Madhya Pradesh has become the first state to propose a new legislation to allow maximum use of agricultural land while protecting the rights of both tenant farmers and landowners.
The proposed law would enable tenant farmers’ access to bank credit and crop insurance while keeping intact legal ownership of farm owners over their land.
As per estimates, in more than 20% of the land holdings in the country, tenant farmers carry out agricultural activities which prevents them from getting bank credit and payment of insurance claim or relief from the state government in case of crop loss in the absence of ownership of land.
In Andhra Pradesh, tenancy farming is prevalent in estimated 60% of land holdings.
An agriculture ministry official pointed out, because of absence of legally binding tenancy laws, disputes often arise between landowners and tenant farmers, leading to a many preferring to keep the land as fallow or barren.
Madhya Pradesh Bhumiswami (landowners) and Bataidar (tenant farmers) ke Hitonka Sanrakshan (protection of rights) Vidheyak, 2016, which was introduced in the Assembly recently, has provisions where both landowners and tenant farmers enter into a legally binding agreement for a period of five years for sharing income from agricultural activities.
Under the proposed legislation, the agreement between the two parties has to be submitted to the tehsildars who would adjudicate the matter in case of any dispute.
The Bill also has the provision that in case of damage to agricultural crop due to natural calamity, the relief given by the state government and amount of claim by insurance company would be shared as per agreement between tenant farmers and landowners. Following the culmination of the contract or breach of contract by tenant farmers, land would be automatically reverted to landowners.
The Madhya Pradesh Bill on tenancy farming has been currently circulated to the states by NITI Aayog which had earlier formed an expert committee on land leasing chaired by former Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) chairman T Haque. The expert panel in its report to Aayog in April had stated that most states have either legally banned or imposed restrictions on agricultural land leasing.
“Kerala and Manipur prohibit leasing out agricultural land without any exception. Bihar, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana allow leasing out only by certain categories of landowners such as those suffering from a disability, widows, members of armed forces, etc,” the report had stated.
According to the report, Punjab, Assam, Gujarat and Maharashtra do not prohibit leasing, but the tenant acquires the right to purchase the leased land from the owner after a specified period of creation of tenancy.
“In West Bengal, while leasing is not banned, land can only be leased on the basis of share cropping (tenant uses the land in return for a share of the crops) and in Andhra Pradesh, leasing has to be for a minimum period of six years,” the report noted.
It also stated that the current restrictions on land leasing have reduced the occupational mobility of landowners who want to take up employment outside agriculture, but are forced to stick to their land due to the fear of losing it.