agrarian class structure in india

Post- Independence, we can say that rural India has structured itself into four classes and that is what becomes a part of the system. If we look at the agricultural field then it has three classes within itself- landowners, tenants and the laborers; while the fourth class being of the non- agriculturalists. The data of the distribution of these classes is as follows: landowners- 22%, tenants- 27%, agricultural laborers- 31% and non-agriculturalists only 20%. Because of the most population depending and sustaining their lives on agriculture, India is known as an agrarian country.

agrarian class structure

60% people here are marginal cultivators and own less than 2% hectares land, small cultivators- 16% with 2 to 5 hectares land, medium cultivators- 6% with 5 to 10 hectares land and big cultivators who comprise 18% of the population but own more than 10 hectares of land. In villages, every family gets land which is less than one-acre I.e, 0.4 hectares. 75% land area is occupied by food crops. About 35% of total production is sold by cultivators.

The marketing process is all in the hands of the intermediaries who are a  link between the producers, cultivators, and sellers and regulate the trade. The village people live a miserable economic life which includes the agrarian proletarians, uneconomic holders of land in large numbers, few artisans and self- employed people. The agrarian structure establishes certain relations which can be classified as:

  1. Defined and enforced by law
  2. Which are customary
  3. Which can fluctuate

Daniel rejects the rural classification into three in agriculture. (Landlords, tenants, laborers)

The reason for his rejection was that one same man could belong to all the classes simultaneously or could even change his position which is why it has a fluctuating relationship. The landlord or Malik will own his land and obtain his income through property rights in the soil (not necessarily), and then he could either give his land to any tenant or get it cultivated by the laborers himself or get them managed by someone else.

The Malik could have subsidiary incomes too either through other business or profession. The Malik’s are two types- the ones who stay away from their land where agriculture takes place and those who stay in the village itself where the peasants are working. Maliks own more land as compared to the Kisan. The family income of kisans are low which is why the members end up working as labourers to earn the additional livelihood. They receive small wages in cash. On being unable to find work in their village itself, they migrate to other places or states to work as labourers in agriculture, industries or construction. Like mostly the Bihar people migrate to Punjab and Uttar Pradesh people to Maharashtra.

Daniel Thorner classified the classes on the basis of these classes:

  1. Income obtained from rents, cultivation, wages in relation to the soil.
  2. The nature of rights through ownership or tenancy.
  3. Actual performance of fieldwork.

N. Dhanagre (in Desai, 1983) proposed a different model of the agrarian classes. He says there are five classes: landlords, tenants, subtenants, sharecroppers; rich peasants or small landowners who have sufficient land to support their family, rich tenants have substantial holdings and give rent to landlords; middle peasants with medium size holdings; and poor peasants which include

  1. landowners whose holdings are insufficient to support their family and are thus forced to rent someone else’s land
  2. Tenants with small property
  3. Sharecroppers
  4. Landless labourers

The poor peasants and labourers are always exploited by rich landowners which makes their relation unhealthy. The rich are the ones who have all social, economic and political power which keeps them in safe zone even if someone speaks to them.

However certain societies set up in villages for public welfare try to curb the situation yet the Maliks emerge strong. These cooperative public societies have been unsuccessful whereas the private traders are benefitting. It is important to somehow control the power of the landowners to reduce exploitation else they won’t be a collective progress amongst the classes in our country and class relations will continue to get disintegrated.

More than social problems, the labourers face economic financial problems. We can also not ignore their position in the hierarchical society, but the fewer employment opportunities and meager wages are a greater concern related to them. The more the employment opportunities the more will be the growth of agricultural economy and incentives to artisans in villages.

According to stats and survey, the work opportunities available to the village people are only for six months (agriculture periods) within which they have to earn as much as they can not forgetting its always insufficient. Thus any agricultural labour’s average income is around Rs. 10,000 a year. This is why they always remain below the poverty line.

The vast majority suffering as labourers are SCs, STs, and OBCs. They are in so bulk with all their social disabilities and low position that its difficult to completely eradicate all problems. The Agricultural Labour Enquiry had expressed its concern too. With some government policies for the farmers, labourers etc some of their social handicaps have diminished but still, their condition is not good and they are not considered a part of the village life and are regarded with disrespect if they are considered.

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