Social Scientist. v 21, no. 244-46 (Sept-Nov 1993) p. 74.

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Land, Dowry, Labour: Women in the Changing Economy of Midnapur

In 1987 I set out to study the changing land relations in Midnapur, a district of the State of West Bengal. My attempt was to study the diverse forms of change that I could observe at the village level. The study focussed on the changes following the land reform measures amended and enforced by the Left Front Government of West Bengal which came to power with a clear majority in 1977. My interest in this state was determined by the renewed emphasis that was given to the issue of land as part of the agrarian question. This strategy was a shift from national level policy. At the national level emphasis by then was on a technology oriented strategy like the Green Revolution as opposed to the emphasis in West Bengal on institution oriented strategies like Operation Barga and land distribution.

Whatever be the system, it has been seen that the solving of the agrarian question has been a central episode in the history of the development of any society. Several experiments have been made. Two aspects have repeatedly made their presence felt, i.e. land and labour. They are the two most essential resources of production in agriculture and crucial to these two elements are issues such as ownership, tenure, rights and obligations, size of holding, fragmentation, consolidation, rent structure, nature and form of labour, productivity of labour, and the land-man ratio which in turn raise questions regarding the percentage of people dependent on land. Since land as a resource has a natural limit, the question of land that produces food becomes important.

The nature of the combination of these two elementsóland and labouróis an important area of study for the three major economic spheres: production, distribution and consumption. Apart from this they play an important role in carrying with them existing social customs and also hinge on the issue of political control. Both these reveal themselves in areas such as the rights and obligations associated with the land system, the nature of organisation of production that gives rise to different social groups and categories, and, the nature

Indira Gandhi National .Open University, New Delhi.

Social Scientist, Vol. 21, Nos. 9-11, September-November 1993

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