The Decline of Village Common Lands and Changes in Village Society: South India, c. 1850-2000

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Date
2008
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Abstract
"The widely accepted view that emphasises the negative impact of the decline in common property resources on the village poor generally presumes that village common lands would have been used by all villagers inclusive of the poor without serious differences in the right to access them. Mainly based on historical documents for Tamil Nadu from the nineteenth century, this paper argues that influential villagers controlled 'waste lands' (village common land) and that this elite-dominant system of controlling natural resources declined with the gradual emancipation of the subordinate section of villagers. The acquisition of small bits of cultivated land and the encroachment on waste lands by the landless not only mirrored their empowerment and strengthened their bargaining position but also implies, under some circumstances, the creation of possible pre-conditions for an egalitarian type of resource-controlling system. This paper also suggests that, as witnessed in Tamil Nadu in the last two decades, the growth of non-agricultural job opportunities could possibly weaken the pressure on lands and also induce farmers to change cropping patterns of their farms, sometimes leading to an expansion of farm forestry. The acquisition of landholding by the landless and their emancipation could also possibly contribute in this direction."
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common pool resources--history, social networks--history, land tenure and use--history
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