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

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Rise of 'New Landlords'

A Response

Bhim Reddy and Abhishek Shaw's rejoinder (EPW, 26 May 2012) has misconstrued the central thrust of the article on the rise of "new landlords" (EPW, 4 February 2012). After restating the latter, this note deals with the rejoinder's main criticism centring on the implications of the increasing importance of non-cultivating peasant households.

This is a response to Bhim Reddy and Abhishek Shaw’s (hereinafter referred to as BR-AS) “Rise of ‘New Landlords’: A Rejoinder” (EPW, 26 May 2012) to my article “Structural Retrogression and Rise of ‘New Landlords’ in Indian Agriculture: An Empirical Exercise” (EPW, 4 February 2012). I feel that they have misconstrued the central thrust of the article which was to present the increasing importance of non-cultivating peasant households (NCPHs) in the rural sector (which, I think, they also agree on). An implication of this proposition was that land under tenancy should also increase. At the all-India level, the land under tenancy is declining, which I felt needs an explanation. BR-AS have major differences with my explanation for the declining share of land under tenancy. In their own words, “we argue that his explanation for declining tenancy may not hold and his hypothesis on the emergence of ‘new landlords’ and the importance of tenancy can be explained by the changing terms of tenancy”. So they accept the central thrust of the article and the issues they raise are more on the nature of the land lease market. But before presenting the differences, I would like to present the main argument of the paper, which I think might clear some of the issues raised by them.

My main argument in the article was to present empirical evidence on structural changes taking place in the rural economy using the different rounds of Asset and Liabilities published by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO). The structural change that the rural economy is witnessing is evident in the decreasing share of cultivating households, a relative constancy in the share of agricultural labour households, but a signi­ficant increase in the share of “other” households which form an important part of non-cultivating households (NCHs). On identifying the increase in the share of NCHs, I calculated the share of NCHs who were landowning and identified them as NCPHs. The share of “value of land owned” by them was also calculated based on these rounds. In the analysis, I found a systematic increase – over time and in a majority of the states – in the proportion of NCPHs and the share in the value of land owned by them. An increase in NCPHs in the rural sector should affect the nature of agrarian relations. An NCPH has three options: one, to sell land and convert itself to a NCH or keep the land fallow or lease out the land. There is a decline in the share of land under tenancy in the last period which seems to run counter to the increasing importance of NCPHs.

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