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

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Do Self-Help Groups Transform the Lives of Poor Women? A Reading List

While self-help groups are seen as vital to successful anti-poverty policies , they have failed to develop the collective bargaining power of women and comprehensively incorporate the demands made by beneficiaries.

Farmer Suicides

Unravelling Farmer Suicides in India: Egoism and Masculinity in Peasant Life by Nilotpal Kumar, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2017; pp xv + 309, ₹ 995.

The Convergence of Peasant Struggles Worldwide

A plethora of problems face Southern and Northern family agricultures in the current neo-liberal era of financial capital domination worldwide, and has paved the way for the revival of peasant struggles for their social emancipation and legitimate right of access to land and food. Obviously, such struggles also concern all categories of workers and people because what is at stake is the challenge to reach food sovereignty and to build our societies at the local, national and global levels, on the principles of social justice, equality and real democracy.

Village Restudies

An account of the inception, management and initial conclusions of a research project which "restudied" three villages, one each in Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat is presented. These villages had been first studied in the 1950s by British anthropologists F G Bailey, Adrian C Mayer and David F Pocock. The new research was to focus on the sociological conditions of life in these villages today and compare the results of the new surveys with the data from the 1950s. The material presented here also points to some of the strengths, weaknesses and idiosyncratic charms of "restudies."

Revisiting the Rural in 21st Century India

The Review of Rural Affairs this time focuses largely on "restudies" of villages that were studied by social anthropologists and economists in the 1950s. The papers are not simply about documenting the unfolding evolutionary process of development, but bring new perspectives of social science understanding to the study of rural society, and also reflect on the enterprise of anthropology and fieldwork. Jamgod in Madhya Pradesh, Sundarana in Gujarat, Bisipara in Odisha, and Palanpur and Khanpur in Uttar Pradesh were restudied, while one paper presents the results of a fresh study of villages in Nagaland.

Migration, Bachelorhood and Discontent among the Patidars

Juxtaposing data collected in the 1950s with data from 2013, this paper describes some of the consequences of a crisis of agriculture in India as a crisis of values and aspirations. Among a relatively prosperous Patidar community in western India, agriculture continues to be economically remunerative while farmers are considered poor. Instead, the ability to secure a job away from land, to move out of the village and possibly overseas have come to constitute new markers of status in a traditionally competitive society. The paper departs from common representations of the caste as an upwardly mobile and successful group, and focuses instead on the discontent and on those who try to achieve the new values of the caste, but fail. As a consequence of failure it shows how Patidars recur to what, from an outsider's point of view, may seem paradoxical: in order to "move up" and participate in the culture and economy of the caste, they have to "move down." In this respect, the paper also contributes to understanding the unevenness of India's growth and the contrary trends that work both to strengthen and weaken caste identity.

De-ploughing the “Rural"

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.

Well Worth the Effort

More than 1,00,000 wells were sanctioned for construction under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in Jharkhand during the last few years. This study evaluates the outcome of this well-construction drive through a survey of nearly 1,000 wells in 24 randomly selected gram panchayats. A majority of sanctioned wells (60% with parapet and 70% without) were completed at the time of the survey. Nearly 95% of completed wells are being utilised for irrigation, leading to a near tripling of agricultural income of those in the command area. The real rate of return from these wells in Jharkhand is estimated to be close to 6%, a respectable figure for any economic investment. However, well construction involves some out-of-pocket expenses and this investment is risky: nearly 12% of the wells were abandoned midway.

Electrified without Electricity

Tingsong village located in Senapati District, Manipur is 45 kilometre away from National Highway-2. According to the 2011 Census, the village has 246 households with a population of 1,377 persons. The following is a case of blatant corruption in rural electrifications programmes, and was learnt...

Making Social Science Matter - II

Part I of this paper, which appeared last week, described the patterns of participation of the rural poor in state-sponsored schemes and the characteristics of political society in each of the blocks and districts studied. It also provided evidence on the scale and significane of rent-seeking behaviour, and a preliminary mapping of what has been called 'the anthropology of the everyday state'. We turn now to a discussion of an 'action research' project that followed on from our 'academic' research. This project involved the research team in a prolonged dialogue with different groups of actors in Malda and Bhojpur districts that we had identified as 'failing' districts from the point of view of effective pro-poor governance. We comment briefly on the background to this research and describe how we organised the action research process before proceeding to present the main findings of the workshops that we held in these two districts. These findings speak of the ways in which different groups of stakeholders, and members of the rural poor most especially, see the state in Bhojpur and Malda and how they would like to see certain practices of the state abolished, extended or reformed.

Making Social Science Matter - I

The state in its efforts to meet the needs of the poor has four major functions of governance - developmental, empowermental, protective and disciplinary. This paper, based on fieldwork across the rural areas in three states, probes the Employment Assurance Scheme to understand the state's performance on these parameters as well as aspects of participation, governance and political society. What is revealed is the complexity and divergence of state action - conflicts within and between different agencies of the state, as also the challenges posed to these agencies by civil and political society groups. Also clear is that the participation of the poor in development programmes cannot easily be stepped up in the absence of supporting actors in political society. Part I of the paper presents the initial findings as they relate to the development and empowerment functions of the state. Part II, to be published next week, will develop the argument further through discussion of an 'action research' project that followed on from the authors' 'academic' research.

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