Agrarian Crisis in India: The Case of Bihar

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Although much has been written on agrarian reforms in India, there are few in-depth studies of specific states and none concerning the relevance of agrarian reforms to the economic development and political stability of Bihar- a state containing one-tenth of the people of India, a population comparable in magnitude to that of the United Kingdom or France. F. Tomasson Jannuzi's field research in Bihar, beginning with village-level surveys and interviews in 1956 and extending through repeated visits through August 1970, has enabled him to provide a unique perspective on events and issues associated with the continuing struggle to transform Bihar's agrarian structure. Agrarian Crisis in India is at once a history of post-independence agrarian reforms in an important state of India, a detailed critique of the statutory loopholes that have frustrated successive land-reform measures, and a penetrating analysis of the economic, political, and social implications of the failure of agrarian reforms to be implemented in twentieth-century Bihar. The author's analysis of the case of Bihar provides insights not only into the agrarian crisis in Bihar but also into other agrarian societies in the midst of social and economic transformation. Experts in the field of economic development traditionally have held that the goals of increased production and distributive justice must be approached in sequence. It has been considered almost axiomatic that economic growth will result initially in growing inequalities among classes within a region and among regions within a country. Professor Jannuzi suggests that in Bihar a compelling alternative to this conventional wisdom is an economic-development strategy based on the recognition that the agricultural-production and distributive-justice goals are inseparable and must be addressed simultaneously. He suggests that economic growth in rural Bihar may become impossible if distributive justice continues to be denied to significant sections of the peasantry and, conversely, that distributive justice will prove an illusory target unless economic growth can be assured. Professor Jannuzi recommends the implementation of specified agrarian reforms in Bihar as the prerequisite for meeting the agricultural-production and distributive-justice goals.