, VI Conference of BRICS Initiative of Critical Agrarian Studies

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Agrarian transitions and rural social relations in Jharkhand, India
AVINASH ., Devanathan Parthasarathy

Last modified: 2018-12-14


Rural Jharkhand has attracted lesser attention in the field of agrarian studies in India, despite more than eighty percent of its rural population is directly dependent on agriculture as their primary source of livelihood. The limited studies on agrarian issues in Jharkhand have focused predominantly on the subsistence nature of agriculture and low crop productivity. Also, there has not been much research on agrarian social relations between ‘tribe’ and ‘non-tribe’ communities in the region. Our ethnographic village studies of regions- ‘Khunti’ and ‘Palamu’ depicts steady agrarian transitions (especially shift from indigenous to HYV paddy seeds), enabling food sufficiency in the villages to a larger extent. The other kinds of agrarian transitions can be observed in the recent initiation of commercial crops such as watermelon, marigold and vegetable cultivations. While agricultural productivity still remains low, both the regions are witnessing slow but gradual agrarian transitions influenced by range of (old and new forms) agricultural intermediaries, particularly Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and agriculture input companies. These agricultural intermediaries in the field villages can be understood between; i) the state and farmers; ii) non-state actor (NGO) and farmers; and iii) agricultural input companies and farmers. Also, rural-urban linkages in the form of seasonal labor migration are creating capital and technical inflows that are transforming agricultural activities. In additions, the study also tries to understand existing agrarian labour relations between tribal and non-tribal communities. In Palamu, agrarian relations are dominated by the presence and significant population size of Hindu (high and backward) caste landowners, whereas in the Khunti, agrarian relations are characterized by the population size and dominance of tribes and low caste (artisans-Dalits) landowner cum cultivators. The agrarian labour relations between ‘Hindu (high and backward) castes’ and ‘tribes’ in these regions are primarily related to agricultural ‘daily wage labour’. However, the agrarian labour relations between ‘Dalits’ and ‘Tribes’ take the form of ‘communal system of labour exchange’ and ‘household-based labour’. Since, the land sizes are small and fragmented, the share-cropping is observed very limited in the region. This study describes and interprets the above changes through the lens of ‘regional rurality’. The term ‘regional rurality’ in our study is confined to distinctive relationships between various castes, castes and tribes, institutions and forms of agrarian classes that vary from one region to another region and its historical specificities. With this approach, the study tries to understand this distinctive region and its rurality by breaking up the idea of ‘universality of subsistence’ character of agrarian Jharkhand


Rural Jharkhand, regional rurality, agricultural intermediaries; agrarian transitions; tribes; non-tribes

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