Sunit Arora is pursuing a doctorate in Economics from the Centre for the Study of Regional Development, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi, India. As part of her PhD fieldwork, she spent the previous year in a village in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Prior to this she obtained a Master’s degree and an MPhil in Economics from JNU. Her two-year stint as an Officer with the State Bank of India gave her an opportunity to work with people residing in the Indian countryside at close quarters and acted as a source of inspiration for my PhD research.
Regional Patterns of Accumulation: Class, Caste and Agrarian Change in a Narmada Valley Village, India
Based on fieldwork conducted in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh during 2018-19, this paper studies the processes of agrarian accumulation from the axes of class formation and caste-based divisions, and explores how agrarian relations are reconfigured, as a result of capital accumulation within agriculture.With the advent of canal irrigation in the Narmada Valley region in the 1970s, the cropping pattern changed from a single annual crop to three crops per agricultural year and there was tremendous expansion in the production of wheat. This was followed by introduction of soyabean as a new cash crop in the region. The surplus accumulated by the cultivating households in the village during the next two decades, owing to high yields and prices of wheat and soyabean, translated into construction of pucca houses, setting-up of shops in the village, purchase of two-wheelers and consumer durables, increased spending on medical care and education. It also resulted in increased investment in agricultural equipments and arrangements for alternative irrigation mechanisms, which in turn enabled the produce of another short-term commercial crop during the summer months. This period also saw heavy mechanisation in the region. However, the trajectory of growth has been far from homogenous for the village households, and the inequality in wealth and asset ownership has gone up. Land, which is the main source of economic power in rural India, continues to be concentrated in the hands of the upper-caste Rajput households in the region. Economically and socially strong households have drawn upon a combination of strategies to emerge as the accumulating agrarian classes. Livelihood diversification in allied agri-business, use of their position in the established power hierarchy to benefit from government schemes and access formal credit, high return investments in education, and foray in input dealerships are some of the ways in which wealth is being amassed by these households. This paper tries to study agrarian change in India from the lens of accumulation dynamics. Thereby, it brings into sharp focus the solidifying economic, social and political cleavages in rural India.
Affiliation: Jawaharlal Nehru University