MANOHAR PUBLISHERS AND DISTRIBUTORS
|Number of Pages||292 Pages|
Social relations in rural south India have often been studied from either a perspective of labour and economic exploitation or one of dominance and subordination in terms of caste or exercise of political power. In Bonds Lost, the author argues that relations between landowners and agricultural labourers cannot be understood without taking account of both the economic and the social logic of the relationship.
From a variety of government, mission and oral sources, the author analyses the transformation of rural social relations in the central parts of the highlands in today`s western Tamil Nadu between c. 1900 and 1970.
Throughout the expansion of commercial crops in agriculture, in particular of the cultivation of cotton, the farming community of Goundar and the agricultural labourers of the Madhari leather-working community have been closely related to each other. There has been a mutual, however, uneven dependence between the two; the farmers being dependent on the skills of leather workers to manage the irrigation, the Madhari equally dependent on the farmers for their own survival.
Until the 1930s, competition for labour scaled up in the region and agricultural labourers were increasingly tied by advance payments to work for a farmer. On account of this, economic expansion gained support and social control was upheld. However, even after preconditions had been made available to achieve a more profitable farming by replacing the permanent by casual labourers, a substantial, permanent labour force was still employed on the farms. In the late 1930s and 1940s, kinship-wise mobilisation among the Madhari labourers to convert to Christianity was met by strong and sometimes violent resistance. Every movement they made to break with Goundar authority was seen as a threat. Thus, during the decade, social rationality was given priority over economic rationality by the farmers. A severe six-year-long drought put an end to this situation.