India has a large percentage of its population still living in rural areas and dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. The figure was 69 per cent as per the 2011 Census. Agriculture and allied sectors engage slightly more than half the workforce. The majority of cultivators are small and marginal farmers with less than 2 hectares of land. Agriculture in the country, however, is in crisis with crop cultivation having been rendered unviable for a significant share of the cultivator households following the onset of neoliberal reforms in 1990s. The agrarian crisis has been most tragically manifested in the large number of suicides of farmers over the last two decades and more.
This festschrift is a collection of essays written by eminent social scientists in honour of the eminent economist, Venkatesh B. Athreya. The papers in this volume, presented at a seminar on ‘Agriculture and Rural India after Economic Reforms’, organized by students of Professor Athreya in early 2016, explore these and other key agrarian issues. The papers range from micro-level studies that examine the ground reality from economic and sociological perspectives, to macro and structural analyses of the larger picture. Together, they present a diverse collage of the underlying theme of agrarian reform and transformation. There are strong critiques as well as suggestions, based on the analysis and findings, on what needs to be done. The dangers of not taking the necessary measures are also highlighted. The volume presents a timely compendium that will be a valuable contribution to the contentious debate on the nature of India’s agrarian transformation in the period of neoliberal economic reforms.