Another important determinant of agricultural activities is related to the institutional factors which deal primarily with the social institutions and customs, land ownership, tenancy rights, etc. These have their bearing on field-size, field pattern, farming type, crop land use and crop productivity.
Land Tenure-Land tenure and tenancy system determine the type of land ownership. In ancient days and in primitive society the system of collective ownership was prevalent. This was followed by ownership right vesting in the king, government, zamindar or taluqdar. During the British regime zamindars and taluqdars acted as intermediaries between the government and the peasants with absolute power to charge exorbitant land revenue, use coercive means to extract rent and disallow tenancy rights to cultivators at sweet will. After independence Zamindary was abolished and tillers’ right over cultivated land was restored. Since then a number of land reform legislations have been passed by the central and state governments but some have not been able to restore fully cultivator’s right over land, abolish absentee ownership, provide equitable distribution of cropped land, provide land to landless laborers and marginal farmers, acquire surplus land from big farmers and check further fragmentation of land holdings owing to several loopholes in these acts and faulty system of inheritance and succession.
Before independence 40 per cent of the cropped area was under zamindari system which by 1972 had been largely eliminated. After 1947, nearly 20 million farmers were given landowning rights and about 6 million hectares of land was allotted to the landless farmers. Until now 629.73 lakh hectares (44.2% of net cropped area) of agricultural land have been brought under consolidation.
Only Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh are the states where works on the consolidation of land holdings have been completed. Land ceilings ranging between 4 and 30 hectares have been fixed by different states through which about 26 lakh hectares of land has been declared surplus up to 1968. Only half of this has so far been occupied by the government and only one- fourth has been distributed amongst landless peasants. According to the agricultural census of 1980- 81 there is about 59.5 lakh hectares of land which could be declared surplus under ceiling act.
Another problem related to land tenure and land ownership is of absentee a landlord which is continuing since British days. Still there are rich urbanites who own big farm house and large chunk of land in rural areas over which agriculture is carried on through tenant farmers (share croppers) or hired laborers.
Here neither landlord nor share cropper is interested in modernising agriculture and increasing crop-yield. While the absentee la” is content with whatever returns he could get a disinclined to make investments for agriculture improvements, the tenant farmer does not the capital necessary to do so. This marks the pacts of agriculture.
Land Holdings-In India the size of landings is too small to make it economy viable. Due to rapid growth of population and law of inheritance the land holdings are grad becoming smaller and fragmented. According one estimate the per capita availability of a rural land has declined from 0.75 hectares in 1 0.29 ha. In 1971, 0.18 ha in 1981 and only 0.13 in 1991.
The average size of land holdings is 2.28 which are uneconomical for carrying on agricultural operations successfully. Owners of such holdings are not economically strong enough to meet the costs of irrigation, fertilisers, improved seeds, insecticides, pesticides and new farm machineries. Majority of the land holdings of individual farmers are smaller than the national average. Of the total 98 million operational holdings about two-third have their area between 0.19 and 2 hectares, 25 per cent between 2 and 5 hectares and only 13.5% above 5 hectares.