Behind Dispossession: State, Land Grabbing and Agrarian Change in Rural Orissa

By Deepak K Mishra

This paper seeks to examine the diverse forms and implications of land grabbing in Orissa, known for its abject poverty, starvation deaths and violent conflicts over the issue of displacement. Taking into account the historical processes of dispossession and marginalisation in rural Orissa, the paper attempts to argue that the current phase of displacement, involuntary depeasantisation and dispossession needs to be analysed in the broader context of agrarian transition in rural Orissa. In the backdrop of the debate over the (ir)relevance of the agrarian question in the age of globalisation, it is argued here that conceptualising ‘land grabbing’ as part of the continuing processes of primitive accumulation under globalisation provides greater analytical insights into the underlying political and economic forces that shape such massive reconfiguration of property rights over land. Linking the question of land to the larger dynamics of development, and drawing upon two rounds of primary survey in interior Orissa, the study brings out the linkages between catastrophic land grabbing and the classic processes of land alienation. Competition among national and State governments to attract foreign and domestic capital through liberal (and often illegal) concessions, has made state power an essential element of land grabbing. However, local economic and political processes such as peasant differentiation, agrarian distress, seasonal food and employment insecurity, social and spatial concentration of poverty, capture of the local state by a rentier elite, remain significant in explaining the specific dynamics of land grabbing in contemporary Orissa.

File: Deepak K Mishra.pdf