FOl^R decades nfter Independence, the Indian economy presents a mixed picture in terpis of performance. While the rates of growth of production and income during these years compare favourably with the record tinder colonial rule during the first half of the century, there is evidence to suggest that the nature and direction of the process of growth have been such that not only are there significant constraints facing Indian development but also that the benefits of this growth have been unequally distributed across regions and classes. In the net, an annual 3-3.5 per cent rate of growth of income ov6r four decades notwithstanding, more than two-fiftjbjs of India's population lives below a rather conservatively defined poverty line, providing the most damning indictment of the path of development that has been pursued hitherto,
Yet, till recently, certain macro-economic indicators were being selectively chosen by both official spokesmen and some academic economists to buttress the argument that matters appear to have changed for the better over the last decade. Large foodstocks, that were ostensibly an indicator of "self-sufficiency", a revival in the rate of industrial growth and India's relatively moderate, exposure to international debt were all referred to in the official case for optimism. The evidence, it appeared, offered the basis for divergent assessments.
This issue of Social Scientist includes four of a set of papers presented at a recent ^seminar organised by the journal, that critically assessed different aspects of the path of development over the last four decades, All of them focus on aspects of the region-and class-wise concentration of the benefits of growth, and their implications for the pace of development. In the first of these, Prabhat Patnaik provides an explanation for the observed revival of industrial growth during the recent phase of Indian development, in which the ability of the state to squeeze out a surplus from agriculture without raising its rate of growth relative to population, plays a crucial role. Underlying this ability is the remarkably high regional concentration in agricultural growth that Utsa Patnaik's paper identifies as the fall-out of the strategy of agrarian change pursued since Independence. That strategy, while not attacking land monopoly that could rid the countryside of the basis for pre-capitalist relationship, sought to induce landlords to go in fpr productive investment on land. As a result, the full potential of the available land surface under the prevalent technological conditions could not be exploited (as evident from a comparison with the Chinese experience), resulting in a near stagnation in the per capita availability of food in the country.
This failure of "semifcudal capitalism" did not imply that there were no sections that were taking successfully to the new technology. Rather, increases in agricultural production were concentrated in a few states that