Commercialisation of agriculture paved the way for the generation of usury and merchant capital in rural society and widened the levels of differentiation among the peasantry. The common cultivator’s dependence on the village bania for advance of credit. for the marketing of his crop, for loans during lean seasons for subsistence increased as commercialisation progressed. In the payment of land revenue also the money lender-cum-trader played an important role in supplying cash. Finally, the village bania was also an agent for the penetration of the rural market by the imported industrial consumer goods, particularly Manchester cloth.
While some of the poorer peasants were raising crops for the market virtually hypothecated in advance to the money lender, the better-off section of the peasantry was relatively free. The latter could store their goods, and wait for better prices than what prevailed during the glut in the market after harvest. Thejr could also cart their crops to markets in towns to obtain a better price than what the village bania or itinerant dallal offered. Furthermore, they could make their own decision as to which crop to grow while the poorest farmer was virtually forced to raise crops as demanded by the village bania. In some regions, the rich peasants themselves became money lenders to poorer peasants and thus the process of differentiation was accentuated.
In course of this differentiation process and the operation of money-trading capital, an increasing number of peasants began losing their land and becoming ‘de-peasanted’ landless labourers. It must, however, be noted that landless labourers had existed in the pre-colonial-period too (particularly in the south of India in substantial numbers on account of servitude of some castes). It is the economic process of depeasanting and the significantly larger number of landless agriculturists which emerge as the characteristic features of the colonial period.
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