Social Scientist. v 12, no. 136 (Sept 1984) p. 76.


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NARENDAR PANI, REFORMS TO PRE-EMPT CHANGE-LAND LEGISLATION IN KARNATAKA, Concept Publishing Company, New Delhi, 1983, pp 122 + ix.

IN THIS somewhat brief but interesting book, Narendar Pani has highlighted interesting features of the theory and practice of land reforms in Karnataka in the Garibi Hatao era. Pani makes a strong case for distinguishing land ownership from control over the production process and argues that the tendency to see ownership of land as being synony* mous with control has led to an incorrect reading of the forces that underlay agrarian change, at least in rural Karnataka.

As the title itself suggests, the central argument in Pant's book is that the so-called land reform measures were designed to further the interests of the dominant agrarian classes, a fact which in practice was even more aggravated as a result of the measures being implemented through a politico-bureaucratic structure controlled by the ruling elite. The high rate of "implementation" with respect to tenancy legislation, for which the ruling party had taken credit, was reflective of the pro-big farmer bias of the legislation, which not surprisingly facilitated prompt implementation. Pani links the differential success in the "implementation rates" with the regional diversities in landholding patterns and the highly underplayed and poor record in indentification and distribution of 'surplus land' even under the diluted ceiling laws; he argues that the attempts at land reform indulged in by the Karnataka government were more an exercise in effecting a ''transition to capitalism from above" rather than any re-ordering of the agrarian structure in favour of the socially and economically poorer classes.

Drawing upon Census records, Pani argues that there exists considerable regional heterogeneity in the structure of land relations, determined by the specific history of these regions. 'Southern' Karnataka, consisting of districts belonging to the erstwhile Mysore State, is characterized by a very low incidence of tenancy, in sharp contrast to the 'Malnad' region, where the prevalent form of land relation corresponds, in the author's words, more closely to the "classical conception of tenancy". The 'Northern9 region consisting of the districts ofBelgaum and Dharwar and areas belonging to the erstwhile Hyderabad State, falls somewhere in between, with a fairly high level o( tenancy. Pani



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