In the British India a new type of landlords was created out of the erstwhile tax collectors viz. the Zamindars and permanent land settlement. Under the term of this settlement the right of ownership was conferred on the Zamindars. Before this settlement’, the land was to be auctioned by the State on patta basis on which the Zamindars only had the right to collect revenue. After this settlement, this land became theirs permanently i.e., they became hereditary owners of this land. Zamindars’ only obligation was the payment of fixed land revenue to the British Government.
Broadly, there were two types of landlords: (i) the Zamindars taluqdars (old landlords) and (ii) money-lenders, merchants and others. Those who held such ownership of tenure rights were often referred as intermediaries.
On the eve of the independence, the class of intermediaries owned a large portion of land, while the peasant cultivators had little or no lands.
The Zamindari system was abolished in the 1950’s for abolition of intermediaries. The abolition of Zamindari system had several consequences. It led to the formation of new classes. When Zamindari system was abolished, the Zamindars declared themselves as the owners of land and they forced most of the tenants out of the land which they had given on lease. As a result most of the tenants who were actually cultivating the land prior to land reforms were thrown out of their lands and most of them became landless labourers. After the land reforms the Zamindars in .U.P simply came to be renamed as bhoomidars, i.e. cultivators of the soil. However, the zamindars lost their right to extract taxes from the peasants. They were left with truncated landholding.
The erstwhile landlords took maximum benefits out of the Green Revolution programme launched by the Government .These had led to the development of a class of “gentlemen “or progressive farmers who had some education and training in agriculture .
Another settlement made by the British is known by the name of Ryutaro Settlement .Under this system ownership of land was vested in the peasants -the actual cultivators subject to the payment of revenue. This settlement gave rise to a class of peasant proprietors. In the process, a few climbed up in the socio – economic hierarchy but a large number fell from their previous rank and position. A great majority of them were transformed into tenants and even agricultural labourers.
In the post – independence period, there was increase in the number of peasant proprietors This was due to the abolition of Zamindari system and ceiling on existing land holding.
The peasant proprietors, in the past as well as in the present, hardly constitute a homogeneous category.
They may be broadly divided into three categories – (i) The rich, (ii) The middle and (iii) The poor peasants:
(i) Rich Peasants:
They are proprietors with considerable holding. They perform no field work but supervise cultivation and take personal interest in land management and improvement. They are emerging into a strong capitalist armer group.
(ii) Middle Peasants:
They are landowners of medium size holdings. They are generally self- sufficient. They cultivate the land with family labour.
(iii) Poor Peasants:
They are landowners with holdings that are not sufficient to maintain a family. They are forced to rent in other’s land or supplement income by working as labourers. They constitute a large segment of the agricultural population.