Skip to main content

Rural proletarianization: Sharp rise in agricultural workforce in Gujarat

By Rajiv Shah 
The last one decade appears to have witnessed a major change in Gujarat’s rural scenario. While there has been a sharp rise in the number of agricultural workers, perhaps one of the highest in India, there has been a simultaneous near-stagnation in the number of cultivators in the state. While it would be for economists and other experts to conclude what exactly this trend suggests, clearly, the latest Census of India data for 2011, released in early May 2013, go to suggest that there has been a sharp proletarianization of Gujarat’s rural areas, unprecedented in recent decades.
The Census of India data show that in 2011 there were 45 lakh able-bodied population of Gujarat who had agricultural labour as their “main” activity. While this forms approximately 22 per cent of those who qualify themselves in the definition of “main workers” of Gujarat, what is significant is that the rise of agricultural “main workers” was to the tune of 50 per cent between the two censuses – of 2001 and 2011. There were 30 lakh agricultural “main workers” in Gujarat in 2001.
By “main workers” is meant “those who had worked for the major part of the year preceding the date of enumeration i.e., those who were engaged in any economically productive activity for 183 days (or six months) or more during the year”, to quote from an expert source. As against this, “marginal workers were those who worked any time at all in the year preceding the enumeration but did not work for a major part of the year, i.e., those who worked for less than 183 days (or six months)”, adds the source (Indian District Database, University of Maryland).
All-India comparisons suggest that the total number of agricultural workers under this category also rose pretty sharp, but the rise was not as sharp as the one seen in Gujarat. In India, there were 6.35 crore agricultural workers in 2001, which rose to 8.62 per cent in 2011, which was a rise of 35 per cent. Comparative figures suggest that in Maharashtra, the “main” agricultural workers rose from 76 lakh to 1.11 crore, a rise of 46 per cent. In Andhra Pradesh these rose from 98 lakh to 1.32 crore, or by 48 per cent. In Tamil Nadu these rose from 61 lakh to 72 lakh, or by 18 per cent.
Further on, in Punjab, an agrarian state, these rose from 11 lakh to 12 lakh, a rise of just nine per cent. In Haryana, these rose equal to Gujarat – 50 per cent, from six lakh to nine lakh. In West Bengal, these rose from 45 lakh to 59 lakh, or by 31 per cent. Only Karnataka experienced a higher rise in agricultural labour than Gujarat, from 38 lakh to 51 lakh, or by 53 per cent.
What is particularly significant is that, during the decade in question (2001-11), the total number of those who had farming as their main activity – “cultivators” in the Census of India terminology – rose from from 47 lakh to 48 lakh, a rise of just about 2.13 per cent. This suggests that the number of those who depend on farming as their activity has stagnated – rise of was of just about 0.21 per cent per year. This is against the rise in population of Gujarat by 19 per cent in the decade, from 5.07 crore to 6.04 crore – which shows an annual rise of less than two per cent. Significantly, the total number of “main workers” in Gujarat also rose by about the same proportion as the state population, 19 per cent, from 1.70 crore in 2001 to 2.03 crore in 2011.
Equally important is the fact that the number “marginal cultivators”, whose activity is farming for less than six months a year, rose very sharply, from seven lakh to 11 lakh, a rise of a whopping 57 per cent, suggesting a sharp marginalization of the workforce in Gujarat’s farm sector, which is increasingly moving towards a capitalist form of agriculture. Studies have suggested that as and when capitalism takes its hold in agriculture, the cultivators either stagnate, or get marginalized. There is reason to believe that a huge labour supply in the state’s rural areas is a major reason why agricultural wages in Gujarat are low.
A Cambridge University Press publication on agrarian capitalism and rural labour in the context of Chile, by Claudio Robles-Ortiz, argues how this happened in the South American continent. He says, it resulted in the marginalization of the peasant enterprises operated by tenants and the gradual proletarianization of the agricultural workforce.
Of course, in Gujarat and in India, things may have not taken the way these had in Chile, starting with the early 20th century, when the development of agrarian capitalism transformed the collective action of rural workers, which assumed modern forms such as strikes and unionization, and thus became significant in national politics. However, there is reason to believe that as time passes, there may be a rise of wave in rural conflicts. This should be understood the context of emerging rural working class in the agrarian expansion of capitalist modernization.
Meanwhile, economists have noted the inability of the industry to “absorb” the workforce released in the agrarian sector as a result of proletarianisation process, especially in Gujarat. Prof Indira Hirway says, for instance, that “The rising capital intensity of the industrial sector is a striking feature in the state. In the year 2007-08 Gujarat ranked first among the 20 major states in terms of fixed capital investment, second in terms of total invested capital and fourth in terms of total number of factories, but the rank dropped to 18th in labour-capital ratio”.
She further says, “The employment generated per crore of capital investment as well as employment generated per crore of output in the industrial sector (ASI) has consistently fallen in the state. In the factory sector, where fixed capital investment has grown by 7.7 percent per year during 1998-2008 and when the total invested capital has grown by 9.1 percent, the number of workers has increased only by 2.8 per cent. “
In fact, she notes, “Between 2004-05 and 2007-08, one finds broadly similar trends in employment status in Gujarat and India: In rural areas marginal decline in regular workers, increase in casual workers and (3) decline in self employment – all indicating an increase in the share of wage earners in rural areas. The super high rate of growth of agriculture is not much reflected in the employment status in Gujarat. In the case of urban areas one observes almost stagnant situation in India, while decline self employment and increase in wage labour in Gujarat. Both regular as well as casual wage labour has increased in urban Gujarat.”

Comments

TRENDING

Towards 2024: Time for ‘We the People of India’ to wake up before it is too late

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  It is Constitution Day once again! We, the people of India, gratefully remember 26 November 1949 when the Constitution of India was passed and adopted by the Constituent Assembly. The Constituent Assembly comprised women and men of distinction, who were able to represent the heart and soul of the people of India without fear or favour. They gave of their best, so that we may a visionary Constitution, which would be the mainstay for and of democracy in India!

Regretful: Kapil Dev retired not leaving Indian cricket with integrity he upheld

By Harsh Thakor  Kapil Dev scaled heights as an entertainer and a player upholding the spirit of the game almost unparalleled in his era. In his time he was cricket’s ultimate mascot of sportsmanship On his day Kapil could dazzle in all departments to turn the tempo of game in the manner of a Tsunami breaking in. He radiated r energy, at a level rarely scaled in his era on a cricket field. Few ever blended aggression with artistry so comprehenisively. Although fast medium, he could be as daunting with the ball as the very best, with his crafty outswinger, offcutter, slower ball and ball that kicked from a good length. Inspite of bowling on docile tracks on the subcontinent, Kapil had 434 scalps, with virtually no assistance. I can never forget how he obtained pace and movement on flat pancakes, trapping the great Vivian Richards in Front or getting Geoff Boycott or Zaheer Abbas caught behind. No paceman carried the workload of his team’s bowling attack on his shoulders in his eras muc

How the slogan Jai Bhim gained momentum as movement of popularity and revolution

By Dr Kapilendra Das*  India is an incomprehensible plural country loaded with diversities of religions, castes, cultures, languages, dialects, tribes, societies, costumes, etc. The Indians have good manners/etiquette (decent social conduct, gesture, courtesy, politeness) that build healthy relationships and take them ahead to life. In many parts of India, in many situations, and on formal occasions, it is common for people of India to express and exchange respect, greetings, and salutation for which we people usually use words and phrases like- Namaskar, Namaste, Pranam, Ram Ram, Jai Ram ji, Jai Sriram, Good morning, shubha sakal, Radhe Radhe, Jai Bajarangabali, Jai Gopal, Jai Jai, Supravat, Good night, Shuvaratri, Jai Bhole, Salaam walekam, Walekam salaam, Radhaswami, Namo Buddhaya, Jai Bhim, Hello, and so on.

Critical factors that determine, contribute to the success and effectiveness of NGOs

By Rohit Rakshit  Over the last few years, I have been fortunate to work with numerous non-governmental organizations (NGOs) across various states in the country. This experience has allowed me to gain insights into their diverse areas of work while also enabling me to analyze the key attributes that contribute to the success of a good NGO. According to my observations, the following are the critical factors that determine the effectiveness of an NGO.

Polytechnic Uprising 50 years ago even today inspires radical Greek youth movement

By Harsh Thakor*  On November 17, progressive sections in Greece marked the 50th anniversary of the Athens Polytechnic Uprising of 1973. A massive rally from the Athens Polytechnic passed through various parts of the city, including the US Embassy. Thousands of activists from the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), Communist Youth of Greece (KNE), Students Struggle Front (MAS), Federation of Greek Women (OGE), Hellenic Committee for International Detente and Peace (EEDYE), and All Workers Militant Front (PAME), among other groups, participated in the march denouncing imperialism, fascism and military dictatorship.

Delhi labour chowk workers get work for 15 days a month, 10% get grain on ration cards

By Bharat Dogra*  It is around 10 in the morning and the number of workers at the Sigalpur labor chowk in Shalimar Bagh area of Delhi is increasing. As a worker Munna says: “The hope of getting any work is much lesser now due to pollution related ban on construction but still workers assemble here in the hope of getting at least some minor repair or other work.”

How adamant Bellsonika management is continuously robbing workers' livelihood

By Harsh Thakor*  On September 27th, earlier this year, the Bellsonika Workers’ Union was stripped of legal status or registration. The Haryana government's labour department cancelled the registration of the Bellsonica workers' union over granting the membership to one of the 'contractual workers'. It was major breach on Constitutional Rights of workers, to enable the contract labour system to flourish, and tighten the noose on any form of workers resistance.

Day to remember hardship, sincere efforts of Dr Ambedkar for framing Constitution

By Dr Kapilendra Das  The 26th of November, the day of an important landmark in India's journey as an Independent, Sovereign, socialist, secular, and Democratic, Republic is celebrated as National Constitution Day in India, also known as Samvidhan Divas. On this day the constituent Assembly adopted the constitution of India in 1949 to secure the Indian Citizen's justice, liberty, equality, and union which came into effect two months later, on January 26, 1950, and India became a Republic.

TERI researchers outline ways for robust, equitable and flexible outcome at COP28

By Sanya Hans  Researchers at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) launched two crucial policy briefs ahead of the much anticipated 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) scheduled from November 30 to December 12, 2023 at Dubai, UAE.  Former climate negotiator, Ambassador Manjeev Singh Puri, a Distinguished Fellow at TERI emphasized, “Adaptation is an imperative and absolute must in present times for the Global South. COP28 needs to make the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) integral to climate commitments and action”.  “Climate change demands that energy use must be sustainable; the development imperative of the Global South demands it to be inclusive, just and fair," Mr Puri added.   Outcome on GGA will be a key determinant for the success of COP28   The policy brief titled ‘Road to Dubai and The Global Goal on Adaption’ reviewed the discussions around the GGA framework to provide perspectives on what could be a robust, equitable, and flexible outcome of the GGA process at CO

Raising temperature of frozen foods by 3 degrees from -18°C to -15°C can slash carbon emissions: Study

By Payel Sannigrahi  Frozen food temperatures could be changed by just three degrees to save the carbon dioxide emissions of 3.8 million cars per year, research suggests.