The Bhoodan Movement (Hindi: भूदान, Urdu: بھودان) or Land Gift Movement was a voluntary land reform movement in India started by Acharya Vinoba Bhave in 1951 started at Pochampally village now known as Bhoodan Pochampally.
The mission of the movement was to persuade wealthy landowners to voluntarily give a percentage of their land to the landless. However, this land could not be sold. In effect, landless labourers were being given a small plot of land on which to settle, as well as grow some of their own food, so as to give them an incentive to remain in the village as a captive labour pool for the richer farmers and landlords. After Independence, the introduction of regular Elections on the basis of universal adult suffrage further increased the incentive for big landlords to retain a hold over low caste landless labourers because Political Power had itself become a route to wealth.
Genuine land reform would have given land to the landless on a totally different basis. The peasants would have got the right to sell such land so as to finance their travel and re-settlement elsewhere, which would have gone against the interests of the wealthy landlords. The Government of various Provinces, passed Bhoodan Acts which generally stipulated that the beneficiary had no right to sell the land or use it for a non-agricultural purpose- including forestry. For example, under section 25 of Maharashtra State Bhoodan Act, the beneficiary (who must be landless) should use the land for agricultural cultivation to secure his own and family's daily bread. If he/she fails to cultivate the land for over a year or tries to use it for some other non-agriculture activities, the government has the right to confiscate it. Clearly this is not land reform in any sense of the term. It is merely the perpetuation of grinding poverty by means of an easily revocable 'squatting right'. Indeed, land which would have become the property of the squatter by the doctrine of adverse possession, can't be gained in this way only because of the provision of Bhoodan. Thus the whole thing was an unmitigated swindle despite the fact that initially genuine donors were coming forward. However, because the Bhoodan movement did no follow-up, the land thus gifted could be, and often was, resumed by the heirs of the donor.Vinoba Bhave walked across India on foot, to persuade landowners to give up a piece of their land. He also wanted peasants to give up using bullocks or tractors or other machines for agricultural purposes. This was called 'rishi-kheti'. He also wanted everybody to give up using money, this was called 'kanchan-dan'.
By constantly keeping on the move, he escaped obloquy. He was followed by crowds nearly everywhere he went. Philosophically, Vinoba Bhave was directly influenced by the Sarvodaya movement of Gandhi of whose he was the spiritual heir.
The movement was started on 18 April 1951 at Pochampalli village in Nalgonda district when Telangana peasant movement on the land issue reached the peak. It was a violent struggle launched by poor peasants against the local landlords. Bhave said that rural rich must participate in voluntary distribution of land.
First donation: Vedre Ramachandra Reddy Bhoodan
Vedre Ramachandra Reddy got his title " Bhoodan " as he was the first donor and initiator of the great land donation movement in early 1950s (18 April 1951) in Andhra Pradesh at a village called Pochampally in the Nalgonda district of Andhra Pradesh. He was a great social worker and noble man. Acharya Vinoba Bhave started the land donation movement in Pochampally village in April 1951 with initiation of donation of 100 acres, (later on he has donated another 800 acres, ) of land from Vedre Ramachandra Reddy (who owned 3,500 acres and who had resigned from a Govt. job to enter Politics), which led to a total of 1 million acres (4,000 km²) of land donation and distribution among the poor in post independence Era in India.
Vedre Ramachandra Reddy was born on July 17, 1905 into a very prominent family during the Nizam Rule in Deccan and died on December 9, 1986. He completed his law/Barrister training in Ferguson Law College in Pune. After practicing for a few years, he resigned as he was fed up with British system and joined social reform and helped initiate Land Donation movement in Pochampally of Andhra Pradesh (formerly Hyderabad State). After him, the land donation movement is maintained under a bhoodan trust movement till date with the help of his sons.
“Perhaps none of Gandhi’s followers, have created so many worshippers of Truth & Non-violence, so many genuine workers as has Vinoba Bhave. In Vinoba, as in very others, thought, speech & action work in harmony, so that Vinoba’s life is like a melodious song”.
MAHADEVDESAI (Gandhi’s intimate co-worker & help-mate)
Vinoba Bhave was one of the great spiritual leaders & reformers of modern India, whose work & personal example moved the hearts of countless Indians. Born in 1895, at the age of ten, Vinoba took a vow lifelong celibacy & selfless service to others searching for a way of life that would synthesize both spiritual Truth & practical action. Vinoba discovered Gandhi, & joined in Gandhi’s work for the regeneration & freedom of India. As Vinoba himself put it: “I experienced with Gandhi the peace of the Himalayas the revolutionary spirit. Peaceful revolution, revolutionary peace, the two streams united in Gandhi in a way that was altogether new.” Gandhi also wrote to Vinoba’s father, “At a tender age, Vinoba has acquired a degree of spirituality & ascetism that took me years of patient labour.”
In 1940 Gandhi chose Vinoba to be the first Satyagrahi i.e. non-violent resister, to offer non-violent resistance to the British regime. Vinoba’s social ativvism was founded on a lifetime’s study of the other major world religions. Vinoba’s life,reveals the harmony of the inner & outer life of a great man, who had an unwavering commitment to the practice of non-violence, to an engaged spirituality, & to the universal power of love.
After India had independence, Vinoba started out on his extraordinary & unprecedented in recorded history, the Bhoodan (Land-Gift) Movement. Over a period of twenty years, Vinoba walked through the length & breadth of India persuading land-owners & land-lords to give their poor & downtrodden neighbours a total of 4 million acres (16,000 km2) of land.
A VERY BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BHOODAN-GRAMDAN MOVEMENT
The Bhoodan-Gramdan movement initiated inspired by Vinoba brought Vinoba to the international scene.
In 1951,the Third Annual Sarvodaya Conference was held at Shivarampali, a village a few miles south of the city of Hyderabad in South India. Vinoba was persuaded to leave his community center (Ashram) at Pavnar, near Nagpur & attend the meetings. Telangana had been the scene of violent communist rebellion which was still smouldering in April 1951. For Vinoba the future of India was essentially a contest between the fundamental creeds of Gandhi & Marx. In coming to Hyderabad, Vinoba & other Gandhians were confronting a challenge & testing their faith in non-violence.
On April 11, 1951, the final day of conference, Vinoba announced that on his walk home to Pavanar he & a few companions would tour the Communist infested areas of Telangana to spread the message of Peace i.e. Non-violence. Once in Telangana, Vinoba quickly showed his sensitivity to the new situation. On April 17, at his second stop, Vinoba learned at first hand that village people were afraid of the police as well as the Communists & that the village was torn along class-lines.
On April 18, 1951, the historic day of the very genesis of the Bhoodan movement, Vinoba entered Nalgonda district, the centre of Communist activity. The organizers had arranged Vinoba’s stay at Pochampalli, a large village with about 700 families, of whom two-thirds were landless. Pochampalli gave Vinoba a warm welcome. Vinoba went to visit the Harijan (the Untouchables) colony. By early afternoon villagers began to gather around Vinoba at Vinoba’s cottage. Vinobaji asked the harijans why they have taken arms,and supporting the communists,for which the harijans have said that they were promised land.vinobaji asked them if they get land they will shun violence for which they replied in positive.vinobaji asked them how many families are there and how much land they want,the harijans replied that there are about 40 families and they want 80 acres of land.vinobaji asked them if they get land they will do cooperative farming, for which they agreed.vinobaji said that he will write to the governament and will see that they are alloted the land,for which the harijans replied that the donot have faith on that and requested vinobaji to ask the local zamindar sri vedere rama chandra reddy,who was a very good man.vinobaji did not have faith in this and gave example of mahabaratha, where if pandavas were given five villages the mahabaratha battle wouldnot have taken place,and also cited examples of feuds taking place for boundaries.but the villagers insisted that he ask mr reddy.vinobaji arranged a prayer meeting in the evening and placed the harijans request in front of the villagers and elders who came there. To everyone’s surprise, Ram Chandra Reddy, the local landlord, got up & said in a rather excited voice: “I will give you 100 acres for these people.” This incident was neither planned nor imagined was the very genesis of the Bhoodan movement & it made Vinoba think that therein lay the potentiality of solving the land problem of India. This movement later on developed into a village gift or Gramdan movement. This movement was a part of a comprehensive movement for the establishment of a Sarvodaya Society (The Rise of All socio-economic-political order), both in India & outside India.later on mr vedre rama chandra reddy gave another 800 acres on different occasions. he was awarded many positions in the governament, whom he has refused,as he want to be away from politics.
The movement passed through several stages in regard to both momentum & allied programmes. In October 1951, Vinoba was led to demand 50 million acres (200,000 km2) of land for the landless from the whole of India by 1957. Thus a personal initiative assumed the form of a mass movement, reminding the people of Gandhi’s mass movements. This was indeed a very remarkable achievement for a constructive work movement. The enthusiasm for the movement lasted till 1957 & thereafter it began to wane.
Meanwhile the Bhoodan Movement had been transformed from a land-gift movement to a village-gift or Gramdan movement, in which the whole or a major part of a village land was to be donated by not less than 75% of the villagers who were required to relinquish their right of owner-ship over their lands in favour of the entire village, with power to equitably redistribute the total land among village’s families with a proviso for revision after some intervals. The Programme of individual land-gifts was still there, but henceforth became a neglected activity.
The Gramdan idea did not prove popular in the non-tribal areas & this partly accounted for the decline of the movement at the end of the 1950s. All this continued till 1974. from the view-point of its ups & downs. But there was another aspect as well & it related to allied programmes unfolded from time to time. Those programmes were Sampattidan (Wealth-gift), Shramdan(Labour-gift), Jeevandan(Lifelong commitment to the movement by co-workers), Shanti-Sena(Peace-army), Sadhandan(gift of implements for agricultural operations).
As regards attitudinal transformation, the propagation of ideas combined with the above material achievements, could not but affect the mind of the thinking people. The movement directly influenced the life-style of the co-workers, especially the lifelong co-workers & through them many workers & associates or fellow-seekers. By adopting Gandhi’s ideas to the solution of the basic economic problem of land collection & equitable redistribution among the landless, the Movement kept Gandhi’s ideas of socioeconomic reconstruction alive at a period when the tendency of the educated elite was to overlook, if not to reject Gandhi’s ideas as irrelevant. The Movement kindled interest in the individuals to study Gandhi’s ideas & to assess their relevance. Jayaprakash Narayan, a renowned Marxist, and a Socialist, & one of the fore-most leaders in politics, before & after India’s Independence, came to be more & more intimately associated with the movement & realized that it was a superb endeavor to bring about revolution in human relations founded on on the Gandhian philosophy of non-violence. Ultimately Jayaprakash devoted his entire life to the construction of a Sarvodaya society.
The Movement spontaneously attracted the attention of many fellow-seekers & thinkers from outside India. Louis Fischer, the famous American correspondent said: "Gramdan is the most creative thought coming from the East in recent times”. Hallam Tennyson, the grandson of the famous English poet, Alfred Tennyson, wrote a book, “The Saint on the march”. He narrated his memorable experiences as he moved with Vinoba into rural India. Chester Bowles, the American ambassador to India, observed in his book, ”The dimensions of peace”: We experienced in 1955, the Bhoodan Movement is giving the message of Renaissance in India. It offers a revolutionary alternative to communism, as it is founded on human dignity”. The British Industrialist, Earnest Barder was deeply impressed by the Bhoodan movement & implemented the Gandhian concept of Trusteeship by alloting 90% share in the company to his industrial workers. The British quaker, Donald Groom, trekked with Bhoodan Sarvodaya co-workers for six months in the central India covering a distance of 1,400 miles (2,300 km). The American friend Rev. Kaithan turned himself into a Sarvodaya co-worker & established a community centre in South India. David Graham, an English journalist of Sunday Standard, included Vinoba as one of the creative rebels. Arthur Koestler, in 1959 wrote in London Observer, that the Bhoodan Movement presented an Indian alternative to the Nehruvian model of Western development. In Italy too, in the early 1970s, Giovanni Ermiglia along with his friend Giorgio Ceragioli established Assefa (Association for Sarva Seva Farms) with the aim of supporting Bhoodan movement in the action for a voluntary land reform.
To conclude taking an overall view it cannot be gainsaid that the Bhoodan-Gramdan Movement, despite all its real & apparent limitations, it would ever be deemed as a glorious attempt for a peaceful & non-violent solution of the basic land problem of Indian society & through it for a non-violent reconstruction of the Sarvodaya socio-economic-politico order of universal relevance & significance.
Below is a small article from the speech of then Prime Minister of India Shri. P. V. Narasimha Rao... "So it was, that genius of the great Vinoba Bhave said, "O.K., let us ask for land". If the land is available, let us distribute it. Then what? If you get the land, you don't have to give the gun for a land. O.K. One part of it is solved. So Mr. Ramachandra Reddy of this particular village came forward and said, "I have got 100 or there was a number of acres of land. I am going to give it free". After that many of us followed suit. But he was the first donor. And at Pochampally (now called as Bhoodan Pochampally) a huge, massive and magnificent movement called Bhoodan Movement was born”.
Raja Bahadur GIRIWAR NARAYAN SINGH C.B.E., Raja of Ranka(GARHWA JHARKHAND)also donated 111,101 acres of land to the Vinoba Bhave Bhoodan Initiative highest acre of land given by any landlord or estate in India
History of Bhoodan movement
On April 18, 1951, the historic day of the very genesis of the Bhoodan movement, Vinoba entered Nalgonda district, the centre of Communist activity. The organisers had arranged Vinoba’s stay at Pochampally, a large village with about 700 families, of whom two-thirds were landless. Pochampally villagers gave Vinoba a warm welcome. Vinoba went to visit the Harijan (the Untouchables) colony. By early afternoon villagers began to gather around Vinoba at Vinoba's cottage. The Harijans asked for eighty acres of land, forty wet, forty dry for forty families that would be enough. Then Vinoba asked," If it is not possible to get land from the government, is there not something villagers themselves could do?" To everyone's surprise, Ram Chandra Reddy, the local landlord got up & said in a rather excited voice: "I will give you 100 acres for these people." At his evening prayer meeting, he repeated his promise to offer 100 acres of land to the villagers. This incident neither planned nor imagined was the very genesis of the Bhoodan movement & it made Vinoba think that therein lay the potentiality of solving the land problem of India. This movement later on developed into a village gift or Gramdan movement. This movement was a part of a comprehensive movement for the establishment of a Sarvodaya Society (The Rise of All socio-economic-political order), both in India & outside India.
As an experiment in voluntary social justice, Bhoodan has attracted admiration throughout the world. There is little question that it created a social atmosphere in India that presaged land reform legislation activity throughout the country by demonstrating that it was all a pack of hypocritical lies. It also had a tangible effect on the lives of many people: over 5 million acres (20,000 km²) were donated almost none of which was cultivable or actually owned by the donor. Rich people donated poor people's land. They also donated land lying underneath the sea or above the clouds. In fact the craze for donation went so far that the entire state of Bihar was donated. This was because Bhave had said he wouldn't leave Bihar till this happened. The Biharis took the hint and got rid of the sanctimonious old fool. Bhave was a great supporter of the Emergency, declared by Indira Gandhi. His former comrade, Jayprakash Narayan was rotting in jail but Bhave's concern was with banning cow slaughter.
Bhoodan failed to meet the more ambitious goal of 50 million acres (200,000 km²) that had been set for it but this scarcely mattered as very little of the gifted land was redistributed in the first place. The whole thing was a giant farce. Bhoodan workers spent their time bursting into huts to search out pornography rather than doing anything useful. Still, many Westerners gushed over Bhave and Bhoodan believing that Poverty can be cured if the Rich just give the Poor a couple of acres of land- not to sell- to keep them as a captive pool of labor who have no alternative but to accept subsistence level wages.
The initial objective of the movement was to secure voluntary donations of land and distribute it to the landless, but the movement soon came out with a demand of 1/6 share of land from all land owners. In 1952, the movement had widened the concept of gramdan (village in gift) and had started advocating commercial ownership of land. The first village to come under gramdan was Mangroth in Hamirpur Dist of U.P. It took more than three years to get another village in gift. The second and third gramdans took place in Orissa and the movement started spreading with emphasis on securing villages in gift.
Raja Bahadur GIRIWAR PRASAD SINGH C.B.E., Raja of Ranka (Princely State in Garhwa then in Bihar) 1911/1969 donated highest acre of land to the villagers in Palamau area .
- "Bhoodan and the Landless," S.V. Khandewale and K.R. Nanekar, Popular Prakashan, 1973.
- "Bhoodan Movement in India: An Economic Assessment," Raghavendra Nath Misra, S. Chand and Company Pvt Ltd, New Delhi, 1972.
- "Bhoodan-Gramdan Movement - 50 Years : A Review," http://www.mkgandhi-sarvodaya.org/bhoodan.htm
- A brief biography of Vinoba Bhave, http://www.bookrags.com/biography/vinoba-bhave/
- "Moved by Love," Vinoba Bhave, Paramdhan Prakashan, 1994.
- ‘Bhoodan’ board to take on encroachers
- (Land Gift Movement)(Online book)
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