Social Scientist. v 17, no. 192-93 (May-June 1989) p. 3.


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SHEILA BHALLA*

Employment in Indian Agriculture:

Retrospect and Prospect^

INTRODUCTION

This paper starts from the premise that any Renaissance (Indian or otherwise) must be firmly grounded in objective realities, although it may take on the characteristics also of a revival of optimism among the mass of the people, and of renewed creativity in the realms of art and ideas. It needs to be remembered also that historically Renaissances have been based on the release of the constructive energies of hitherto subordinate classes. It is their ideas about the organisation or reorganisation of social and economic life and their leadership of and participation in the realisation of these ideas, which impart the quality of buoyancy to both intellectual and practical activity, which is the hallmark of the Renaissance of the past.

Consequently, I am going to address myself in this paper, to a very mundane problem, whose solution, or substantial amelioration, would provide the objective basis for greater participation in the economic and social life of the people of India, of the many who are now left behind. This is the problem of providing productive employment for all who seek it. I do not think that, in India, there is any possibility of a Renaissance, unless the 'bottom 40 per cent* are participants in it.

For the labour owning classes whose productive asset base is too small to support themselves in decency, and for those who have no productive assets at all except the capacity and will to work, participation for all practical purposes means employment. Moreover, for most people with an inadequate asset base or none at all in today's Indian context, work participation means not self employment, but paid employment as respectable hired workers in productive jobs. In this I do not include short term work on 'special employment programmes', or involvement in schemes peripheral to the production process such as

* Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

** Paper submitted to the seminar on 'Nation Building, Development Process and Communications: A Search for India's Renaissance', New Delhi, December 3-7,1988.



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