Reemergence of Land Leasing in Kerala The Case of Kuttanad
Although the Kerala Land Reforms (Amendment) Act 1969 which came into force from January 1970 has brought about radical changes in the agrarian structure in Kerala, the trends that have been emerging in agriculture and land management in recent years present a somewhat different picture. The tendencies like less intensive cropping, leaving of paddy land fallow or shift from paddy to cash crops like coconut or rubber are by and large getting strong. Among such tendencies the more important and striking development is the emergence of a kind of informal or concealed tenancy. This new development of tenancy invites our attention, because any form of tenancy is illegal in post-land reform Kerala.
The reasons for such a tendency can be various. Rising cost of paddy cultivation coupled with the increasing dependence on economic activities outside agriculture seem to force farmers to seek new forms of land management. When the agricultural produce does not fetch a market price corresponding to the costs invested, the farmers find it difficult to realise the benefit of the value they created. It is possible that this problem of realisation prompted the farmers to think in terms of other ways to manage the land. On the other side, it is likely that acute unemployment and land hunger of agricultural labourers, who are largely kept out of the purview of the land reforms, necessitate them to look for possible strategies of survival which in turn has created a ground favourable for the emergence of land leasing.
This paper is an attempt to capture some of the dimensions of this new kind of leasing based on a study conducted in a village in Kuttanad, a major paddy producing region of Kerala. It is argued that this trend signifies the inadequacies and shortfalls of land reform implementation in the State. The analysis also suggests that while land reforms have brought fundamental changes in the earlier agrarian structure of the state they have not been successful in bringing about a
* Research Scholar, Cochin University of Science and Technology, Cochin.
Social Scientist, Vol. 18, Nos. 11-12, November-December 1990