Before the arrival of Britishers, the class of agricultural workers did not subsist in India. In year 1842, Sir Thomas Munroe had stated that there was not a single landless laborer in our country. Undeniably, this was an exaggeration. As per the Census of 1881, landless labourers in that year were approximately 7.5 million. In year 1921, agricultural workers were around 21 million which was 17.4 % of the total rural working population.
In 1951, agricultural workers were 27.5 million and in 1961 they were 31.5 million. As per 1981 Census, the number of agricultural workers was 55.4 million out of which 25.1% was the total labour force. As per the Census of 1991, the number of agricultural workers was 73.7 million which 26.5 % is the total labour force. This shows that every 4th person of the labour force is an agricultural worker in our country.
What are the causes of growth in the number of Agricultural Labourers?
1. Increase in population.
2. Decline of cottage industries and village handicrafts
3. Eviction of small farmers and tenants from land
4. Uneconomic holdings
5. Increase in indebtedness
6. Spread of the use of money and exchange system
7. Capitalist agriculture