The Changing Village in India--Insights from Longitudinal Research.

AuthorAcharya, Sarthi
PositionBook review

The Changing Village in India--Insights from Longitudinal Research

Himanshu, Praveen Jha and Gerry Rodgers (Eds.)

New Delhi: Oxford University Press 2016

This book is a collection of 17 essays, including an Introduction that highlights upon the methodological issues and shortcomings in drawing inferences from village studies. The essays present insights and draw inferences on 'change' over the last 30-40 years. Most of the essays as such do not present fresh findings from field visits; instead, they draw upon studies conducted by the authors themselves and/or by others in the past. The studies pertain mainly to: Tamil Nadu (the Slater studies and others-four papers), Uttar Pradesh-five papers, three on Palanpur village), and Bihar (four papers). There are other studies as well, one from Haryana, one from Maharashtra, and one from Bangladesh-the only study from outside India. Interestingly, none of the studies touches upon the village studies conducted by ICRISAT through the 1970s until into the new millennium, despite that these are comprehensive and spread across more than one state, though the Introduction and one chapter make a passing reference to these. Next, completely untouched and un-referred to are some 500 village studies conducted under the aegis of the Registrar General, Government of India (during 1961-1968).

The strength of village studies in South Asia lies in capturing inter-group/class/caste interactions and changes in the same, which in a way define the society, economy, people's livelihoods, inequality and its perpetuation, and the like in this part of the world. Almost all the studies have addressed these aspects in one or another manner. The key message that the book brings out is that rural India has changed and economically progressed and that the (pre-industrial) caste relations intertwined with the economic processes (and people's livelihoods) too have altered for the better. However, the segmentation of the village society based on caste continues to persist to the extent that it still forms the basis of distribution of gains, and political and economic power. Thus while all communities in the villages studied have gained from external economic forces (e.g. agricultural technologies, NERAGA, migration), the gains have been differential to the extent that some studies show increase in inequality; also the caste-based differentiation has not blurred.

Chapter 2 on Slater studies in Tamil Nadu (TN), written by John...

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