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Revisiting Attached Labour in Haryana

Agrarian Changes in the Times of (Neo-liberal) 'Crises'

Over the last two decades or so the dominant mode of talking about Indian agriculture has been that of “crisis”. Commentators and scholars have tended to attribute this crisis of the agrarian economy to larger processes at work, particularly to globalisation and the new policies of economic reforms initiated by India during the early years of the 1990s. While there may be some truth in these explanations, the framing of the “agrarian”, “rural” question in this discourse presents the complex and diverse rural realities in simplistic and populist terms. Such a discourse also invokes a sectoral policy response, where agriculture as a sector is seen as needing state attention, and ignores the internal dynamics of changing caste and class relations on the ground. Based on a revisit to two villages of Haryana, this paper provides a brief account of the changing nature of class relations in a post-green revolution rural setting with a specific focus on the changing nature of attached and “unfree” labour.


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We are grateful to the advisory group of the Review of Rural Affairs for putting together this issue. The members of the advisory group are Ramesh Chand, Surinder S Jodhka, D Narasimha Reddy and P S Vijayshankar.



The paper draws heavily from the background paper I prepared for the World Bank study on Poverty and Social Exclusion (2011). I am grateful to Maitreyi Das for her support and inputs. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the department of sociology, University of Delhi and at a seminar at the University of Oxford organised by Alpa Shah and Barbara Harriss-White. I am also grateful to Sneha Sudha Komath and Ujithra Ponniah for their comments on an earlier draft of this paper. The usual disclaimers apply.


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