ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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India and Africa in the Global Agricultural System (1961–2050)

The asynchronous but somewhat similar agricultural trajectories of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, especially India, are analysed over nearly a century (1961–2050). Millions of pieces of data available on the past (1961–2007) and on a plausible future (2006–50 projections by the Food and Agriculture Organization) are organised in a simple world food model where production, trade and consumption are aggregated and balanced in calories. Given the current and/or future land–labour relationships that characterise India and Africa, can these regions experience the same structural transformation that the developed countries went through, or work together towards a new sociotechnical regime by developing their own regionally differentiated labour-intensive production investments and technological capacities for economic, social, and ecological sustainability?

Non-farm Economy in Madhubani, Bihar

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.

Declassification of Census Towns in West Bengal

Eighty-one new census towns in West Bengal are on the verge of declassification in the 2021 Census. This must not be understood to mean that non-farm workers are moving into farm activities. Rather, evidences suggest that growth of farm employment has simply outpaced that of non-farm employment in these new census towns and is possibly the reason behind their imminent declassification. The case of Patuli, which is only considered as an example, shows that non-farm activities, especially trading, are witnessing a fall-off phase and that it failed to expand owing to the loss of its market town/rural service centre character over time, goaded by some local factors. This has led to the subsequent inability to generate sufficient full-time jobs at Patuli. More studies are required to build a comprehensive outlook on the policy measures required to preserve the role of these new census towns as market towns and/or rural service centres in the future.

Caste Discrimination and Agricultural Performance in India

Using data from the Situation Assessment Survey of Agricultural Households, this paper attempts to understand caste-based discrimination and differences in the performance of Indian agriculture by analysing caste-wise differences in various factors of input and output. The results show that disadvantages originating in caste-based discrimination make socially marginalised groups in agriculture end up with low access to resources, low levels of productivity, and low realisation of returns.

Farm Power Policies and Groundwater Markets

With India emerging as the world’s largest groundwater irrigator, marginal farmers and tenants in many parts have come to depend on informal water markets for irrigation. Power subsidies have grown these markets and made them pro-poor, but are also responsible for groundwater depletion, and for financial troubles of electricity distribution companies of India or DISCOMs. Gujarat has successfully reduced subsidies by rationing farm power supply, and West Bengal has done so by charging farmers commercial power tariff on metered consumption. Subsidy reforms have hit poor farmers and tenants hard in both the states. Gujarat has tried to support the poor, with some success, by prioritising them in allocating new tube well connections. We argue that West Bengal too can support its poor by tweaking its farm power pricing formula to turn a sellers’ water market into a buyers’ one.

Networks, Solidarities and Emerging Alternatives

How a farmers’ movement, in its declining phase and amidst agrarian distress, is building new alliances, incorporating new frameworks and attempting to create alternatives is explored. The Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, one among the farmers’ movements of the 1980s, became a member of a transnational agrarian movement, La Via Campesina in 1996 to confront issues that were “global” in nature. Based on ethnography during 2011−12 and focusing on the linkages of the KRRS with LVC, the simultaneity of different processes at play within the KRRS are explored to shed light upon how shared understandings are intertwined with the perception and practice of politics, the multiple meanings attached to the terms “local” and “global,” and the discourses and practices of alternative agriculture.

‘Do Only Girls Suffer? We Too!’

Research in India has been oriented towards understanding the causes and consequences of early marriage on girls, while ignoring the condition of “child grooms.” There are many “hotspots” in India, where early marriage of boys is an accepted norm. Using available evidence from national surveys and qualitative data collected from Shrawasti district of Uttar Pradesh, attempts are made to understand the reasons behind the early marriage of boys and the difficulties faced by these young men who are forced into marriage. In such regions, raising the age at marriage for boys will automatically raise the age at marriage for girls. If we have to address the problem of “child brides,” we can no longer ignore the presence of “child grooms.”

Making Smallholder Farming Climate-smart

Climate change is accompanied by increasing weather uncertainty. Farmers, especially smallholder farmers, need advance warning of emergent weather conditions at a local level. Mobile telecommunication systems are increasingly cost-effective and an efficient way of delivering weather-based agro-advisories to farmers at a large scale. Agrometeorological services facilitate flexible, weather-based agriculture planning and help build evidence and capacities of communities, technical and developmental agencies to plan and implement climate-adaptive responses. The relevance and innovativeness of multi-institutional collaboration lies in the institutional, technical and pedagogical strategy adopted which offers important lessons on how agrometeorological services can be organised to make smallholder farming climate-resilient on a larger scale.

Understanding Open Defecation in Rural India

India has far higher open defecation rates than other developing regions where people are poorer, literacy rates are lower, and water is relatively more scarce. In practice, government programmes in rural India have paid little attention in understanding why so many rural Indians defecate in the open rather than use affordable pit latrines. Drawing on new data, a study points out that widespread open defecation in rural India is on account of beliefs, values, and norms about purity, pollution, caste, and untouchability that cause people to reject affordable latrines. Future rural sanitation programmes must address villagers’ ideas about pollution, pit-emptying, and untouchability, and should do so in ways that accelerate progress towards social equality for Dalits rather than delay it.

Energy, Gender and Social Norms in Indigenous Rural Societies

Studying women’s work and energy use through field studies in Khasi communities in Meghalaya and Angami communities in Nagaland, the links between energy use and women’s work and leisure are explored. It is found that the choice of energy source is closely linked with women’s participation in the management of energy resources, their opportunities to earn incomes, and their ability to negotiate the cultural and social norms of their communities. Energy planning cannot stop with the provision of household access to electricity or liquefied petroleum gas. A new deal for women in the energy sector is delineated, which relates to overcoming sociocultural limits and increasing the opportunity cost of women’s labour and their right to assets.

Reconsidering Women’s Work in Rural India

The most recent data gathered by the National Sample Survey Office on work participation for women in India reveal a sharp decline, primarily due to the NSSO’s conventional measures not accounting for economic activities undertaken by women for the benefit of households. Alternative definitional approaches to the production boundary, such as the Indian System of National Accounts and the United Nations System of National Accounts, somewhat better account for unpaid work by women for households’ own consumption. An analysis of data from the part of the NSSO schedule on employment and unemployment (for 2004–05 and 2011–12) that enquires about various activities undertaken by individuals who report performing household activities as their principal activity, reveals a less dramatic decline than that presented by the more conventional measure of work participation. This finding contributes to a significant rethinking of how rural women’s contributions to economic activities for their own households can be better recognised through data.

Making Pulses Affordable Again

While outlining strategies to increase availability of pulses at affordable prices, it is argued that increasing domestic production of pulses is the only option. Access to one or two protective irrigation sources during the growing season can lead to sizeable increases in pulse production. The har khet ko paani initiative should give priority to pulse-producing areas. The minimum support price, without procurement, helps traders more than farmers because it acts as a focal point for tacit collusion among traders. Including subsidised pulses in the public distribution system has only a small effect on consumption of pulses. We suggest investing in research and extension, aggregating into farmer producer organisations, and paying growers or growing areas for the ecosystem services offered by pulses.

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