This book has attempted to reassert the centrality of state policy in assessment of the origins of poverty, vulnerability, unrest and famine among supposedly productive peasants in colonial western India. Analysis of the impact of state legislation, investment, taxation, welfare measures and relief — or lack of them — on agrarian society in Ahmednagar between 1870 and 1884 suggests that close involvement with the state was not to the population’s advantage. Indeed the closer the contact between the two, the greater the potential for harm. The Bombay Government was insensitive to the unreliability of peasant land as a factor of production, and to the lack of either market or labour opportunities, and failed to invest in infrastructural support for any of them. Early state interventions in credit markets exacerbated exploitation and the response to the Deccan Riots did more to undermine security than to redress the situation. However, the most critical factor of production, capital — which was always scarce — was expropriated by the moneylenders and also by the state itself, through a tax system which many within it believed to be unreasonable and inflexible. Thus, the gradual slide into famine can be observed more clearly among small peasants than landless labourers, for whom the crisis was more acute. In the terms set out in the introduction, poor Ahmednagar peasants were chronically food insecure because their district was remote. arid and under-capitalised.
KeywordsIncome Expense Nial Harness
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- 13.See James C. Scott, Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance (New Haven, 1985).Google Scholar