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

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Rural Elites and the Limits of Scheduled Caste Assertiveness in Rural Malwa, Punjab

The decline of caste-based territorial dominance is widely reported to have given Scheduled Castes more autonomy, but also allowed them more space for political assertion. This paper, drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in the predominantly agrarian region of Malwa in Punjab, illustrates how SCs are often loudly pressing demands upon political leaders and bureaucrats. However, the paper also illustrates how they still do not wield meaningful power in village panchayats. A wealthy class of farmers that is increasingly involved in urban business uses a combination of party connections, cash and coercion to capture and maintain power at their expense. Such farmers frequently use their political influence to bolster their business interests and to appropriate state resources such as village common lands. The evidence presented here suggests that when SCs mobilise to demand their rights, they are still careful not to challenge dominant interests.

Explaining Village-level Development Trajectories through Schooling in Karnataka

This paper develops and explores a methodology for explaining development trajectories at the village-level. Using data from the Censuses of 2001 and 2011, and qualitative and quantitative data from three purposively selected villages in North Karnataka, it asks why literacy rates and schooling vary considerably in geographically proximate villages. In advancing an explanation, the paper attends to what has been termed the micro-macro problem in analytical sociology as well as the problem of spatial variability, neither of which has been systematically addressed in the literature on rural change in India. The data and methodology used here help identify two social mechanisms--livelihoods enhancement practices and social cooperation--which together explain why one village (Chennooru) experiences stable and higher levels of schooling relative to its neighbours where either livelihoods enhancement practices are absent (Valasooru) or there is a lack of social cooperation (Banadooru). The approach and analysis in the paper imply that attention to social mechanisms aids the crafting of more robust policies on schooling and development.

Structural Change in Bihar's Rural Economy

Bihar has been showing signs of emerging from stagnation and backwardness. For this to occur in full, an agrarian transformation is central in a state where urbanisation remains very low. This paper uses longitudinal household data from a sample of villages to explore changes in production relations, land and other assets, agricultural development and occupational diversification. There has been a significant change in class structure and a shift away from agricultural occupations for male workers (much less for female), but non-agricultural work is mainly outside the village and largely outside the state. Real wages have risen substantially, more than can be explained by rising agricultural productivity, migration being an important contributory factor. But the segmentation of the rural labour market has increased and local development is uneven.

'One Kind of Democracy'

Even if we concede that the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme is designed as a demand-driven programme, and that local residents desire to have work projects in their area, whether it translates into effective demand, and whether the work projects actually get initiated depends very much on the dominant voices in local power structures. As this study shows in the case of Maharashtra, however progressive the design of modern democratic institutions, traditional caste hierarchies will try to sabotage their working by using their standing clientelist structures, with class and caste coming together to make this possible.

Employment Outcomes along the Rural-Urban Gradation

In an economy that is transforming rapidly, both economically and spatially, the boundaries between rural and urban areas have become blurred. In practice, the rural-urban divide is more accurately characterised as a rural-urban gradation. Labour market outcomes vary along this gradation. Not integrating the gradation in our data and analysis leads to important loss of granularity and can yield misleading conclusions, a point we illustrate with the decline in female labour force participation.

Livelihoods of Marginal Mining and Quarrying Households in India

Presenting an exploratory approach by which quantitative data from the National Sample Survey can be analysed to throw light on the most marginal households whose primary occupation is recorded as mining and quarrying, this paper finds that a large portion of mining and quarrying is carried out informally by marginal households from disadvantaged social groups. The majority of them are concentrated in stone and marble quarries, living on the edge of poverty, earning irregular incomes, and with poor access to services and utilities. Considering the likely numbers involved and their vulnerability, the paper suggests that mining and quarrying households should receive better policy attention.

Managing Water Management Research

An analysis of 40 years of water management research and outreach in India using data from 34 centres and 5,000 field trials across 23 states shows that of the 502 technologies released, only 110 technologies (22%) have been transferred successfully to farmers. The returns to water management technologies range from 15% to 25% (average 21%) at the research station level, compared to 9% to 14% at the farm level (average 10.8%). Given the current rate of adoption and rate of return, the success rate of the water management technologies is only about 12%. There is therefore an urgent need to address the gaps in technology transfer and performance.

Debt Bondage and the Tricks of Capital

Migrant labourers, free from rural bondage, are now bonded to other sources of debt, contracted from the agro-industry or construction sectors. The flows of migration in the brick-making and sugar cane sectors in Tamil Nadu, where bondage coexists with many public welfare schemes, illustrate the persistence and renewal of this phenomenon. The welfare schemes play the role of a safety net, but also contribute to low wages, and impunity on the part of employers. Alliances between capital and the state, through the politicisation of employers, are instrumental in the continuation of all forms of labour exploitation. When workers resist, employers tighten working conditions and start recruiting migrants from North India. And even if these forms of labour management obey a capitalist logic, they are inseparable from the caste hierarchy.

Forced Migration of Labourers to Brick Kilns in Uttar Pradesh

Seasonal employment in the rural economy at a wage rate below subsistence level forces underprivileged labourers to migrate for survival. Brick kilns in India are a major destination for migrant labourers, who are tied to them for the production season after accepting advance wages from agents. Based on the livelihood conditions of the migrant labourers and their indebtedness, this paper points out these migrations have to be seen as forced. The labourers remain in inter-kiln circulation, but are prevented from moving on because of their limited skills and social networks. They return home to repay a never-ending debt and again receive advance wages for the next season--renewing a cycle of debt and migration for survival.

Groundwater Irrigation-Electricity-Crop Diversification Nexus in Punjab

The present wheat-rice cropping pattern, groundwater irrigation, procurement policy, and electricity policy have bound farmers in Punjab into a convenient yet vicious relationship that is economically and ecologically unsustainable. The state government provides free electricity for agriculture and a high minimum support price and yet recommends a shift away from rice to curb groundwater depletion. This paper analyses the trends and turning points in irrigation development in the state, its shifts in cropping pattern, and trends in electricity consumption. It further examines the real-world feasibility of the long-pending recommendation to shift the cropping pattern from water-intensive rice and wheat to less water-intensive maize and wheat.

Agricultural Productivity Growth

This study examines the question of convergence in land and labour productivity in Indian agriculture between 1991 and 2011. The tendency of low-productivity states to catch up with high-productivity states is studied through the unconditional β-convergence approach, and the operation of Galton's fallacy through growthterminal productivity-level regressions. The diminution of variance in productivity levels is tested using the σ-convergence approach and the robustness of the results is tested using alternative test statistics. The results reveal that states are converging in terms of land productivity, but not in terms of labour productivity.

Food Subsidy

This paper counters negative advocacy about the food subsidy, the public distribution system, and farm price supports. It argues that the public food supply chain for market intervention has a favourable impact on the cost-benefit ratio, poverty reduction, calorie consumption by the poor and productivity-led agricultural growth. The paper proposes reforms for the six pillars of the public food supply chain. These include: an alternative poverty line concept that is linked to the minimum "norms" for calorie intake enabling a reduction of the exclusion and inclusion errors, procurement just for the PDS and buffer stocks to be purchased at a farm price that is fully cost-based, fair price shops with fixed and adequate time of operations, "indent" of the demand, doorstep delivery, and so on.


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