Was the internal weakening of the Mughal empire and its gradual dissolution a prelude to colonial rule and therefore a determinant of the nature and extent of its impact in India? Or was India's 18th century experience a mere continuation of a process of commercialisation resulting from international integration that had begun during the 17th century, reflected in a process of decline in certain regions and dynamism in others? This issue of Social Scientist leads with Z.U. Malik's Presidential Address to the Medieval Section of the Indian History Congress, which examines the evidence relating to this debate. His conclusion is that the process of disintegration was not merely real but also largely internally generated, rendering arguments about continuity in development over the 18th and 19th centuries suspect.
The organisational basis of agriculture, the occupational structure of the rural workforce and their interrelation are issues central to all discussions on the nature of economic transformation in less developed economies. Here, we put together three case studies, contemporary and historical, analysing these questions in diverse regions of the country.
K.K. Eswaran examines the interesting instance of 'retrogression' to informal land leasing, in the wake of successful land reforms, in the predominantly paddy-cultivating Kuttanad region of Kera'la. This was an area where the Kerala Land Reforms (Amendment) Act of 1969 was successfully implemented, ceilings prescribed, tenancy abolished and ownership rights on leased-in land and land held by landless hutment dwellers conferred on tenants and landholders. However, given the amount of surplus land transferred and the fact that the erstwhile tenants were mostly upper-caste Hindus and Syrian Christians, a lar^e portion of agricultural labourers belonging to the Pulaya and other depressed communities remained landless in the post-Reform period as well. This factor assumed significance when the economics of paddy cultivation worsened in the post-Reform period, with input prices and wage rates rising much faster than final product prices. The erstwhile tenants-turned-land owners faced up to the situation by diversifying their income sources, so that the dominant share of family income came from non-agricultural sources, particularly salaried employment. The consequent decline in cropping and labour use intensity (while population increased) in agriculture affected adversely the number of days of employment per head available to agricultural labourers from the socially depressed communities, especially since not many avenues for sustainable non-agricultural employment were open to them. The combination of inadequate returns to investment in cultivation and severe underemployment has resulted in a retrogression to informal land
Social Scientist, Vol. 18, Nos. 11-12, November-December 1990