In the Grip of a Green Giant: How the Rural Sector Tamed Organized Labor in India


Social scientists studying rural—urban struggles have primarily focused on the issue of urban bias. The issue of rural bias and its potential effects on urban dwellers has received much less attention. This article demonstrates how agrarian political mobilization of rural constituents adversely affected urban workers in India. Agrarian mobilization led to two changes in development policy that undermined the bargaining strength of organized labor. First, remunerative pricing for agricultural products biased the terms of trade in favor of agriculture, resulting in a rise in the product wage. Second, incentives for rural and small-scale industries led to increased product market competition in the manufacturing sector, generating unemployment among urban workers. Under these circumstances, unions could not frequently strike, and, when they did strike, they fought longer to win their demands. The author supports these arguments with a statistical analysis of strike frequency and duration in India from 1976 to 1997.

Comparative Political Studies