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

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De-ploughing the "Rural"

Urban Myths about Rural Consumption

Why does data about increasing rural consumption shock us? Urban imagination sees the rural as a static, timeless domain where people are bare-minimalists lacking in ambition, agency or entrepreneurship. However, even if agriculture is declining, the rural isn’t. The rural is getting reconstituted amidst this confusion with ambivalent trends.

Last years monsoon made a hasty exit, after an erratic and merely ritualistic annual appearance. Instead it has rained suicides in the countryside, signifying the acuteness of the crisis that has set on rural India. It is therefore understandable why almost all mainstream political parties are championing the cause of the rural during election rallies, even if it is in a slightly warped manner. One of the most telling and ubiquitous images in these rallies of late, has been the offering of a miniature wooden plough by the so called kisaan netas to their political bosses.

It is true that a large number of farmers in India still lead a marginal existence, yet one would like to argue that this symbolic appearance of the wooden plough in our largely metropolitan imagination, is at best a continuation of our romanticisation, and at worst our ignorance of the world of rural. When we think of small farmers, do we think of them ploughing with leased or rented tractors? If not, then we better get real with the rural. A recent study on farm mechanisation, done at the Central Institute of Agricultural Engineering, Bhopal, reveals that the share of human power available for carrying out varied farm operations has shrunk to a mere 5%. Four decades ago, in 1971-72, 60% of the power was provided by humans and animals: 15% by farm labourers and 45% by animals. In 1991-92, this collective share had dropped to 26% (labour accounted for 9%). Tractors have made the biggest stride, from a mere 7% to 47%.

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