by Mekhala Krishnamurthy
Tuesday, 31 January, 2012
A Seminar in the frame of the CPR-CSH Urban Series
organized by: Centre de Sciences Humaines (CSH) and Centre for Policy Research (CPR)
At Conference Hall, Centre for Policy Research, Dharma Marg, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi
This paper explores the everyday lives and life histories of an agricultural market in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Mandis or primary agricultural markets are old and ubiquitous institutions across many parts of the Indian economic landscape. Wherever they have formed, they tend to be dense sites of economic and political activity, connecting town and countryside, and local agricultural markets with larger circuits of commerce and consumption. In India, mandis are the most important sites for state regulation of the critical “first transaction” between farmers and the buyers of their produce, vital points of interaction in complex and intricately intermediated markets for a range of agricultural commodities. Widely portrayed and perceived as entrenched, inefficient and unchanging, the last decade has seen growing calls for the dismantling of the mandi system as the key to the liberalisation and growth of Indian agriculture. The paper is part of a larger ethnographic project, based on eighteen months of fieldwork focusing on the experiences of the farmers, traders, labourers, state functionaries and agencies, regional agro-processors, private corporations and their agents and managers who participate in the market and its different activities across marketing seasons. It traces the transformation of the mandi over the three decades from 1980 to 2010, as a number of regulatory and technological interventions in agricultural production and marketing interact with local agrarian contexts and political dynamics, producing a range of effects in the mandi, its spatial and temporal dimensions, material composition, forms of intermediation, and social relations. It looks at the ways in which the money made in the mandi is being spent outside it, changing the bazaar, shaping settlements, unsettling social relations, and influencing mobility in the town and its surrounding villages.