The University of Hyderabad organized an Inaugural lecture titled “Revisiting the Agrarian Question: Class and Caste Relations in A.P. and Telangana” by Prof. N. Purendra Prasad on 16th April, 2014. Prof. Ramakrishna Ramaswamy, Vice-Chancellor, University of Hyderabad presided over the lecture.
Prof. Purendra Prasad, in his lecture said that Capitalist development has penetrated deeper into agrarian sector in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. As land fragmentation has taken place due to variety of reasons, differentiation of agrarian classes has become more complex. Land owners across the caste groups (including OBCs and Dalits) have exited from practicing agriculture while non-owners belonging to different castes have become the primary producers. The non-cultivating land owners (both resident and absentee landlords) have effectively gained more access to the state, market mechanisms, money-lending activity, contracts and other enterprising activity. The landless, agricultural workers and tenants have become further marginalized, in a socially regulated economy, to use Barbara Harriss-White’s phrase.
Further he said that there is an unprecedented investment in the village lands in the last one decade particularly due to the speculative capital. The dominant caste network helped appropriate the purchase of land holding owned by the lower castes in order to resell it at higher market price, thus paving the way for increase of middlemen, moneylenders and contractors. With the intensification of agrarian crisis in the last two decades, usury, bondage, caste based violence also intensified on a large scale, he added.
Also, he stated that the upper caste groups have already diversified their portfolio by investing in highways, road contracts, ports, airports, irrigation contracts, real estate, SEZs etc. Of course, now the prospective new capital city for Andhra Pradesh is also visualized as a real estate project to build a capital based on Hyderabad model of development, Prof. Prasad added. In staking their claim to economic opportunities offered by the neo-liberal state and markets in the last two decades, the upper caste groups among the three regions are competing with each other. Therefore, these emerging conflicts between different agrarian classes within the region, as well as across the regions are a reflection of the present form of capitalist model of development. The market reforms in the last two decades in fact strengthened the role for caste in economic and political sphere rather than undermining it. The accumulation of economic capital relied on the manipulation of market principles by incorporating caste into it rather than eliminating it, he concluded.