Some Aspects of Agricultural Investment in India II

December 22, 2010

By Debarshi Das, Sanhati

This is the second and concluding part of the article examining development of agrarian capitalism through the lens of capital accumulation. First part discussed changing pattern of agrarian investment in India from a macroeconomic viewpoint (http://sanhati.com/excerpted/2905/). We found that investment in agriculture has not been significant. This probably has its roots in the plummeting levels of public investment. The effect has been the preponderance of small and marginal plots which can seldom be called capitalist farm. In this second part of the article, survey of some villages in Bihar has been discussed.

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Excerpted conclusions of the article:

Combining observations of last two sections with stylised facts of macroeconomy following comments seem tenable. The petty peasant-dominated agrarian economy is reproduced with support of State policies. Through a repressive indirect tax regime, by definition regressive, peasant accumulation is thwarted. Outside agriculture, industries and services run on capital intensive techniques and high skilled labour, incapable of absorbing rural surplus labour. Lack of seriousness in grain procurement or PDS, closure of rural banks are informed by fiscal fundamentalism. Oil prices are deregulated by dictates of big capital – rising irrigation bill hits farmers hard. In brief, land fragmentation and lack of momentum of agrarian economy are generated by policies of a neoliberal State on which the hold of the landlords is slipping, for as land has subdivided to such a high degree, economic foundation of feudal power has not stayed untouched. Rising tide of peasant movements under various communist parties have contributed to the erosion. This is not to say that landlords or their progenies have been emasculated. Many have diversified into trade, commerce, transport and government services , thereby economic hold on rural economy has been rescued to an extent. But this just underscores relative powerlessness of landlords as a class vis-a-vis the big bourgeoisie, for the latter run industries and services. Not unrelatedly perhaps, social domination of landlords has been constantly eroded by caste movements.

Rising prowess of monopoly capital has its own contradictions however. Capital, however moribund, must yield returns to the capitalist. Surplus can not sit idle. It must flow like blood does. Having established a firm grip on the State, capital seeks to encroach upon resources outside its traditional domain to reproduce itself. Therein lies the rub. State-assisted land acquisitions are being fiercely resisted by peasants. This is understandable. The neoliberal economy does not have development narratives for the uprooted and unskilled – except trickle down homilies.

While eruption of mass revolts against resource grab is encouraging, from communist movement’s point of view fragmentation of land poses a dilemma. With fragmentation demand for land redistribution loses its edge. Furthermore, as the rural economy is not producing many jobs – family farms supply their own labour mostly – demand for minimum wage may fail to materialise as a major rallying point. This is not to claim that traditional slogans have already lost their appeal because wages are being paid as per law and there is no ceiling surplus land left to be redistributed. There is bound to be high degree of under-reporting of large farms in official statistics . Our survey might be giving only a partial view of the complex dynamics underway nationwide. Nevertheless, when the NSSO reports that large farms (10 hectare+) occupy zero or negligible percentage of land in many states (West Bengal, Kerala, Assam, UP, Orissa, Tamil Nadu etc) it might be pointing an urgent evolving development .

Rising importance of State policies in determining peasant conditions may have led some to reformulate the immediate course of struggle. CPI (ML)-Party Unity and Maoist Communist Centre – both merged into CPI (Maoist) later – had identified ‘bureaucratic feudalism’ as a major obstacle to be confronted . It would be useful to appreciate the tight stranglehold of officialdom from this episode, without going into the merits of such formulation.

When capital is touching all corners of agrarian life it would be futile to direct energies against crumbling feudalism. The age of finance capital can not be hoped to revolutionise agrarian economy either. Finding right people to man bureaucracy misses the whole point of nature of State . This is a political economic space crowded with innumerable links with capital and instruments of a repressive State. Only by blocking the very arteries of capital perhaps explorations for alternative models of development could begin . Severing links with capital should not however mean isolating the movement. On the contrary, there is an urgent need to coordinate and consolidate the numerous mutinies. For, variables which are shaping the seemingly disparate local depredations are similar; they are pan-economic and – looking from a higher vantage point – global in character. It is a common adversary, deserving a united resistance.

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