Launch of book “From the Realm of Necessity to the Realm of Freedom – A Study of Women Farmers Under Kudumbashree Collective Farming in Kerala” – ActionAid India
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Launch of book “From the Realm of Necessity to the Realm of Freedom – A Study of Women Farmers Under Kudumbashree Collective Farming in Kerala”

Date : 23-Aug-2022

The book “From the Realm of Necessity to the Realm of Freedom – A Study of Women Farmers Under Kudumbashree Collective Farming in Kerala” was launched at the Constitution Club of India, New Delhi on 22nd August 2022. The book has been authored by Dr. Jaya Mehta and Vineet Tiwari from the Joshi-Adhikari Institute of Social Studies (JAISS). Reputed academicians, activists and politicians spoke at the launch.

Co-published by JAISS, Aakar Books and ActionAid Association the book is based on a detailed study of collective farming by women’s groups – a prominent programme of the Kudumbashree Mission. What unfolds in 300 and odd pages is a scholarly and, at the same time, a deeply empathetic narrative. It places the story of the experiment in the context of its social history. It analyses the political economy which has enabled and shaped this unique experiment. It collates and analyses data. It nurtures case studies. It enters into a dialogue with the living characters who constitute the agency of this movement. It draws lively sketches. It is rich in its analysis of the particular.

The relevance of the book extends far beyond the state of Kerala which has many particularities. The achievements, the virtuosity and the potential of women working on land in a land-scarce corner of India beckon the agrarian community of India. More so, when the vast masses of small and marginal peasantry and the landless living on land, far beyond the state of Kerala, and in a seemingly better off set- up are going through an unprecedented existential crisis.

D. Raja, General Secretary of the Communist Party of India, Aruna Roy, Founder of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, T.K Jose, IAS (Retd.) former Executive Director of Kudumbashree and Tanveer Kazi, Associate Director, ActionAid Association addressed the gathering, which was chaired by Professor Ajay Pattnaik, formerly from JNU and Director, Joshi-Adhikari Institute of Social Sciences.

T.K Jose shared about the early history of the Kudumbashree movement and how collective farming started and progressed to such a great extent. He spoke about the transformational indicators used by the Kerala government while assessing poverty and the inception framework and novel techniques used in the Kudumbashree Mission. He expressed his deep admiration for the revolutionary potential of the women who have been part of the mission.

Aruna Roy lauded the book for being academically sound and carefully documented. She read a few excerpts from the book which showed how the women acquired land for collective farming, working out mutually beneficial relations with landowners that they negotiated on a case-by-case manner. She commended about how the book successfully serves readers from the world of academics, activists and governance, with insights on how to bring about agrarian transformation. Aruna Roy said the book details the materialization of the otherwise vague concept of women’s empowerment.

D. Raja expressed his appreciation for the book and recommended it as a guide for basic social transformation. He appealed to political parties to read the book for a better understanding of how to circumvent the caste-class issues that ensnare agrarian work. He shared that in times of food insecurity, high inflation and exploitation of agricultural workers, this book presents itself as a substantial account of alternative agrarian practices which empower workers.

Tanveer Kazi shared how at ActionAid Association the detailed path to building feminist solidarities through co-operatives was presented in the book, in a clear and simple language with case studies to bring out the complex issues various vulnerabilities including caste, religion and gender. He said the greatest message of hope that this book presents is the possibilities of people from varied background to come together in collectives and work not just for themselves, but in crisis to serve others.  ActionAid Association is actively pursuing the promotion of cooperatives and other forms of collective enterprise to help communities cope with the expanding market.

The co-author Jaya Mehta thanked the speakers and reaffirmed that the book is not simply a policy document or a reference guide for governments and academicians, but it is a call to the people working in the grassroots to demand their rightful entitlements. It is an acknowledgement of the change that small and marginal farmers can create. It is a testament to the fact that suffering and marginalized people can break violent and oppressive structures to create transferable alternatives.

In his final remarks, Prof Patnaik, spoke about the need for research like what lay behind this book, to build forceful arguments on the change we need in our country.


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