India primarily has a rural culture. The area is known as the land of villages. Agriculture is the backbone of our economy. Agriculture is a way of life for farmers, in addition to being their profession. This nation is diverse, yet united.
A close relationship exists between agriculture and culture. In different parts of the country, agriculture takes on very different forms and is practised in very different ways.
Agrarian structure: caste and class in rural india
The organisation or distribution of landholding is frequently referred to as having an agrarian structure. Access to land influences the rural class structure because agricultural land is the most significant productive resource in rural areas. What part a person plays in the process of agricultural production is largely determined by access to land.
In some regions of India, the vast majority of rural households own at least a small amount of land. In other places, up to 40% to 50% of families have no land ownership at all. This indicates that they are reliant on manual labour in agriculture or other industries to support themselves. Naturally, this indicates that a select few families are prosperous. Most people are either slightly above or below the poverty line.
Due to the prevalent patrilineal kinship system and mode of inheritance in most of India, women are typically prohibited from owning land. According to the law, women are entitled to an equal share of the family's assets. They actually only have a few rights and access to land if they live in a household with a man as the head of the household.
Medium and large landowners can typically generate sufficient or even significant incomes from farming (although this depends on agricultural prices, which can fluctuate greatly, as well as other factors such as the monsoon). However, agricultural workers are frequently paid below the legal minimum wage and make very little money. Their earnings are meagre. Their jobs are unstable.
Caste and class have nuanced relationships in rural areas. The higher castes might be expected to have more land and higher incomes. Additionally, as one descends the social hierarchy, caste and class correspond. This is generally accurate in many situations, but not exactly.
There are typically only one or two major landowning castes in each region, and these castes are also very significant in terms of numbers. The sociologist M.N. Srinivas referred to these groups as dominant castes. The dominant caste controls local society and is the most powerful group economically and politically in each region.
- The Jats and Rajputs of Uttar Pradesh, the Vokkaligas and Lingayats of Karnataka, the Kammas and Reddis of Andhra Pradesh are a few examples of dominant landowning groups.
The majority of marginal farmers and landless people belong to lower caste groups, whereas dominant landowning groups are typically middle or high ranked castes. The former "Untouchable" or dalit castes were the main agricultural labourers for the dominant landowning groups in many parts of India because they were not permitted to own land.
Beggar or free labour was a common practise up until recently in many regions of northern India. Low caste people were required to work for the village zamindar or landlord for a set number of days each year.
Similar to the halpati system in Gujarat and the jeeta system in Karnataka, many working poor people were bound to landowners in 'hereditary' labour relationships (bonded labour) as a result of a lack of resources and a reliance on the landed class for economic, social, and political support.
The impact of land reforms
The colonial period
It is critical to understand how much this agrarian structure has changed over time, from the pre-colonial to the colonial to the post-independence periods. In the pre-colonial era, the dominant castes were likely also the cultivating castes, but they were not the actual landowners.
System of Zamindari
They had to receive a sizable portion of the harvest from the peasants or cultivators who worked the land. These regional zamindars were in charge when the British colonised much of India.
The zamindars had more land control under the British than they did before. The zamindars extracted as much produce or money as they could from the cultivators because the colonisers also imposed high land revenue (taxes) on agriculture.
During a large portion of the British era, agricultural production stagnated or even decreased as a result of the zamindari system.
System of Ryotwari
In colonial India, the zamindari system was used to run many districts. The ryotwari system of land settlement was used in other regions directly ruled by the British.
In this system, the tax was paid by the "actual cultivators" as opposed to the zamindars. The colonial government dealt directly with the landowners or farmers rather than going through the overlords, which reduced the tax burden and increased the incentive for cultivators to invest in agriculture.
These areas consequently experienced a relative increase in productivity and prosperity.
Following India's independence, Nehru and his policy advisers began a planned development programme that prioritised industrialization and agrarian reform. The poor state of India's agriculture at the time prompted the policy makers to act. Low productivity, reliance on imported food grains, and the extreme poverty of a sizable portion of the rural population were all characteristics of this period.
The Land reforms
These changes were intended to be made by a number of land reform laws that were passed between the 1950s and the 1970s, both nationally and in the states:
The abolition of the zamindari system, which eliminated the layer of middlemen that stood between the cultivators and the state, was the first significant piece of legislation. Of course, there was resistance to this, but in the end, it strengthened the local level position of the actual landowners and cultivators.
Tenancy abolition and regulation acts were among the other significant land reform laws that were enacted.
The Land Ceiling Acts made up the third major category of land reform laws. These laws placed a cap on the maximum amount of land that any one family could own.
Regional variations in the ceiling can be attributed to variations in the type of land, its productivity, and other similar variables.
These acts mandate that the state identify, seize, and distribute surplus land (land held by each household that is above the ceiling limit), redistributing it to landless families and households in other designated categories, such as SC and ST households.
Although some very large estates were divided, most landowners were able to divide their properties among family members and other people, including servants, in what are known as "benami transfers," which allowed them to maintain control over the land (in fact if not in name). Rich farmers in some areas actually divorced their wives (but continued to live with them) in order to get around the Land Ceiling Act's rules, which allowed unmarried women to receive a separate share but not wives.
Green revolution and social implications
In the 1960s and 1970s, the Green Revolution had a major impact on the regions in which it occurred. As you are aware, the government implemented a programme to modernise agriculture called the Green Revolution.
It was based on giving farmers high-yielding variety (HYV) or hybrid seeds, along with pesticides, fertilisers, and other inputs.
It was largely funded by international agencies. Because sufficient water was required for the new seeds and cultivation techniques, Green Revolution programmes were only introduced in areas with guaranteed irrigation.
Additionally, the areas where rice and wheat were grown were the main targets. As a result, the first wave of the Green Revolution package was limited to a few areas, including the Punjab, western U.P., coastal Andhra Pradesh, and portions of Tamil Nadu.
The new technology greatly increased agricultural productivity. For the first time in decades, India was able to produce enough foodgrains on its own.
However, sociologists who investigated the areas affected by the Green Revolution also noted some unfavourable social and environmental effects.
The medium and large farmers in the majority of the Green Revolution regions were primarily able to profit from the new technology.
Due to the high cost of inputs, small and marginal farmers were unable to spend as much money on them as large farmers could.
The Green Revolution and the subsequent commercialization of agriculture were most advantageous to only farmers who were able to produce an excess for the market.
Inequalities in rural society appeared to be escalating during the 1960s and 1970s, the first phase of the Green Revolution, as a result of the introduction of new technology. However, it frequently resulted in the eviction of tenant farmers.
As farming became more lucrative, landowners started to reclaim land from their tenants and cultivate it themselves. Additionally, the service caste groups who formerly performed these agriculturally related tasks were displace by the invention of machinery such as tillers, tractors, threshers, and harvesters.
The Green Revolution ultimately led to a process of "differentiation," in which the wealthy became even richer while many of the poor stagnated or became even poorer.
It should be noted that due to the increased demand for labour, employment and wages for agricultural workers did rise in many locations.
Furthermore, the financial situation of the majority of rural workers was made worse by rising prices and a change in the way agricultural workers were paid from payment in kind (grain) to cash.
Farmers in India's semi-arid and dry regions started implementing the second phase of the Green Revolution's cultivation techniques in the 1980s. There has been a sizable transition from dry to wet (irrigated) cultivation in these areas, as well as modifications to the cropping pattern and types of crops grown.
In market-oriented agriculture, particularly where only one crop is grown, a drop in prices or a subpar harvest can put farmers out of business. Farmers have shifted from a multi-crop system, which allowed them to spread risks, to a mono-crop regime in the majority of the Green Revolution regions.
Regional inequality increased as a result of the Green Revolution strategy, which was another unfavourable result. While other areas stagnated, those that underwent this technological transformation advanced. For instance, the Green Revolution was promoted more in the western and southern regions of the nation than in the eastern regions, as well as in Punjab, Haryana, and western Uttar Pradesh.
These are also the areas where the 'feudal' agrarian system still prevails, with landowners and upper castes maintaining control over lower castes, migrant labourers, and small farmers.
Changes in rural society following independence
The post-Independence era saw a number of significant changes in the nature of social relations in rural areas. These comprised:
increased use of agricultural labour as a result of more intensive farming;
a shift from payment in kind (grain) to payment in cash;
a loosening of traditional bonds or hereditary relationships between farmers or landowners and agricultural workers (known as bonded labour) and
the rise of a class of ‘free’ wage labourers.
In many places where agriculture was becoming more commercialised, such changes occurred.
The state made investments in the construction of rural infrastructure, including roads, electricity, irrigation systems, and the provision of agricultural inputs, including credit from cooperatives and banks.
The Indian government is making an effort in this direction with the recently introduced Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana. These "rural development" initiatives had the overall effect of changing not only the rural economy and agriculture but also the agrarian system and rural society.
These rural areas were becoming more integrated into the larger economy as cultivation became more commercialised. Through this process, the amount of money entering villages increased, opening up new business and employment opportunities.
Circulation of labour
The rise of migrant agricultural labour has been a significant change in rural society associated with the commercialization of agriculture.
As the "traditional" ties of favouritism between labourers or tenants and landlords deteriorated, and as the seasonal demand for agricultural labour rose in prosperous Green Revolution regions.
Laborers have also been forced to migrate as a result of the growing inequality in rural areas since the mid-1990s, which forced many households to combine multiple occupations in order to survive.
Men frequently leave their villages in search of employment and higher pay, leaving women and children behind to live with ageing grandparents.
The majority of migrant workers come from less productive, drought-prone areas, and they spend a portion of the year working on farms in Punjab and Haryana, brick kilns in Uttar Pradesh, or construction sites in cities like New Delhi or Bangalore.
It should be noted that wealthy farmers frequently prefer to use migrant workers for intensive tasks like harvesting rather than the local working class because migrant workers are more susceptible to exploitation and can be paid less.
Particularly in regions where sugarcane is grown, this pattern is present. Poor living and working conditions have been created for these workers as a result of migration and a lack of job security.
Women experience more job insecurity because they are paid less than men for equivalent work. The patrilineal kinship system that is currently in place and other cultural customs that prioritise male rights largely exclude women from land ownership, despite the fact that they toil on the land as landless labourers and cultivators.
Globalisation, Liberalisation & Rural Society
India has been pursuing a liberalisation policy since the late 1980s, and it has significantly impacted agriculture and rural society.
Indian farmers are now subject to competition from the global market after decades of state assistance and protected markets.
India recently made the controversial decision to import wheat, reversing its previous policy of foodgrain independence.
These are signs of the process of agriculture's globalisation, or its integration into the larger global market, which has had an immediate impact on farmers and rural society.
The MNCs visit various villages and inform the farmers of their needs.
Popular goods include things like potatoes, tomatoes, flowers, etc.
The MNCs provided seeds, fertiliser, and the know-how for their use to the Indian farmers.
These goods were only created for MNCs to be sold, turned into sauces, jams, or carved into food (by being processed).
The farmer is guaranteed both a profit and an income.
In some states (Punjab), the practise was extremely common and the land is fertile.
Farmers are producing the goods that the MNC wants, so if there is a crop failure there, they have nowhere to turn.
If the product is not up to par, MNC will not purchase it. It is only good if it meets the standards.
There is uncertainty and complete reliance on the MNC.
Producing tomatoes and potatoes is replacing the production of grains and rice.
Once you start growing things like tomatoes, you can't go back to making grains.
The traditional farmers' knowledge is useless because MNCs provide the information needed to grow their crops.
Ecologically, soil erosion makes it impractical to continue farming, so people are switching to organic methods.
MNC’S as agents
MNCs are now giving farmers seeds and fertiliser.
Although expensive, farmers must buy seeds and other farming supplies for contract farming.
Despite the high profits, there is also a high level of uncertainty.
They don't have the government to fall back on in the event of a crop failure.
Because MNCs are induced and take control, the government is unable to offer loans with low interest rates.
Small and Marginal Farmers' Suicide
The Green Revolution Belt, small and marginal farmers wanted to use more high-tech equipment, such as tractors and tillers, to increase productivity.
Unfortunately, there may be a setback for a variety of reasons, and farmer suicide may result.
withdrawal of government support payments and subsidies to farmers.
They must now borrow money from other sources, which puts them in debt traps. Some of them occasionally commit suicide if they are unable to pay the debt.
Failure of the crop due to natural or human error, pests, insecticides, heavy rain, drought, etc.
They are entirely dependent on the market, which leaves them insecure if there is a crop failure.
There are additional expenses to be made in addition to production costs. such as dowry, medical care, and education