ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Preference for Migrant Agricultural Labour in Punjab

In Punjab, during the pre-green revolution period, the relations between landowning Jats and landless dalit agricultural labourers were not as exclusionary as in other parts of north India. The commercialisation of agriculture since the late 1960s has not only squeezed labour demand but has also limited it to peak periods of short duration. With local rural labour mostly employed in the non-agricultural sector, agricultural labour in Punjab will continue to be dependent on migrants, despite all the well-known problems.

Immediately after Independence, the agrarian economy of undivided Punjab was a subsistence economy even though its fertile alluvial soil and abundant water for irrigation had tremendous potential for growth. The peasant movement of the 1950s strengthened individual ownership rights of the peasants that later on provided ground for the ushering in of the green revolution. The unique feature of the political economy of agrarian Punjab of the 1960s was that the Jat landowning peasantry domina­ted rural politics, culture and economy due to their numerical preponderance.

Unlike north India, where land was controlled by a small minority of Hindu elite castes such as the Thakurs, the brahmins, the Rajputs and the Bhumihars, who never soiled their hands, the Jat Sikh peasantry of Punjab, true to its pastoral legacy, took pride in working on the soil and was not a victim of the brahminical ideology of a hatred for manual work. According to brahminical ideology social status is inversely proportionate to involvement with manual labour that was debunked by Sikh tenets. For instance, Guru Nanak devoted his life not only to fight the Hindu and Islamic superstitions of the time, he also worked as an ordinary peasant towards the fag end of his life simply to demonstrate love for manual labour.

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