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

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Of Half-moon Nights and Peasant Tragedy

Reading Rural Distress and the Green Revolution in Gurdial Singh’s Adh Chanani Raat

By reading rural distress and peasant suicide in Punjabi literature produced in the realist mode, this paper conducts the economic analysis of the fictional small peasant—an atomised entity divorced from his land, which is now simply a means of production in a capitalist agrarian market. It reads the production of Gurdial Singh’s award-winning novel Adh Chanani Raat (1972) as prophesising the long-term adversities concomitant with the productive excesses of the green revolution in Punjab. The novel argues for a model of heroism rooted in Punjabi social tradition and collective history, which struggles against this alienating influence of capitalist economic forces to find succour in an older way of life. Therefore, this paper attempts to study Gurdial Singh’s reworking of peasant consciousness as a “narrative of oppression” where the small farmer is a heroic figure because of his resilience in the face of inevitable tragedy.

This paper greatly relied on translating and interpreting academic and critical material in the Punjabi language (Gurmukhi script) composed by a vibrant Punjabi literary academic community. The translations attempt to express the nuances of colloquial words through the nearest English equivalents (greatly assisted by my positionality as a person of Punjabi descent, and student of Punjabi and English literature), by studying both the Punjabi original and the English translation of the novel. Thus, the responsibility for any faults of translation and interpretation solely rests with me, and I apologise for the same.

Achieving food security for India’s vast populace was a necessity for a welfare-oriented postcolonial nation state in the years following independence. However, famine and droughts in 1964–65 and 1965–66, military conflicts in 1947, 1962 and 1965,1 and increasing population resul­ted in the country’s dependence on food aid from the United States (US) under Public Law (PL)-480 (Sidhu 2002). Despite receiving food aid under the US’s Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act (1954), India fell short of the target requirement of 90 million tonnes of foodgrains by 20% (Sidhu 2002). To combat this food scarcity, the Government of India implemented a novel policy of agricultural development based on a “technological solution to the country’s chronic food shortages,” also known as the green revolution (Sidhu 2002: 3132) that introduced programmes

within the existing institutional framework through adoption of high-yielding varieties of seeds and a package of cheap subsidised inputs along with provision of credit, assured remunerative prices to farmers and a centralised state sponsored mechanism to mop up food surpluses. (Sidhu 2002: 3132)

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Updated On : 5th Jul, 2021
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