Book review: Marginal Farmers of India

Published date01 March 2022
Date01 March 2022
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Marginal Farmers
of India
Feroze Varun Gandhi, A Rural Manifesto: Realizing India’s Future
Through Her Villages. New Delhi: Rupa, 2018, 825 pp., `995.
The title of the book, A Rural Manifesto, is reminiscent of the Communist
Manifesto of Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels of 1848 concerning the ‘industrial
proletariat’. After 170 years, Feroze Varun Gandhi has dealt with ‘agricultural
proletariat’ in his magnum corpus, A Rural Manifesto. He is an ardent scholar and
a vocal party leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Parliament and outside.
His urge for the liberation of marginal farmers of India from their sufferings has
earned for himself the reputation of a left-leaning liberal member of BJP.
To substantiate this point, his own words from the Preface of the book can be
In India, the history of land, especially in rural India, has somehow not gone alongside
the history of capital, subsuming documentation about changes in the rural economy
under the dialectic between capitalist development and proletarian masses. Unlike dur-
ing the Champaran Satyagraha, national attention has been curiously lacking. We must
empathize with India’s marginal farmers and we must make the choice to support them.
(p. xx)
In the ‘Preface’ of the book Varun Gandhi quoted Charles Metcalfe and Karl Marx
to describe the type and nature of Indian villages and used Karl Marx’s vocabu-
lary of ‘proletariat’ and ‘capitalism’ to depict the present trend of capitalist devel-
opment in Indian agriculture.
Marginal farmers in India own less than 1 hectare land (p. xvi). Marginal
farmers are generally supposed to be those who have land holdings less than 2.5
acres, that is, less than 7.5 bighas of land. These marginal farmers individually are
too small and have little access to technology and modern irrigation techniques.
Many marginal farmers rely on traditional agricultural knowledge and lack infor-
mation about contemporary best practices that would increase productivity.
In the context of the recent farmers’ movement in the country, started in the
winter of 2020, this book bears relevance. India has passed the days of ‘bullock
capitalists’ as depicted by Rudolph and Rudolph (1987). The bullock capitalists
have now turned into ‘tractor capitalists’ in Indian agriculture who are spear-
heading the present farmers’ movement against the three Agricultural Acts of the
Book Reviews
Indian Journal of Public
68(1) 130–138, 2022
© 2021 IIPA
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/00195561211052110

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