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New Land Relations

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This is in response to “Landlessness and Agrarian Inequality without Landlordism” by Gaurang R Sahay (EPW, 22 August 2020). It made for an interesting read. The work is full of grassroots
insights on agricultural inequality within caste and class. While the author amply delves upon the landlessness, agricultural inequality and vanished landlordism in the studied villages, he misses an important point that is not just true for Bihar but is valid for the entire Indian context—the shrinking agricultural land due to commercialisation and rise of non-agricultural activities like housing, other construction and developmental projects, and railway projects that are fast eating away at agricultural land. Also, the rising rural population and shrinking residential space are further reducing the cultivable land into residential land. Therefore, studies like these cannot ignore the dynamics of land use in rural India in present times.

There has been an increase in landlessness not just among particular castes but at the country level. The fact remains that agricultural land has shrunk drastically due to commercialisation. It is a fact that now, housing and residential crises are not just an urban but a rural issue as well. Further, the unplanned, haphazard, and anti-environmental and anti-agricultural expansion of residential areas in rural belts have created what may conveniently be called a “rural sprawl” that has taken the rich agricultural land and thus made it a pure commercial item in market for sale. Also, due to developmental projects, construction of wide, long roads and railways, land value has increased and compensation amount by governments has been fairly increased that has affected the price and shaped up a new rural agricultural ethos, even in remote rural areas.

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