This paper analyses longitudinal household surveys from Purulia and Giridih, two adjacent districts on the Chhotanagpur Plateau in Eastern India in 1997 and 2006, to assess the sustainability of the evolving local rice-based agricultural system. Increasing population with little outmigration suggests mounting burden on the already fragile land endowment. The pattern of land sales and purchases suggests land consolidation among fewer farmers is not a concern. Use of high yielding varieties (HYVs) and of chemical inputs increased in both districts. However, rice yields have increased in Purulia but stagnated in Giridih. Socioeconomic progress is more apparent in Purulia in other aspects as well, such as its land reform policy, the Panchayat system and higher rate of HYV adoption. Sustainability of the agricultural system in Purulia may be less than in Giridih due to its pattern of land transactions and the cautious move among farmers toward high-chemical intensity agriculture.
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