Dynamics of Rural Transformation in Karnataka: A View from three Villages

@ATREE auditorium at 3.45 pm on 5th March 2018


The transition from a rural to an urban economy in India is implicitly taken to be inevitable and uniform across diverse regions of the country. An exploration of this transition however suggests significant regional diversity. This diversity can be seen not just in the transition from the rural to the urban but also in the change within the rural. This thesis makes use of the fact that Karnataka provides diversity across multiple axes, with the extremes being found in poorer northeastern Karnataka, the rapidly changing coastal Karnataka, and the resilient old Mysore region in the south. It chooses three villages to represent this diversity: Mahagaon in the northeastern region of the state, Naravi in the coastal region, and Iggaluru in the south. The Census of India had studied these villages in detail in the Village Survey Monographs, 1961. While most studies on Karnataka have focused on episodes such as land reforms, green revolution and decentralization, the primary objective of this thesis has been to trace processes of rural transformation that connect these episodes in these villages of Karnataka over half a century using quantitative and qualitative research methods. While several socio-historical, ecological and economic factors play a role in determining the path of transformation, there are common underlying processes, such as the subdivision of land, mobility of capital and labour, and decentralization, that interact with the specific regional contexts resulting in diversity. The thesis conceptualizes diversity in transformation in the three villages as follows: Localized urbanization in Mahagaon where productivity constraints placed by the environment as well as the agrarian system leave labour with few opportunities, leading to repeated cycles of circular migration that result in urbanization in the village; Localized modernity in Naravi in the coastal Karnataka region, where land reforms not only drastically transform land relations but also change the nature of the family, leading to a rise in individualism and identity politics in the village alongside technological developments and progress in education; and Agrarian resilience in Iggaluru, where majority of the population continues to stay in agriculture due to state investment in irrigation, even as other fundamental charges occur in cropping patterns, labour relations as well as in education.

About the speaker

Soundarya Iyer is a Post-Doctoral Fellow working in the CARIAA (Collaborative Adaptation Research Initiative in Asia and Africa) project at IIHS, Bangalore. Her research focuses on understanding barriers and enablers to climate change adaptation. Her doctoral dissertation traced the processes of rural transformation in three villages of the south Indian state of Karnataka using mixed methods. Soundarya has been trained in life sciences and was researching questions of evolutionary biology in laboratory settings before she moved to development studies in 2010. Her approach to research has been interdisciplinary ever since.