The reviewer doubly regrets his inordinate delay in preparing this note. For one thing, both books are to be welcomed as examples of an increasing flow of responsible, illuminating, especially region-specific studies coming now from a broadening array of India’s applied social science institutions. This fanning out of good work among a greater dispersion of research centres owes much, no doubt, to funding schemes with just this purpose—specifically, in the present instances, to a UNDP project coordinated by V.M. Dandekar in the case of Mandal-Ghosh, and to a UOC grant to Narain Pande-Sharma. Secondly, in very different ways, both books are comparatively good news for those who are hopeful about what might be called the incrementalist scenario for Indian rural reform and development.
That scenario posits that gains in equity in the countryside are most likely to be made out of growth dividends, that, in particular, strong agricultural expansion is an essential condition for making major inroads on low-end poverty and underemployment. At the same time, those of the reformist persuasion hope ardently that the most accessible means for agricultural expansion (i.e., the ‘new technology’ involving improved varieties, intensified inputs, better water management, etc.) do not prove to be inherently inequitable as between agricultural producers themselves. They hope, that is to say, that the HYV technology is at least ‘scale neutral’ as between big and small farms, that the institutions framing the technology can give small people equal access to needed information, credit, and marketing facilities, and that while the new technology is generating rising output per worker, it will also facilitate, at least in the near and medium term, rising agricultural employment as well.