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Vinoba Bhave’s Bhoodan Movement – How He Made The Rich To Donate Their Land To The Landless People

Shaina Ahluwalia

March 12th, 2016

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Image Courtesy: horvatland

How Vinobha Bhave intended to re-distribute the land to the poor

Vinoba Bhave, a humble spiritual leader, the first non-violent resister to the Britishers and reformer of Independent India started what we know as the Bhoodan movement – a landmark in Indian history where its mission was to persuade wealthy landowners to willingly give a small share of their land to the landless people.
Once India became an independent nation, about four years later Vinoba Bhave carried out a unique movement of his own. He travelled across all of India to convince the wealthy land-owners or land-lords to share a small area of their land with their poor and downtrodden neighbours with the condition that they can’t sell the land. Over a span of 20 years, a total of 4 million acres of land was shared across the country through this movement.

That’s how it started

Bhoodan or Land Gift movement began with Acharya Vinoba Bhave in 1951 in Telangana. An inspirational icon, Vinoba Bhave’s work & dedication impacted people all across the country. He vowed to life-long celibacy as well as selfless service for others when he was as young as 10 years old.  As it is said about him, “Perhaps none of Gandhi’s followers have created so many worshippers of Truth & Non-violence, so many genuine workers as has Vinoba Bhave.”
It all began on April 18th 1951, which we now know as the historic day this movement began. Vinoba Bhave stepped into the Nalgonda district, which was the epicenter of communist activity in the region. He stayed at Pochampalli, a village with about 700 families who have him a hearty welcome. He visited the ‘untouchables’ or Harijan colony, where they asked for 80 acres of land for 40 families. As documented in history, while the discussion was going on, Ram Chandra Reddy who was the local landlord, got up and exclaimed, “I will give you 100 acres for these people.”
This made Vinoba come up with an idea, that this may have the solution for possibly resolving land issues across the country. Soon, this movement led to become the Gramdan or village-gift movement and went through many levels of allied programmes and initiatives. In October 1951 rose a demand for fifty million acres of land for the landless in the whole of India by 1957, thus turning a small goal into a mass-scale movement. The success lasted till 1957, post which it slowly faded.

Outcomes of the Bhoodan Movement

It gained a lot of success, especially in Northern India in UP and Bihar. Over 4.5million acres of land in India was given as a donation by 1957. The core belief of land being a gift of earth which belonged to everyone made its way into minds of everyone.
With time, many problems seeped into the movement later such as slow progress, bribery, donating bogus land, greed to get more land or incorrect implementation in some regions. The movement soon failed due to increasing misuse of a voluntary movement for self serving purposes by a few.

What people said of the movement?

However, this movement even gained the attention of many prominent thinkers outside India, who viewed this in light of Gandhi’s non-violence ideals and redistribution solutions. Louis Fischer said, “Gramdan is the most creative thought coming from the East in recent times.” Many books by foreign authors gave an insight into the movement as well, such as ‘The Saint on March’ by Hallam Tennyson and ‘The Dimensions of Peace’ by Chester Bowles. Even the British industrialist, Earnest Barder was impacted by this idea of giving back a small share back, and allotted 90% shares of his company to his industrial workers.

The Logical Indian looks back at this unique movement with noble intentions. Poor farmers struggle even today due to decreasing land ownership and increasing concentration of land in the hands of the rich. India perhaps needs a Bhoodan movement today to address the issue of poor farmers and farmer suicide. Despite of its fading importance and stagnation after a period of time, we can never forget Vinoba Bhave’s initiative for an attempt to give our nation a peaceful idea of solving India’s land problem by the core idea of sharing land to grow together as a society.

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