“Whatever people have, whether physical or intellectual property is a trust and should be held and used as such, for their fellow human beings. It is a “Dan”, contending for the just and equitable distribution of land requiring the donor of land to do his duty towards himself and his neighbours”
Through sermoning this paradigm, Acharya Vinoba Bhave hoped to bring about a non-violent agrarian Bhoodan movement, which he claimed to be an all-around revolution in the socio-economic domain – a transformative constructive initiative of transforming India’s welfare model by a fundamental shift in values.
“Perhaps none of Gandhi’s followers have created so many worshippers of Truth & Non-violence, so many genuine workers as has Vinoba Bhave.”
Vinoba’s storey exemplifies a true man’s unity, as well as his contribution to nonviolence and the force of compassion. “At a tender age, Vinoba has attained a degree of spirituality & asceticism that took me years of patient labour,” Gandhi wrote to Vinoba’s father. When Gandhi’s ideas began to disappear from people’s minds after India’s independence, Vinoba began his “Bhoodan” movement. And over the course of twenty years, he walked his way through India. He persuaded landowners to give their property to the poor, and he was active in distributing four million acres of land to the poor.
He collected surplus land from rich zamindars and large farmers on the request of landless agricultural labourers and distributed it among those landless farmers. Since the labourers were owners of their property and were able to farm it independently, the revolution greatly increased agricultural productivity.
The Bhoodan or Land Gift movement began on the evening of April 18th 1951. When Vinoba Bhave stepped into the Nalgonda district the epicentre of communist activity in the region, stayed at Pochampalli and visited the Harijan colony,
“While we tilled the fields of wealthy landowners, who had hundreds and hundreds of acres of land, we had not even a single piece of land,” an elderly “untouchable” from the back of the room stood up, put his hands together, and said. “As a result, sir, we’re looking for land for ourselves.”
He inquired, “Can you tell me how much farmland you want?”
After discussion, the harijan said honestly, “Sir, we want eighty acres of land.”
Without hoping for anything to happen, he asked the public,
“Did you all hear what the old man just said? Is there anyone who can help to clear out this issue?”
Vedre Ramachandra Reddy Bhoodhan, a local landlord got up and exclaimed,
“I will give you 100 acres for these people.”
Dispossessed people who receive land as a result of bhoodan are unable to work on it unless they have the raw resources. But Acharya ji said
“He knew it from the beginning, but he chose to follow the formula which says ‘attend yet to the root and all else will grow automatically.’ As everyone knows, that fundamental problem is land.”
In a few years, Vinoba and his colleagues have been able to acquire more than 4.5 million acres of land without resorting to goading. Vinoba had demanded fifty million acres of land from the whole country for the landless. As compared to the amount of land demanded by all of the landless people, this is a pittance, but when we consider what land means to the farmer and how profoundly he is bound to it, we can understand that it is nothing short of a miracle.
The core belief of land is a gift of the earth that belonged to everyone made its way into the minds of many. Vinoba Bhave believed from the beginning of the Bhoodan movement that this approach could be used to address India’s most prominent cause of poverty: landlessness. He speculated that greed is at the core of land monopoly. If greed will be eradicated from people’s minds, poor people can no longer be marginalized. As he later put it,
“We don’t only want to do random acts of kindness; we want to build a Realm of Gratitude.”
The movement took the shape of a law called the Bhoodan Act and put the government in charge of distributing land from the land bank.
Mahatma Gandhi insisted that the revolution’s starting point must be the man himself.
“We will only achieve a real democratic transition if we have a human revolution first.”
As a result, he was always quick to point out that he was a double revolutionary, that his movement was both- internal and external, individual and social. Without the internal revolution, the external was meaningless The Bhoodan-Gramdan movement is an example of this double revolution.
While it is critical to transform society and its social, economic, and political structures, Mahatma Gandhi was never shy from emphasizing that these gains would be meaningless unless men changed and developed as well. Changing the culture from the outside won’t get us too far.
This movement was part of a broader movement that led to the establishment of a Sarvodaya Society in India and abroad. In the United States, big articles on Vinoba were published in the New York Times and the New Yorker, and Vinoba was also featured on the cover of Time magazine.
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 and allotted 90% shares of his company to his industrial workers.
The American ambassador to India Chester Bowles said in his book,
“The dimensions of peace”: “We experienced in 1955, the Bhoodan Movement it is giving the message of Renaissance in India. It offers a revolutionary alternative to communism, as it is founded on human dignity”.
Later, this effort grew into the Gramdan, or village gift movement, in which at least 75 percent of the population of a village donated land for equal distribution to all village inhabitants.
The optimism for the lobby endured until 1957, after which it proceeded to dwindle. The Gramdan concept was not well received in non-tribal areas, which contributed to the movement’s decline at the end of the 1950s. From the perspective of its peaks and troughs, all of this lasted until 1974. Yet there was another facet to it, and it had to do with ancillary programmes that aired periodically.