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Technology, Credit, and Culture in an Indian Village (Nilgiris)
This article was on the native Kota village in India; the Kota were a stratified society within three other groups, the Karumba, Toda, and Badaga. The focus of the article was on how the trade relationship between the Kota and Badaga changed and the results of the change.
The Kota provided iron tools, wooden utensils, pots and music for the Badaga ceremonies; in return the Badaga gave the Kota grain. The system of trade was that of an individual Kota family trading with another Badaga family. If the Kota family felt as though they were not receiving enough for their services they would cut ties with their Badaga family and no other Kota family would trade with them either. This worked well because if the Badaga did not cooperate enough they would no longer have tools for cultivation or cooking, and no music for their ceremonies. The Kota had control over their economic means; therefore, essentially the success of this cooperation system pivoted on the Kota monopolies.
During recent times, these monopolies have come to a close, and the internal union in the village has faded away. This began about one hundred years ago when English officials, European missionaries and migrants (Hindu and Muslim) came around. However, it had little effect until about twenty-five years ago when the Badaga began to buy their utensils thus starting the downward spiral of the Kota cooperative trading efforts.
This had many implications for the Kota because they were then forced to increase their agricultural activities, concentrating on potatoes as a cash crop. As a result, the number of cattle in the fields was reduced because they were not needed to plough the land. This in turn led to a decrease in organic fertilizer and an increase in artificial fertilizer. The increase in artificial fertilizer made the Kota rely on the cash from their potato crops making them much more encroached in the cycle. This made the use of credit essential for the Kota through government sponsored cooperative associations. The Kota, however, thought these were too rigid and did not use them on a regular basis, even though the interest was much lower. The Kota became dependent on the supply price of fertilizer and food grains in their local ration shops that were in every settlement. Since the Kota were now forced to get grain only from these ration shops they had to take whatever kind of grain the shop had, and with the increase of inflation they received less and less grain with their cash.
All this change weakened the social cohesion in the village, and divided the village into two factions. This occurred because in the past if a villager did not abide by the social rules of the village they would be ostracized. In the past this was very serious because an individual family could not do it alone; but with the advent of ration shops and available laborers for hire an individual could work alone.
The relationship between the Badaga and Kota changed from one of dependence on grain to the dependence of fertilizer, purchasing power, and vagaries of supply in the ration shop for the Kota. However, the biggest change occurred when the Kota no longer had control of whom they would trade with. This eventually led to the formations of the two factions and hostilities between the Kota and Badaga along with the government.