Sunday, 28 August 2011

The Green Revolution and its Impact on Regional Inequalities In Andhra Pradesh

Green Revolution refers to a series of research, development, and technology transfer initiatives, occurring between the 1940s and the late 1970s, that increased agriculture production around the world, beginning most markedly in the late 1960s. The initiatives involved the development of high-yileding varieties of cereal grains, expansion of irrigation infrastructure, modernization of management techniques, distribution of hybridized seeds, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides to farmers.

In the mid-1960s, India under the influence of the international non-governmental organisation, the Ford Foundation encouraged the farmers to use new agrarian technologies, in particular – high yielding varieties of seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, mechanisation and so on. This led to a breakthrough in agricultural production but the darker side of the choice was the abandoning of hundreds of years of time-tested local technologies and cumulative wisdom of the local peasantry. This led to dependency of agriculture on market forces. Apart from agriculture losing its autonomy, the process was also made too much water-centric. In an iniquitous economy where natural endowments are unevenly distributed, democracy requires technology be used to correct the imbalances. The choice of technology entailed in the green revolution obviously accentuated the inequalities; the fallout was widening gap between the coastal region which had the advantage of assured irrigation and the rain-dependent dry land cultivation of the other regions – Telangana, Rayalaseema and North Andhra. These regional imbalances over a period of time went on increasing. This is not only the experience of this state but is exemplified all over India. This is one cause for a spate of demands for separate statehood from different backward regions in India. The compulsions of the times seem to be leading to the demand for another SRC.

The green revolution did create surplus in the coastal region which could not be ploughed back into agriculture as capital absorption by agriculture, unlike industry, is inelastic. The coastal capital in search of greener pastures started moving to those areas of Telangana region wherever there were sources of irrigation, particularly tanks or river water. This process that started much earlier got accentuated with the green revolution. The Telangana farming community was finding it increasingly difficult to compete with enterprising farmers of the Andhra region. The surplus also started moving to Hyderabad city into industries as the city had the necessary infrastructure and the requisite industrial environment. The extant class of capitalists consisting mainly of Punjabis, Gujaratis and Marvaris felt threatened by the new set of capitalists, arriving from the Andhra region. Added to this was the expanding educated middle class competing for the limited opportunities in public employment. The “subordinated” political elite of Telangana were in no position to represent these growing interests and fears of the region. This led to the “Separate Telangana” agitation in 1969.

The 1969 agitation was started by the students and later was followed by the entry of government employees into the movement. These two sections were in the forefront and the political elite of the region was compelled to fall in line. The political leadership lacked the capacity to carry the movement to its logical end. What all the Telangana political leadership could manage to do was to hijack the movement and surrender it to the dictates of Congress leader and then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who was personally opposed to the division of the state. She was willing to concede anything short of the bifurcation of the state. As a part of the concessions and compromises the important leaders of the movement including Chenna Reddy – supposed to be the key leader of the movement – were accommodated in the power structure. Another move she made was to shift the Chief Minister Brahmananda Reddy – a most powerful politician at that point – and make P V Narasimha Rao – a person from Telangana not hailing from the powerful peasant communities – as the new chief minister in 1971.

This was also the phase that saw the birth of the Naxalite movement which took up the agenda of radical agrarian changes. This movement was partly to complete the unfinished agenda of the Telangana armed struggle in the 1940s. It first arose in North Andhra and spread to those places of Telangana where the earlier armed struggle had reached its pinnacle. This was also a result of failures of the Congress in the 1950s to carry out its promise of land reforms peacefully through state measures. The movement challenged the political elite of the state and more specifically the Telangana elite. A section of the youth disillusioned with the leadership of the separate Telangana movement and its outcome were attracted to radical politics which held promise for the creation of an alternative society. This movement brought back the question of land reforms onto the political agenda.

Narasimha Rao, a reliable member of the Indira Gandhi-led Congress went ahead with the idea of land reforms. This was a part of Indira Gandhi’s strategy to tame the powerful agrarian communities all over India. Enraged by the shift of leadership and threat of land reforms, the Andhra political elite brought about the Jai Andhra agitation in 1971-72 demanding bifurcation of the state. The leaders of the Jai Andhra agitation, who could not directly question the land reforms, took up the validity of Mulki rules in the city of Hyderabad, the state capital. To start with, some people from Andhra Pradesh belonging to employees’ federations filed cases in the high court questioning the legality and legal validity of the Mulki rules. The high court in its verdict declared Mulki rules ultra vires but Supreme Court upheld the Mulki rules. The leadership of the Andhra region was so influential that they made the Parliament amend the law and declare that the Mulki rules were not valid anymore. The Telangana political leadership remained mere spectators during the whole episode.

The Andhra elite also attempted to hit at the social base of the Indira Gandhi-led Congress, which had swelled because of the appeal of land reforms promised by the Congress government. The Jai Andhra movement helped the Andhra elite in doing so, and it was the exceptional solidarity among the elites who also managed to mobilise the masses effectively, that Indira Gandhi had to relent and Chief Minister Narasimha Rao was asked to step down by the Congress high command. Yet, despite the challenge posed by the political leadership of the Andhra region, the overall sway of Indira Gandhi’s popularity in the region remained intact. The welfare-centric/target-group oriented government programme launched at the central level of governance by Indira Gandhi helped wean away the masses from the sway of the local leadership. Indira Gandhi emerged as the lead patron replacing all local-level patrons, in the imagination of the people of Andhra Pradesh. This position of Indira Gandhi resulted in the leadership of both the Andhra and Telangana regions, in particular the latter, to be heavily dependent on the Congress high command. This shift in the nature of power relations marginalised the influence of local leadership of both the regions. They were never able to regain their autonomy in inner-Congress politics. The Telangana political leadership became much more subservient than ever before, and their survival depended more on the grace of Delhi leadership than the mass base. This uprooting of the local leadership changed the nature and character of Congress Party in a substantial way.

Indira Gandhi’s policies were also a product of the widespread rural unrest that the nation witnessed during the late 1960s. The unrest coupled with increasing claims and counterclaims of the dominant classes in a slowly growing economy, made governance difficult for her. She resorted to authoritarian and coercive methods by imposing the Emergency in 1975 by suspending the fundamental rights. During the dark days of the Emergency the state machinery, particularly the police and other law-enforcing agencies, became arbitrary in the exercise of their power. This led to massive erosion of her support structure all over India that reflected in the 1977 general election when her party lost power and the Janata Party – a non-Congress coalition – rose to power for the first time after Independence. While the Congress lost power all over India, the party returned to power in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. For the first time there was a situation in Andhra Pradesh when two different governments were at the centre and the state: the Janata Party at the centre and the Congress Party in the state. The Janata Party which was an amalgamation of contending interests was subjected to endemic pulls and counter pulls and the stress on the system was so high that the Janata coalition experiment collapsed in less than three years after its inception. The failure of the Janata Party coalition to remain in power is a tragic indictment of Indian pluralistic parliamentary democracy.

Indira Gandhi was back in power in less than three years. Her rhetoric, following re-election in 1981 shifted from Garibi Hatao to unity and integrity of India. This shift of rhetoric is suggestive of the shift in the balance of political forces. While giving a clear signal that she was abandoning her earlier rhetoric, she was attempting to find a workable formula for unifying multi-class interests. The poorer sections of Andhra Pradesh particularly of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) who stood by her throughout and till the 1970s started getting away from her support fold.

Another striking development in the political economy of the state of Andhra Pradesh was the rise of a lumpen or mafia class, helped by leakages of huge resources that the state invested in irrigation, roads, public enterprises, mining and other infrastructural development. This pattern of public expenditure through contractors gave rise to a neo-rich class and a wide range of middlemen as they were the direct beneficiaries of the leakages of public funds. This class of people was neither organically linked to agricultural activities nor were they engaged in the industrial or manufacturing sector: a class which made money without risking labour or capital turned into a class of lumpens or mafia who lacked a basic framework of values in public affairs. Thus a set of opportunistic, money-hunting power elite had been let loose by a faulty developmental model. This class became an important component of the political processes of the state.

This was also the period during which ideological politics was more or less abandoned and was replaced by identity politics. The target group approach of Indira Gandhi’s Congress in public policy was one of the causes and also the consequence of identity politics. Such politics built around the issue of caste, an institution which Bhimrao Ambedkar had sought to be annihilated, started fortifying endemic divisions in society.

Note: This is a section of the lecture delivered by Prof. Haragoapl at "Prof. B. Janardhan Rao Memorial Lecture", Kakatiya University, Warangal, 3rd May, 2010.

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