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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 Seven: Analysing land related interactions on the ground in India


In-depth and up to date data on land redistribution is scarce in India. This has, inter alia, to do with the fact that the responsibility for the implementation of land reforms rests with the revenue administration but is only one task among many. Duties such as the maintenance of public order or the collection of land revenue are demanding attention next to land reforms (Shah and Sah 2002: 28). The low priority of land reforms in the past two decades all over India is another reason for the lack of data. There simply was very limited land redistribution. Because – unlike in South Africa and likely causing greater regional differences – the States manage agriculture and land rights (Singh 2007), regionally-oriented analysis is ever more necessary in India. The two selected States are structurally quite different from each other, for example with regard to their economic development and political setting162, but both are States with high degrees of landlessness. Each is above the Indian average of 10 percent (AP: 14.3, GUJ 13.6) (Haque 2010), which is a first indicator that land redistribution has been of only limited success.

Local specifics are important for various reasons. Particularly for the rural Indian population, local issues influence party affiliation and voting. The preferences of small farmers, of which there are around 300 million living in India, in some regards strongly diverge from the interests of actors at the central level. Regional political parties often have no development policy oriented beyond the...

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