Who are farmers in India after all? A conceptual exercise and a policy question


  • Sejuti Das Gupta Michigan State University
  • Ishita Mehrotra,
  • Aparajita Bakshi,




Farmers' Movement, Punjab, India, policymaking


Definitional exercises are by nature political and nowhere does this come across more clearly than in attempts to define farmers in India. Any such effort is bound to be contentious but nonetheless necessary for understanding the nature of Indian state and its policies. This article is one attempt at understanding ‘farmers’ as informed by current debates on the topic and our combined field experiences. We identify three groups of farmers, each of whom control and contribute three different factors of production. This heterogeneity among farmers is crucial to understand the farm laws and which of these groups is best served by such a policy direction and more importantly, which group is not.


Download data is not yet available.


Anand, I, A, Banerjee and A, Dasgupta, 2021, “How to define a farmer”, Indian Express. Available at https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns opinion /farmers-protest-india-farm-laws-7607697/

Bakshi, A. and T. Singh Modak, 2017, “Incomes of Small Farmer Households”, in How Do Small Farmers Fare: Evidence from Village Studies in India eds M Swaminathan and S Bakshi (New Delhi: Tulika publishers) pp.126-170.

Bakshi, Aparajita (forthcoming), “Inadequacy of Agricultural Incomes in India”, in A Hard Time: Indian Agriculture after Liberalisation ed R. Ramakumar (New Delhi: Tulika publishers).

Bernstein, H, 2010, Class Dynamics of Agrarian Change. (Rugby: Fernwood Publishing and Practical Action Publishing).

Byres, T, J, 1981, “The new technology, class formation and class action in the Indian countryside” Journal of Peasant Studies 8(4), pp. 405-454.

Census of India (2011), “Primary Census Abstract,” Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.

Damodaran, H, and S, Agarwal, 2021, “Revealing India’s actual farmer population”. Indian Express. Available at


Das Gupta Sejuti and Ishita Mehrotra, 2021, “Who is a farmer in India?” Available at https://www.aqs.org.uk/who-is-a-farmer-in-india/

Das Gupta, S, 2019, Class, Politics, and Agrarian Policies in Post Liberalisation India (New Delhi: Cambridge University Press).

Dogra, B, 2020, “Amid an Important Farmer Debate, Don't Forget the Woes of India's Landless Workers” The Wire, https://thewire.in/agriculture/landless-farmers-rural-workers.

Gupta, D, 2015, “Tracking Changes in a Traditional Setting: The Importance of Being 'Rurban'” Economic and Political Weekly 50(24), pp.37-43.

Harriss-White, B, 2008, Rural Commercial Capital. Agricultural Markets in West Bengal (New Delhi: Oxford University Press).

Lerche, J, 2014, ‘Regional Patterns of Agrarian Accumulation in India.’ in Indian Capitalism and Development, eds J Heyer, and B Harriss-White (London: Routledge) pp. 46–65.

Lowder, Sarah K. M. V. Sánchez, and Bertini, R. 2021, “Which farms feed the world and has farmland become more concentrated?” World Development 142

(2021) 105455.

Mehrotra, I, 2022, Political Economy of Class, Caste and Gender: A Study of Rural Dalit Labourers in India (New Delhi: Routledge India).

Patnaik, U, 1976, “Class Differentiation within the Peasantry: An Approach to Analysis of Indian Agriculture” Economic and Political Weekly 11 (39), pp. A82-A85+A87-A101.

Patnaik, U, 1986, “The Agrarian Question and Development of Capitalism in India” Economic and Political Weekly 21 (18), pp.781-793.

Scott, James, 1985, Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance (Yale: Yale University Press).

Sengupta, S and M, K, Jha, 2020, “Social Policy, COVID-19 and Impoverished Migrants: Challenges and Prospects in Locked Down India” The International Journal of Community and Social Development 2(2) pp.152–172.




How to Cite

Gupta, S. D., Mehrotra, I., & Bakshi, A. (2022). Who are farmers in India after all? A conceptual exercise and a policy question. Sikh Research Journal, 7(1), 14–24. https://doi.org/10.62307/srj.v7i1.39