Agricultural labourers’ struggles in the movement against globalisation

Kalpana Wilson

This paper looks at the experiences of agricultural labourers and the struggles they are waging in a period when Indian agriculture is becoming increasingly integrated into global markets. It argues that global capital and the forces of globalisation are currently seeking to appropriate, reshape and redefine the wage labour which is carried out in cultivation. It looks at how, rather than displacing existing feudal and patriarchal relationships in Indian agriculture, globalisation has incorporated and adapted them to its needs in a variety of regionally specific ways. It also discusses the political nature of agricultural labourers’ movements, which are compelled to be progressive rather than defensive, projecting a vision of social and economic transformation, which also leads to a questioning of unequal relationships among those who are struggling for change.


Agricultural wage labourers as a category are strikingly absent from discussions of the implications of globalisation for India’s people. At best, they appear subsumed within the passive category of the ‘rural poor’ -- as a ‘problem’ (a problem which those who have been supporting globalisation in India for the last decade are now eager to demonstrate is being solved, even if it means resorting to statistical manipulation). But it seems that the perception of agricultural labourers as those who directly produce much of India’s food and other crops has been almost lost.

Of course, this idea is in any case anathema to the ideologues of global capital for whom it is capital, not labour which is productive, and markets, not people, which should make the decisions. And in fact, agricultural labourers have always suffered from legal invisibility in the eyes of the Indian government -- there are still no labour laws relating to agricultural labourers, and at best they are recognised as an unorganised sector occupational category for minimum wages, which, in any case, are never enforced.

What is more surprising is that agricultural wage labourers currently rarely find a place even in the discourse of progressive opposition to globalisation. Yet this section has been one of the worst affected by the impact of both structural adjustment and the integration of India’s agricultural sector into the global economy. And equally significantly, struggles waged by agricultural labourers are directly confronting some of the sharpest edges of the onslaught of global capital.

Growing pressure on labourers -- a brief overview

A number of changes which have been escalated and intensified during the last decade have contributed to both a sharp increase in the overall numbers of agricultural labourers as well as a deterioration in the conditions under which they are compelled to work. These include:

Firstly, the collapse of non-farm rural employment (and, after 1991, the decline of non-farm employment as a whole) which has forced the rural poor to fall back on agricultural labour. The experience of the first half of the 1990s shows that ‘rural areas have borne the brunt of the workforce restructuring process, with agriculture in particular reverting to its traditional role as the residual sector for rural born workers who have not been able to find more productive non-farm jobs, either in rural areas, or in the cities’ (Bhalla, 1997:222). As a result, ‘real agricultural value added per agricultural worker dropped significantly, by over 8 per cent, even if comparison is restricted to the years 1989-90 and 1992-93 when monsoon conditions were very similar’ (Sen, 1996:2466).

Secondly, there are factors which have forced more and more small cultivators to sell their labour power in order to survive. These include the decline in viability of cultivation on the ever-growing number of small and marginal holdings as a result of the sharp increase in input prices with the withdrawal of subsidies; direct exposure to the vagaries of the global market; privatisation -- and in many areas collapse -- of the infrastructure; and compulsive involvement in new capital intensive technologies leading to increased indebtedness.

Thirdly, and linked to this there has been a decline in access to land for the rural poor. Apart from the specific factors mentioned above, which have led to small farmers losing their land and joining the ranks of agricultural labourers (or near destitute workers in the cities), some regions continue to witness broader processes of differentiation of the peasantry, while in others the process appears to be one of pauperisation rather than polarisation. An overall decline in tenancy, a shift to short-term and even more insecure forms of tenancy, and the appropriation of common property resources are also significant phenomena in many parts of the country.

Yet despite these objectively unfavourable conditions, agricultural labourers are continuing to engage in a wide variety of organised and sustained struggles for living wages, for land, and for the right to live with dignity, in many parts of the country. Various studies have confirmed what experience on the ground has shown: that in the context of the extremely low wage levels prevailing overall, and considerable variation in wage levels even within regions, the level of organisation and militancy of labourers, and the ability to bring about a shift in the balance of forces in a particular area has been one of the most significant factors affecting both the conditions of employment and wage levels (see for example Jha, 1997; Radhakrishna and Sharma, 1998; Srivastava, 1999; Wilson, 1999).

Agricultural labourers’ movements

In Central Bihar for instance, organising by agricultural labourers in the 1980s and 1990s has been a key factor in bringing about wage increases. The initial spurt of capital accumulation among a section of larger landowners employing wage labour during the late seventies provided the catalyst for the emergence of concerted struggles waged by the rural exploited classes, shaped by the interrelated questions of class, caste and gender. But despite a stalling of the process of capitalist development which reduced the bargaining power of labour in economic terms, this movement continued to achieve wage rises (albeit on the basis of very low existing levels) during the 1980s and 1990s.

In fact, organising and agitations on a mass scale have proved necessary even to achieve the very meagre rights guaranteed to agricultural labourers on paper, and to compel officials complicit with those who control the land to acknowledge the existence of these rights. An account of a recent struggle for equal wages by women labourers in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu (see Liberation, January and February 2001) describes how

“due to our pressure the Tahsildar of Tiruvidaimarudur taluk asked his subordinates, Village Administrative Officers (VAOs) and village workers to announce the Government Order through tom-tom. Even then these staff known for their web of connections with landowners had failed to do so. Infuriated by the dilly-dallying of the wavering staff, the women labourers of Sooriyanarkoil, Thugili and Araloor got hold of their respective VAOs, and charged them with not complying with the order so far. Ultimately, these revenue staff yielded to pressure from the labourers. In some places the Sangham leaders had organised this event. These public announcements stunned the wealthy mirasdars (landowners) who had conducted false propaganda that there was no such order and it was all a creation of the Sangham people.....The situation rapidly changed. From then onwards the focus and theatre of activities shifted to the villages. In every village there were debates, a sharp divide, and hectic activities.”

But wages are only one aspect of these struggles which in many situations are challenging the very basis of agrarian power. Degrading practices which underpin the social and economic authority of the dominant classes (including the sexual harassment and even rape of dalit women labourers by higher caste landowners); the stranglehold of dominant groups over land and other resources, including ceiling surplus land, illegally occupied government land, ponds and rivers, and various forms of common property; the links of dominant landowning groups with the state and political parties; and the effective disenfranchisement of the poor, are all being confronted. At the same time with women labourers at the forefront of many of these movements, power relationships within agricultural labourer communities and households, especially those of gender, are being questioned.

In order to address the question of what should be the approach of a broad movement against globalisation to these struggles, it is useful to look at why have they been marginalised in much of the established discourse of opposition to globalisation.

‘Farmers vs. global capital’: marginalising the direct producers?

As Indian agriculture becomes integrated into a highly discriminatory global market, cultivators are being subjected unprotected to the ravages of repeated crises. To oppose the policies which are responsible for this is clearly a key task for a movement against globalisation. However, the exclusive focus on the contradiction between Indian ‘farmers’ defined as a virtually homogeneous category on the one hand and global capital and the institutions which represent it on the other is problematic. Firstly, of course, much has been said about the use of the term ‘farmers’ which serves to obscure the class contradictions within this category, and about the class nature of many ‘farmers’ movements’ of the 1980s and 1990s which have been dominated by large-scale, surplus producing landowners. The use of this dichotomy thus potentially marginalises the direct producers -- both small cultivators and wage labourers -- from the discourse of opposition to globalisation.

But secondly it has also led to an assumption that the struggles of agricultural labourers must take a back seat in the context of the confrontation between Indian farmers and global capital : that there is no scope for further wage increases, or even that ‘increased labour costs’ have been a key factor affecting the viability of cultivation. Yet, whether we look at conditions on the ground in different regions or at all-India level data, there is no evidence to bear this out. Technological changes and escalating input costs in the era of globalisation have meant that the proportion of wages in total cultivation costs has declined, and wages have in general barely kept pace with the Consumer Price Index for agricultural labourers. According to data published in the Economic Survey, whereas per capita real income increased by about 24 per cent between 1990-91 and 1996-97, the real wages of ‘unskilled’ agricultural labour increased by only about 6 per cent in the same period. Real wages often actually fell in relation to the previous year 1. In fact it is agricultural labourers, the direct producers of surpluses who themselves have little or nothing to fall back on, who have been left most vulnerable to the shocks of the global market.

And not only do crises experienced by the employers reverberate among labourers in a magnified form. The very nature of their labour is being reshaped and redefined by global capital.

Globalisation and the reshaping of agricultural labour

Just as seeds, plants, and agricultural knowledge itself are being appropriated and resold by multinational corporations, the indispensable input of human labour is also being recast as global capitalism directly and indirectly dictates how and in what form labour is to be applied, and this labour is integrated into systems of accumulation by global capital.

New forms of employment and new methods of extracting surpluses from labourers are emerging, including factory type production in a few of the largest units to be found in export oriented sectors such as floriculture, concentrated in a few states. But on an all-India basis, there are three especially significant trends in agricultural labour: feminisation, the growth of contracted labour, and the increase in rural to rural migration. While these trends were all present before the current full-blown globalisation of Indian agriculture, all three have been intensified by globalisation. And all three are linked to the creation of a labour force which is fragmented (and therefore potentially easier to control), and which can deliver highly skilled and specialised labour at the right time and in the right quantities to suit the demands of markets which are being increasingly globalised. They act to increase the surplus which is produced by labourers, appropriated by their employers, and subsequently expropriated by global capital through the functioning of these markets.

Under the contracting system, labourers paid on piecework rates ‘voluntarily’ apply their own labour to the point where marginal returns approach zero in order to maximise output . Although wages are higher, the workers’ productivity increases much more than their wages, and the rate of surplus appropriated by the employer increases.

What is especially significant is that because it is group and often family based, contracting in agriculture uses workers to ‘discipline’ each other -- so that the employer makes use of existing power relations within communities and households to increase his surplus 2.

Whereas direct supervision and explicit coercion in day to day interactions declines, attempts to challenge the employers over wages, hours or conditions are defined as ‘breaking the contract’ and have been met with extreme violence by well-organised groups of large-scale employers in, for example, delta regions of Andhra Pradesh.

Contract work frequently involves migrant labourers -- as globalisation of agriculture reinforces inter- and intra-regional unevenness and inequality, as well as seasonal peaks in labour demand, the incidence of short term labour migration within the agricultural sector is increasing. It has been estimated that ‘there are now over 10 million labourers on the move in rural areas’ (Hanumantha Rao, 1998). As one observer notes, ‘paradoxically the labour which used to be bonded within the getting out of that bondage in search of better employment outside and in the process getting bonded to contractors and other middlemen who extend loans for subsistence in the intervening period’ (Hanumantha Rao, op cit.). The isolation of migrant labourers becomes a further mechanism of control, and poses particular challenges for organising.

Linked to this, the gender composition of agricultural wage labour has changed significantly. ‘Feminisation’ of agricultural wage labour is a result of a combination of regionally diverse processes which in many regions began well before the 1990s. In paddy cultivating regions especially, women’s labour has always been the major basis of production. But the proportion among women counted as ‘main workers’ who are agricultural labourers has increased rapidly in relation to that among men since the early 1960s (da Corta and Venkateshwarlu, 1999). This trend has been further intensified by the New Economic Policies since the early 1990s. In particular, the collapse of rural non-farm employment and the growing crisis in the agricultural sector is leading to massive long-term, long-distance migration by men from rural poor households in areas like Bihar and Eastern U.P. where earlier processes of feminisation had relatively little impact, leaving women to survive through agricultural wage labour. 3 Women’s dependence on agricultural wage labour as a source of income has also increased with the destruction of many household based industries employing mainly women.

So when we talk about agricultural labourers we are more than ever talking about women, and when we talk of the range of struggles being waged by agricultural labourers in the era of globalisation, from Bihar to Gujarat to Tamil Nadu we are talking of struggles in which women are at the forefront.

‘Communities vs. corporations’

The second related reason for the near invisibility of these struggles in the anti-globalisation discourse to date has been that these are perceived as primarily internal struggles within rural or ‘peasant’ communities. They are not recognised as direct components of a movement against globalisation precisely because this movement has frequently been articulated in terms of a ‘communities vs corporations’ dichotomy. As has been pointed out in many other contexts, this idealised concept of community, by ignoring the contradictions of class and gender actually perpetuates exploitative relationships and acts to maintain the status quo.(See for example Shah [1997] ; Beck and Ghosh [2000] highlight way definitions of ‘community’ used by a section of NGOs have effectively excluded exploited groups from resources)

Clearly, the continued existence of militant agricultural labourers struggles poses a challenge to this idealised notion of community. But what is even more significant is that agricultural labourers’ struggles to transform essentially feudal relationships and patterns of exploitation have increasingly become struggles against global capital too.

Incorporating feudal and patriarchal relationships

To grasp this we have to look at how global capital incorporates, reshapes and adapts to its own needs feudal and patriarchal forms of power, patterns of exploitation, mechanisms of control and forces of coercion. Again, this happens on many different levels.

The following extract from an account of the functioning of flower farms in Karnataka is revealing. These farms employ mainly women ‘as they are reputed to be good at noticing even slight variations in the health of the plants, in nipping buds and in cutting the flowers’. The author writes, apparently approvingly, of the farm managers’ strategy for dealing with the workers: ‘the managers speak of the need to handle the workers delicately to overcome problems such as absenteeism. They seek the advice and assistance of village elders in the vicinity in identifying reliable workers and later, in maintaining work discipline in the farms. Village elders also seem to enjoy the attention they receive from the senior officers of the floriculture farms -- it gives them a sense of importance especially in these troubled times when their sense of dignity is being challenged by their former clients’ (Panini, 1999). Thus the corporations -- in this case American, Japanese, Dutch and Israeli companies in collaboration with Indian firms -- are fully aware of the uses of maintaining the existing rural hierarchy in controlling their workers, and are in fact providing a cushion against the transformation of relationships between the dominant landholders (the ‘village elders’) and the lower caste poor (‘their former clients’).

Meanwhile, alongside this corporate farming, we can observe the contracting out of flower production to local landowners whose flowers are collected and checked by middlemen and transported directly to the airport for export. It is on these farms, 40-50 kms from Bangalore, that girl children as young as ten are engaged as bonded labour. On payment of a lump sum of Rs. 1000-2000, or in some cases a larger amount in the form of a loan, to their parents, these girls are attached to farm households for periods ranging from one season to one year, made to work in flower plucking and packing as well as whatever household labour is demanded of them, and often face sexual abuse.

And if we move from Karnataka, the laboratory of corporate agriculture, to Bihar, the so-called ‘most backward’ state, we see other forms of the articulation between global capital and feudal relationships. The impact of the policies associated with globalisation referred to earlier -- escalating costs of cultivation forcing out small and marginal cultivators, the collapse of non-agricultural employment -- have been particularly acute in Bihar. Villages are being emptied of men of working age who are forced to migrate long distance en masse, leaving women to survive as agricultural wage labourers. But while along with the rest of the country Bihar’s cultivators have been subjected to the violent price fluctuations inherent in the opening up of the agricultural sector to the global market, there has been little direct intervention by global capital in the form of seed companies and other MNCs. Regions like rural Bihar are largely perceived as a wasteland for global production. In terms of consumption, however, they are drawn into global markets. Whatever surpluses are accumulated by the rural rich from the grinding exploitation of wage labourers and poor tenants are rarely reinvested in agricultural production : instead they are being channeled into unproductive avenues such as speculation, corruption and crime which are increasingly integrated into global networks. Their consumption patterns -- of electronic goods, vehicles, entertainment, are globalised ones. And it is in this context that forces representing the extremes of feudal reaction thrive and take on new forms, and their role is to maintain the status quo, to attempt to crush the challenge which inevitably comes from below when the exploited are pushed to the margins of survival.

This is illustrated by the development of the Ranvir Sena, in the areas of Central (now South) Bihar where agricultural labourers have been organising under the banner of CPI(ML) on the issues of wages, land reforms and social dignity.

The Ranvir Sena is an armed gang claiming to represent the interests upper caste landowners, which since its formation in 1994 in Belaur village in Bhojpur district has murdered more than 300 members of agricultural labour and other rural poor households, mainly women and children, in more than 21 massacres. These massacres have been characterised by their scale and barbarity and in particular by their extreme violence against women, as well as by the co-operation in many instances of the police.

The character of the Ranvir Sena is qualitatively different from earlier ‘landlord armies’. Weapons are procured through the highly developed trade in arms which has proliferated across South Asia and beyond in another aspect of globalisation. Its resources come from the wealth appropriated by the coal and steel and other mafias operating in Jharkhand, and have allowed it to continue despite increasing erosion of its support base in rural Bihar. While it has received well-documented moral and material support from several major parties, its strongest links -- sharing local leaders, funds and arms -- are with the BJP. In fact the discourse of the Ranvir Sena itself is explicitly political, vowing to wipe out the ‘red flag’ not only from Bhojpur but from the face of India, and bears the stamp of the BJP, accusing the CPI(ML) of being ‘agents of foreign powers’ seeking to destroy the ‘social fabric of Indian society’ (for which read the caste-based social hierarchy). The links are also reflected in the Ranvir Sena’s specific targetting of Muslims and attempts to create divisions along communal lines such as their attempt to build a Hanuman Temple on ‘Karbala’ land (land reserved for Muslim burials) in 1995; or their ‘celebration’ of the 1998 Pokhran nuclear tests by killing several dalits and Muslims.

Contrary to some suggestions, massacres carried out by the Ranvir Sena have not been ‘revenge’ attacks -- in fact particularly since 1996, they have not even targetted villages where the CPI(ML) is strong. Rather their aim has clearly been to spread a generalised climate of terror among the rural poor, particularly in the periods when elections are approaching. In essence, the Ranvir Sena symbolises the articulation between feudal agrarian power and communal fascism in the context of a rural economy ravaged by globalisation.

A vision of change -- the politics of agricultural labourers’ movements

The question remains -- in such an unequal contest -- that between those who control all the resources, economic and social and political, and those who have none -- why do struggles waged by agricultural labourers generate such a massive repressive response?

The answer lies in the nature of agricultural labourers’ struggles which by their very nature threaten the basis of agrarian power. Even the formulation of wage demands in most situations requires a questioning of the social authority of the dominant landowners.

This is all the more so because whereas outside observers often portray wage struggles of agricultural labourers in terms of the basic needs or distress of the labourers on the one hand and the employers’ inability to pay higher wages while maintaining their profit margins on the other, labourers themselves, recognising that it is they who produce the wealth are articulating their demands in terms of redistributive justice -- redressing the large and visible imbalance in living standards between the dominant landowning employers and the rural poor.

This political nature of agricultural labourers’ struggles is underlined by the fact that building a wider movement and forging alliances is almost always vital in shifting the balance of power. In Bihar for example, the struggles for wages land, social dignity and democratic rights by mainly dalit agricultural labourers is forming the core of a broader movement for social and economic transformation, in which the demands of small cultivators -- for affordable inputs, roads, electricity and water are also being raised. During strikes in villages in Central Bihar for example, labourers have demanded wage increases only from large landowners, and have been prepared to work at existing wage rates for smaller cultivators. In these situations, it has been the big landowners who have put pressure on the smaller cultivators to stop cultivation, using a combination of appeals to caste solidarity and threats based on the dependence of the smaller cultivators on large landowners for inputs and credit. This strategy attempts to both cut off all sources of employment for the labourers in the village, and to extend the range of those who suffer economically as a result of the strike to small cultivators.

Thus the strikes have become a site of struggle between two different types of solidarity -- one based on shared class interests between small cultivators and agricultural labourers and with the goal of bringing about change, and the other based on caste solidarity and relations of dependence, with the goal of maintaining the status quo.

With global capital on the offensive, it often appears that resistance is necessary even to maintain things as they are, to defend what people have. In this context it is easy to romanticise existing arrangements and relationships. But in contrast, the agricultural labourers’ movements are compelled to be progressive rather than defensive -- their aim cannot be to maintain things as they are but to bring about a social and economic transformation.

Significantly, the first thing that labourers in Bihar mention when they are asked about the impact of the movement there is that it has enabled them to challenge the practices which underpin the social and economic authority of both the older and the more recently emerged dominant classes. These are forms of oppression based on caste and gender as much as class. Dalit women explain that the men from higher caste landowning families used to sexually harass and abuse them, physically assault them if they missed a day’s work, or refuse to allow them to take breaks to drink water, telling them to drink the muddy water in the drainage canals, but now they no longer ‘dare’ to do these things. As 60 year-old Shanti Devi put it ‘malik raj tut geya’.

Another aspect of this political and transformative nature of agricultural labourers’ movements is the impact they have on unequal relationships among the struggling people, and in particular gender relations.

Challenging unequal relationships

Women have been at the forefront of wage struggles -- these struggles have generally been launched during the periods of peak labour demand : in areas where rice is the major crop, these are paddy transplanting, which women alone carry out, and paddy harvesting, in which women participate heavily. It has therefore frequently been women who have initially placed wage demands before employers, and subsequently collectively refused to work.

And women’s participation has gone much further than this: in the struggles waged in Bihar in the mid-1990s for example, women have also led marches of thousands to physically occupy land for redistribution, and have been at the forefront of resistance and protest against the repression unleashed by the landowners and the police. It is women who, armed with bricks, small scythes or household utensils, have driven the police out of their villages when they have arrived heavily armed in midnight or dawn raids, or who have surrounded police jeeps and snatched back those arrested, even forcing the police to apologise in some instances.

As feminisation increases however, women are increasingly becoming the centre of these struggles. A few months ago when CPI(ML) activists in Central Bihar were holding discussions with labourers in different villages about the formation for the first time of a separate organisation for agricultural labourers, the Khet Mazdoor Sabha, they found that women were often the most enthusiastic. They felt that here at last was an organisation that would represent their specific needs and demands. Even in households where men showed little interest, women came forward to join the organisation. And they encouraged their daughters to join -- when the men would say ‘what is the point, she will be going to another village once she is married’ the women responded that ‘when she goes, she will take part in the organisation there’.

Clearly, in the context of feminisation, the demand for women to be paid wages equal to those of men becomes a vital one for agricultural labourers as a class. In most cases, however, women have to overcome patriarchal resistance to these demands within the household itself.

Women labourers’ involvement in movements for change has inevitably led to their challenging oppressive domestic relations. In Bihar, these challenges have focussed on domestic violence and the increasing incidence of dowry among dalit labouring families. Very often they begin with the woman’s determination to be actively involved in the movement and her resistance to her husband and in-laws who attempt to prevent her.

In the movement for equal wages in Thanjavur referred to earlier, women who were facing violence as a result of their participation in the movement left their homes to stay in the organisation’s office at the height of the struggle, in order to continue to be active. While the labourers were challenging patriarchal relations within the family, the landowners were attempting to utilise these relationships to break the strike, urging husbands and parents of the women labourers to put pressure on them to withdraw from the struggle.

And, as we have argued, global capital in turn incorporates and reshapes these patriarchal and feudal patterns in order to intensify exploitation. As global capital’s intervention in Indian agriculture deepens, and its confrontation with the direct producers in agriculture widens, this polarisation between forces which seek to preserve existing patterns of inequality and integrate them into global structures of surplus extraction, and those which challenge them at every level, can only intensify. If we are to build an effective people’s movement which will not only resist globalisation but fight to realise an alternative vision of the future, it is imperative that we recognise the crucial role which agricultural labourers’ struggles have to play in this movement.


Beck, Tony, and Madan G. Ghosh, 2000, ‘Common Property Resources and the Poor -- Findings from West Bengal’ Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 35, No. 3, January 15

Bhalla, Sheila 1997, ‘Trends in Poverty, Wages and Employment in India’, Indian Journal of Labour Economics, Vol. 40, No. 2

da Corta, Lucia and Davuluri Venkateshwarlu, 1997, ‘Unfree Relations and the Feminisation of Agricultural Labour in Andhra Pradesh, 1970-95’ in ‘Rural Labour Relations in India’, Special Issue, The Journal of Peasant Studies, Vol. 26, Nos. 2 and 3, January to April

Hanumantha Rao, C.H., 1998 ‘Economic Reforms and Prospects for Rural Labour’ in Radhakrishna and Sharma (eds.)

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Mahendra Dev, S., 2000, ‘Economic Reforms, Poverty, Income Distribution and Employment’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 35, No.10, March 4

Panini, M.N., 1999, ‘Trends in Cultural Globalisation -- from agriculture to agribusiness in Karnataka’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 34, No. 31, July 31 -- August 6

Radhakrishna, R. and Alakh N. Sharma, 1998, Empowering Rural Labour in India -- Market, State and Mobilisation, New Delhi: Institute for Human Development

Sen, Abhijit, 1996, ‘Economic Reforms, Employment and Poverty -- Trends and Options’ Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 31 Nos. 35, 36 and 37, September

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Wilson, Kalpana, 1999, ‘Patterns of Accumulation and Struggles of Rural Labour: Some Aspects of Agrarian Change in Central Bihar’ in ‘Rural Labour Relations in India’, Special Issue, The Journal of Peasant Studies, Vol. 26, Nos. 2 and 3, January to April


1 This represents a deterioration in growth rates in comparison to the 1980s. For example, according to official statistics, the compound growth rate of average real earnings per day of rural casual labour in the primary sector fell to only 1.57 per cent per annum between 1987-88 and 1993-94 as compared to 4.89 per cent between 1983 and 1987-88 (Mahendra Dev, 2000).

2‘’ conditions of employment.

3Ironically, while diversification of earning opportunities for rural households in the 1970s and early 1980s was a cause of feminisation of agricultural labour as men moved out into other activities (Unni, 1997), the collapse of these opportunities along with other factors is today in many regions forcing men out of local rural economies altogether and thus further increasing feminisation.

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