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

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Contrasted Agrarian Change in Punjab, India

Case Study of Two Villages in Ludhiana and Jalandhar Districts

The scarcity of lucrative non-farm jobs and the stagnant or declining agricultural incomes for rural households in Punjab, especially for the Jat Sikhs, are causing distress. By selecting two villages of different types from Ludhiana and Jalandhar districts, this paper presents how the different conditions inherent to the villages led to sharply contrasted agrarian changes. In the Jalandhar village, where emigration to Western countries dates to an earlier time, the ample supply of leased-out land from Persons of Indian Origin depressed land rents, which enabled the remaining Jat Sikhs to earn high incomes by expanding the operational size of land through land tenancy. In contrast, in the Ludhiana village, where emigration to the West is constrained and land rent remains at a high level, the incomes of Jat Sikh tenant farmers remain low, whereas rentiers living on land rent and educated idle youths prosper. The latter case of Ludhiana village is reflective of a wider trend in Punjab.

This work was supported by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Number 16H01896.

Punjab faces severe agricultural distress, especially among small and marginal farmers, as is evident from their heavy indebtedness and the incidence of suicide (Singh 2010; Singh and Bhogal 2016; Singh et al 2016; Singh et al 2017). Three main factors underlie the distress. The first is the exhaustion of agricultural growth potential in Punjab since the mid-1990s (IFPRI 2007; Singh 2010) and the worsening terms of trade for agriculture in India in general (Srivastava et al 2007; Raghavan 2008).1 The worsened terms of trade for agriculture are basically caused by the macro-level structural changes that occurred: Indias economic development shifted from a stage of having a food problem to one of an agricultural adjustment problem (Hayami 1988).

Second, a rapid decrease in farm size caused by patrimonial customs, which dictate that inherited land be divided equally among male heirs, casts a negative shadow on landowners. In Punjab, according to the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) 70th round (NSSO 2014), the owned land share of marginal farmers (who own less than 2.5 acres), which was 9.8% in 197172, increased to as high as 29.8% in 2013. The owned land share of large farmers (more than 25 acres) decreased from 22.9% to 5.8% during the same period. This farm size shrinkage must have deteriorated farmers economic positions (Manjunatha et al 2013).

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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