Sociology Mind
2012. Vol.2, No.4, 382-387
Published Online October 2012 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Politics of Hunger and Development: A Sociological
Review of India’s Developmental Discourse
Ashok Kum a r M .
School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Mandi, Mandi, India
Received August 5th, 2012; revised Septem ber 4th, 2012 ; accepted September 13th, 2012
This paper attempts to address the problem of hunger from the viewpoint of its social face against the
backdrop of fast growing economy of India. Current sad state of affairs in the domain of poverty and
hunger are nothing but the cumulative result of what happens in the Indian development planning since
Independence, or at least in the name of development planning. This paper sociologically examines three
most critical events in the history of Indian development planning, which are introduced to mitigate hun-
ger and poverty, in both urban and rural India. The central focus of this paper is to highlight politics of
those development initiatives and liquidation of public planning at the level of implementation, which
eventually increased the gap between rich and poor, and left the Indian poor to their own fate. This paper
also examines the most significant aspect of delinking power relations from the development discourse of
India by providing more room for populist ideas with an aim to gain political mileage by the ruling elite.
The present state of affairs with respect to poverty and hunger coupled with low standards of health, lit-
eracy and social awareness in India call for serious introspection. This paper, therefore, critically looks at
Indian development discourse from the perspective of power relations, both established and emerging,
which could alter our views on India and its growth story.
Keywords: Development; Political Economy; Hunger
India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world
today but it still struggles to eradicate the most alarming prob-
lem of hunger and acute poverty, which is widely visible in
every corner of the country. India ranked 67 in the Global
Hunger Index (GHI) 2011 conducted by the International Food
Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) among 81countries across the
world. India’s neighboring countries seem to have done fairly
well, while China ranked 4, Pakistan ranked 59 and Sri Lanka
ranked 36 in the GHI. This Global Hunger Index is calculated
taking three interconnected dimensions of hunger—inadequate
consumptions, child underweight, and child mortality—into
consideration. The same report placed India in the “alarming”
category. It clearly points out that India is home to 42% of the
underweight children under the age of five. These aspects of
India evidently demonstrate the sorry state of affairs that needs
a serious thought and it also calls for sociological explanation.
In its attempt to become more responsible, Supreme Court of
India has directed the government on 12th August 2010 to dis-
tribute food drains remained at the FCI (Food Corporation of
India) warehouses as backlash to the incident of 50,000 tonnes
of wheat being destroyed and damaged due to the poor and
insufficient storage facilities.
When the union minister of agriculture Mr. Sharad Pawar
responded to supreme court’s ruling that it was not possible to
implement the Supreme Court’s suggestion to distribute the
food grains for free, then the Supreme Court had reiterated
saying that distribution of food for free was not a suggestion
but an order. It is quite stunning to come across such observa-
tions when the Indian economy is thriving in the global market.
India’s impressive economic performance in the global market
and its utterly poor performance in eradicating hunger raise
many questions about social inequality, political will, good
governance, development initiatives, and above all the much
talked about concept of inclusive growth. This paper goes into
socio-historical aspects of Indian realities with reference to
poverty and hunger to explain the current state of affairs.
Concept of Development and Hunger
The problem of hunger in India is, undoubtedly, viewed by
many social scientists, as a multi-headed monster whose roots
are strongly embedded in the Indian social structure, and is one
among the most serious social problems that contemporary
India is confronting today. This problem of hunger draws its
origins from low levels of education, high levels of supersti-
tions, lack of awareness, the caste system, unequal distribution
of wealth, and ever increasing population. That means any ho-
listic study of hunger must not be independent of Indian social
structure in terms of both theory and application. The problem
of hunger is one among the most striking features of underde-
velopment in Indian society. The notion of underdevelopment
and its special relationship with the problem of hunger is in-
separable. The discourse of development has been put forth as
the most desirable way out to mitigate the problem of hunger
and poverty. Defining the concept of development has been and
continues to be a great challenge to many theorists as it in-
volves multiple dimensions such as social, economic and po-
litical, which are of complex and multilayered in nature. But in
a day to day parlance, development denotes either a state of
well-being or a process associated with concepts such as mate-
rial well-being, economic growth, social justice, personal blos-
soming and, of course, ecological balance.
The United Nations definition of development is as follo ws :
The ultimate purpose of development, according to a UN
document 1975, is to bring about a more equitable distri-
bution of income and wealth for promoting social justice;
alleviating poverty; maximizing productive employment;
and expanding and improving facilities for education,
health, nutrition, housing and social welfare for the de-
prived and dis-advantaged individuals, groups and com-
munities. These objectives, the documents said, are both
the determining factors and the end result of development
and hence be viewed as integrated parts of a dynamic de-
velopment (Srivastava, 1998).
Various models, approaches, theories and strategies that have
been extensively used in development literature have compre-
hensively explained the process of development. It is important
to note that there is no single development model, which is
universally accepted but at the same time the concept of eco-
nomic growth seems to be at the heart of all development mod-
els, it is precisely true in case of developmental models that
have had western origins. It is argued that the entire conceptual
pragram of modernization and development doctrines since
1945 have embodied the cultural assumptions, political prem-
ises and economic values of the western society (Luke, 1990).
As a result, we face a strange situation wherein one finds dis-
courses of development and modernization strongly rooted in
the cultural, technological, historical and political premises of
North America and Western European society rather than in the
actual needs and real experiences of the Third world countries
on whose behalf the demand for development is being strongly
advocated. The dominant Western development paradigm being
“economic growth” centered was subjected to severe criticism
when the question of applicability in Indian social context is
brought-forth. Some even argue that perhaps it is inevitable to
India’s development discourse to avoid western dominant
model in its journey towards developing an indigenous model
of development.
On similar lines, many scholars argued that the critiques of
modern development theories are not only restricted to alterna-
tives, but also based on a search for more satisfactory and in-
digenous forms of development, which are perhaps much dif-
ferent from the western development theory. We do come
across many development models that are of Indian origin like
Gandhian model, Nehruvian model and Kerala model and so
forth. This means that here one is not looking for universally
accepted development model but trying to make sense in a
contextually valid ways. However, in many ways, there seems
to be a commonality among the definitions of development that
they always get defined as opposite of underdevelopment. It
contains a promise of moving away from underdevelopment
and rising out of poverty, which is sought and perhaps attained
by means of planning for development. The notion of “devel-
opment” is believed to be potential enough to provide the way
out for poverty and hunger problems and in other words it car-
ries, in some sense, a “believability structure” which has always
been taken for granted.
Since it carries a sense of “believability structure”, there has
been a high level of competition among people belonging to
different fields or domains to capture this emerging “social
domain” called development. Among social scientists, in fact,
economists are relatively successful enough to capture this area
a little earlier than the others. As a result, economic perspective
has been dominant in the development discourse all over the
world and India is no different. In this paper my focus is to
understand the problem of hunger in India from a sociological
perspective by giving a special emphasis on non-economic
dimensions or “social face of hunger”. This social face of hun-
ger has the potential to run through the Indian history in the
discourse of development. The same framework would allow us
to pose different questions, provide perspectives for new inter-
pretations in my attempts to understand questions of hunger and
poverty in India.
Before making any arguments on hunger in India, I would
like to clarify the sense in which the term hunger is being used
in this paper. Hunger could be a potential outcome of many
situations1 but the one I want to address in this paper is a
day-to-day experience of “Indian poor”. This form of hunger is
intrinsically associated with poverty stricken conditions of In-
dian society. According to Amartya Sen, hunger is classified
into two major categories, one is of “acute hunger” and the sec-
ond one is “chronic hunger”2. The chronic hunger among In-
dian poor occupies the center stage in my analysis. Paradoxi-
cally, the stark social reality lies in the fact that people or social
groups who suffer from chronic hunger have direct and active
involvement in the process of food production in India (Sen
1991). Jean Dreze has been emphasizing on a fact that India
does not have food scarcity but it seriously suffers from un-
equal distribution of food amongst people that in turn leading to
hunger (Dreze, 2003, 2004).
Economic status as bottom line for identifying poor has been
an established practice in the development discourse in India.
Besides economic factor, it would give us a better understand-
ing about poverty and hunger situation in India by considering
dazzling differences between urban and rural population, peo-
ple live in wet land and dry land, gender differences, and most
importantly differences between the lower castes and upper
castes. This argument is to highlight that Indian population of a
particular region is not a homogenous group to apply economic
perspective to calculate who is poor and who is not, purely on
the basis of their economic status. The social/caste group they
are born and brought up with could largely influence and de-
cides their chances of social opportunities in life.
1It is quite possible to see many non-
oor having the experience of hunger
due to good reasons like disparity in intra-familial distribution of power,
land and other property difference and also due to family problems and so
forth. But the kind of hunger that non-
oor undergo is not the concern o
this paper. Even chronic-hunger as a consequence of natural calamities also
does not come under the purview of this paper. In fact, hunger could really
e an outcome of both illegal transfers (e.g. looting) and choice failure (e.g.
owing to inflexible food habits) by an individual (Mukherjee,2002). In a
way this study expresses its sensitivitytowards different forms of hunger
though they were not dealt with in this essay.
2Acute hunger, which is a result of famine, is more sensational, emotive and
apparent from the outset. On the other hand, chronic hunger is insidious
sabotage wrought on millions of children, women and men in several places
around the globe. It is silent and only the sufferers hear the growls in her or
his stomach. In case of India, particularly, many may not be “dying of hun-
ger” but they spend their whole live at the edge of hunger.
Having a vast population who are suffering from hunger in
India itself speaks volumes about the intensity of hunger prob-
lem and the way it has been addressed at the level of planning.
The presence of poor people is not only confined to dry-lands
rather their presence is equally represented in wet-land areas
too. In general, human beings like all living beings do not opt
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 383
to be hungry unless they are forced to be so. Poverty and hun-
ger in India must not be examined as independent entities rather
an essential outcome of Indian politics throughout the past five
decades since Independence. With urgency one should pose this
question i.e. why the question of hunger was/is not in the fore-
front of Indian political discussions despite its significance and
disturbing figures it presents. The very premise to bring about
positive changes in any society is through none other than “po-
litical will” with and without the support of state3. Unfortu-
nately such “political will” in Indian politics is either absent or
hypocritical; as a result social problems like hunger are hardly
discussed in the public debates or in the gatherings of public
representatives. There are many official schemes in India even
today that try to address hunger problem directly or indirectly.
It is interesting to know that some government-initiated
schemes are highlighted and got undeserved attention than the
actual outcome yi el ded by those schemes .
Politics of Hunger and Historical Betrayal
Land Reforms
Right after the Independence, one of the major concerns of
rural India was to provide minimal agriculture land, as part of
distributive justice, for the landless agriculture laborers. After
conducting agricultural census, many Indian States legislated
the fixed ceilings during the second Five Year Plan (1956-
1960). These Land Reforms of 1960s, with its regulations re-
garding tenancy and ceiling on agricultural land holdings are
supposed to break up large estates in order to reduce social
disparity between the landlords and the poor, and also to pro-
vide solution to the problem of hunger in India. The former
Prime Minister (PM) of India Mrs. Indira Gandhi herself de-
clared at the Chief Ministers conference during 26-27 Septem-
ber 1970 that “land reforms is the most crucial test which our
political system must pass in order to survive” (Lal, 1982).
Unfortunately, the Indian political system has been surviving
without taking any measures or action to implement land re-
forms. It was estimated that the surplus land would be around
5.3 million acres, out of which not even 2% of land got distrib-
uted over a period of thirty-five years of agriculture land ceiling
enforcement (Lal, 1982). Even today, there are people who
illegally own hundreds of acres of agriculture land in rural India:
it has become an elephant in the room.
The most striking and prominent reason behind failure of
land reforms implementation was the emergence of landlord
castes into a powerful political lobby or force in the post-inde-
pendent India with strong intentions of protecting their vested
interests. It is the same landlord castes or the rural elite, if I
may call them, is the social base for all the political parties in
India irrespective of their ideological differences. Given sig-
nificant importance to the landlords in the political circles of
India, the Landlord castes ensure that manipulating the process
of implementation defeats those policies, which may cause
damage to their social domination, political economy and
landholdings. Due to loopholes and lack of sincerity, Indian
landlords could manage to retain their landholding through
binami names. It was believed that government officials who
involved in the enforcement of land ceiling act were quite often
in favour of landlords. The nexus between Landlords, Indian
bureaucracy, and the political class stood united against imple-
mentation of land reforms, as a result the size of large land-
holdings reduced only on the government records but not in
reality. Many studies (Lal, 1982; Rao, 1974; Joshi, 1996) have
suggested that the fruits of land reforms cannot reach the rural
poor unless their direct involvement in the program implement-
tation is ensured.
The reason behind giving an extra emphasis to land reforms
had to do with the historical context in which it was introduced.
It was introduced when the “agrarian unrest”was widespread in
rural India. It was precisely due to the oppressive nature of
caste system, colonial administration that hardly had any
concern for the natives, Jajmani system which favored people
from the upper castes in Indian sub-continent. Altogether, after
Independence India had to face acute forms of poverty,
enormous social disparity between the majority of its population
who are poor and belonging to lower castes, on the other hand
we had very rich and landlords who usually belong to one of
the upper castes. This is what precisely led to agrarian unrest as
an overwhelming proportion of India’s agriculture land was in
the hands of a few individuals against the rest who were
landless. And not to forget, agriculture was one among the
major sources of living for majority of Indians; that resulted in
exploitation of laborers as the labour was cheaply available in
the market. The “agriculture land” is considered an important
source of income, besides being a symbol of higher social
status. Agriculture land in Indian context has the potential to
scale up one’s social status by providing multiple options for
living and income generating techniques. In this historical
context, land ceiling enforcement act was an important
“national promise” to its citizens in the post-independent India
expecting that it would unleash social disparities between rich
and poor. India’s failure to implement the land reforms resulted
in reproducing the same “Jajmani relations” with a different
mode and style of operation under democratic political system.
Green Revolution
In another important attempt to address the problem of hun-
ger and poverty in Indian society in the early 1960s the phe-
nomenon of “green revolution” was brought forth in the na-
tional debate. The idea of green revolution and its importance
was based on the FAD (Food Availability Decline) argument.
The FAD argument was that majority of Indian population was
going hungry because there was not enough food produced and
hence less food available in the market. As a result, it was ar-
gued that there was a crying need for implementing High-
Yielding Variety (HYV) of seeds along with introduction of
fertilizers and improvement in the irrigation system to produce
more agriculture output in order to meet national needs. The
Green revolution made many promises to the nation notably
introduction of double cropping pattern, High-Yielding Variety
seeds, and scale neutrality into the Indian agriculture system, all
that to address the problem of Hunger in India. This green
revolution technology was tested and tried in many parts of
India but was partially successful in the states of Punjab and
Haryana for a variety of socio-economic reasons like large
average rate of land holdings, better irrigation facilities along
with better economic conditions of the farmers in these two
states. But the experience of green revolution technology left
3The usage of the term “state” here implies that it is an autonomous entity
that can be operated irrespective of political parties holding the power.
Importantly, there is a growing tendency of hatred and disinterest towards
active politics among Indian youth in recent days; popular perception says
that politics is the business of c orrupt and also rich peo ple.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
bad memories on the life of poor people as their problem of
hunger and poverty remained largely unaddressed.
In order to understand the social and structural reasons for
the failure of Green revolution technology in India, I think, it is
necessary to go into the details of the structure of land owner-
ship in India. It will be even clearer to understand the dynamic
relationship between land ownership and poverty in India from
the point of Amartya Sen’s entitlement approach. For Sen
(1981), the structure of land ownership and ownership relations
are one form of entitlement relations. Therefore, it is necessary
to understand the entitlement systems within which the problem
of starvation needs to be analyzed. He argues that hunger is the
result of non-.availability of food and lack of Individual ability
to access food through endowment or exchange entitlement.
Sen was critiqued by scholars on the grounds of his negligence
towards taking cultural elements into his entitlement approach.
Amitava Mukherjee argues that some serious structural and
cultural issues related to food insecurity have been over looked
in Sen’s thesis. Satisfaction of both foods availability and indi-
vidual’s ability to access may not always guarantee food secu-
rity. In Indian cultural context there are three more conditions
in addition to Sen’s argument, for food security. They are: ex-
istence of institutional sanctions, choice of food and the exis-
tence of secondary food system (Mukherjee, 2002).
Mukherjee further argues that Sen’s E & D thesis laid over
emphasis on possession based ability wherein general ability is
shaped and sharpened by available institutional sanctions and
system of markets and prices. Also it would be important to
know elements in individual’s endowment entitlements. They
have to be either objective goods like land, wealth, etc. or sub-
jective goods like skill, knowledge, traits, ap t i t u de, and capacity
to work hard and so on. Both the objective and subjective
goods in endowment entitlement of a person are interconnected
closely with causal relation. Therefore individual possessive-
ness and capability cannot be determined effectively by any
other factors other than objective goods they had. So there is no
point of looking at individual’s capacity by ignoring the source
of its very being (Mukherjee, 2002).
The FAD argument conveniently neglects the fact that hun-
ger, starvation and poverty depends not merely on food avail-
ability but also on its distribution. The advocators of FAD ar-
gument believed that increase in food production would be
possible through Green revolution that will solve the hunger
problem in India. The green revolution proved a turning point
towards modernizing Indian agriculture sector. And due to the
immediate effect of the introduction of new technology, HYV,
unlike past it made the farmers increasingly dependent on the
market for new seeds, chemical fertilizers and farm machines
etc. Consequently, agriculture has become increasingly capital
intensive. Quite a good number of farmers in rural area couldn’t
cope up with green revolution strategy of development, which
proved to be a very costly affair given their poor economic
standard (Das, 1983). Therefore the obvious inference that one
can draw from this situation is that the gains or fruits of green
revolution technology were only available at the doorsteps of
those who were already rich enough4. Critics argued that the
green revolution has been responsible for accelerating the pace
of mechanization and tractorization that caused displacement
of the labour and unemployment in large scale (Ladejinsky,
Dhanagare provides a critical assessment of green revolution
as it differently affected both growth and social justice in India.
He argues that in most parts, the green revolution has failed to
raise incomes of the rural poor and contribute substantially to
enhance their effective purchasing power in the growing market
(Dhanagare, 1987). The levels of economic polarization and
social antagonism in the form of class conflicts have emerged
very quickly than originally anticipated (Francine, 1972). In
similar lines, T. K. Oommen (1975) had analyzed the impact of
green revolution on the weaker sections of India. He concluded
that small peasants did not benefit as much as the landlords
because of their poor resources. He further pointed out that the
disparity between the small peasant and the agricultural labour
has narrowed down and the former is increasingly getting im-
poverished and tends to join the ranks of agriculture labour.
Thus the green revolution does not lead to the welfare of agrar-
ian poor unless substantial alterations in the prevalent—socio-
economic and political structures are done at the grass root
level. Green Revolution not only quickened the process of
economic polarization both in rural and urban settings, but it
has also contributed its major share to increase social antago-
nism between landlords and tenants, landlords and laborers.
The levels of economic polarization and social antagonism in
the form of class/caste conflicts have emerged, as a result of
implementing green revolution technology, very quickly than
originally antici pa ted.
The problem of poverty and hunger still exist in those places
wherein the green revolution technology was claimed to be
successful. Literary percentage of the farmers was very low
when this technology introduced in India. Farmers do not know
how to use green revolution technology and their economic
standard did not allow them to afford for mechanization of
agriculture across the states in India. It was like introduction of
modern technology into Indian society wherein medieval social
relations were prevailing i.e. Jajmani system; land ownership
and agriculture were the most important domains in such social
relations. Due to the failure of land reforms implementation,
these social relations determined by Jajmani system took a
different shape with the introduction of modern technology into
the Indian agriculture: It is like the old wine in a new bottle.
Landlords, who were the newly emerging political class in
modern India, were largely successful in retaining their lands
and their ownership under modern law. It was used as a politi-
cal trick to sideline the question of land distribution according
to the land reforms act, if implemented which would have
brought about drastic changes in the lives of Indian poor. This
green revolution technology was useful to the medium and big
landlords of rural India. Sad part of this story is that the imple-
mentation of advanced technology has been considered to be an
issue of pride on part of the Indian state irrespective of the so-
cial structure, and without any regard for consequences and its
4In India, Punjab and Haryana states have relatively better good irrigation
facilities in agriculture sector compared to other. In addition to that, the
average rate of land holdings is more than 15 acres in both these states
against nat ion al av erag e. That mig ht be s een as o ne o f t he s ign ifican t f acto rs
ehind the relative success of green revolution technology in these two
Economic Reforms
In another historical attempt to address the problem of
hunger and poverty in India, the issue of economic reforms
came to the forefront of national debate with many promises. It
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 385
was in the 1990s when almost more than 40% of Indian
population was living below poverty line (BPL) and, therefore,
the need for national economic growth was felt an urgent goal
to tackle poverty related problems that India was confronting
then. In the 1990s, economic reforms were implemented with a
view to unleash the entrepreneurial forces from the shackles of
government control and regulations hoping that some of the
promoses of economic growth would trickle down to the
clamoring masses in India (Bardhan 2003). For Bardhan, after
independence the policymaking-elite in India launched a pro-
ject of economic development with a heavy involvement of the
state and democratic polity. There were many success and at
least as many failures of this developmental project since the
initial decades of 1950s, 60s and 70s. In terms of economic
success, this particular project led to the foundation of a
complex industrial economy, some parts of which are highly
inefficient and not very cost-effective.
This project also led to a fairly reasonable rate of agricultural
growth with subsidized irrigation and chemical fertilizers,
sometimes at the cost of a heavy fiscal burden as well as envi-
ronmental degradation. The political mobilizations gave rise to
the aspirations of groups that now came up from below, over-
coming a long history of social inequality and oppression, but
the economy could not match those aspirations. Due to the slow
growth, the elite that controlled the economy did not have ade-
quate state resources to placate those who were knocking at the
gates with increasing assertiveness; this obviously led to eco-
nomic and political frustrations and social fragmentation. This
began to be widely felt in the middle of 1970s (Bardhan, 2003).
Partly in response to this rising frustration, the elite in India
over the past few decades launched a process of economic re-
form with a view to unleash the entrepreneurial forces from the
shackles of state control and regulations.
Delicensing and deregulation of investment and production
process in most industries; Discontinuation of exclusive reser-
vation of many key industries for the public sector and of
budgetary subsidies to public sector enterprises, with some
small steps towards privatization in more recent years; Gradual
abolition of quantitative restrictions on imports (except for
some consumer goods); Movement towards a market-deter-
mined exchange rate (within limits); Reduction of average lev-
els of direct and indirect taxes and some streamlining and ra-
tionalization of the tax structure (Bardhan, 2003). High levels
of poverty in late 1980s have enhanced the importance of ori-
entation towards hunger-free India. The most sort out results
from the implementation of economic reforms were: a higher
rate of growth, an enlargement of employment potential, reduc-
tion of population below poverty line (BPL), promotion of eq-
uity and reduction of regional disparities. The impact of eco-
nomic reforms is, in one sense seen as vital achievement of
economic reforms in Indian society, that it managed to create
winners and losers as an extension of Indian social system that
works in favor of a few and against the majority (Tandon,
2003). The contribution of economic reforms towards creating
a gulf between the rich and poor would cost India a lot as to
bridge that gap is not likely anywhere in the near future.
Bardhan (2003) seems to provide an interesting dimension to
understand the problem of hunger, which has its own set of
unique complexities in India. The rise of regional political par-
ties as power centers has become a dominant factor in deter-
mining Central government programs or schemes aiming to
mitigate hunger. It is apparently clear that Indian nation state
failed to provide an effective pan Indian poverty elimination
scheme that can effectively be implemented in all the states.
Many government programs that are meant to abolish poverty
levels, in fact, were largely misused gain some form or the
other the political mileage rather than poverty removal, and it
holds true at the level of central government and state govern-
ments. Even the selection of each region to be benefited under
any welfare scheme does certainly involve politics with a sole
target of having bright political future for the years to come
beginning with the next elections. One among the most signifi-
cant outputs of such equation resulted in having more and more
number of populist5 schemes to keep their political parties in
the limelight. Such developmental schemes are meant to bring
about popularity to political parties, increase prospects to win
the next elections, and also make the poor people forever de-
pendents on the development schemes launche d by the state.
G. Aloysius (2004) puts forth his argument with much more
sociological insights. His point of entry into the political
economy of hunger in India is perhaps with a basic question, i.e.
who are the poor in India and not so poor? And also, in fact, it
tries to address issues centered on a vital and crucial aspect i.e.
social face of poverty in India, which had close correspondence
with the Indian social structure. Form him, mere economic
identification for poor may miss out the very essential social
dimensions of poverty and hunger. For the totality of compre-
hensive identification of poverty in India, no doubt, mere eco-
nomic identity gives a sense of incompleteness. The hallmark
of his argument is to highlight the social face of hunger. His
argument classifies the Indian society historically into two ma-
jor groups, i.e. caste-poverty and caste-developed6. From this
idea it is apparent to know that, Indian discourse of hunger has
been framed by the scholarship with abstract targets. For him,
using or writing about poor and poverty without naming who
they are and what caste they belong to is a kind of abstract in-
terpretation and such attempts are intended to sideline the ques-
tion of caste in the whole discourse of poverty and hunger in
Indian society.
The shift from the old jajmani social relations to that of
modern social relations under the republic of India, especially
in the rural India with respect to agriculture and land ownership
in modern social relations, was not what it was expected. The
agricultural land and land ownership was strongly protected by
the landlord class who emerged as a political class right after
the independence to protect their vested interests. Both the
promises and the failures of land reforms, green revolution and
economic reforms in the India’s historical experience of dealing
with the question of hunger and poverty mitigation have been
making new permutations and combinations, once again, to
guard the interests of the landlords, by leaving the depressed
5Populist schemes apparently look attractive at the outset, but in terms o
concrete output they absolutely produce zero results. Interestingly they bring
about enough popularity to the political party who initiates as well its lead-
6In Indian context, caste-
overty means being in close relationship with
overty by the virtue of born in a certain community/caste group. Some
caste groups have very little chances of aspiring for better life since they live
in utter poverty in terms of economic as well as socio-political resources. In
case of caste-developed, things are completely opposite as the resources o
few caste gr oup s effect iv ely wo rk in th eir favo ur an d in creas es t hei r chan ces
of improving financial statu s along with social status.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 387
castes to their fate in miserable conditions. As a result, there
were not much changes took place in the social relations of
people as they managed to retain the traditional caste relations,
modified Jajmani relations, without having any substantial
changes in land ownership, with unequal distribution of eco-
nomic resources continue to haunt Indian system with unique
problems, short-comings and other social complications. Even
today, Indian society is facing the reality of upper caste groups
holding an overwhelming bulk of agricultural land while the
Indian masses slog for their daily means as agricultural work-
Those social problems, which were supposed to be solved in
the 1960s and 1970s, still exist in the contemporary India. This
is what makes the hunger problem more critical and complex
due to its inextricable connection with land ownership rights
and caste system. But the reasons to start these three major
initiatives and questions behind these three important events in
the history of Indian development discourse are still relevant
and they may continue to be relevant for long. The landlords
have reportedly making more money in this globalized world
while leaving the Indian poor to their own fate. Failure of pub-
lic policy, particularly with reference to hunger and poverty,
has been a consistent outcome in India since 1960s. It has been
a national sport to liquidate the implementation of public policy
in India wherein the political class, bureaucracy and landlords
are active players who have been leading the game. It is impor-
tant here to highlight that the direction and methods of poverty
alleviation and development discourse are not focused to ad-
dress the question of power relations and land ownership rights
which play a crucial role to determine an individual’s capacity
to rise out of poverty in a highly hierarchal society like India.
There has been much to say about strong political involve-
ment for development propaganda, just to use “hunger” as an
instrument in electoral politics without having any intentions to
eradicate of remove it. The development discourse in India is
totally delinked from power relations and only trying to address
the symptoms of a larger social problem called chronic hunger.
The current state of affairs with respect to poverty and hunger
in India represents the cumulative effect of the historic blunders,
lack of political will, consistency in failure of public policy and
the attitude with which the Indian leadership has been ap-
proaching the problem of hunger. Even though India is one
among the fastest growing economies in the world but the other
side of the Indian society seems to be at great risk and it calls
for immediate attention before we run out of time.
I sincerely thank Dr. Purendra Prasad, Associate Professor of
Sociology at the University of Hyderabad for his guidance and
valuable comments on the initial draft of this paper.
Aloysius, G. (2004). Poverty and development in India: A sociological
consideration. Unpublished Paper.
Arya, P. P., & Tandon, B. B. (2003). Economic reforms in India: From
first to second generation and beyond. Delhi: Deep & Deep Publi-
Bardhan, P. (2003). Poverty, agrarian structure and political economy
in India: Selected essays. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
Dhanagare, D. N. (1987). Green revolution and social inequalities in
rural India. Economic and Political Weekly, 22.
Dreze, J., & Amartya, S. (1991). The political economy of hunger: En-
titlement and well being (Vol. I). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Dreze, J., & Goyal, A. (2003). Future of mid-day meals. Economic and
Political Weekly, 38, 4673-4683.
Dreze, J. (2004). Democracy and right to food. Economic and Political
Weekly , 39, 723-731.
Frankel, F. (1972). India’s green revolution: Economic gains and po-
litical cost. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Joshi, P. C. (1996). Land reforms in India. New Delhi: Sage Publica-
Ladejinsky, W. (1969). Ironies of India’s green revolution. New York:
Pantheon Books.
Lal, S. K. (1982). Sociological perspectives of land reforms. New Delhi:
Agricole Publishing Academy.
Mukherjee, A. (2002). Hunger: Theory, perspectives and reality—
Analysis through participatory methods. New Delhi: Concept Pub-
lishing Company.
Oommen, T. K. (1975). Impact of green revolution on the weaker sec-
tions’ in changing agrarian relations in India. National Conference
Organized at National Institute of Community Development, Hy-
derabad, 151-67.
Sharma, M. L. (1989). Land reforms in India: Achievements, problems
and prospects. Delhi: Ajanta Publications.
Srivastava, S. P. (1998). The development debate: Critical perspectives.
Jaipur: Rawat Publication.