Social Scientist. v 7, no. 75 (Oct 1978) p. 76.


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BO OK RE VIEWS

Review Article

Agrarian Unrest in West Bengal

SWASTI MITTER, PEASANT MOVEMENTS IN WES^T BENGAL;

THEIR IMPACT ON AGRARIAN GLASS RELATIONS SINGE 1967, University of Cambridge, Department of Land Economy, Occasional Paper No 8, 1977, pp 85, price £ 1.80.

IN THIS readable little book, Swasti Mitter presents a bird's eye view of the agrarian unrest that was triggered in West Bengal by the formation of its first non-Congress Government in 1967 and that persisted through the pre-Emergency period. She has been able to bring out, with condensation and clarity, the crux of the whole matter as well as the relevance and rationale of the unrest—all this within the space of only some 50 pages. The remaining pages arc devoted to its specifics as were experienced in a selected area, Sonarpur. Incidentally, Sonarpur is a small rural area in the vicinity of Calcutta. It was once a storm-centre of share-croppers' struggles during 1946-50 and has again been activated in recent months.1

The central thesis of the study is that West Bengal's peasant movements of the period 1967-74 were not only ^a militant protest against the non-implementation of liberal land reform legislation^' of the Congress regime, but they also ^shook the political power structure based upon the concentration of landholding in West Bengal and left its mark on class relations in rural areas/' That a broad-based middle peasant economy was coming up, says the author, was a clearly visible trend. How this happened has been briefly discussed in the book.

Land Reforms in the Post-Independence Period

In Congress-dominated semi-feudal West Bengal, post-independence land reform legislation had built-in loopholes. Legal rights and securities offered to the share-croppers, and minimum wages to agricultural workers, therefore, proved to be completely illusory. The resumption and distribution of landlords' surplus lands in excess of



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