Tenancy and accumulation: A study of the capitalist farm sector in Punjab

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Downloads (Pure)


The period from the late 1990s to the present in rural India has been characterised by scholars as being a period of agrarian distress. There is debate, however, on whether this “unending” crisis has halted capital accumulation in agriculture and affected all classes. This paper contributes to this debate by studying aspects of capital accumulation in Punjab. It uses data from two surveys of a village in the Doaba region of Punjab: a census survey by the Foundation for Agrarian Studies in 2011, and a resurvey by the author of a sample of households in 2019. The paper argues that capital accumulation in the village has continued over the last two decades and was concentrated in a class of tenant-capitalist farmers belonging to the dominant class and caste (Jat Sikhs). In the context of stagnation of agricultural productivity and declining profitability per unit of land, this group of capitalist farmers was able to enhance their total income by leasing in land. This opportunity was created by large-scale emigration among the landed Jat Sikhs. Tenant-capitalist farmers had privileged access to the lands of the emigrants with whom they shared caste and kinship ties. This path of accumulation was further facilitated by access to cheap migrant workers, assured procurement by the State, an active market for machinery, and access to credit at affordable rates of interest. Tenancy thus provided an impetus to accumulation and investment in the capitalist agriculture of Punjab in the contemporary period.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
JournalReview of Agrarian Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


  • Tenancy
  • accumulation
  • capitalist farmers
  • capitalist development
  • agrarian crisis
  • agrarian distress
  • caste
  • class
  • Jat Sikhs
  • land
  • emigration
  • migrant labour

Cite this