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Determinants, Consequences and Perspectives of Land Reform Politics in Newly Industrializing Countries

A Comparison of the Indian and the South African Case


David Betge

This comparative case study addresses central determinants of inequalities that persist in India and South Africa. The particular focus of the study is on programs aiming at the redistribution of land to the landless poor and these programs’ consequences. The central question is why extreme inequalities persist despite land redistribution programs that have been in place for decades and what role different actors and dominant ideas play in this. Beyond this empirical focus, the study transcends theoretical cleavages in the social sciences by following the basic ideas of Giddens’ Structurational Theory. An actor-centred approach is chosen as the primary tool for analysis. It is complemented with a structurational approach to discourse analysis for a detailed analysis of actors’ preferences.

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Chapter Four: Actors and structures in the Indian case


The following chapter introduces the institutional setting of land reforms in India on the national level, the central stakeholders involved, and their preferences regarding land redistribution and agricultural development. It gives an overview of the actor constellations and policy related interactions on the national level. Considering the strongly diverging institutional setting regarding, inter alia, political structures, historical development, and the economic and social relevance of agriculture, it is of special interest to assess in how far actors’ preferences regarding land redistribution and agricultural development, as well as the modes of interaction, are similar to or diverge from the South African context.

India has the second largest agricultural land area in the world, and although land is scarce in relation to population size, agriculture remains the primary livelihood for the majority of the population (IBEF 2014). The actor constellation with regard to land issues is complex and needs some historical contextualisation. Social discrimination and the denial of access to land are strongly linked and have a long history in India (12th FYP 2013: 191). Roots of land inequalities date back to before colonial times but the specific setting today is strongly linked to land ownership patterns established during colonialism. When the country became independent in 1947, feudal relationships characterized the structure of the agricultural system. About 40 percent of the land was concentrated in the hands of a class of intermediaries who mostly did not take part in agricultural production, while the actual cultivators of the land...

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