Debottam Saha


I completed my BA program in Sociology from St. Xaviers’ College, Kolkata. Following my bachelors’ program, I completed my MA program in Sociology from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. My areas of interests are food and agriculture, science and technology studies and gender and sexuality. Before joining IIT Delhi, Humanities and Social Sciences department, I was working as a research associate at Indian Statistical Institute, Giridih, Jharkhand for the project on contract farming in potato and corn at West Bengal and Jharkhand. While working in that project, my interest shifted towards understanding the alternative agricultural practices in India. After joining the IIT, I began to work on the same topic for my PhD Project as well. I just completed my first round of fieldwork in two districts like Purulia, Burdawan and South-24-Parganas in West Bengal. I am presently working in the domain of labour practices and knowledge systems, part of the larger project on alternative agricultural practices in West Bengal. In the meantime, I did a one-month certificate course on Agroecology at Calcutta University, where I got to meet different stakeholders involved in different alternative agricultural practices across India.


The making of ‘Green’: Labour, Knowledge and Ecology

Conventionally the critique of green revolution in India is divided into two stark ideological camps. On the one hand, the conventional Marxist literature necessarily criticizes green revolution paradigm mainly from the political economy framework (Munster 2015). The literature criticizes green revolution paradigm on accounts of capitalist expansion, the transformation of rural-livelihood, the political economy of agrarian markets, and its impact on non-capitalist producers and unfree labourer. The major thrust was put on the change of land, labour, and capital and the impact land, labour, and capital have on agrarian crisis. But, the literature remains utterly silent on the question of the environmental aspect of agricultural change and the diverse cultural interpretations of everyday agricultural activities (ibid.). On the other end, very often practices like organic farming solely talking about input correction and Subhash Palekar’s Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) advocating for Swadeshi, environmental puritanism opposed to hybridity and foreign intrusion in agriculture completely remains blind to the question of land, labour and capital and market and their connections to ecology as well (Munster 2015, 2016). Hence, there is a need for an interdisciplinary dialogue in order to study agriculture critically (ibid.). The requirement of incorporating ‘agroecological’ framework within the methodology of studying agriculture while challenging the age-old dualistic understanding between humans and nature, economy and ecology, science, and practice becomes significant to make that interdisciplinary dialogue possible. For the need of an agroecological framework to study agriculture critically, actor-network- theory (ANT) becomes significant tool to understand the assemblage between human and non-human actors (ibid.).In the backdrop of this larger critical discussion around the alternative agricultural practices in India, my ethnographic work tries to show the relevance of the assemblage between labour and ecology and how does the assemblage contribute in the making of an agronomical knowledge in the context of three districts (Purulia, Burdawan and South-24-Parganas) in West Bengal, located in the eastern part of India. The idea of green typically marks an ecological prosperity and perfection. Even the model of green revolution has had to keep green in its fact despite of the ecological hazard it has contributed to. Similarly, the idea of making green emerges in the domain of alternative agricultural practices too, where the purpose is to revive from the barren past of green revolution to an ecologically sound future. But can the making of green is possible without taking into consideration the human and non-human assemblage critically in the domain of alternative agricultural practices. The paper revolves around this question largely.

Affiliation: Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi