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The Nehru Memorial Museum & Library


‘Irrigation and Labour in pre-colonial Punjab’, 28th July, 2014


The paper intends to look at the specificities of labour requirements generated by different systems of irrigation with a main focus on well and canal irrigation. Their construction, maintenance and their working required different levels and nature of labour inputs and these get reflected in the systems of organisation and control over labour. Issues pertaining to how the labour was remunerated for creating the irrigation systems and subsequently for maintaining and working those systems would also be discussed. This leads us to the question of surplus generation and its implications both for the state and society. The paper intends to explore the theme as far back as the evidence takes it. The issue would certainly be discussed in relation to Firuz Shah Tughluq's huge network of canals in the 14th century in the Satluj- Jamuna interfluve.


Dr. Tripta Wahi was educated at the Punjab University where she received a gold medal in Social Sciences in M.A. and in the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, from where she acquired her doctoral degree. Having worked on the nineteenth-century British scholarship on Indo- Muslim rule for her doctoral degree, she has published papers ‘Henry Miers Elliot: A reappraisal' and ‘Orientalism: A critique’. Her main focus of research has been irrigation and social relations in pre- colonial Punjab and she has published papers on water and agricultural landscape and land rights in the Punjab. She has been working on irrigation and water and social relations now for nearly two decades. Some of her work has been on rights in sinking/repairing wells; inequitable access to water and structures and implications of organising canal irrigation. Braj seems to be part of that reality. She has recently done an article 'Shah Nahr: Its History, technology and socio-political implications' ; this nahr too is from Shah Jahan's period and it was drawn from the Ravi in the Punjab. Dr. Wahi was Associate Professor of History in Hindu Colllege, University of Delhi before retirement and has been Senior Academic Fellow of the ICHR and Affiliate Fellow of the NMML.

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