Social Scientist. v 12, no. 135 (Aug 1984) p. 46.

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^Subsistence Tenancy in a Backward Agrarian Setting:

A Case Study of North Bihar

"BUT THIS deplorable method of cultivation^ the daughter of necessity and mother of misery has nothing in common with the good farming established in certain districts."1 This remark refers to the institution of share-tenancy and truly reflects the conditions of subsistence tenancy in a backward agrarian setting like North Bihar. Though this remark dates back to early tracts in economic writing related to the Metayage system of sharecropping as developed in France, which was considered inimical to the advancement of agriculture and to the interest of the tenants, it is equally applicable to the the sharecropping system prevalent in North Bihar in which the subsistence farmer forms one party and the land owner the other.

The pievalence of this system in North Bihar also raises serious doubts about tlie strength of the capitalist tendency in this region, and, by implication, in other rigions as well where similar conditions have continued to prevail.

Several investigators2 have vehemently opposed the idea of tenancy being necessarily a feudalistic or pre-capitalistic institution; the basis for their argument is the recently observed tendency in some parts of the country of big farmers leasing in land with a view to enlarging their operational holding for large scale capitalistic farming. Indeed, "commercial tenancy" or what Lenin called "entrepreneur renting",3 is an institution encouraging capitalist development in agriculture; but tenancy of this sort arises only in a situation of developed agriculture (as in the case of Punjab4 and Haryana) where big farmers, because of the attraction of better returns in modern cultivation, enter into the lease market as lessees. These big farmers have strong bargaining capacity and sound socio-economic status, so that they can enforce better terms and conditions for themselves. They prefer fixed or cash rent in comparison to crop-sharing. But the situation in a backward agrarian setting is completely different. Here land is predominantly leased in by marginal and small farmers out of necessity. As the very purpose of this class of tenants is subsistence, such tenancy may be called "subsistence tenancy". In the case of subsistence tenancy, the terms and

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