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Author ORCID Identifier

https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6759-3056

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Economics

Year Degree Awarded

2020

Month Degree Awarded

May

First Advisor

Deepankar Basu

Second Advisor

Michael Ash

Third Advisor

James K. Boyce

Fourth Advisor

Lynnette Sievert

Subject Categories

Economics

Abstract

Rural labor markets in India are characterized by high inequality in landownership, concentration of political power and caste fragmentation. Consequently, small and marginal farmers are vulnerable to land grabs by local landlords and large urban industrial corporations. Further, agricultural workers lack bargaining power in wage negotiations with monopsonistic employers. This dissertation analyzes the role of these power asymmetries in landownership, wage determination and the implementation of government programs aimed at poverty alleviation and structural transformation.

My first chapter “Land Acquisition and Rural Labor Markets: Evidence from Special Economic Zones in India” examines whether Special Economic Zones (SEZs) effectively induce structural changes in India’s rural economy by shifting workers from agricultural to non-agricultural employment? This paper analyzes the labor market impacts of land acquisition for SEZs in a difference-in-differences and event time framework. We find that land acquisition leads to a significant reduction in time spent in self-farming. Paradoxically, this leads to a significant increase in workers’ reliance on the traditional agricultural sector for subsistence as time spent in non-agricultural employment does not increase significantly.

The second chapter “Does Historical Land Inequality Attenuate the Positive Impact of India’s Employment Guarantee Program?” analyzes the labor market impact of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). By providing 100 days of guaranteed employment to every rural household, NREGA can challenge the hegemony of landed elites as major employers in the Indian countryside. Using the colonial classification of landlord and non-landlord based land-revenue institutions in India, this chapter finds that the provision of public employment under NREGA and correspondingly, its impact on rural wages is muted in landlord districts.

The third chapter “No Employment without Participation: An Evaluation of India’s Employment Program in Eastern Uttar Pradesh” documents the bottlenecks in the functioning of NREGA. Using evidence from field research in the Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh, this paper examines how awareness among program beneficiaries about their legal entitlements and at various levels of government determines the provision of NREGA employment in one of the poorest regions of the country. Our findings suggest that patron-client exchanges between the local elite and NREGA beneficiaries determines program implementation.

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