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

Of Half-moon Nights and Peasant Tragedy

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.

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)

While ostensibly intending to support small and marginal farmers through a redistribution of resources, the green revolution schemes implemented from the mid-1960s bowed down to the statistical exigencies of incre­asing agricultural production. They focused on providing resources like high-yielding varieties (HYV) of seeds, fertili­sers, pesticides, etc, to farmers in regions that economically and geographically complied with the requirements of such crops. States with well-developed irrigation mechanisms, adequate soil fertility, access to rural credit, among other factors—notably Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh— inevitably benefited the most.

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Updated On : 5th Jul, 2021

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