India's land modernisation policy takes toll on rural communities, according to research

February 5, 2015, University of Huddersfield
Rural Indian farmers

Millions of India's poor people have lost their homes and livelihoods because their land was grabbed by the government for development projects, and huge numbers of them have yet to be resettled.  These are among the themes that emerge in new articles by an Indian-born University of Huddersfield lecturer who has become a stern critic of the economic and social policies of his homeland. 

Economic reforms in India led to growth in some sectors and boosted the wealth of the rich and the educated middle classes, but agriculture – which employs 60 per cent of the labour force – has stagnated, both in terms of land productivity and capital investment. 

Dr Kalim Siddiqui, a specialist in development economics, argues that investment needs to be channelled towards agriculture, , education and health. 

"We have got more land, but our productivity is one third of that in China because they have invested more.  In India, we should raise land productivity by investing in flood control, fertilisers and irrigation networks." 

Figures show that 20 per cent of Indians do not attend school and 40 per cent of the population cannot read or write.  Huge levels of malnutrition persist in rural areas, continues Dr Siddiqui.  "The government should invest more in primary education, so that skill levels will increase alongside better hygiene and nutrition." 

Poverty remains entrenched 

His latest articles are "Modernisation and Displacement of Rural Communities in India," in the Journal of Social Business and "Contradictions in Development: Growth and Crisis in Indian Economy," in Economic and Regional Studies

The latter article analyses the impact of reforms initiated in the early 1980s that aimed to liberalise the Indian economy.  These led to higher growth rates, but they have now slowed, and earlier optimism that India could overtake China and the USA has faded.  The most rapid expansion was in high-tech services and IT.  Manufacturing growth was much slower in India than in other East Asian economies and agriculture remained stagnant, so that poverty remains entrenched.  Suicide rates among Indian farmers are exceptionally high. 

"Despite three decades of rapid growth, chronic malnutrition is widespread," writes Dr Siddiqui, who analyses the "neglect of the social sector", resulting in figures which show that every year more children die in India than anywhere else in the world. 

His concluding argument is that public investment in agriculture – which still employs two-thirds of the Indian workforce – should be given priority in order to reduce poverty.

"Higher growth in the agricultural sector would be able to raise output and farmers' income and would enhance domestic markets." 

So-called modernisation 

Dr Siddiqui's article dealing with the displacement of in India focusses on the effects of what he describes as a "so-called modernisation drive in the name of development". 

Using legislation that had survived from the British Raj, the government acquires land for projects such as dams, mines, roads and power generation.  These schemes result in the displacement of rural people, including farmers and tribal communities, and this, writes Dr Siddiqui, "is often seen as a necessary evil in order to modernise and construct industries and infrastructure".  But he is highly critical of failures to rehabitate displaced peoples. 

"Land acquisition without the prior consent of the owner cannot be justified on any grounds," he writes and concludes that: "India does not need a land grab policy to benefit the corporate sector, but a land conservation policy which conserves eco-systems and maintains biodiversity.  The government should invest more in the in order to increase production and create jobs in rural sectors, not on the basis of 'free market' policies, but through empowering small and marginal farmers and agricultural labourers and thus raising their incomes of food security." 

Explore further: New evidence of suicide epidemic among India's 'marginalized' farmers

More information: Siddiqui, Kalim (2014) "Modernisation and displacement of rural communities in India." Journal of Social Business, 4 (2/3). pp. 3-27. ISSN 2045-1083. … mmunities_-_2014.pdf

Siddiqui, Kalim (2014) "Contradictions in development: growth and crisis in Indian economy." Economic and Regional Studies 7 (3). pp. 82-98. ISSN 2083-3725. … diqui_po_probnym.pdf

Related Stories

New study reveals crippling financial burden of leprosy

January 15, 2015

Households affected by leprosy face being pushed further into poverty as a result of loss of earnings and treatment costs, according to the first ever study of the economic burden of a common complication of the disease.

Recommended for you

Outside competition breeds more trust among coworkers

September 19, 2018

Working in a competitive industry fosters a greater level of trust amongst workers, finds a new study from the University of British Columbia, Princeton University and Aix-Marseille University, published today in Science ...

Oldest-known aquatic reptiles probably spent time on land

September 19, 2018

The oldest known aquatic reptiles, the mesosaurs, probably spent part of their life on land, reveals a new study published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. The fossilized bones of adult Mesosaurus share similarities ...

Research shows SE Asian population boom 4,000 years ago

September 19, 2018

Researchers at The Australian National University (ANU) have uncovered a previously unconfirmed population boom across South East Asia that occurred 4,000 years ago, thanks to a new method for measuring prehistoric population ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.