Social Scientist. v 20, no. 228-29 (May-June 1992) p. 3.

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Tenancy Reforms Act in Bihar during the First Congress Government: 1937-39

The colonial State brought rural Bihar under the laws of Permanent Settlement to the benefit of the zamindars. The basic aim of the law was the collection of maximum revenue without any investment in the agriculture sector. It never succeeded to bring social peace in rural society. On the contrary, the rural society was ridden with the tensions and turmoil which had roots in its agrarian structure. The colonial Government had brought a measure, the Bengal Tenancy Act of 1885, which intended to bring a balance between the zamindars and the tenants. It aimed at giving occupancy right to a section of the peasants which became the leading strata of the peasant movements in the 1930s. At the same time, the Act of 1885 gave a tremendous power to the zamindars to increase the rent without any proportionate increase in the revenue. Moreover, the transfer fee on the sale of land helped the landlords to get a good amount out of the brisk trade in land. The rental amount and the transfer fee became the bone of contention between the zamindars and the tenants. Moreover, the Act of 1885 needed an overhauling to satisfy the needs of the peasants. Kisan movements on these issues became strong enough to pressurise the Congress Government in 1937 to bring forth a radical Tenancy Reforms Act. The Act showed a danger signal to the zamindar class which united under the banner of the Bihar Landholders Association (BLHA). The BLHA succeeded to pressurise the Congress Government to the extent that the proposed Act was changed to satisfy the interests of the zamindars. In this paper the study is confined to analyse the nature of agrarian legislations which had a dampening impact on conflicts in rural Bihar.


The Bihar Provincial Kissan Sabha (BPKS) was in the forefront of the struggles which demanded a new Tenancy Act. At the time of the provincial elections to the State Assembly in 1936 the BPKS took up this issue as a major plank of the election propaganda. The Congress

* Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi.

Social Scientist Vol. 20, Nos. 5-6, May-June 1992

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