The state and central governments launched a comprehensive programme of land reforms. It included structural and institutional changes in the ownership pattern, land tenure system and modernization of agricultural operations. These programmes were launched during the 1950s. The programme of land reforms comprised of abolition of intermediaries, tenancy reforms and ceiling on land holdings for land acquisition.These measures were intended to release the Indian peasantry from the clutches of intermediaries. This intended to give the peasantry security of tenure for prolonged investment towards agricultural modernization.
Zamindari Abolition Act: Amajor step in land reforms was to abolish intermediaries such as Zamindars. One of the earliest measure in this direction was the U.P.Zamindari Abolition Act. It was a social reform in addition to being a land reform because for the first time the artisans, labourers and peasants were released from the bondage of intermediaries. The rights of intermediaries over the land cultivated by the tenants were taken away by the government. The tenants were directly made responsible to pay land revenue to the government.
Ceiling on land holdings: The land value in terms of productivity varies from region to region and from plot to plot. Hence a rational principle has to evolved for determining the exact limit of the ceiling of land holdings. The Planning Commission defined in terms of what it called the family holding that yielded an income of Rs 1200 per annum.
The legislation on the ceiling of land holdings varied from state to state. It was 18 to 27 acres in Telengana region of Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka part of Mysore. Kerala imposed of ceiling at the level ranging between 15 to 32.5 acres depending upon the quality of land. The policy behind the imposition of ceiling on land holding was mainly distributive in character. The surplus land acquired by this measure was to be distributed among members of weaker sections. But not much land could be acquired by this measure. Big landlords transferred the surplus land to their relatives, and friends. This is known as benami transfer.