Traditional Agrarian Tenancies and Reform Legislation in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka
LawAsia, Volume 3, Numbers 2 and 3, August-December 1972
24 Pages Posted: 8 Apr 2015
Date Written: December 1, 1972
The major conclusions of this article can be summed up as follows: First, tenancies occur on a far wider scale than is generally accepted. Second, landlord control of the system of cultivation and the choice of tenant remains as strong as ever. The case of K. B. Mudiyanse symbolizes this fact. Third, fear of enshrining a tenant who remains too long with the protections the Paddy Lands Act gives to tenant-cultivators has led to a greater turnover in tenants. Hence, instead of increasing the tenant's security by providing for a permanent and devisable tenancy, the act has had the effect of decreasing agrarian security in the North Central Province. The act has broken the traditional tie between landlord and tenant and created the beginning of two classes which interact with each other on an impersonal business basis, not because it has done what it was intended to, but because it has done the opposite. Instead of producing change by giving the weaker elements increasing expectations, it has produced change by decreasing their expectations. Fourth, the Paddy Lands Act can be applied to a number of situations only with great difficulty. The karu ande system where both the landlord and the tenant could qualify as cultivators, leading to legal chaos, is one example. The Department of Agrarian Services has simply chosen to ignore the tenant in this situation. The usufructuary mortgage is another example. These problems have come about because those who drafted the act were not sufficiently conversant with the variety of tenancies that exist. Even today, little is known of the numerous types of cultivation systems that exist throughout Sri Lanka. Finally, there are very very few tenants paying the restricted legal rent and this is due to three reasons: The North Central Province is a very traditionally oriented region where new norms and progressive ideas have had little penetration, and where change comes slowly; landlords remain in a dominant position and can resist any pressure from tenants, or others, to adhere to a law that would decrease their share of the produce; and, there is no pressure from the tenant to adhere to the Paddy Lands Act because the implementation of the law will result in a decrease in output, and less income for both the landlord and the tenant. This startling fact is partially the result of a lack of understanding of the socio-economic environment in which the cultivation systems exist and in which the Paddy Lands Act was supposed to operate, and it is partially due to the failure of the credit system as it exists in the Province.
Keywords: land reform, title, tenancies, rice fields, landlord, tenant, cultivators, Paddy Land Act, Sri Lanka
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