: —

(1) fixation of rent at 1 /4th of the gross produce for irrigated lands, other than well-irrigated lands and 1 /5th in other cases or 3 to 5 times the land revenue (according to a class of soil), whichever is less;

(2) fixity of tenure for protected tenants subject to landlord’s right to resume land for personal cultivation up to 3 family holdings. The tenant, however, is to retain generally a basic holding or half of his land whichever is less;

(3) an optional right of purchase of ownership of non-resumable lands for protected tenants. This right is subject to the condition that a protected tenant could not purchase more than one family holding and that the landowner is left with two family holdings (a family holding varies from 4 to 60 acres). In addition, the law provides for suo motu action for transfer of ownership to protected tenants.

The legislation obtaining in Andhra area (the Andhra Tenancy Act) is of an interim nature. It provides for a stay of ejectments and fixation of rent at 50 per cent of the gross produce for irrigated lands, 28.1/3 per cent for lands irrigated by baling and 45 per cent for drylands.

The law relating to ceiling (Andhra Pradesh Ceiling on Agricultural Holdings Act, 1961) which is applicable to both the regions, provides for ceilings on existing holdings at 4} family holdings and on the future acquisition at 3 family holdings (a family holding varies from 6 to 72 acres). The ceiling law was brought into force with effect from June 1, 1961. There is no provision for dealing with the problem of transfers.

In 1960, the Government of Andhra Pradesh introduced a new Bill which provides for a unified tenancy law for the whole of Andhra Pradesh. The Bill lapsed in 1961 due to the dissolution of the Assembly on the eve of general elections and a fresh Bill was introduced later in 1962, which was reported upon by Joint Select Committee of the State Legislature in 1964. Its provisions were deficient in several respects. The Regional Committee for Telangana area has disagreed with the Bill and has suggested that the Hyderabad Act should be extended to the Andhra area also; and if it was not possible, there should be separate laws for the two regions. The matter is under the consideration of the State Government.

6. The state of implementation of land reforms has been examined in the report submitted by Shri Ameer Raza. Joint Secretary. Planning Commission in February. 1965 (vide Annexure I).

There were several gaps in the Hyderabad law: —
(a) Ordinary tenants do not enjoy the rights given to protected tenants. They number 1.34 lakhs and occupy an area of 8.58 lakh acres. Protected tenants number 2.99 lakhs and hold 16.57 lakh acres.

(b) Tenants’ right to ownership is much limited in scope as the bulk of the leased area is comprised within the two family holdings to be left with the owner, and

(c) Surrenders are not properly regulated.

The provision for suo motu action for transfer of ownership to tenants was enforced in one district and a taluka of another district. Further implementation was stayed on the reorganisation of States in 1956.

In Andhra where substantial areas were cultivated through tenants and share croppers, particularly in the coastal districts, they were generally not recorded. The interim law i.e.. the Andhra Tenancy Act has been ineffective. A tenant holds at the will of the landlord and may not offer any resistance if the landlord desired to dispossess him. The prevailing rent was half the gross produce and in case of fertile lands it was as high as two-thirds of the produce As regards ceilings, no surplus land has yet been taken possession of but it is estimated that the surplus area is likely to be less than 0.2 per cent of the cultivated area. The law has thus only a limited significance.

7. The Implementation Committee reviewed matters relating to land reforms in Andhra Pradesh on July 21, 1966 (vide Annexure III). As the Chief Minister was not present, consideration of necessary legislative measures was not taken up. The Committee, however, advised that it would be desirable to organise a special drive for the preparation of records of tenants in Andhra area and to give presumptive evidence value to the record but that even without necessary legislative provision the record should be useful. To assist in the preparation of records tri-partite committees should be set up. The Committee also emphasised that in view of the importance of the programme of consolidation of holdings to agricultural production, it was desirable that it should be pursued with vigour in the Telangana area and also initiated in the Andhra area.

 







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