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UNORGANIZED RURAL LABOUR-A

DEVELOPMENT FRAMEWORK

Dr.C.S.RANGARAJAN

The theme of this paper is developed in a way


that identifies the relevancy of the need to
exploit the more potential human resources in
the rural unorganised economic sector to
mutual advantage. In the process of more
energetic exploitation of the raw material
resources, some of which are non-renewable,
the more potential human element, which is
capable of giving more output than its own
input, remains at a discount.
Anantharaman in his work on ‘A Human
Relations in Industry’ (Chand and Co Ltd, New
Delhi, 1980) quotes Elton Mayo and his
colleagues, who while toeing the Durkhemian
line of thinking, have emphasised on an
individdual’s longing for belonging. They have
underscored that recognition,security and a
sense of belonging are the crucial determinants
of workers morale and productivity. The hidden
injuries of class, coupled with the desire for
belonging, which subsumed other needs, have
resulted in the emergence of the ‘collective
worker’, thereby brining about a semblance of
parity in power relations.Walzer (1966)

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considers that the question of 'how were men
to be organised, bound together in social
groups, united for cooperative activity' proves
to be one of the main social problems in
ushering in a modern society. The
backwardness of any economy is traced to its
'failure to use the full human resources of the
country' (Hill 1964). While McGregor (1966),
Argyris (1964) and Likert (1961) talk of
harnessing human resources capsuled in
energies and competencies that human
beings can offer, organisation of human
resources actively will be the open sesame to
finding solutions to social problems. Herein lies
the possibility of crowning our efforts directed
toward development with success through
participation. As Homans (1954) prescribes
participatory outlets, speaking for Karl Marx,
Vernon Venable (1959) observes that ' human
essence in reality is the ensemble of the social
relations. Human essence is, therefore, the
bringing together, coming together, of a
variety of social relations.' By way of
acknowledgment of Marxian thinking, Cooley
(1962) considers that 'self assertion through
voluntary association is of the essence of
democracy'.
The 'conscience' of the Constitution of India
lies hidden in the Fundamental Rights and the

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Directive Principles of State Policy (Saksena
1961). Insofar as the status of the labour is
concerned, it lays down two fundamental
rights. The first one spells out that the State
shall not deny to any person equality before
law or the equal protection of the laws. The
second one says that the traffic in human
beings and begging and other forms of forced
labour are prohibited. The Constitution of
India lays down three Directive Principles of
State Policy, namely, the State shall, within
the limits of its economic capacity and
development, make effective provisions for
securing the Right to Work .... that the State
shall make provisions for securing just and
humane conditions of work and for maternity
relief....... and that the State shall endeavour
to secure, by suitable legislation or economic
organisation or in any other way, to all
workers, agricultural, industrial or otherwise,
work, a living wage, conditions of work
ensuring a decent standard of life and full
enjoyment of leisure and social and cultural
opportunities and, in particular, the State shall
endeavour to promote cottage industries on
an individual or cooperative basis in rural
areas.
It is anybody's guess as to what extent the
Constitutional obligations have been faithfully

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discharged insofar as the rurl unorganised
labour is concerned. It is no wonder that the
rural labour, despite years rolling around after
India's Independence, finds itself caught in a
double bind.

It is a truism to say that the combination of


land and capital by itself cannot produce
anything. It is either the combination of land
and labour or capital and labour that would
lead to the creation of something wholly new.
There can therefore be no second opinion when
a stand is taken that labour is the sole creative
factor in production. The continued neglect of
such a precious human resource will not only
take us several distances away from our
cherished objective of establishment of human
equality, but will also end up in the derailment
of our efforts directed towards national
development. The existence of a homology
between rural and other categories of
unorganised labour on the one hand, and
national development on the other needs to be
appreciated and requires serious and renewed
consideration in the context of the dynamic

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role it can play in promoting industrialisation
through the capital it generates in the
domestic and export markets.
Agriculture
Agriculture takes in its embrace cultivation of
lands,rearing of livestock, forest operations
and fishing and hunting. We may rest assured
that these categories are unskilled,
unorganised, ignorant and illiterate, and their
work is of scattered nature. These categories
of workers are in fair preponderance and
contribute in no small measure to the
production of goods and services. While the
percentage of workers dependent upon the
organised industrial sector for employment is
relatively minimal, agriculture continues to
remain as the mainstay of the occupational
career of a majority segment of our population.
There is no gainsaying the fact that in terms of
national income, contribution from agriculture
is a little over fifty percent. The wheels of a
host of other industrial undertakings cannot
hum with activity unless the unorganised rural
sector ceases to remain inactive and thus
provides the feedstock.
The 'Green Revolution' with its emphasis on
maximisation of food production has made the
land to work 'overtime'. This means that there
is negative correlation between what is taken

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out from the soil and what is offered to it by
way of replenishment. It is obvious that the
'law of diminishing returns' begins to operate.
While India accounts for more than fifteen
percent of the world population, its possession
of the land surface of the world is stated to be
2.4 percent. Within a total available
geographical area of about 330 million
hectares, only about fifty percent comes under
area sown, and another twenty percent falls
within the forest category. While the per capita
land in India is around 0.3 hectare compared
to around 1 hectare in U.S.A, over 1 hectare in
U.S.S.R, over 2 hectares in Canada and over 4
hectares in Australia, surveys conducted have
highlighted the futility of expending efforts
towards bringing fallow and waste lands under
the plough in India, having due regard to the
rainfall as well as other economic constraints.
This therefore makes it abundantly clear the
inevitability of taking recourse to intensification
of agriculture with an emphasis on increasing
productivity.
With the possibility of double cropping, food
production has increased. Notwithstanding the
fact that the volume of rice production has
risen from 34.57 million tonnes in 1960-1961
to 67.9 million tonnes in 1988-1989, the
percentage share of rice to total food

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production is stated to have been stagnating.
(From 42.2 percent in 1960-1961 to 40.9
percent in 1988-1989.) The contribution of
wheat to total food production has moved from
13.4 percent in 1960-1961 to 31.4 percent in
1988-1989. Cereals' contribution to total food
production has made a nose dive from 28.9
percent in 1960-1961 to 19.0 percent in
1988-1989 as compared to pulses from 15.5
percent in 1960-1961 to 6.7 percent in 1988-
1989.
Between 1975-1976 and 1988-1989, rice
production ranges between 50 to 68 million
tonnes, whereas during the corresponding
period wheat production has gone up from 29
million tonnes to 53 million tonnes. Whereas
Cereals have been making marginal ups and
downs. It was 30.4 million tonnes in 1975-
1976 and 32.66 million tonnes in 1988-1989.
The yield of rice rose by 15 percent as against
28.8 percent of wheat. In terms of
productivity, rice shows a decrease as
compared to a substantial increase in wheat
productivity as viewed against the background
of areas brought under the plough.

The increasing pressure on land, triggered off

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by growing population, has resulted in the
breakdown of the traditional rainfed cropping
system engendered by the monsoon playing
truant. A marked increase in population with
absolute dependency on agriculture with no
corresponding increase in the land becoming
available for cultivation has created 'disguised'
unemployed in agriculture. The siphoning off of
the 'disguised' or 'concealed' unemployed is
unlikely to affect agricultural productivity as
the marginal productivity of this surplus is
zero. The surplus labour constrained to remain
'locked in' is a consequence of a marked
decrease in demand in the wider labour market
for labour bereft of skills. A surplus labour
veering around agriculture and therefore
accounting for low productivity will have to
content itself with low income. The confusion
becomes confounded with the lack of
alternative avenues of employment within the
rural sector. This calls for efforts to relieve the
land itself from providing direct living to these
surplus labour by creating agro-based
employment. The removal of the surplus
agricultural labour and diversion of these
labour to more productive and profitable will
become possible as Parkinson's (1960) Second
Law begins to operate in the case of those
clinging to agriculture. Their expenditure, with

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the purging of the surplus labour, will rise to
meet income. Handsome increase in income
may have latent functions in that they may
raise the opportunities for employment which
the spending of the agricultural labour may
create. Parkinson’s second law uniformly
applies to all whose income comes within the
definition of ‘salary’. Before actual income
accrues, in anticipation of such income,
expenditure in excess of income takes place in
advance. In this context, the role of ‘credit
card’ system needs an in-depth study.
Forest
Insofar as the forest resource is concerned, its
importance needs no elaboration. Apart from
its influence on rainfall and against floods, it
affords protection against soil erosion. It also
proves to be a source of raw material for
paper, rayon, construction and match
industries. Though the forest resource is
renewable,raising of the forest wealth takes
longer time. It is estimated that 9.9 million
hectares of woodland are cleared each year in
the world. If the paper industry in India,
among others, is singled out, out of 305 paper
mills today, which account for a total installed
capacity of 30.14 lakh tonnes, 25 percent
with a capacity of 6.25 lakh tonnes are closed
and several other units are in doledrums. The

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increasing scarcity of raw materials shows the
writings on the walls for this industry which
makes writing material available. The gap in
the availability and requirement of forest based
raw material, by the turn of the century is
estimated to be 43.21 lakh tonnes.
Notwithstanding the fact that the national
forest policy stipulates that maintenance of one
third of the land for forest shold be our aim,
there appears to be a fast depletion of the
forest stock, as the number of claimants for
the forest produce is on the increase. The
dwindling forest resources is not only an open
invitation to desertification, but may also put in
jeopardy the interest of a significant proportion
of workers for whom forestry and logging are
the primary source of income. While
afforestation is intended to progressively
narrow the gap between availability and
consumption, conversion of irrigated
agricultural land to eucalyptus cultivation in
order to aid pulp and rayon production and
thereby get-rich-quick is fraught with serious
consequences. The Gujarat farmers, oblivious
of the impact, have taken to the cultivation of
the 'ecological terrorist' eucalyptus (1982).
Large scale plantation causes displacement of
workers as it does not call for more labour.
In agroforestry lies the answer to such a

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blatant conversion, since it takes into account
the farmers' own definition of the situations in
which they are engaged. Since afforestation is
presenting itself as a race against time, apart
from launching village based schemes and
enlisting the active support and participation of
the localites, creation of forest cooperatives
will help impart proper training and skill to the
forest labour force. As they get organised,
their participation through their organisation
will result in the "dehumanisation of anomie
and alienation". In addition, they will see the
dawn of the day wherein they will experience
economic compatibility and power parity with
their employers

Operation Floods
The emphasis on 'operation floods' means the
increase in the rearing of herds which means
that there is a wide gap between the size of
the herd population and the pasture lands
which can support them. Operation Flood III
from 1985-1990 envisaged to bring another
6.4 million families and thus achieve a target
of 10 million families within the list of the
beneficiaries. While such of those reliant upon
rearing of herds cannot be said to be
economically better off, growth of arid land for
cultivation at the cost of grazing lands results

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in overgrazing. The economic viability of
rearing of herds has to be seen against the
background of increasing herd size and
decreasing availability of pasture lands .The
importance of ensuring that development aids
really go to the livestock needs no emphasis.
Nothing will give rise to optimum level of
optimism unless efforts are made to encourage
keeping of diverse herds of animals and
acceptability among consumers of different
milk, milk products and meat. Apart from
being an insurance against drought, such an
endeavour will vouchsafe for continued
availability of products in the midst of growing
population and ensure a fair return to the
supporters of herds.

Fishery Resources
Global experiences tell us that our
contribution, in spite of vash fishery resources
we can lay our hands upon, is no where near
comparison. The dismal picture it presents
portrays that the exploitation of the fishery
resources leaves much to be desired, and this
resource, as a substitute to land, can be as
effectual as Aladdin's lamp, when fully
exploited. The untapped human resource
in fisheries, along with the mechanisation of
this field of fruitful activity, needs to be

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channelised so as to improve the nutritional
level of the public at large as well as the
economic well being of those who pursue
fishing as a specialised field of activities.

Conclusion

Labour power remains without being


transformed into labour, as Karl Marx (1955)
puts it, since no intervention have appears to
have taken place to offset the weak bargaining
power of the rural unorganised labour. The
instrumental as well as the terminal value of
thse unorganised rural labour could be
fruitfully realised when conditions are created
for them to rally round and emerge into a
collectivity. As Fox (1971) holds, 'the appetite
for self-enhancement is influenced by the
opportunities for pursuing it, and men who are
strategically placed for collective action may
not only be driven on by the goad of
discontent from behind, but also drawn on by
the beckoning fruits that lie ahead'. The
emergence of a 'collective worker' will not only
remove their unequal bargaining predicament,
but will also contribute to the growth of

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feelings of fellowship and self-
development'(Cooley 1962). The abundance of
both raw material as well as human resources
provides scope for exuberent exploitation. Lop-
sided exploitation of one resource at the
expense of the other will continue to haunt us
with the question 'what is wrong with the
system?'.
A responsibility is cast on the society to ensure
that these men who constitute the
'unorganised rural labour', but who otherwise
help others in industrial sector to organise
themselves do not 'go unwept, unhonoured
and unsung to the vile dust whence they
sprung.(Walter Scott).

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Note: The data relating to agricultural


production are old. With dwindling production,
the cost of essential commodities is on the
increase which results in the erosion of the
purchasing power of the common man.

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