Peasant Movements – UPSC GS1

Write a critical note on the nature and objectives of post-independence peasant movements in India. (200 Words)

Post-independence peasant movement can be divided into two categories:
  1. Small, marginal farmers and agricultural laborer oriented.
  2. Landowners and capital surplus farmer oriented.
Due to weak capacity of peasants from these sections, the mobilization was taken up mostly by communists. Few individuals also started movements such as Gramdan and Bhoodan. The political influence was limited as the peasants had weak social and economic status. The main form of movement was protests in order to make government listen to their plights. In all, these movements were not successful due to low mobilisation due to incapacity of agricultural laborers and small farmers, Lack of political will, litigations and appropriation of loopholes in laws, hostility from landlords and big farmers, as they see their interest in collision with these movements.
Major focus was on implementation of land reforms which was better in communist dominated states such as WB and Kerala. Movements such as Gramdan and Barga were successful in making land available to meagre portion of landless but number of agricultural labors increased due to evicted by big farmers. These movements did forced the government to take some initiatives: Expansion of co-operative societies to further credit facilitation, marketing etc., Establishment of small and marginal farmer development agency, programmes such as IADP, IRDP and NEGP.
The movements catering to big farmers had more political weight. Their demands catered to increasing agricultural credit, subsidized fertilizers, electricity, pesticides, irrigation etc. The union such as BKU has pressurized through agitation and at many instances secured some benefits gaining their credibility to influence government policies. Green revolution fulfilled the dream of food security due to participation of landowners and big farmers. The characteristic of these movements was the militancy involved. The main mechanism were agitations, Rasta roko etc.


Since the late 1990s, peasant movements in India have almost vanished. Critically examine why. (200 Words)
India has had a rich history of peasant movements. These movements were fairly widespread during the colonial period. In fact, led by peasant leaders, these movements played an enabling role in the freedom struggle as they become vehicles of exposing the exploitative nature of the colonial rule. In contrast to this position of relevance, peasant movements today have nearly been pushed into oblivion, especially so since the late 1990s. The reasons for the same include:
  1. The single point of agitation of these movements was better returns for farmers in terms of price for the produce. From the 1990s onwards, crop pricing policies have  ensured a healthy return to farmers for their produce.
  2. A major weakness of these movements was their failure to create an identity for the farmers. Success in the politics is closely linked to the ability of creating a point of reference such as caste, religion, region etc.
  3. The excessive dependence of these movements on regional parties also lead to their demise. Unlike peasant movements, which squarely focus on the causes of farmers, these parties have varied interests and while lending support to any particular cause, they are guided by their own political interests.
  4. Affiliation of peasant organisations with political parties had eroded their autonomy to articulate their demands truly based on their economic situations.
  5. The spurt of urbanization in the aftermath of globalization has resulted in mass exodus of peasants living in rural areas to cities. Further, farmers are now leaving agriculture and allied activities for other sectors. These developments have severely dented the cadre base of these movements.
  6. In the aftermath of the green revolution, the disparity among farmers belonging to different regions has been on the rise. The farmers of one region no longer identify with the causes of the farmers from other regions. This has resulted in the splintering of the peasant movements along regional lines.
  7. In today’s globalized context, farmer’s issues are increasingly being taken up by a vigilant media and civil society organizations. This has to some extent shrunk the political space that was exclusively available to peasant movements, who were hitherto seen as the sole vanguards of peasant causes.
  8. PRI’s and PESA has provided the decentralised governance and emphasised grassroots participation thus empowering people. It also created medium for grievance redressal even for farmers, thus lowering the need for such movements.
However, to completely write off the relevance of peasant movements would be too simplistic. The recent agitations against the amendments to the Land Acquisition Act, 2013 indicate that a right cause can bring back the limelight on these movements.



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