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

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Agrarian Question in India

Indications from NSSO’s 70th Round

Using the latest National Sample Survey Office data on land distribution and use, questions of agrarian change in India are revisited. With reducing landholding size in general, the increasing unviability of such small plots, and increasing numbers of "effectively" landless households, the larger questions of employment and sectoral shifts are flagged. There is still no clear transition away from agriculture.

The authors would like to thank the anonymous referee for comments.

In recent years, Eurocentric constructions of the agrarian question are ;being increasingly challenged by a resurgent scholarship from the global South. The argument of Western scholarship that the “agrarian question is dead” is at best minimalist and deterministic (Moyo et al 2015). The counterargument is that “capital accumulation whether linked to Western finance or Chinese industry, remains closely integrated with agriculture and this is one of the many dimensions of agrarian question at the current juncture” (Moyo et al 2015). The contemporary agrarian question, thus, encompasses a wide variety of land and peasant questions which are central to understand the development dynamics of the countries in the South.

The “stunted” structural transformation in India has important implications for its agrarian question. While the share of agriculture is dramatically reduced in gross domestic product (GDP), almost half of the country’s population still depends on the agricultural sector for livelihood. In the age of globalisation, where the peasantry is under assault from international finance capital, the ways and means in which they reproduce themselves remain an important matter. The steadily increasing wave of land grabs across the South puts peasants at the receiving end. With its land and livelihood imperilled, this “reserve army of the dispossessed” increasingly finds refuge in precarious activities in the informal sector.

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