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Agrarian Crisis and Reforms: Which Way Forward?

Arindam Banerjee

By Parmod Kumar and Sandip Sarkar
Academic Foundation, New Delhi, 2012, pp. 268, Rs. 995.00


The prolonged agrarian crisis in India since the mid-nineties is reflected by the meager growth rates in the agricultural sector. Even during the high growth period that the country experienced in 2004-8, the agricultural sector remained unresponsive in terms of growth except for a rare year of buoyant growth. However, the dimensions of the agrarian crisis cannot be captured by growth rates alone but also through other macro-indicators like use of inputs, availability of irrigation and power for cultivation and, more importantly, the income and consumption levels of farmer (and other rural) households. It is not only for this purpose that micro-level household surveys are necessary but the latter also help in comprehending the vastly diverse production conditions under which the farmers from different regions in India are operating. In that context, Economic Reforms and Small Farms is a useful and detailed attempt to engage with the diversity and challenges before Indian agriculture.   The authors try to identify the broad contours of the agrarian crisis and pose questions related to the remedial policies that are required to revive Indian agriculture. Within this exercise, they however, lay their primary emphasis on the diverse production conditions for farmers within different States. The choice of States by the authors for this purpose, Punjab and Bihar, is very obvious. There can hardly be any contention that the variation in the organization of agriculture between these two States will be stark in nature, precisely due to the experience of the Green Revolution in one and the absence of the same in the other. Nonetheless, the detailed household-level surveys in the two States still provide us with minute details of the varying techniques of cultivation or help in better substantiate the observations regarding varying production conditions that are already embodied in the literature. The extensive data collection and analysis of farms throw light on different aspects of cultivation and can serve a diverse range of interests of those studying agrarian structures.   The fact that agriculture in Punjab is largely organized on capitalist lines while in Bihar, the same is still mired in backward techniques is best illustrated by the rich data on labour-use pattern on farms in the two States. While in Punjab, less that 25 per cent of the total labour used for cultivation and other agricultural activities is family labour, the same constitutes nearly 46 per cent of the total labour-use (calculations based on Table 5.2, Kumar ...

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