Rural Moneylending, Credit Legislation and Peasant Protest
In previous chapters it has been seen that indebtedness was widespread among Ahmednagar’s peasantry and that the agrarian structure of the district was such that rural moneylenders commanded almost all local capital. Though village sowcars were mostly small operators, dependent on their urban kinsmen for their own resources, the extent of peasants’ thrall allowed monopolistic Marwari lenders to control production and extract its surplus value without having a direct interest in cultivation or its improvement. Indeed the moneylenders opposed the state’s optimistic hopes for development, which would make their own role less profitable.1 For centuries, indebtedness has been seen as one of the most serious brakes on rural development in many parts of India and has been associated with peasant poverty and food insecurity. This link was especially strongly made in the case of the 1876–78 famine in the Deccan, with the Famine Commission Report and almost all colonial officers blaming Marwari exploitation above other factors for ryots’ inability to cope with the monsoon failure. The importance attached to this in the report undermines the assumption, particularly by Temple, that peasants — as opposed to landless labourers — suffered relatively little during the famine. Indebtedness was a focus of attention in part because its extent, nature, causes and effects had already been raked over extensively by the state before the famine, as a result of major protests against moneylenders in Ahmednagar and neighbouring Poona district in 1875.
KeywordsDepression Europe Income Expense Arena
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