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Abstract

Based on intensive village study this paper tries to show that the rapid agricultural growth in West Bengal since the 1980s is mainly attributable to the development of private shallow tubewell irrigation, rather than the agrarian reforms. Large farmers mainly invested in tubewells, but it does not mean that they monopolize agricultural profit as the so-called 'waterlords'. On the contrary, water sales business became less profitable as the number of tubewells increased in the village, and the real water charge declined through the changes of contractual arrangement in the groundwater market. It also comments on the current situation of irrigation subsidy relating to state-operated DTWs and power subsidy given to electrified tubewells, as well as their effects to irrigated farming. Lastly, it points out the large difference in factor shares in rice production between West Bengal and Bangladesh, arguing that West Bengal agriculture is much more equitable in favor of landless laborers.

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