Raya Das is currently enrolled as a final year PhD student at Centre for the Study of Regional Development in Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. She is working on her PhD thesis titled ‘Agrarian relation in Global South: a case study of West Bengal’. The purpose of the study is to identify the hindrances faced by the small farmers in interlinked market transactions, intra-household labour allocation, the opportunities and risks faced by them, feminization agricultural work and migration from agricultural households based on field evidence. She did her MPhil on economic sustenance of farmers in India, based on household-level data of large official agricultural household survey in India.
Interlinked Market Transaction and Rural Inequality in India: Evidence from Field
Critical Agrarian Studies (CAS) is an extension on theoretical development of the political economy approach focusing on the complexity of agencies and power asymmetry at countryside. This paper analyses the interlinked market transaction in organisation of production relating it to rural inequality from the empirical evidence from three villages of rural West Bengal in different agro-ecological regions. The objective here is to identify the process of interlinkage and the extent of surplus extraction in the sphere of agrarian production and output market exchanges in study villages, which are at different levels of agricultural development. The interlinkage is related to the process of agrarian change influencing the production relations, decision making, risk-taking behaviour, market participation of farmers and intra household labour allocation. The nature of interlinkages from field evidence are of four types; lease induced interlinkage, credit interlinkage, farm labour-employer linkage, and output market interlinkage. The conditions of entering interlinked transactions depend on the position of the agents in the class and social hierarchy. In terms of historical roots of the power players, one is hereditary power controllers, and second is emerging business class within or outside the village. Primary controllers of the interlinked mode of production in the villages are input dealers, landlords, rich peasants, nonfarm traders (arotdars), and commission agents. The main reasons of the interlinkages are social history of dominant caste groups, high seasonal demand of agricultural labour, landlessness, competition in tenancy markets, lack of working capital, limited access to market due to high transportation cost and delay in payment, lack of access to institutional credit, fluctuations in input and output markets. For example, due to the high demand of labour during peak seasons, labourers get land seasonally on fixed rent on terms of working on landlords’ land as labourers during paddy cultivation. Lack of availability of working capital leads to purchasing inputs on credit in exchange for agreeing to sell the produce to input dealers at a lower price compared to market rate. The unequal power position and the bargaining power in the interlinked contracts further depend on the caste, gender, ethnicity, and intersectionality. The study further assesses the impact of such informal contracts on the economic sustenance of small peasants, intra-household labour dynamics, and suggests policy formulations.
Affiliation: Jawaharlal Nehru University