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Study on rural transformation

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SRIDHAR SEETHARAMAN

It analyses various facets of rural change and transformation in southern states

RURAL TRANSFORMATION — Perspectives From Village Studies in Andhra Pradesh: Edited by G. Niranjan Rao, D. Narasimha Reddy; Daanish Books, 26 B, Skylark Apartments, Gazipur, Delhi-110096. Rs. 850.

This volume on rural transformation by way of two Intensive and 10 Thematic Village Re-studies, besides a novel attempt to reconstruct rural transformation as seen from creative Telugu fiction in Andhra Pradesh, is an outcome of a larger research project covering southern States in 1996 by the Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram, under Kerala Research Programme on Local Level Development.

In the Intensive Village category, ‘Slater Villages’ of Unagatla and Kotha Armur from West Godavari and Nizamabad districts were selected for analysing socio-economic and cultural transformation and the factors behind these processes. Under the Thematic Village category, the analyses were on caste composition, land ownership, productive activities and production relationship — crucial indicators of change and transformation in the countryside.

The terms ‘change’ and ‘transformation’ have been differentiated in temporal, structural and intensity of process by various contributors. Therefore, when rural economies are subjected to factors that leave a deep and sustained impact (new crop, yield-raising technology, distributive legislation, in-and out-migration, foreign trade, and transport revolution), some patterns and uniformities do emerge. The contributors have made an earnest attempt to see whether such phenomena are reflected in the present set of village studies.

Impact of land reforms

These studies revealed that the impact of land reforms was more as a disincentive for concentration of land ownership than what it was on the redistribution of land. Commercialisation of agriculture did not confer the desired advantages on the tribal population. However in the overall analysis, the pre-capitalist rural structure of the State has been set on the path of transformation in economic, political and social spheres. Not all changes and transformation processes occurring in rural Andhra Pradesh have been captured by the papers. In recent decades, the State has witnessed a significant drop in the rates of population growth, infant mortality and total fertility. However, no contribution has had its primary focus on these crucial indicators of rural life. Perhaps it is a weakness of village life that it may not capture demographic transitions, which are part of a larger process.

With increasing ‘mandalisation’ of politics, transfer of power to the disadvantaged, disempowered and economically weaker sections of the community, besides women, has taken place to some extent. This will have a significant effect on State-level politics in the years to come. This remains subterranean in several village studies. Further, where commodity and credit markets get intertwined and ‘seed companies’ and unscrupulous traders get an upper hand over the peasantry, cotton farmers have committed suicides. It is really surprising that this aspect has not figured in any of the five village studies from Warangal.

Decline in health care

With the State’s declining interest in the tertiary sector, people without resources are being put to hardship. The lone paper on education touches upon this aspect, yet no mention is made on the success or otherwise of ‘Badi Baata’. The alarming deterioration in the health care sector of the government has not come out clearly in any of the studies, despite money being pumped into ‘Arogyashree’.

Finally, child labour, an important phenomenon of rural Andhra Pradesh, has not received the attention of any of the scholars; incidentally the State has the highest percentage of child labour in the country.

Notwithstanding these limitations, these papers do highlight certain important features of rural transformation that the State has been going through in the post-Independence period and offer rich insights into the process. What is striking is the similarity of the pattern of changes across the villages while, as may be expected, unique historical village-specific factors do play a significant role in shaping the change. There are identifiable commonalities across villages, which are major determinants of change. It should be possible to develop a generalised framework of rural change to bring together the re-studies.

This volume should be useful for all professionals in the fields of social sciences, economics, development planning, and sociology, besides policy makers, planners, and administrator, involved in the development of rural areas.


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