Seminar: "Farmers matter in new India’s political settlement: Discontinuous agrarian policy and new class formations." by Prof. Senjuti Das Gupta
India entered a new phase in 1991 with adoption of the structural adjustment programme. Several studies since have tended to focus on global and national factors to understand ongoing political processes. With cultural nationalism and symbolic politics holding the media attention, the significant transformation of India’s political economy has been under researched despite its contribution to victory of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2014 elections and the changing nature of Indian state. The argument made here is that India after liberalisation cannot be regarded as a continuous period as far as its political economy is concerned. In fact, an assessment of the political settlement operating in states of Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and Karnataka bring back role of subnational actors, particularly classes in shaping policies which in turn shape classes. A peculiar combination of dominant class and state relation emerge in these three cases which play a decisive role in how their politics and economy have advanced since. The academic reference point for the study was Pranab Bardhan's 3-proprietary classes and evaluating its relevance in new India. The form of research was adopted from Atul Kohli’s book, The State and Poverty in India. The three classes hold significance but in a different way. The agrarian policies as discontinuous with 2004 elections being that moment when the Bharatiya Janata Party learns a critical lesson from its loss of power at the Centre. Big farmers reassert their presence in Indian politics as agrarian policies in the phase after 2004 show in the regional states where BJP was ruling. These policies and land acquisition policy open new set of opportunities for the class transforming their class character. The other two dominant classes are industrial class which holds the most powerful position and the ‘petty bourgeoisie’. Following Mushtaq Khan, the class encompasses the changes in class formations and consolidations experienced under economic reforms, particularly by the agrarian classes. New and old petty bourgeoisie have been identified to comprehend changes on ground. The urban-rural divide stands narrowed so does the gap between the two dominant proprietary classes---big farmers and industrial class owing to the third class. The conclusions are based on inductive methodology. The fieldwork covered 140 interviews conducted across 23 districts of India.
About the Speaker:
Prof. Sejuti Das Gupta completed her doctoral studies from School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. She received Felix scholarship to conduct her doctoral research. Her current research project is a monograph on Indian agrarian political economy, based on her doctoral dissertation to be published with Cambridge University Press in 2018. Her areas of interest are agrarian political economy, public policy, class-caste and state-society interactions. She conducted empirical research in three states of India - Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and Karnataka. Her core interest is to contribute towards combining theory and practice for a better understanding in social science.
Right after PhD, she joined Tata Institute of Social Sciences, India, as an Assistant Professor where she served as the Academic Coordinator for Masters in Development Practice, under the Prime Minister's Rural Development Fellows' Scheme. She also taught in the Development Studies at both MA and M.Phil level. She has worked in the development sector in India and has editorial experience. She completed her Masters and M.Phil from Jawaharlal Nehru University in Political Studies in 2008. She is currently an Assistant Professor at James Madison College, Michigan State University.