(Sample Material) IAS Mains Sociology (Optional) Study Kit "Work & Economic System"

Sample Material of Our IAS Mains Sociology Study Kit

Subject: Sociology (Optional)

Topic: Work & Economic System

The Jajmani System And Its Bearing On The Traditional Society

The tens Jajmani system has been introduced in the vocabulary of Indian Sociology by William H. Wiser through his book “The Hindu Jajmani System” where he described in detail how different caste groups interact with one another in the production and exchange of goods and services. Wiser’s book was based on his study of Karimpur Village in U.P. Thus the term “Jajman”. In different parts of India different terms are used, to describe this economic interaction among the castes, for example, in Maharashtra the term “Balutadar” is used. However, in sociological literature ‘Jajmani system’ has come to be accepted as a general term to described the economic interaction between the castes at the village level. This system of production and exchange of food, goods and services is also a ritual system as much concerned with the aspects of purity and pollution as with economic aspects. It functions so that the highest caste remain pure while the lower castes absorb pollution from them. Villages in India are composed of number of jatis each having its occupational speciality. Jajmani system is essentially an agriculture based system of production and distribution of goods and services. Through Jajmani relations these occupational jatis get linked with the land owning dominant caste. The Jajmani system operates around the families belonging to the land owning dominant caste, the numbers of which are called ‘jajmans’. Land being the chief means of production. The land owning caste occupy a privileged position in the Jajmani relations. The Jajmani interaction between occupational castes and the land owning castes takes place within the frame work of non-reciprocal and Asymmetrical type of relations. The land owning caste maintain a paternalistic attitude of superiority towards their occupational castes who are called ‘Kamins’ in Northern India. Also, traditionally, the exchange in Jajmani system was a non-market type of exchange. In terms of Karl Polanyi s classification of exchange system. Jajmani exchange can be termed as redistributive system of exchange.

The occupational castes included the tenant cultivators from peasant castes and other servicing castes working on the land of families belonging to the dominant castes which render numerous types of services for agriculture as ,ell as maintenance of the household. Most of these castes have specialised occupations. Yet, they perform multiple functions.. For example, families of barbers jati have a socialised occupation of hair cutting but, it has been four, that often the barbers families perform numerous other functions too. In a village of Lucknow district studies by U. N: Majumdar it was found that at the time of marriage in a family of Thakurs the Jajman, barber’s wife cleans and refurbishes the house, she messages the bride, help her bath and dress.. She joins in the wedding songs and in the stylised derision with which some members of the grooms party are met. Barbar himself accompanies marriage party in ceremonial rounds. At the time of child birth the barber’s wife often plays the role of mid-wife and acts as attendant, bathes and massages the mother and helps in the household tasks. Similarly, S. C: Dube on the basis of his study of Shameerpet village near Hyderabad has shown how barbers play the additional roles of messengers and match-makers. N.S.Reddy in his study of Senapur village in Eastern U.P. has also pointed out that members of ‘Lohar’ jati who were blacksmiths by occupation also rendered the services as carpenters and masons.

Though Jajmani relations operated at village level, they are often not confined to a single village only, because not all the villages have all occupational castes and so the services of occupational castes from other villages are frequently borrowed. Also, for certain occupational castes, a single village is not adequate to provide them sufficient work round the year. -Such castes therefore, cater to the needs of a number of villages in a given region. The caste of goldsmiths is an example of such an occupational caste. Thus villages often lack self-sufficiency in terms of the availability of occupational caste. The following study illustrates such a situation.

In a survey of fifty four villages in the mid-Gangetic valley, S.S.Nehru found that no single caste occurred in - all the villages surveyed. Chramars (leather workers)were found in only 64% of the villages. Ahirs (Herders) is 60% Brahmins, Nais, Lohars and Telis (Oil workers) in 40%o, Dhobis and Kurmis (weavers) in 36%, Kumhars (potters) in 30% and Baniyas (merchants) in 16%; Nehru gives various reasons for the unexpectedly low figures of these castes. The Nai for instance, is a joumeyman who goes from door to door and village to village. “No client needs his more than once a week and less than once a month. Also, the various festivals and ceremonies when his services ,are in urgent demand do not figure all too frequently in the village calender. Hence, alone, one Nai can minister to the needs of more than one village, The Dhobi; on the other hand, has a small representation because he serves primarily upper caste or upper-class patrons. The women folk of most lower-class families do the family wash. As a result, one seldom finds more than three Dhobi families in a village and often only one, catering to the group of villages”. Thus according to Oscar Lewis, the supply and demand factors suggest that there must be some mobility, despite the localizing function of the Jajmani system.

The relation between Jajman and kamins are hereditary relations which are passed on from one generation to another. Though, sometimes, the right of the occupational caste to serve their jajmans’ can be sold by one family to another for a ‘payment’. But, without the consent of the family which is already enjoying the rights to serve a Jajman family, no new family can take over its Jajmani rights. Thus permanence of relations is an important feature of Jajmahi relations. Another characteristic feature of Jajmani relationship is lack of competition between various families belonging to the same occupational caste. Instead, the relation between them are characterised by frequent cooperation and mutual help. According to N.S. Reddy’s study of Lobar of Senapur village it was found that when one Lobar is not able to fulfill his Jajmani obligations due to illness or other circumstances, his jati fellows willingly took over the extra work on his behalf. Similarly, some Lohars owned the bellow furnishes. They freely offered these and other capital equipment to be made use of by other Lohars. Traditionally the payments for these services rendered all round the year are made annually or bi-annually at the harvest time. Generally, the payments are made in kind and the share of each occupational caste is determined by customary rules. One of the factors that determined the share of the occupational caste is its ritual status in the local caste hierarchy. However, frequently, factors of supply and demand also influence the payment. For example, if the members of -the occupational caste are in short supply as compared to the demands for their services in the village. In such cases these occupational caste families are in a better position to bargain for a greater share. With the gradual monetisation of mial) economy especially after the establishment of British rule, cash nexus has also started entering in Jajmani relations. Thus both modes of payment i.e. cash as well as kind used to co-exist. For example, a study of Poona Village by Orenstein shows that the caste of rope-makers supply the farmer, under Jajmani arrangements, with all necessary rope manufactured except for the well ropes, which are specially long and thick and for which a special payment must be made often. This payment is made in cash. -Similarly, the village barbers provided their services in traditional Jajmani ways for the conventional hair cutting. But, when a young man wanted a hair cut in the city style, that payment had to be made in cash. Thus payments in cash and kind have co-existed, for a long time.

However, often the occupational castes prefer a payment in kind rather than in cash because the inflationary tendencies in the economy lead to devaluation of money and decline in purchasing power. So payment in cash is not preferred. Often there are differences of opinion and disputess between jajmans and the occupational caste regarding the payment Such disputes were traditionally settled through mutual consultation and negotiation between the elderly members of the occupational caste and the land owning caste in such matters related to disputes about payment and conditions of work etc., the various jatis in the village tended to function like interest groups. Jajmani inter-changes were between families of a locality. Jajmani counter change, however, devolves their jatis. The enforcing of Jajmani rules rest with the jatis that are involved in an issue about them. These rules can be flexibly interpreted in various ways but certain minimum standards are maintained at any given time in each Jajmani relation. Thus a in service arrangements between blacksmith and land owing family in Senapur village could not be done only by the family involved but, had to be approved, by the elders of each jati-group and when a black-smith usurped clients from another blacksmith family, theirjati council punished the offender. Oil the other hand, if the dominant land owners of the village become convinced that one of their service or artisan jatis is derelict in its obligations or threatens its powers and status, the pattern families often try to pressurise the occupational caste by various means which may include withholding of the payment and even measures of direct coercion like beating them physically or by any other means of harassment. The attacked jati group may retaliate through a boycott or any other means till a compromise is reached. Thus coercive measures are often resorted to enforce Jajmani relations. In majority of the cases it is the landowning dominant caste which succeeds in having its way. For example, in the study of Senapur village by William Rowe it was seen that in the conflict between Thakurs, who were the dominant caste, and the Noniyans, the Thakurs were able to pressurise all the castes of the village and successfully dissuaded them from rendering services to the Noniyas. However, Noniyans themselves could not be pressurised and were successful in defying the Thakurs. Similarly, in Bernard Cohen’s study of Madhaopur village it was seen that Chamars were successful in defying the Taukur’s and the conflict was reselved through compromise in which the Chamars could dictate their terms, but,, such cases in which an occupational caste would successfully defy the dominant land owning caste are rather few. More often, it is the dominant caste which succeeds in dictating its terms.

Consequences of Jajmani relations on traditional society

Jajmani relations formed the basis of traditional rural economy and thus provided stability and near sufficiency to the village community. According to William Wiser, Jajmani system constituted an organic division of labouring the village community in which land and other capital resources were provided by the land owning castes and a constant supply of labour was provided by the lower occupational caste. Such an organic division of labour formed the basis for village solidarity which sustained the village community. Wiser regards the Jajinani relations as functional for all the members of the village community. The performance of Jajmani relations provided security of livelihood for the lower occupational caste while for the dominant caste Jajmani relations meant ;m assured supply of labour. The inter-dependence between Jajmani and kamin led to vertical solidarity whereby all the family from the dominant caste. Thus the functionalist view of Jajmani relations regards them as the basis sufficiency, unity, harmony and stability in the village community.

However, those sociologists who have studied jajmani relations from the Marxist point of view hold a very ant opinion. They regard the jajmani relations as essentially exploitative, characterised by a latent conflict of which could not crystallise due to the hopeless conditions of the lower caste. Thus, if in future the conditions of the lower caste improve, an open conflict between the lower and the upper caste is inevitable. Oscar lewis who studied Rampur village near Delhi and Biedelamn have been particularly critical of the jajmani system which they regarded exploitative. According to them the members of occupational jatis are largely landless labourers and have no resources to wage a struggle against the dominant caste out of the compulsion of the need for survival- they succumb to all injustice perpetuated by the landowning dominant caste who enjoy both economic and political power. The vast differential in power between the richest and the highest in a village and the lowest and the poorest has been taken by these authors as an indicator of the exploitative nature of jajmani relations. These authors excoriate jajmani arrangements as the means by which the rich and the powerful exploit the poor and coerce the workers into sustaining the power

Other students of Indian society like Orenstein, Berreman, Harold Gould, Pauline Kolenda etc. accept that there is an element of truth in both the functionalist as well as the Marxist views of the jajmani system. According to them onsensus and harmony as welt as conflict and exploitation are prevalent in the village society but, to condemn jajmani arrangements as brutally exploitative is too sweeping a generalisation. This opinion is supported by a survey conducted by Damley and Karve on the desirability of the continuing jajmani relations, among a occupational castes from a number of villagers in Maharashtra It was found that around 66% of the respondents front the lower occupational caster were in favour of the continuation of jajmani relations.

Another negative consequence of the jajmani system has been that while it provided stability and self-sufficiency to the rural economy, at the same time it rendtred the rural economy stagnant. Traditionally the jajmani system based village economy was primarily a subsistence economy oriented to meet the consumption needs of the local population only. Due to the localised self sufficiency and immobility of labour and capital, commercialisation and the capitalistic transformation of agriculture did not take place. The rural economy continued to cater to the local needs only rather than catering to the need of the wider market. The permanence of jajmani relationships because of their hereditary basis   prohibited the geographical mobility of labour. The payment in jajmani relations being governed by customary nouns rather than being linked lo efficiency and productivity checked any motivation for social mobility among the occupational castes and absence of the avenues for social mobility discouraged the attempts towards efficiency in production or innovation in the means of production. Thus jajmani system discouraged attempt towards generation of surplus by improvising the agricultural practices and technical skills. Thus economically, Indian society remain stagnant for centuries and no economic development had taken place form within.

Decline of the Jajmani System

The decline of jajmani system began as a result of gradual modernisation of Indian economy especially after independence” In order to bring about economic development deliberate attempts were made to link village economy to the regional and national market by establishing transport and communication networks. Thus the self-sufficiency of the rural economy was destroyed. Further, there was a rapid monetisation of economy in the rural areas and new thrust wasp j n increasing productivity of agriculture. In fact, the process of planneddevelopment initiated after dependence was oriented towards bringing about capitalistic transformation in agriculture. Thus the State took initiative in providing various inputs like credit facilities, technical know how, fertilizers, irrigation, high yielding variety seeds, etc. agrarian relation. The land owning classes were now interested in generating surplus for the market rather than sustaining the age old jajmani ties. Thus contractual relationship came into existence between the landowning classes and the agricultural labourers who now worked for the payment of wages.

Further, growth of industrialization also contributed to the decline and even disappearance of jajmani relations. With the greater availability of manufactured goods, the demand for the goods produced by the village artisans declined, thus rendering them jobless. The role of in in contributing to the breakdown of the jajmani relations can be seen from the study of Khalapur village by John Hitchcock. In Khalapur village, Rajputs were the dominant landowning castes, who owned most of the land. Sugarcane was the main crop and traditionally the various servicing castes of the village used to participate in producing jaggery under the system ofjajmani relations. However, with the establishment of sugar. mills Rajputs found it more profitable to sell the sugarcane directly to the sugar mils and thus the occupational castes who participated injaggery making were rendered jobless. Later on, with the availability of hand-pumps in the town market, the role of Caste of water carriers who used to supply water to the Rajput households, became redundant and availability of factory-made shoes reduced the demand for the shoe maker’s services. The occupational casfe on their part, without means of improvement in the village, started migrating to the nearby town and cities. Those members of landless occupational castes who stayed back in the village started working as wage labourers in the land belonging to the Rajputs. Thus the jajmani system has almost totally broke down. Similar strains have been seen in all other parts of India also. Only in those parts of the rural areas where the process of economic development is rather slow, some vestiges of traditional jajmani system are still in existence. But, as the developmental process expands, the jajmani system is bound to disappear. The positive consequence of the decline of jajmani system has been the increasing prosperity for the land owning castes in rural India. Secondly, self-sufficient village economy is now the thing of the past and, village economy is now being increasingly integrated with the urban and national economy. But, there is a negative side also. The landless occupational castes have been rendered unemployed and incidence of overty in rural areas have increased. As note in the VI plan document, more than 50% of tire rural population had slumped below the poverty line. Thus rural society is getting polarised into transporters, land owners and poor landless labourers. The infra village solidarity, a result of inter-dependence among jatis through jajmani relations, has also decline and competitiveness and conflict among jabs within the village is becoming a common feature of rural Indian society as can be seen from the increasing violence in rural India.

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