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Non-farm Economy in Madhubani, Bihar

Social Dynamics and Exclusionary Rural Transformations

Surinder S Jodhka (ssjodhka@yahoo.com) teaches sociology at the Jawaharlal Nehru University and is senior affi liate fellow at the Centre de Sciences Humaines, New Delhi. Adarsh Kumar (adarshk@worldbank.org) is senior agribusiness specialist, The World Bank.

Based on a field study of two large settlements, the social dynamics of “rural” non-farm economy in the Madhubani district of Bihar are explored. Both these settlements—a census town and a gram panchayat— have a sizeable working population employed in a variety of non-farm occupations. The different types of non-farm activities in these locations are catalogued while examining the dynamics of caste, community and gender within the social organisation of the non-farm economy. The persistence of social hierarchies, differential incomes and discriminatory practices within the emergent non-farm economy are highlighted, even as the “traditional” jajmani-type social structure has nearly completely disintegrated.

This paper is part of a broader set of studies around urbanisation and employment funded by the World Bank. We were assisted in our research by Ishwari Bhattarai, Bhoomika Joshi and Sanjay Kumar. Ishwari Bhattarai and Bhoomika Joshi also helped complete the draft report. The authors are also grateful to Partha Mukhopadhya, Centre for Policy Research, whose various inputs helped in identifying the fi eld sites. Versions of this paper have been presented at the South Asian University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Harvard University and the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library.

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