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Punjab has approximately four million hectares under cultivation. All owners of agricultural land in Punjab are not cultivators and vice versa are also true. As a result an informal practice of theka farming has been in practice since 1970s. It is totally different from tenancy as defined in land reform laws.

Theka farming is different from tenancy, contract farming, lease, mortgage etc. As a result, a vast informal, unregulated, unrecorded land rent market has emerged in Punjab. Billions of rupees are transferred from farmers who till land on theka to land owners every year in the month of April-May for which they do not get a single chit of receipt. Ask any theka farmer, who may be paying theka money to owner for four decades, will not be able to produce a single chit of receipt signed by owner.

Vast majority of owners are absentee landowners like NRIs, government officials, businessmen, money lenders and commission agents etc. (A small number consists of old couples getting their livelihood from Theka income as well. They may not be absentee owners).


1.       Traditional practice of  word of mouth among rural communities

2.       A feeling of distrust among owners that any recording of land rent transfer will establish cultivator as tenant who might get Girdwari recorded in his name.

3.       This money is sweet smelling cash extracted from theka farmer, so there is no compulsion to declare it as part of one’s annual income. If it is declared, it is shown as agricultural income, which it is not.


1.       It is very difficult to  know how many hectares in Punjab are under theka cultivation

2.       Since no payments are recorded (except for public lands) how much money is transferred every season as land theka is not known.

3.       Land revenue records show owner but not actual cultivators. Any benefits or compensations for farmers remains confined to owners, who may or may not transfer these benefits to theka farmer.

4.       Theka farmer remains vulnerable.

5.       Growth of unregulated theka prices in village economy. Cut throat competition among theka farmers over limited land pool open to theka. Since theka is strictly for one year term, it tends to increase with each renewal of term. 

6.       A hindrance in the formalization of rural economy.

7.       Subsidy like (free power) going to the pocket of non-cultivators absent owner, who is not farmer by any stretch of imagination. Theka has increased manifold because lands are irrigated (chahi) and not a single paisa spent by owner to pay cost of irrigation( free power-no abiana)

8.       Exorbitant rate of theka renders the farming unsustainable.

9.      Absence of data on theka lands/rates distorts the truth of agrarian economy and may be misleading for  the policy makers.

10.   Government of Punjab (Department of agriculture / revenue may print fourfold ticket named:

TILR-PAY (in Gurmukhi also)

Ticket Informing Land Rent


One fold for Theka Farmer( copy to Sewa Kendar)

Other fold for Land owner(copy to Sewa Kendar)  


Govt. of Punjab

Department of XYZ

Land Located in  

Village XYZ

Theka Farmer’s copy

I —( AADHAR NO.) have paid Rs.— to Mr.— for — land as Rs.—- per acre for April 2020 to march 2021. Balance if any shall be paid on—.

Voluntary declaration:

The land has — number of tubewells covered under free power scheme.  


I have received Rs. — on behalf of Mr.–( ADHAAR) for payment of Theka for..

Both copies must be  received from and  deposited at Sewa

Kendar and digitally transferred to Govt. of Punjab.Deptt dedicated to such affairs.  

Since the pattern of

ownership of lands in Punjab  is complicated, the record of payment must be between individuals without necessary reference to land holding record. It will keep the practice simple.


1.       Formalization of rural economy

2.       Empowerment of cultivator

3.       Accountability of owner

4.       Availability of data on Theka prices

5.       Financial literacy for farmer household

6.       Withdrawal of free power to absentee owner in future (all absentee owners are part of government/bureaucracy/political elite. So it may never be possible)


1.       Antagonizing powerful absentee land owner lobby consisting of political and profession elite  

2.       Theka farmers may be threatened to non-renewal of term  if they insist on TILRPAY

3.       Under reporting  the actual payment/ rate

4.       Conspiracy theory  

5.       Forgery of tickets

About the author:
Dr. Amanpreet Singh Gill

Dr. Amanpreet Singh Gill The writer, Dr. Amanpreet Singh Gill teaches Political Science at SGTB Khalsa College, North Campus, Delhi University. He’s also a Convener, of a course committee on social sciences, in Central board of secondary education (CBSE). Apart from short stories, he writes on Punjab politics and Sikh history. He has authored six books in Punjabi and English. Non-Congress Politics in Punjab (2015), 1708 Dasam Guru di Dakhan Feri (2017) and Kes History of Sikhs and other Essays (2020) are some of his better known works. He can be reached at:[email protected] He can be reached at: [email protected]

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