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Irrigation and Labour under the Colonial Raj: Labour Regimes in Godavary and Kistna Delta from 1845-1930




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Kali, C. (2024). Irrigation and Labour under the Colonial Raj: Labour Regimes in Godavary and Kistna Delta from 1845-1930. SOUTH INDIA JOURNAL OF SOCIAL SCIENCES, 22(2 June), 53-70.


Irrigation is a method of producing or increasing fertility in soils by an artificial supply of water. The Irrigation works administered by the government may be divided into three main classes. In the first of these come what were technically known as 'major works', the outlay which was met from imperial funds. These include the great delta systems in the deltas of Godavari, Kistna, Penneru, and Kaveri, and other important undertakings such as the Kurnool-Cuddapah canal and Periar Project. The delta systems depend upon great masonry Anicuts or Dams, which had been thrown across the rivers at the head of the deltas, and consisted of a network of channels to distribute the water so rendered available. The second class of irrigation works was financed from provincial funds for minor works. It include chiefly the systems dependent upon the dams across the rivers  and few tanks and artificial reservoirs. The third class included thousands of smaller channels and tanks throughout the presidency, for which no capital accounts were kept. The clearance of smaller channels and similar petty repairs were generally carried out by the cultivators themselves, by what was called Kudi-Maramat or customary labour. The presence of numerically strong labour force is generally attributed to the establishment  and gradual growth of organized industry in 19th century India. The foremost concern of in this study would be to intensely research the contours and conditions of informality inherent in the working of the labourers associated with the irrigation works under Raj. The massive irrigational projects under the Raj was the perennial occurances of the famines and the resultant economic exigencies.



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