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Well Irrigation in Gujarat-Systems of Use, Hierarchies of Control

THE history of well irrigation during the colonial period is a somewhat neglected one. This is in contrast to the study of canal- systems, which dominates the literature for that period-1 Wells, however, provided the chief form of irrigation in many parts of India in the pie-colonial era,2 as they do again today.3 It was only during the colonial period and early post-colonial period that they suffered a temporary, and only partial, eclipse. It was estimated at the beginning of the 20th century that whereas government-owned canals provided water for about 41 per cent of the irrigated land of British India, wells provided for about 30 percent of the whole.4 In 1949-50, figures for the irrigated area of the rather different land-mass covered by the new state of India showed government canals covering 34.01 per cent of the total, wells 27.49 per cent. Well-irrigated land exceeded government-canal irrigated land from 1971-72 onwards.5 Elizabeth Whitcombe, in her study of the effects of British canals on agriculture in Uttar Pradesh (UP), shows that once the canals were built and canal-water became available, irrigation-wells were neglected and soon collapsed,* But what of the many areas in which wells continued to provide the chief source of irrigation throughout the colonial period? One of the few historians to examine such areas in any detail is Christopher Baker, in his history of rural Tamil Nadu between 18S0 and 1955. He argues that the British, in seeking to turn agriculture into an instrument of accumulation, concentrated their resources on canal-irrigation in the deltaic regions of south India, neglecting irrigation in the uplands, which was predominantly from tanks and wells. The only area in which there was any marked expansion in well-irrigation during the 19th century was Coimbatore, where the dominant Gounder peasantry had the resources to finance their own construction. During the first half of the 20th century, the advent of new pumping technology saw considerable growth in this sector over a wider area; in 1900 wells provided water for about a Fifth of the total irrigated land of Tamil Nadu, by the second world war, a quarter. The expansion was however almost entirely financed by the farmers themselves; the government provided very little help.7 In such a perspective. the resurgence of well-irrigation during the 20th century might seem like a victory of the small-scale and local over the large-scale, monolithic and centralised forms of water-provision favoured by the colonial state. Any celebration of this would appear, however, to be premature. This is because over the past 30 years, extraction of groundwater from wells has in many areas far surpassed any natural replenishment in the sub-soil. Many wells have as a result gone dry. Each year farmers have to bore wells deeper and deeper at greater and greater expense to obtain any supply at all To recoup the investment, the well-owner needs to sell as much of this water as possible to other farmers-frequently carried over long distances in pipes so long as the well remains productive. Furthermore, in many coastal regions, the depletion of ground water has led to ingress by sea-water, so that wells become filled with salty water When used for irrigation, crop-yields decline sharply. The vicious circles thus created are having devastating environmental consequences in many prime agricultural areas of India.1 Beta Bhatia, in an excellent article on this problem as it exists in Gujarat today, has

Congress and the Rural Rich

and functional form he chooses. But, then the comments do not go beyond noting that the coefficients are significant and the overall R2 is high; or, at best, that the coefficients are of the right signs. The values of the coefficients are neglected because they are not meaningful. For instance, in the present case, the author observes: "The picture is the same when we consider the cow-bullock ratio instead of the cow density. Other things remaining the same, this ratio tends to be high in areas with high bullock density and to be lower in regions where the calving rate and/or the survival rate of young milch [presumably should be male] cattle is high. ... Interestingly, there is no indication of regions with high bullock density economising on the number of cows they need to maintain by achieving higher calving rate and/or lower death rate of young male cattle" (pp 73-74). The basis of the last observation is not clear. The author does not seem to see that it is disconcerting to his main thesis. For him, it is only interesting. If we tell him that his data do not support his hypothesis, probably he will reply: "Maybe. But isn't it interesting?" Evidently, his is, what is called, a robust hypothesis. A more meaningful analysis of the data should be possible. For instance, the arithmetical relation between the ratio of adult male stock (AMC) and the adult female stock (AFC) and other three factors is as follows:

Class Base of Swaminarayan Sect

David Hardiman This study of the class base of the Swaminarayan sect shows the sect to be an ideological voice of an emerging class of commercial farmers and capitalist entrepreneurs. It manages to attract the support of large numbers of more humble people who aspire to climb into this class and who swallow the sect 's view of the world uncritically. The class which the sect represents is moreover one in which power is in the hands of patriarchs and in which female family members are both exploited and kept in a condition of daily humiliation.

In Praise of Marwaris

February 14, 1987 literature, who in his life tried to synthesise what was best in his Vedantic tradition with the best that came from British. CR appreciated and respected the independent advice his civil servant gave him: a far cry from the prevailing practice now when the civil servant first makes sure what his minister wants to hear before giving advice.

The Nationalist Trap

The Nationalist Trap David Hardiman Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World

HISTORY-Subaltern Studies at Crossroads

HISTORY 'Subaltern Studies' at Crossroads David Hardiman THE second Subaltern Studies conference was held in Calcutta in January 1986, three years after the first such conference in Canberra (for a report see EPW February 26, 1983). At the earlier conference the editorial group of the series of books known as "Subaltern Studies" set out and argued a position which is now well known. Themes such as the relative autonomy of subaltern consciousness and action, the need to make the subaltern classes the subject of their own history, the failure of the Indian bourgeoisie to speak for the nation, and the existence of two domains of politics have provided a fresh critical thrust to much recent writing on modern Indian history and society. In this conference, organised by members of the group based in Calcutta, the focus was less clear than it had been in Canberra, in large part because the group had not met together as a whole for the past three years. Individual members have developed their own directions of study and lines of thought, so that it became hard for participants in the conference to discern any very strong unity to the group.

The Communal Base to Indian Nationalism

THIS volume brings together essays written by Ravinder Kumar in the late 1960s and 1970s. Their reappearance in this form will be welcomed with enthusiasm by all those who, like me, owe much in their understanding of modern Indian history to the lucid and penetrating writings of this author. In these essays he covers a wide range of important themes, such as the rise of the middle classes and rich peasants, working class organisation, the social base to Indian nationalism, the historiography of the nationalist movement, and the whole phenomena represented by Gandhi. In this review I shall not attempt to deal with all of these topics; rather, I shall concentrate on what I feel to be the most important contribution of this set of essays, namely Ravinder Kumar's, study of solidarity in Indian society and the communal base to Indian nationalism.

Divide and Rule in British India

Prelude to Partition: The Indian Muslims and the Imperial System of Control by David Page; Oxford University Press, New Delhi 1982;
THERE are two popular explanations for the partition of India in 1947. The first, which tends to be favoured by Indian nationalist historians, lays' most stress on the British policy of divide and rule. Through skilful manipulation, the British fostered the growth of two rival political entities in India

Elite Conflicts in a Trading Empire

Elite Conflicts in a Trading Empire David Hardiman Indian Merchants and the Decline of Surat c 1700-1750 by Ashin Das Gupta, Franz Steiner Verlag, Weisbaden 1979; pp 307.

Portrait of a Stagnant Society

Portrait of a Stagnant Society David Hardiman Winners and Losers: Styles of Development and Change in an Indian Region edited by S Devadas Pillai and C Bales; Popular Prakashan,

Lament for Lucknow

Lament for Lucknow David Hardiman The Raj, the Indian Mutiny and the Kingdom of Oudh, 1801-1859 by John Pemble; Oxford University Press, Delhi 1979; Rs 48.

Peasant Movement in Awadh

Peasant Movement in Awadh David Hardiman Agrarian Unrest in North India, The United Provinces 1918-22 by Majid Hayat Siddiqi; Vikas Publishing House, New Dehli. 1978; pp xiv+247, Rs 60.


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