ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Emergent Ruralities

A Rejoinder

This rejoinder to S S Jodhka, "Emergent Ruralities: Revisiting Village Life and Agrarian Change in Haryana" (EPW, Review of Rural Affairs, 28 June 2014) points out that the proposition regarding "increased vulnerabilities", especially, among local dalits remains underdeveloped as well as issues like the pressure of inflation on wages, the level of fall in the water table, withdrawal of women from farming, etc, remain underexplored and unquantified in an otherwise well-substantiated, timely study.

Rural India is in the midst of a churning in the wake of pressures brought by shrinking farms, economic liberalisation, media inroads and measures like the 73rd Constitutional Amendment of 1993. In this backdrop, S S Jodhka’s paper titled “Emergent Ruralities: Revisiting Village Life and Agrarian Change in Haryana” (28 June 2014) is a timely report on two Haryana villages (studied in 1988-89 and 2008-09) to track changes in the d­emographic, technological, occupational and caste and community profiles of the said communities.

In his lucid account, supported by quantitative as well as qualitative evidence, the author notes some diversification in the economic and power structures in both villages (named Village 1 and Village 2) ensuing from the growing non-farm economy, urban employment and “political entrepreneurs” who have challenged the dominance of traditional chaudhries/landowners over time. At the same time, changes in the living conditions and status of “backward” and dalit castes in the sites remain ambiguous. Thus, the latter now show more mobility and are moving out of farm labour as well as factional village ties and opting for urban employment based on commuting as well as migration. Yet, 95% of dalits in the said villages remain landless and confined to low paid informal work.1 Further clarity on the change in dalits’ and backwards’ position could have come from more data on changing wage rates, skilled and unskilled workers in the formal, informal and farm sectors and on the proportions of the landless in farm and non-farm occupations in the paper. The fact that the dominant Jats are not only well-entrenched in land, in Haryana, but also in state politics, police and bureaucracy calls for a sharper focus on above issues too, in an otherwise well-argued and comprehensive account.

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