Social Scientist. v 14, no. 156 (May 1986) p. 1.


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Editorial Note

THE CHANGES that have taken place in the agricultural sector in India over the last decade or so cannot but be of profound interest to students of development problems. In the pre-war years over which the shadow of the Great Depression had loomed large, the notion of agrarian crisis was closely bound up with declining terms of trade for the peasantry and all its attendant consequences : pauperisation, growing debt, increasing burden of usury, etc. In the fifties and the early sixties, by contrast, much of the radical academic literature that emerged was marked by a perception of a very different kind : capitalistic industrialisation which was being assiduously promoted through active state intervention was seen as being constrained by fetters upon agricultural output-growth arising from the pervasive existence of pre-capitalist relationships in the coutryside. This, it was argued, would give rise to inflationary tilt to the terms of trade in favour of agriculture^ and lead to an impoverishment not of the peasantry as a whole, but of that section of the peasantry and agricultural labourers, apart from the urban working class, whose incomes do not keep pace with the rise in prices. A very de^ur exposition of this view was provided by Michel Kalecki who remarked : "the problem of mobilising adequate resources for economic development is nothing else but the problem of raising agricultural output".

The nature of agrarian crisis was correspondingly perceived differently :

it was not a crisis affecting pre-capitalist producers as a whole who are tied to a wo rid market that pushes the burden of depression on to their shoulders; it was a crisis faced by large sections of pre-capitalist producers who are impoverished by inflation and evicted from land by a growing capitalist tendency within agriculture itself that seeks to take advantage of the profitable opportunities opened up under the regime of "planed development".

Over the last decade or so, however, an altogether new experience has

been upon us. Starting since 1975, the terms of trade have moved against the agricultural sector; the decline in terms of trade to date has been of the order of 15 per cent according to official data. This has brought, forth widespread peasant actions, led no doubt by the landlords and the rich peasantry, but involving the participation of large sections of the middle and even poor peasantry. Over the last couple of years in particular there have been sharp declines in prices of a number of commercial crops and also a huge accumulation of stocks of foodgrains. Partly no doubt this latest phenomenon reflects cyclical over-production. But its insertion into a broader context of a decade-long decline in the terms of trade for agriculture, and the fact that this longer-term decline is itself not a phenomenon confined only to India but parallelled by the decline in primary commodity prices all



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