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Patronage and power in rural India: a study based on interaction networks

Anindya Bhattacharya, Anirban Kar, Sunil Kumar and Alita Nandi

Discussion Papers from Department of Economics, University of York

Abstract: This work has two intertwined components: first, as part of a research programme it introduces a new methodology for identifying `power-centres' in rural societies of developing countries in general and then applies that in the specific context of contemporary rural India for addressing some debates on the dynamics of power in rural India. Land-ownership, caste hierarchy and patron-client relation have been regarded as the traditional building blocks of political-economic organization in rural India. However, many believe that gradual urbanization and expansion of market economy have eroded the influence of the traditional power structure. This work is a contribution toward identifying the nature of `local' rural institutions based on primary data collected by ourselves. We took 36 villages in the states of Maharashtra, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh - 12 in each of these states - as the sites for our observation and data collection. We quantify nature of institutions from data on the day-to-day interactions of households in the spheres of economy, society and politics. The aspect of institution we focus on is the structure of multidimensional and interlinked dependence in these spheres and whether such dependence is concentrated on a few `powerful' entities (called `local elites') dominating over a large number of households or whether this is distributed in a sufficiently diffuse manner. Our household survey shows that there is substantial variation in power structure across regions. We identified the presence of `local elites' in 22 villages out of 36 surveyed. We conducted a follow-up survey, called `elite survey', to get detailed information about the identified elite households. Our primary objective was to learn the socio-economic-political profile of the elite households and their involvement in village life. This paper provides a summary of our findings. We observe that landlordism has considerably weakened, land has ceased to be the sole source of power and new power-centres have emerged. Despite these changes, caste, landownership and patron-client relation continue to be three important pillars of rural power structure.

Keywords: Clientelism; Lanlordism; Network. (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: P16 O12 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018-11
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-dev and nep-hme
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