IFP Talk Series in Pondicherry


16th September 2015 (Wednesday) at 3.00 pm

“Rural labour in south India”

Dr. Isabelle Guerrin (IRD/CESSMA)

“Chains of Debt. Unfree Labour and Financial Exploitation in rural India

While India is to become the world 7th economic power, millions of workers are still trapped in bonds of servitude. Not only historical forms of agrestic bondage are replaced by new forms of unfree labour, but labour exploitation is now combined with uneven forms of financial exploitation.  Not only labour incomes are miserable, irregular and unpredictable, but they are increasingly absorbed by the repayment of multiple debts which seem inextinguishable. Lending to the poor, for a long time reserved to local patrons, charities or development agencies, is now a key element of accumulation trajectories, from the local to the global level. And women, for a long time excluded from financial transactions, are the primary targets of this growing industry.These new forms of financial exploitation draw on chains of debt. Chains of debt use (and renew) pre-existing social hierarchies such as kinship, class, caste, gender and religion. They also mobilize intimacies, affects, emotions and sexuality, and women’s sexuality in particular. Chains of debt are also shaped by and constitutive of desires and aspirations to greater dignity and freedom, including among the most marginalized, and including among women.


Dr. G. Venkatasubramanian (IFP)

“Changes in rural labour landscape: Migration and accumulation”

Tamilnadu rural economy is undergoing significant changes due to the employment opportunities available in urban area for agricultural workers outside the agriculture. The share of agriculture in total rural employment declined by 10.47 percentages between 1993-94 and 2009-10 whereas the construction sector witnessed 7% annual growth. Participation in NREGA, youth leaving agriculture, wage disparity, migration and urbanisation are often blamed for this situation. The State has intervened in the form of welfare programmes, free houses, land reforms, NREGA and reservation policies to improve the circumstances of rural citizens. These various interventions have contributed to a shift in the socio-economic and political relations in the rural context. Our data suggests the changing regional inequalities and migration patterns: seasonal migration flows characterized by poor working conditions coexist with commuting patterns to nearby middle towns and industrial centers that allow the migrants, to access different form of borrowing sources and accumulation. The accumulation includes investment in lands and houses, marriages, donation to temples and children education.



Nehru Conference Hall
French Institute of Pondicherry
11, Saint Louis Street
Pondicherry 605 001

: Dr. G. Venkatasubramanian (venkat@ifpindia.org)

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