Backwardness and Bondage
SUDIPTA MUNDLE, AGRARIAN RELATIONS IN A SOUTH BIHAR DISTRICT, Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi, 1979, Rs 60.
ANY study of bonded labour that sees the phenomenon not in isolation but as part of the agrarian structure as a whole must be welcomed. Sudipta Mundle's study has the added advantage of giving us some insight also into the working of the administrative mind and the efficacy of administrative measures, for "Palamau is generally recognised as one of the most successful districts in the drive against bonded labour" (p 125).
Quite correctly, the author notes that "what is required is obviously a preemptive policy covering a target-group of the entire class of ma^doors in Palamau-type areas, and directed at preventing them from getting caught in a debt-bondage trap in the first place" (p 137). In fact he shows conclusively in a detailed study how "at 1977 prices the annual cash deficit per capita varied from about Rs 65.00 to as much as Rs 152.06" and that "deficits of this order arc by no means marginal or easily removable for households which are already at the subsistence level of consumption" (p 99). Also, "given this chronic deficit of the average majdoor household it is evident that he is hopelessly dependent on debt which provides the malikwith the necessary control he requires to impose on the majdoor his contract of bondage" (ibid).
Moreover, who is best fitted to provide this loan? "The largest proportion of maliks holding bonded labour (32.56 percent) belong to the 20-50 acres holding size group .... The second largest (23.36 percent) belong to the 50-100 acres holding size group. . . and finally another 11.63 percent of the maliks are the really large landlords, rare in Palamau, who own over 100 acres