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

RuralSubscribe to Rural

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.

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.

Environment and Accountability

While there are several empirical studies on agriculture-related environmental problems, such as soil degradation and wind and water erosion, only a few studies have dealt with environmental problems in the agricultural sector due to industrial pollution. The difference is that the first set of problems are intra-sectoral while the second is intersectoral. This paper attempts to study the environmental impact of water pollution on rural communities in general and on agricultural production, human health, and livestock in particular. Some important issues in this regard are (a) linkages between industrial development and changes in the micro (local) environment; (b) damage to crops and animal husbandry due to industrial pollution; and (c) impact on health and sanitation in rural communities. These issues are studied in detail with the help of primary data collected from a pollution-affected village in Andhra Pradesh.

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