Jat - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The mainstay of sedentary Jat economy is and has always been agriculture, and there are several proverbs and sayings in local languages that emphasize both the skill and industry of the Jat peasant, as well as the traditional attachment of this community to the soil. Cereals such as wheat, maize, and types of millet, as well as pulses and the cash crop sugarcane, are grown by Jat cultivators; in certain areas they increasingly grow fruits and vegetables also. In most areas of India where the Jat farmers live cultivation is now fairly mechanized, but in some areas the plow is drawn by oxen and harvesting is done by hand. Most crops are grown both for subsistence and for commerce. In addition to land the peasant Jat own water buffalo and cows for milk; male buffalo are often used for carrying loads. Milk is for household consumption and is not generally sold. The cattle are grazed on the village commons. The pastoral Jat consist of three distinct groups of water buffalo breeders, camel breeders, and camel drivers (often known as Mir-Jat, rather than simply Jat). The buffalo breeders sell their herd animals for slaughter or as draft animals, especially for the Persian wheel; they also sell excess butterfat but never sell milk. The camel breeders do sell milk, but their main income is from the sale of young male camels, which are much in demand for purposes of transport. The camel drivers hire themselves out with their trained animals, either working for a fee or for a share of the profit. In many areas where former pastureland has come under the plow, due to irrigation facilities, they are obliged to ask local farmers for the rights to graze their herds on their lands; in return they often have to give their labor during the harvest. The women of the pastoral Jat of the north also sell mats and ropes made from the leaves of dwarf palms. The army has been a major source of income for the peasant Jat since the late nineteenth century, and in recent decades many Sikh Jat are in the motorized transport business. Remittances from Jat immigrants in North America and elsewhere also contribute much to the income of a very large proportion of the population.

Industrial Arts and Division of Labor. Among the agricultural Jat, traditionally only the men work in the fields, while the women are entirely responsible for the household. In recent times more prosperous families hire non-Jat, primarily landless labor from other regions, as farmhands, partly as full-time workers but especially as part-time workers in peak seasons. Among the buffalo-breeding nomads, the men graze and milk their animals, and they sell these animals and their butterfat. Their women prepare milk products and do all the housework—cooking, cleaning, fetching water and fuel, rearing the children, sewing and embroidering all textiles for household use, and weaving the reed mats for their huts. Among the camel breeders all work connected with the animals is carried out by the men—grazing the herds, milking, shearing, spinning and weaving the camel's wool into coarse blankets and bags, and selling animals. Household work is done by the women, and encompasses the same tasks as among the buffalo breeders. No food products are made from camel's milk, and in the months when the milk is plentiful enough to provide sole subsistence, little or no cooking is done.

Land Tenure. The landowners of a village stand collectively for the entire land of the village, but within the village each individual head of household has discrete rights within the various lineage segments. Generally, all landowners in a village are descended from a common ancestor who founded the village; his ownership of all the village lands is never forgotten, and by this token all individuated rights are successive restrictions of more general rights, applicable at all levels of genealogical segmentation. Common land is that which has not been brought under cultivation.

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