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Changes in the Distribution of Operational Landholdings in Rural India

This paper, in the Review of Agrarian Studies, analyses National Sample survey data on changes in the distribution of operational holdings of land, using data from NSS surveys on employment and unemployment. The paper discusses the limitations of these statistics in some detail. Four main points emerge from the analysis: there has been a sharp rise in landlessness in rural India; caste disparities in access to land have persisted over time; there has been a rise in inequality in distribution of land cultivated by households; and there has been a decline in the proportion of manual labour households that combined wage labour with cultivation of small holdings. Finally, statistics on land distribution at the State level reveal some puzzling features – some of which point to possible errors in data collection.

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