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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 at Pochampally village in Telangana which is now known as Bhoodan Pochampally.
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The mission of the movement was to persuade wealthy landowners to voluntarily give a percentage of their land to the landless people. However, this land could not be sold. In effect, landless labourers were being given a small plot of land on which they can 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 Pochampally 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
Vedire 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 Telangana at a village called Pochampally in the Nalgonda district of Telangana. 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.
Vedire 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 Telangana (formerly Hyderabad State). After him, the land donation movement is maintained under a bhoodan trust movement till date with the help of his sons.
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
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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.
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