Social Scientist. v 8, no. 93 (April 1980) p. 42.


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Role of Caste in Agrarian Relations

THE majority of the Indian population depends on agriculture as the main source of subsistence. Social scientists have been evaluating the existing organization of production in relation to various development programmes in rural areas, but there are conflicting comments about the disparity that exists between aims and achievements in the field of rural production relations. Some have commented that the social factors and traditional value systems operating in this area pose a much more complex problem in the develpmental process than anticipated by most of the modernizers and planners. It has bean realized that the relationship between traditional forces and the process of socio-economic development is much more complex and it requires a systematic analysis in order to quicken the process of development.

One of the dominant features of India's social history has been the caste system. There have been frequent revolts against this age-old system since it is considered a hindrance to socio-economic progress. But "most of these movements have been significantly tragic . . . instead of being able to weaken the roots of the system itself.'51 Anthropologists who attempted to study the caste system overlooked the economic base of the system which gave it its stability. They did not pay adequate attention to the ways in which caste had been used by people to mask class differences.

By and large, their analyses of the socio-economic structure of rural societies do not enable one to draw a clear line of demarcation among various types of production relations. It is however possible to look into the effects of the caste system on the rural economy in order to determine the importance of a particular structure within a given system. The caste system has found new fields of activity in response to various changing conditions of the rural economy. Such a reorientation of the caste system plays an important role in the emerging infrastructure of modern India.



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