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Workers and Peasants: Growth and Stagnation


Simon Commander

ZAMINDARS, MINES AND PEA­SANTS: STUDIES IN THE HISTORY OF AN INDIAN COALFIELD AND ITS RURAL HINTERLAND
Edited by D. Rothermund and D.C. Wadhwa
Manohar Publication, New Delhi, 1978, pp. XIII 236, price not stated.

URBAN GROWTH AND RURAL STAGNATION
Edited by D. Rothermund , E. Kropp & G. Dienemann
Manohar Publications, New Delhi, 1980, pp. XXI 492, Rs. 150.00

VOLUME V NUMBER 4 January-February 1981

While research on the Indian economy, both at the present time, as also in the colonial period, has tended to con­centrate on the agrarian sector, relatively little work has been done on the relation­ship between the rural and urban worlds. The two volumes now under review offer a welcome change from this one-sided focus. They seek to analyse the interaction of a substantial industrial and urban com­plex - that of the Jharia/Dhanbad coal­field and its allied industries—with the surrounding rural hinterland. Although the conclusions that can be derived from these studies cannot be feasibly extended to other regions, regional analysis of this nature provides considerable qualification to the conclusions reached by economists working at a national level. In particular, the study of the town-countryside relation­ship offers one way of approaching the question· of the terms of trade bet­ween the two dominant sectors of the economy. Whereas recent work on this subject has tended to focus almost ex­clusively on the somewhat narrow index provided by relative price ratios between agricultural and manufactured commod­ities, the wider, and to my mind, more significant matter of the respective con­ditions of production and subsequent exchange between the sectors is more amenable to analysis through regional studies of this variety. However, though defining the question in this way has many advantages, it is not, as we shall see, without its own pro­blems. The present studies apply a wel­come modification to conclusions generat­ed from the use of price ratios, while also suggesting that the more buoyant fortunes of other sections of the Indian economy may derive from the subordination of backward tracts, such as Chota Nagpur. Several contributors refer explicitly, in this context, to the notion of  'internal colonialism', the modern variant, as it were, of the earlier migratory colonialism of the Hindu settlers who infiltrated, in increasingly larger numbers, into this predomi­nantly tribal region from the seventeenth century onwards. If one were to accept the conclusions proffered by the contri­butors to these volumes-that the region is systematically exploited by the more prosperous areas - then it would necessarily follow that conclusions of a national variety would have to be con­sistently qualified in relation to the inter­regional inequalities. The subordination of the Chota Nagpur region—a mineral rich plateau pos­sessing vast coal deposits—apparently revolves around two inter-related ...


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