Tenants’ Employment Relations in Chittoor District
The context of drought and a perceived shortage of groundwater for irrigation purposes colours all our results for 2006/7. People say there is a karuvu, by which they mean both famine (hunger time) and rainfall shortage. The resources of each household are clearly being carefully allocated according to relative productiveness taking into account not only future production possibilities but also the opportunity cost in cash terms of spending time in particular ways. For example, if you watch a cow all day every day your opportunity cost is the relevant wage; this is not made explicit to us, but is obviously implicit in the decision of each household about who should be shepherding the cow(s) all day every day. There is little relief from this work, as cows must be milked twice a day, watched carefully to avoid ingesting unsuitable foods, and watered thrice a day.
The theories behind the study include the neoclassical choice theory of utility maximising agents and the structuralist theory of constraints that are specific to each social class. Both theories were found to have some relevance. In addition, notions of individual and collective agency were highly relevant. One might also apply bargaining theory to the wage-setting situations that are described in the data. Finally, special conditions (not foreseen in the original research design) have been brought into the final research content. These include the seasonal migration option, through which some workers are going to Bangalore or to nearby towns to work, and earn much higher wages there; the inflation issue, with town prices far higher than what rural wages allow kuulie (cash wage labourers) to afford; and finally the role of women’s self-help groups, which have been actively promoted and profoundly influence the work activities of many women in 2006. The women’s self-help groups offer a line of cheap credit as well as requiring monthly savings of 50 to 100 rupees per woman. The programme, known overall as Velugu but with some non-state-sponsored competitors including Jesus-Mary-Joseph and Dhan Foundation facilitated Self-Help Groups, requires women to join one and only one group. Dhan foundation allows men to form into similar groups but this is a new, town-based initiative which does not affect our villages.
The data from the project are of a mixed-methods type and are based on pluralist theory and methodology. Excel, SPSS, and NVIVO are being used to organise extracts from Word documents as well as the background questionnaire data. Three cases are described in the extracts provided as a short sample hypertext document.