Number of Downlaods: 28
Published Date: Sep 1, 2010
The demand for Independence from
both colonial rule and communal majority of united India was a result of
convergence of diverse, often conflicting ideas and aspirations, and these
contradictions festered in the post-Independence national developmentalist
state. The push and pull of high politics following 1947 had to mediate between
survival in face of inadequate resources and infrastructure and perceived
threat from India; to maintain legitimacy by delivering on promises and
actualizing people’s visions that fuelled the demand for separation; while
simultaneously tempering people’s aspirations and allowing structural
continuity. The need for the latter was primarily a consideration of those who
came into political power and formed its core elite – those who owned the most
resources, namely the large landowners and the armed forces. In the backdrop
was a State (by no means a neutral arbiter) struggling with scant,
overstretched resources attempting to form and develop a government, an economy
and a nation.
Land was the key, for crisis
mitigation (whether of rural peasantry or migrants following Partition) as well
as of status and status quo. Since Independence was as much a spatial
demarcation as political severance, land took on more than physical attributes
and became a metaphor for citizenship and belonging, sustenance, nationalism,
ethnicity, identity, religion and spiritualism. Land became an allegory for
For the landowning class,
independence also promised them freedom from the Hindu moneylender, from the
colonial administrator, from allegiance and land revenue pledged to rulers. For
the rural landless, it also meant social justice (or its religicized
equivalent), which included ownership of land.
Structural adjustments from the
development state to a neo-liberal one has in practice provided policy
mechanisms – privatization, financialization, state withdrawal, liberalized trade
– that have allowed the private sector to engage in predatory forms of
accumulation, whereas the ‘adjustment’ formula has allowed traditional power
structures such as zamindari to
remain intact till more effective mediators of capital are institutionalized.
Current wisdom [WA1]seems
to indicate that for landless people to do well, they should be educated,
trained, capacitated and enabled to move out of agriculture. The possibility of
bettering their situation from ‘within’ is generally not perceived as a viable
option and hence, almost no attention is paid to changing tenancy arrangements.
This perception is reflected not just in official policy, academic
publications, donor approaches and discourse of intelligentsia, but seems to
also have trickled into the consciousness of landless workers themselves.
Legislative imposition of land
reforms by the state has met with institutional inertia and significant
political opposition. With accelerating globalization and sweep of capitalism,
multiple loci of influence, power and money and extreme, systemic inequalities,
the return to state mandated redistribution seems increasingly unimaginable.
The general failures of 20th century state-led reforms to change the
balance of social power, which enables dominant groups to monopolize land
holdings as a source of accumulation and key indicator of status and political
power, and in particular, to make a significant change in the conditions of the
landless has led to discounting the possibility of significant pro-poor change
in agrarian relations.