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Write a note on Agricultural laborers during pre-British in India.

Write a note on Agricultural laborers during pre-British in India.

1 Answer

Agricultural Laborers: In the pre-British India a traditional village economy was primarily belongs to small cultivators and there were no signs of agricultural laborers working on the land of others. But as per the 1931 census about 38% of the total agricultural population was composed of agricultural laborers. This represents how the Indian agricultural structure changed during the British rule in India. Moreover, the agricultural laborers were not evenly spread all over the country. In Bombay, Madras and Central provinces their proportion was more than half of the total agricultural population in 1931. In Bihar, Orissa, Bengal and Assam it was between 22 to 32 per cent. In the region of united provinces, Punjab and North-West Frontier province their proportion was less than 20% of the entire agricultural population of the region.

The sharp increase in the proportion of agricultural workers was the result of large social economic changes during 19th and 20th century. Before the British rule the Indian village communities consist of group of cultivators and artisans who lived together and satisfy each others needs through barter system. Each cultivator cultivates its own land with the help of his family and there was no place for agricultural laborers who work on others land for wages (cash or kind). During the 19th century the village economy started shattering because of the political, social and economic changes. The most important cause was the Industrial Revolution in England, the exports of British goods at cheap rates reduced the demand for Indian goods. This resulted the fall of Indian handicraft industries and forced the artisans to work as landless laborers to earn their living.

The new land revenue system also helped in developing the new class of agricultural workers. The government fixed the revenue to be paid in cash irrespective of crop output. In case of crop failure the cultivators mortgaged their land to money lenders who trap them in the debt web. When the peasants failed to repay the loan were forced to alienate the land. They were left with no option to work as labor to maintain their lives.