On Studying Rural Inequality
GORAN DJURFELDT AND STAFFAN LINDBERG, BEHIND POVERTY; THE
SOCIAL FORMATION IN A TAMIL VILLAGE. Curson Press, Lund, Sweden, 1975, pp 340.
This book is a useful contribution to the literature on Tamil Nadu villages and more generally to the study of the forces underlying socio-economic inequality in India today. Though based on a detailed study of one village, the data are used to present a comprehensive empirical and theoretical analysis of productive relations.
On the fringes of the sprawling city of Madras and close to the Kovalam salt factory (which provides employment to many of its inhabitants for at least a part of the year), the village is unusual in that 898 (close to 90 percent) of its inhabitants are Harijans, and about 4 percent high castes like Vellala or Brahmin. It differs from many other villages of the district in that many of the Harijans own their land. It is interesting to note that most of the land lost by the Vellalas went to other high caste groups including migrant Reddiars from the adjacent state ofAndhra Pradesh.
The authors present extremely useful information on income, living standards, and so on, for the village as a whole and for various sub-groups before going into their analysis of agriculture. They point quite correctly to the tremendous potential productive forces that can be harnessed, if there was some sort of a change in productive relations;
specifically to the improvement of irrigation facilities and pasturage or breeding of animals. Few farmers harvested more than 20 bags of rice per acre. This figure is surprisingly low in view of the sizable increase in output since the fifties. This could possibly be due to the under-reporting of yields which ensured that less rice was available for procurement, and would justify farmers' complaints regarding government policy. If more can be hidden for the black market so much the better. And 1969-70 was a good year for the blackmarketeer. While it is true that the