Constituent Assembly Debates

Ram Piara Saraf on ‘land to tillers’: Constituent Assembly debates

A group photograph of the Members of the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir

The Government of Jammu and Kashmir headed by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah as Prime Minister carried out land reforms in 1950 through Big Landed Estates Abolition Act. The ‘land to tillers’ triggered the question of compensation to the landlords which was not provided in the original Act. This question was left to the Constituent Assembly to decide.

The Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir, in November 1951, framed a Committee under Revenue Minister Mirza Afzal Beg to decide this question. In March 1952, the Mirza Afzal Beg committee presented its report before the Constituent Assembly which was put to debate by the members. Following thorough discussion and speeches by almost all members, the Constituent Assembly approved the Committee’s suggestions that no compensation was to be paid to big landed landlords whose land was expropriate and distributed among the tillers.

Below is full transcript of the speech by Ram Piara Saraf, Member Constituent Assembly

Ram Piara Saraf:- Sir, I support the report submitted to the House the other day by the Hon’ble M.A. Beg on behalf of the Land compensation Committee. I do not support the opinion of the Hon’ble Members of the House, that such widow and minors as possesses 22 ¾ Ghamounts of land should be granted some allowance. I also oppose the recommendation made for setting up of an adhoc Committee in respect of religious institutions. The report under discussion is complete as well as reasoned. It has been discussed from different angles.

The Hon’ble Members while discussing the report, have taken into consideration, only one view point. It would have been better if other view points had also been considered. As there was no one in the House to represent the other view point it was left untouched. The arguments advanced for payment of compensation are contained in the memorandum of the Zamindars submitted to the Land compensation Committee. These arguments in support of their view point are such as are historically and faithfully incorrect. One of the main argument advanced is that payment of compensation is desirable both from legal and moral points of view and that every countryman should be compensated in case his land or property is acquired. But I do no think it correct since law is not irrevocable. The class that comes into power frames laws according to its own interests and use these for its own ends. The toiling masses which constitute majority of population have always been a prey to the capitalist system. The society has always been trampling under its feet their interests so much so that these people were deprived of their birth right and were denied even the status of human beings. Social laws have so far been framed by those who had been in power, but with the advance of times man’s consciousness has changed. The man today judges every thing on artificial barriers separating man are collapsing. The system in which a few are exploiting a vast majority of people is dying away and is making room for a new order which will end oppression and injustice. It will usher in an age when every one will be supplied according to his needs and will work according to his capacity.

Another argument put forth for grant of compensation is that the landowners have suffered to a great extent as they have derived very small benefit from their lands. If we judge this argument on the basis of facts we do not find it correct. If we examine the statistics and the rates of grains from the year 1939 to 1950, we see how much exorbitant rates prevailed during that period and comparing these rates of food grains with those of today we come to the conclusion that the landowners did not only recover the principle amount but also derived very large benefit from the actual amount invested by them.

One more reason given in this behalf is that the landlords have not so far been able to completely recover the amounts invested in lands by them and such they are still highly indebted. Some landlords might, possibly, have yet to liquidate debts, but as is commonly known, they have not spent the amounts or these debts on improving the lands. These amounts might have been spent on the occasion of marriage ceremonies, on dowries and other functions. (Cheers).

It is further contended in favour of the grant of compensation that the landlords have made considerable investments for improvement of lands. The question is how these landlords acquired lands. This point has already thrashed out by the Hon’ble Members. It is now clear that these lands were acquired either by means of gifts or was directly purchased. So far as gifts are concerned the landlords have stated that they shall have no grievances if compensation for these lands is not paid to them as the proprietors thereof have already derived adequate benefit from such lands. The reasons for the grant of compensation for such lands as were purchased by the landlords themselves are contained in the Memorandum submitted by the landlords. If we probe into the object of such purchases, it will become perfectly clear that improvement was effected by the landlords for commercial and profiteering purposes. The main object has been to exploit the labour of the poor peasant and make maximum profit out of these lands. Wherever these big landlords saw fertile pieces of land they purchased it with the object to make money. Not only did they derive benefit from these lands but they forced the peasant and the members of his family to work for them as well this exploitation continued for generations and I would say that of the object underlying these purchases, is exploitation alone, then such a purchase would amount to a Criminal Act.

Another argument advanced in favour of compensation is that some provinces of India have decided that no land should be acquired without compensation. May be these provinces of India have enough funds, but we do not accept the principle of payment of compensation. While ending feudal system we do not want to lay foundation of capitalism, we do not want to create a class of mill workers instead of agriculture labourers and thus encourage a new type of exploitation. In India today the people’s movement with its revolutionary character is being given a setback by granting some concessions. If the principle of granting compensation is accepted it would tantamount to the weakening of this revolutionary movement. Jammu and Kashmir State completely enjoys internal autonomy and according to the articled 370, the Constitution of India in its totality is not applicable to the State.

Sir, I would like to submit one more argument against payment of compensation i.e., every sovereign State has a right to do whatever it feels necessary for the good of its people. Public interests always get first priority and the interests of a few individuals should, as a rule, be made subservient to broader interest of the country. It is only in this sway that the principles of equal distribution of wealth can be adhered to. The object of giving practical shape to agriculture plan is to end the unequal distribution of the wealth. The History of the world teaches us that by ending political exploitation we can usher in democracy in the real sense of the words. Our country today in economic distress. The money that we are asked to pay as compensation should better be utilized for works of public utility and general welfare. The Hon’ble members are well aware of the fact that now-a-day a peon is paid Rs.30 and clerk Rs.50 per month. They have to maintain their entire families with such a small income. We should try to find out means whereby it may be possible for these low paid people to maintain themselves or his money should be utilized for education, establishment of hospitals, public works and other public institutions. I, therefore submit that keeping in view the broader interests of the country landlords, should not be paid any compensation.

One of the Hon’ble members has in the report of the Committee remarked that widows, old men and minors who possess only 22 ¾ Ghamaun of land should be paid maintenance allowance. I do not agree with it. There are very few persons who come under this category and each of them has already been allowed to retain 182 kanals for his maintenance. On the other hand there are hundred of thousands of widows and children who do not get even one time meal and who neither possess even a “marla” of land nor shelter. They go on begging from door to door and nobody cares to take interests in them. A recommendation has been made in the report for the appointment of an adhoc Committee in respect of religious institutions. I would invite your honours attention to the “term of reference” under which the Committee was not authorized to submit recommendations in this behalf. The Committee had only to report whether compensation be paid or not. Accordingly the question of setting up of adhoc Committee does not at all arise.

While submitting the report Hon’ble M.A.Beg had stated that Hariians have been benefited by the implementation of Land reforms. I agree with this statement. Now-a-day the country as a whole is subject to restlessness. This has not only affected the landlords, but the tillers are also feeling uneasy. The discontent amongst landlords can be understood as their interests have adversely been affected but the restlessness among the tillers is not understandable. Instead of becoming dissatisfied it would have been better for them to put a fight to get their grievance redressed. It is quite evident that tillers face difficulties which are not being looked into. Corruption is more rampant and has beaten all previous records. The tillers have already paid a huge amount as a bribe. It would have been better had these reforms been implemented through people’s Committee. At the time of transfer of land these Committees would have made the peasantry conscious of its birth right in regard to the land. But these reforms were implementing through the bureaucratic machinery and are therefore proving a failure. Tillers are being ejected. Red tapism is causing much distress to them and they are not even given a hearing. In the course of transfer of these lands. The land, owners in complicity with the administrative machinery, s trying to render these reforms ineffective. Money tendering agency has been done away with but no new credit agencies have been set up. There are such instances as show that the tillers are not given possession of land although orders for transfer of land to the tillers have been issued. To make these reforms effective, it is essential that a decisive step be taken.

Sir, I want to convey my message to the tillers on the other side of the cease fire line, and the tillers of India and Pakistan that it is high time that they should also struggle for their rights. They have support of the movements of the workers and tillers the world over. Today the man is struggling to cast of the yoke of slavery. No one will stand against the upheaval. A new system is being shaped under which all men shall have to work for one another. With these words I support that part of the report which recommends that compensation should not be paid.


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