Textbook of Sociology for Class XII SOCIAL CHANGE IN INDIA Textbook of Sociology for Class XII M. N. KARNA CONTENTS 1. Structural Processes of Change 2. Cultural Processes of Change 3. State and Social Change 4. Legislation and Democratic Decentralisation 5. Economic Development and Social Change 6. New Groups, Classes and Globalisation 7. Education and Social Change 8. Mass Media and Cultural Change 9. Dissent and Social Change 10. Social Deviance 1 14 25 36 47 57 69 77 86 99 STRUCTURAL PROCESSES OF CHANGE 1 CHAPTER 1 Structural Process of Change Change is a fact of human life.
We may not be aware of it in our day-to-day experience but it continues to affect us in one way or the other. A hundred and thousand years might be a moment in the life of rocks and mountains but in human society changes take place in the course of merely a generation or two. Think of a situation in which your grandmother was living in a village where a large number of family members were staying together in one household. She had to maintain purdah and was not allowed to come out of the four walls of the house till she had become old. Now compare it with the condition of your mother.
Do you not find a change in the structure of your own family, now when only a few members are staying together ? Your uncle is living in another household with his wife and children. Likewise, your grandfather was an agriculturist but your father might have shifted to the urban area to take up a job in a government office. You will notice several corresponding changes even in the life-style of your own family. These alterations have occurred merely in a generation or two. A close look will reveal changes both in the structure and function of family and in patterns of occupations.
It is this dimension of change that we intend to study in the present course. Our focus will be on the nature and extent of social change in contemporary Indian society. The study of social change in India is important for several reasons. It tells us how contemporary Indian society is transforming from a traditional society to a modern developed society. It shows how changes are occurring in our social institutions and what are the factors bringing about such changes. It also indicates our achievements as a nation and identifies problems and setbacks in certain areas of our life.
Social change is a process, in the sense that it involves a series of events over a period of time. The idea of continuity is implied in it and shows a sequence of operations that bring about change. Thus, the notion of process indicates two major dimensions of social change—its nature and direction. While the nature of change reveals content of change, the direction speaks about the line in which it is moving. We intend to 2 SOCIAL CHANGE IN INDIA discuss here both the substance and the factors of change. Sociologists in India have analysed the process of social change under two broad categories—structural processes and cultural processes.
Structural processes of change are due to a transformation in the network of social relationships. Caste, kinship, family and occupational groups constitute some of the structural realities. Change in these relationships is a structural change. When the traditional agrarian system based on family labour is transformed into agrarian system based on hired labour with a view to produce for the market, we may call it a structural change. The transfor mation of joint family to nuclear family brings about change in structure and function of family. It is through the process of differentiation of roles that structural change takes place.
To put it differently, role of a social institution changes due to specific sequence of events making it more effective in the changed situation. In fact, structural differentiation of roles leads to functional specialisation. Reverting to our earlier example, in addition to procreation and rearing of children, joint family performed numerous roles in traditional society in the fields of education, occupation and social security . But after its transformation into nuclear family most of these functions have been taken over by specialised agencies such as schools, economic organisations, government departments and other institutions.
Structural change as a result of role differentiation is noticed in almost all domains of social life. You are already familiar with the factors of social change. Therefore, we shall focus on structural processes of social change namely, industrialisation, Westernisation and modernisation. INDUSTRIALISATION Science is an important element of human heritage that produces a systematic knowledge of nature. Technology, on the other hand, is that element which contains the application of this knowledge. In this sense, technology has a utilitarian goal.
It has developed mainly due to a desire to apply it for the advantage of common people. This goal has been realised in almost every sphere—industry, agriculture, transport, communication and such other areas. The rapid changes that we experience in our dayto-day life are related to the development of new techniques, new inventions and new modes of production. The application of modern technology in industry has influenced not only our economic life but also our social and cultural system. Industrialisation is a process of technological advancement from domestic production with simple tools to large-scale factory based production.
However, sociologically, the term implies a process of economic and social changes arising out of the change in the structure of industry. Industrialisation involves a broad range of social factors that deeply affect the character of social STRUCTURAL PROCESSES OF CHANGE 3 life. For instance, factories give rise to elaborate division of labour, new work culture, etc. Industrialisation in India A wide network of domestic and cottage industries was existing in India even prior to British colonial rule. But modern large-scale industry came only during the later part of the nineteenth century after the Industrial Revolution in Europe.
Between the 1850’s when the first major industries started, and 1914 India had established the world’s largest jute manufacturing industry, the fifth largest cotton textile industry and the third largest railway network. In this manner, India had almost a century of industrial development on the eve of the independence. After independence, the pace of industrialisation was significantly accelerated during the periods of FiveYear Plans. It saw the expansion and diversification of the industrial structure with the establishment of several new units. In 1951, there were only two major units producing iron and steel.
The number of such major steel plants increased to six by 1980s with the installed capacity of 80 lakh tonnes. The country has made considerable progress in the field of new industries, agricultural tractors, electronics, fertiliser etc. , which were practically nonexistent in 1951. The textile industry is no longer confined to cotton and jute textiles but to a large number of units producing different types of synthetic fibres. An important feature of industrial growth after independence has been the rapid expansion of the public sector enterprises.
These produce diverse products such as steel, coal, heavy and light engineering goods, locomotives, aircraft, petroleum products and fertilizers. A brief sketch of industrial growth in India may give us an idea of the extent of industrialisation that has taken place in the country since attaining independence. Social Consequences of Industrialisation We may now turn our attention to the economic and social consequences of industrialisation. Our economic life has witnessed tremendous structural change in the wake of industrialisation. Production has been brought substantially to the factory. Elaborate division of labour, pecialisation of tasks and the growth of a class of industrial workers have resulted from changes in the industrial system. Similarly, the nature of agricultural production has also changed because of change in agricultural practices. With the alteration in agricultural practices, alterations have also occurred in agrarian relations and the life-styles of farm households. Moreover, industrialisation has changed the family mode of production and women are increasingly found in farms, firms and factories to perform different tasks. The new economic role has placed women in the new 4 SOCIAL CHANGE IN INDIA nvironment where they experience a changed social status. This new role of women in turn has brought greater participation of women in decision making in the family. These changes have occurred due to occupational diversification that has been brought about by industrialisation. For example, it cannot be expected that all working members of a family will get jobs in similar occupations and professions and will be posted at the same place. One member, for example, may be engaged in the cultivation of family land in Uttar Pradesh and the other may take up an employment as an engineer in Chennai.
Under these circumstances, the break-up of a joint family into small nuclear families is natural. Such structural changes are also accompanied by functional distinctive-ness. For example, the traditional joint family as mentioned earlier, was a multifunctional institution. It had innumerable economic, educational, recreational, socialisational and biological functions. Now, except for the biological and socialisational functions of the family, most of the other functions have been taken over by formal economic organisations, associations and the state. Development of transport and communication have resulted in far reaching consequences.
Railways, automobiles and marine transportations have not only increased spatial mobility but have also quickened the rate of internal and external migration. A large number of people are migrating from rural to urban areas to take up new occupations. Similarly, both skilled and unskilled women and men are travelling out of the country in search of better careers. Changes are also witnessed in the system of social stratification. Significant changes are observed in the case of caste system, which is an important structural reality of Indian social system.
The separation between caste and occupation is a significant change that has taken place. The occupational diversification has made several occupations ‘caste free’. It is, however, more in towns than in villages and even greater in the large industrialised cities. A considerable number of people located earlier at the lower levels of caste hierarchy and engaged in caste-based occupations are now entering into new occupations. Likewise, castes considered higher in the hierarchy are coming forward for occupations not preferred earlier.
The members of lower castes dispensed with traditional occupations primarily because they were considered ‘impure’ and were endowed with low status besides being less profitable. On the other hand, members of upper castes such as Brahmin, Rajput and Kayasth in North India were compelled to take up work like manual labourers, peons in offices and such other low status jobs. In addition to modifications in occupational structure and mobility, changes are seen in the inter-caste power structure. We have so far analysed the socio-economic consequences of
STRUCTURAL PROCESSES OF CHANGE 5 industrialisation but we should not overlook one basic fact in this regard. The way in which a society responds to the industrial changes depends on its own creative genius and social environment. We, therefore, find a substantial difference between one society and another in the degree to which changes take place as a result of industrialisation. impersonal. The relationship is based on a complex division of labour and is contractual in nature. Urbanisation in India India is a land of villages and will remain so for decades to come.
However, it does not mean that cities have been absent from this vast sub-continent. Existence of cities in India can be traced back to as early as third millennium B . C . Archeological excavations reveal older traces of urbanisation. Historians tell us that a truly urban civilisation emerged in the Indus Valley with Mohenjodaro and Harappa as important urban centres. In addition to these two cities, several other urban settlements such as Kalibangan in northern Rajasthan, Lothal in Gujarat and Banwali in Haryana also emerged as the major centres.
In the subsequent period, urbanisation was not confined to a particular area. This phase of urbanisation finds mention in the postVedic literature in the north and Sangam literature in the south. The Buddhist texts also mention the existence of the urban centres. Furthermore, urbanisation during the medieval times was spread out from Srinagar in the north to Madurai in the south. This period was marked more by the revival of old cities than the establishment of new cities and towns. These preindustrial cities, however, existed primarily as centres of pilgrimage, as royal capitals and as trading centres.
Cities with modern industrial character grew in India only after the URBANISATION Urbanisation is a process by which people instead of living in villages start living in towns and cities. It involves a mode by which agriculture-based habitat is transformed into nonagricultural urban habitat. The growth of urban centres is the result of accelerated industrial and service functions. An increase in the size of towns and cities leading to growth of urban population is the most significant dimension of urbanisation. These centres are essentially non-agricultural in character.
Urbanisation as a structural process of change is related to industrialisation but it is not always the result of industrialisation. In certain cases, urbanisation has taken place even without industrialisation. Industrialisation is always connected with economic growth but we cannot say the same about urbanisation. Urban environment produces a particular kind of social life which Lois Wirth, a core member of the Chicago School, calls urbanism. Social life in cities is more formal and 6 SOCIAL CHANGE IN INDIA contact with the West. The process of urbanisation was accelerated during the British colonial regime.
The British Indian administration promoted urbanisation on a large scale. The major port towns of Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai owe their beginning, growth and importance to the colonial efforts. Similarly, regional summer capitals were established in remote mountainous areas like Srinagar, Shillong and Shimla. The princely states did not develop as fast but even they had capital towns. Some of the princely states like Hyderabad, Indore, Jaipur and Mysore had population exceeding one lakh. The urban scenario changed remarkably after independence.
The proportion of urban population to the total population increased from 17. 6 per cent in 1951 to 25. 7 per cent in 1991. The number of cities with population of one million or more increased from 5 to 23 during the same period. According to the census of 2001 urban population stands at 27. 78 per cent and number of cities having population more than one million has increased to 35. The noteworthy growth of urban population after independence has been largely due to the rapid increase in population, ruralurban migration, city-centred industrialisation and the over all neglect of villages.
The emerging trends of urbanisation in India reveal that urban migration is fairly significant. A large number of people from rural areas are shifting not only to big cities but even to medium-sized cities and small towns. Distance is not a barrier. One readily finds villagers moving from farflung areas of north Indian state to the cities in south India. Migrants are mainly employed in manufacturing and service occupations. Besides, the seasonal migration of unskilled labourers, too, has become common. We find labourers from Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Orissa working in agricultural farms of Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh.
Labourers begin with seasonal migration and later on start settling permanently in areas of their choice. Social Effects of Urbanisation Let us now turn to the social effects of accelerated urbanisation. Urbanisation has altered the structure of joint family as a result of occupational diversification. Consequently, the functions of family and kinship have declined considerably. The traditional family norms are relaxed and interpersonal relationships have become more formal. An urban child now grows within much smaller world. No kinsmen are available in nuclear family to take care of her/ him.
The child has to select playmates outside the family. In this manner, the child develops a new type of personality characterised by ideas of freedom and innovation. Such a situation is remarkably different from the environment of dependence found in a joint family. The nature of love and affection in interpersonal relationship has also changed. While children and STRUCTURAL PROCESSES OF CHANGE 7 their mothers receive considerable attention, sentiments and attachment towards other relatives have weakened. Likewise, the division of domestic duties between wife and husband is changing in the urban settings.
They both share domestic duties, as there is no other adult member available to share the burden. Thus, social life in urban areas faces isolation due to diminishing kinship obligations. Several ties that formerly bound members of the family to group and community life are now broken. Consequently, the quality of human relationships tends to become more formal and impersonal. Another visible change is in the domain of caste identity. Urban dwellers participate in networks that include persons of several castes. Individual achievement and modern status symbols have become more important than caste identity.
Caste norms are not strictly maintained which is manifest in commensal relations, marital alliances and in occupational relations. It is, thus, possible to suggest that urban way of life has made people think more as individuals than as members of a particular caste. The importance of ascription as the basis of social status is declining and the significance of achievement is taking its place. The level of education, nature of occupation and the level of income are now major indicators of one’s achievement in an urban setup. Therefore, people recognise education, occupation and income as prerequisites for higher ocial status. It does not mean that the achieved status has completely replaced ascribed status and class has fully overshadowed caste. It is, however, necessary to clarify that changes brought about by urbanisation have not altogether replaced the traditional patterns of family, kinship and caste. They go through adaptations and their functions are not completely eroded. Urban Problems We have already seen how urbanisation is proceeding at a considerable pace in India. It has affected different domains of people’s life. The expansion of urban centres has also given rise to a variety of problems.
The physical space is dingy, quality of life is poor and urban governance is unimaginative. Overcrowding and pollution, sub-standard housing and slums, crime and delinquency, alcoholism and drug abuse are a few of them. We shall discuss some of them which have far reaching consequences for the country. Urban overcrowding is the result of the massive size of India’s urban population. Its impact is visible in declining services in the areas of housing, water supply, sanitation, transport, power supply and employment opportunity.
Increasing number of homeless people, high rate of rent and a scramble for the few available houses are commonly found in most of the cities and towns. The density of urban population in India works out to be around 3, 500 persons 8 SOCIAL CHANGE IN INDIA per square kilometre in 1991. This is more than the accepted norm of 400 per square kilometre. Thus, urban areas have more people than they can support with the available infrastructure. Related to the problem of housing and overcrowding is the problem of slums. The slum is an area of dingy neglected houses where people live in poverty without minimum civic amenities.
The estimates of India’s urban population living in slums vary widely. However, according to an estimate, not less than 45 million people were living in slums in 1995 and as the urban population is increasing fast, their number must have had increased by now. It is said that the Indian population living in slums is more than the total population of about 107 countries of the world. Generally, the larger a city, the more the people live in slums. Naturally, metros like Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata have more slums than the small and medium size towns.
In 1991, slum-dwellers formed 45 per cent of the population in Mumbai, 44 per cent in Delhi and 42 per cent in Kolkata. The situation is no better in other metropolises like Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmadabad etc. In reality, the problems of slums are multiplying in the wake of city’s incapacity to meet the rising demands of growing population. Pollution is another major problem of cities. There are several sources of rising pollution. Cities discharge 40 to 60 per cent of their entire sewage and industrial effluents into the adjoining rivers. The smaller towns ump garbage and excreta into the nearest waterways through their open drains. Likewise, urban industries pollute the atmosphere with smoke and gases from their old chimneys. Vehicular emission in Delhi accounts for 64 per cent of its air pollution. In fact, Delhi has the dubious distinction of being one of the most polluted cities in the world. The poison that we put in the environment comes back to us through air, water and food. It gradually causes diseases and disorders making life miserable and hazardous. The issue of environmental pollution in urban areas has been recognised and steps have been taken to ease the situation.
Even the Supreme Court of India intervened and ordered closure of polluting industrial units in Delhi. Recently, the use of nonpolluting Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) has been made mandatory for buses and three-wheelers in Delhi as per the order of the Supreme Court. There are a number of other problems faced by urban centres which are not discussed here for the sake of brevity. Important among them are the problems of urban poverty, urban planning and urban governance. MODERNISATION Modernisation is both an idea and a process.
As it is an idea, there is no agreement among social scientists on its meaning and interpretation. In the decades after the Second World War it was believed in industrial capitalist STRUCTURAL PROCESSES OF CHANGE 9 countries such as Britain and the United States that the key to economic development in the Third World was modernisation. The concept of modernisation, thus, emerged as an explanation of how these societies developed through capitalism. By providing such an explanation Western scholars desired to convince the underdeveloped countries like India that economic development was possible under capitalism.
According to this approach, modernisation depends primarily on introduction of technology and the knowledge required to make use of it. Besides, several social and political prerequisites have been identified to make modernisation possible. Some of these prerequisites are: 1. increased levels of education, 2. development of mass media, 3. accessible transport and communication, 4. democratic political institutions, 5. more urban and mobile population, 6. nuclear family in place of extended family, 7. complex division of labour, 8. declining public influence of religion, and; 9. eveloped markets for exchange of goods and services in place of traditional ways of meeting such needs. Modernisation is, thus, supposed to be the result of the presence of these prerequisites in the social system. It is clear that the term modernisation has been used here in a very broad sense. We, therefore, find different views about the scope and area to be covered by the concept of modernisation. Some sociologists limit modernisation to its structural aspect, others emphasise its cultural dimension. A few studies highlight the issue of political modernisation and still others analyse its psychological meaning.
Of course, the treatment of the concept in terms of it being a process of social change is found in Learner’s writing. Daniel Lerner in his essay on ‘Modernisation’, included in Encyclopaedia of Social Sciences, explains modernisation in these words: “Modernisation is the current term for an old process — the process of social change whereby less developed societies acquired characteristics common to more developed societies. ” He further writes, “Modernisation, therefore, is the process of social change in which development is the economic component. Obviously this understanding of the term corresponds with the meaning which we have given to the term at the beginning of our discussion. Accordingly, modernisation is a process of change, which takes a country from underdevelopment to development. It produces social environment for economic development. The growth in industrialisation, urbanisation, national income and per capita income are taken as criteria of development. However, while accepting the economic criteria of development, some sociologists have added non-economic 10 SOCIAL CHANGE IN INDIA riteria to judge development. They argue that rising output alone is not sufficient to assess the level of development. A society has to move from rising output to self-sustaining growth. Therefore, non-economic criteria such as the level of education, function of media, growth of communication and social norms conducive to change have to be taken into consideration. The meaning of modernisation given above incorporates primarily, structural aspects of change. In other words, with modernisation structural transformation takes place in economy, polity and social institutions.
It is to be noted here that the concept of modernisation has also been explained in cultural terms. In this sense, modernisation implies change in values and attitudes. Modernity involves values and norms that are universal in nature. Explaining this aspect of moder nisation Yogendra Singh suggests that modernisation implies a rational attitude towards issues and their evaluation from a universal viewpoint. Thus, technological advancement and economic growth are not the sole criterion to judge the level of modernisation of a society. The commitment to scientific world-view and humanistic ideas are equally important.
Moreover, the idea of modernisation has also been analysed in terms of the paired concepts of tradition and modernity. It has been argued that modernity stands as opposite of tradition. In this sense, all the underdeveloped societies are characterised as traditional and the developed societies as modern. Modernisation, thus, implies a change from tradition to modernity. Change occurs, according to this view, in predictable direction. In other words, in order to modernise, every society has to follow the same direction and adopt a similar path.
All the existing values and structures have to be replaced by the new values and structures. Nonetheless, sociologists from the developing countries are critical of this understanding of modernisation. They maintain that modernisation does not stand as a polar opposite to tradition. Traditional values and institutions are not necessarily discarded while taking up new values in the process of change. Society adopts new values because they are considered more efficient and rewarding. In view of this, these sociologists hold that modernisation would develop typical forms in different societies.
Patterns of modernisation, thus, may vary from society to society. The discussion shows that processes of modernisation involve both structural and cultural dimensions. However, given the present context, we shall deal with modernisation primarily as a structural process of change. Modernisation in India Some sociologists make a distinction between social change and modernisation in order to assess the nature of change in the traditional Indian society. Though, social change occurred in traditional India, it was essentially pre-modern in nature. One STRUCTURAL PROCESSES OF CHANGE 11 raditional institution was just replaced by the other and no basic structural change took place in social system and culture. Historically, modernisation in India started from the establishment of the British rule and has continued even after independence. The nature and direction of modernisation during these two phases have been different. Therefore, it is appropriate to examine the processes of modernisation under two distinct phases — the colonial phase and the post-colonial phase. As has been mentioned earlier, modernisation in India commenced after the arrival of the British rule.
The contact with the West brought about far reaching changes in social structure and cultural institutions. Changes were witnessed in almost all important areas of life. The British administration introduced new arrangements in legal, agrarian, educational and administrative domains. Most of these led to structural modernisation. For instance, the bureaucratic system of administration and judiciary introduced by them were based on modern rational norms, which replaced the traditional Indian legal norms, based on the principle of hierarchy and ascription. A similar transformation took place in the system of education and agrarian structure.
The Western system of education was introduced towards the middle of the nineteenth century and expanded significantly thereafter. New patter ns of land settlements such as Zamindari, Raiyatwari and Mahalwari covering the whole of British India resulted in systematisation of revenue administration. Some other areas experiencing modernising trends were industrialisation, urbanisation, transport and communication, army and the emergence of industrial working class and so forth. The emergence and growth of a nationalist political leadership was also the result of growing modernisation of Indian society.
In fact, the nationalist leadership became so strong towards the early part of the twentieth century that freedom movement itself generated a new culture of modernisation. It is apparent from the above that the colonial phase of modernisation created a wide network of structure and culture which was modern and had an all-India appeal. However, it is important to point out here that during the colonial phase the local regional structures of family, caste and village community remained more or less unaffected by the forces of modernisation. At these levels, the British, by and large, followed a policy of least interference.
Consequently, we do not find much change in the structures of family, caste and village. Let us, now, briefly examine the process of modernisation in the postcolonial India. Modernisation process has undergone some fundamental changes after the Independence. Every domain of social system is under the active influence of modernising process. Modernisation has, now, become an integral part of the developmental strategy. 12 SOCIAL CHANGE IN INDIA The political system has assumed a new shape after the adoption of a parliamentary form of government based on adult franchise.
Political parties have emerged as powerful organs of the system. Thus, democratic political structure has effectively led to increasing political consciousness among people. The process of politicisation has, further, been accelerated through the Panchayati Raj institutions. The foundations of traditional family structure have come under the influence of legal reforms in marriage and inheritance. The family introduced egalitarian norms in family leading to raised status of women. Similarly, caste has assumed new functional roles. It has acquired an associational character. New consciousness has emerged among dalits.
Increasing role of caste in politics is a pointer to this trend. Moreover, land reforms, too, have brought structural transformation in agrarian social structure. However, it is pertinent to call attention to the fact that modernisation in India has not been a uniformly progressive movement. Two crucial issues may be pointed out in this regard. First, in the process of modernisation several traditional institutions and activities have been reinforced. For example, religious preachers are using modern media to spread their ideas. Now, there are television channels in India exclusively devoted to religious preaching.
Caste associations are using new modes of communication to consolidate their position. Second, inconsistencies are visible in the patterns of modernisation. Though structural change is witnessed in family, joint family loyalties and norms still prevail. Democratic participation is increasing despite increase in caste conflicts. What we wish to point out is that modernisation in India has not thoroughly dispensed with traditional institutions. Yogendra Singh has, appropriately highlighted this fact in his study titled Modernisation of Indian Tradition.
He writes, “The form of traditional institutions may remain intact but their substance might undergo major transformations incorporating modernisation. ” In this sense modernisation process in India has acquired a typical form. Traditional institutions have displayed their potential for adaptations in course of change. GLOSSARY CONTRACTUAL RELATIONSHIP. It is a formal agreement between two or more parties in which the parties entering this relationship must give up their part of the bargain without abusing the terms of the agreement. STRUCTURAL PROCESSES OF CHANGE 13 SEASONAL MIGRATION.
The movements of agricultural labourers from one place to other during harvest time in search of employment. EXERCISE 1. What is meant by structural change? 2. What are the significant changes in the sphere of industry after Independence? 3. Explain the social and the economic consequences of industrialisation. 4. Distinguish between urbanisation and urbanism. 5. Discuss the impact of urbanisation on Indian society. 6. What is modernisation? 7. Explain the process of modernisation in India. SUGGESTED READINGS 1. Rao, M. S. A. (ed. ), Urban Sociology in India, Orient Longman, New Delhi, 1974. 2.
Singh, Yogendra, Modernisation of Indian Traditions, Thomson Press Ltd. , New Delhi,1973. 3. Srinivas, M. N. , Social Change in Modern India, Orient Longman, New Delhi,1972. 4. Srinivas, M. N. , The Dominant Caste and Other Essays, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1987. 5. Singh, Yogendra, Essays on Modernisation in India, Manohar Publications, Delhi, 1978. 6. Mishra, R. P. , Urbanisation in India : Challenges and Opportunities, Regency Publications, New Delhi, 1998. 14 SOCIAL CHANGE IN INDIA CHAPTER 2 Cultural Processes of Change In the previous chapter we have examined the structural processes of change.
You are familiar with the concept that culture is an accumulated store of symbols, ideas and material products which are transmitted from one generation to the other. Cultural forms regulate social activities. Thus, in the present context, cultural processes of change show the various ways through which Indian culture responds to numerous changes earlier introduced in India. The sources of change fall under two broader categories—endogenous and exogenous. While endogenous sources of change originate from within the society, exogenous sources flow from outside a particular society.
Changes in the cultural structure of India have emanated from both endogenous and exogenous sources. In the following sections, the significance of these cultural processes has been discussed with the help of four concepts namely, Sanskritisation, Islamisation, Westernisation and Secularisation. cultural and social changes in India. The term was first used by M. N. Srinivas in the course of his study of the Coorgs in erstwhile State of Mysore. Subsequently, further refinements have been brought in the concept by sociologists to effectively describe the process of cultural mobility in the traditional social structure in India.
According to Srinivas, “Sanskritisation is a process by which a ‘low’ Hindu caste, or tribal or other group changes its customs, ritual, ideology, and way of life in the direction of a high, and frequently, ‘twice-born’ caste. ” Srinivas found that lower castes, in order to raise their position in caste hierarchy, adopted some of the practices of the Brahmans. At the same time, these castes gave up some of their own customs, which were considered impure such as meat-eating, consumption of alcohol and animal sacrifice to their deities.
They also emulated life-styles of the high caste Brahmans in terms of dress, food and rituals. By imitating these practices the lower castes claimed higher position over a period of time in the local hierarchy of castes. This process of mobility was initially called SANSKRITISATION Sanskritisation has emerged as the most influential concept to explain CULTURAL PROCESSES OF CHANGE 15 Brahmanisation. But it was realised later that the process described as Brahmanisation was not a general trend and the lower castes in several cases adopted the practices of the nonBrahman higher castes.
Therefore, the term Brahmanisation was replaced by Sanskritisation which was considered more appropriate. Sanskritisation is an endogenous source of upward mobility for a caste. The mobility caused by this process, however, leads to only positional changes in the system. It does not result in structural change. Change occurs within the caste hierarchy. The caste system itself does not change. Sanskritisation is not limited to Hindu castes. It also takes place among the tribal groups. By resorting to Sanskritisation a particular tribe may claim even to be a caste.
We notice this process of cultural change among the Bhils of western India, the Gonds, the Ho and the Oraons of central India. In this sense, Sanskritisation is a general process of acculturation. It provides a channel for vertical mobility of groups and communities. It reveals motivation for status enhancement through imitation of the customs, rituals and ideologies of the upper castes. As mentioned earlier, only practices of the Brahmans are not adopted by the lower castes. There are other nonBrahman castes who act as models for adoption of ways of life.
This aspect of Sanskritisation has been explained with the help of the concept of the ‘dominant caste’. Srinivas describes it thus, “For a caste to be dominant, it should own a sizeable amount of the arable land locally available, have strength of numbers and occupy a high place in the local hierarchy. ” Besides land ownership, numerical strength and high ritual status, other factors like education, jobs in administration and urban sources of income have also contributed to the power and prestige of certain castes in rural areas. Dominant castes have localised existence and operate as reference models for Sanskritising castes.
However, the process of cultural transmission through the local dominant castes takes different forms in different regions. If the dominant caste in a particular region is the Brahman, it will transmit Brahmanical features of Sanskritisation. But in case the locally dominant caste is a Jat, it will transmit Jat features. In this sense, Sanskritisation is an expression of a highly regional process of cultural change. Nonetheless, it is necessary to point out that the regional pattern of Sanskritisation with its own dominant caste is not completely independent from an all-India system.
Sources of influence as Srinivas says may be derived from wider Indian tradition such as ‘pilgrimages, harikathas and religious plays’. Srinivas gives the example of the Sanskritisation of the Patidars of Gujarat, which owes much to these sources and the influence of Vallabhachari and Swaminarayan sects. However, the process of Sanskritisation is not always steady 16 SOCIAL CHANGE IN INDIA and smooth. When lower castes begin to emulate life-styles of dominant castes it does not go unchallenged everytime. Minor changes in rituals and dress codes are ignored.
But when the lower castes adopt important high-caste symbols, then it is not only contested, even punishments follow. Several examples of such contests and punishments have been reported from different regions of the country. When the Noniyas, a low caste of salt-makers in eastern Uttar Pradesh put on the sacred thread en masse, the upper caste landlords ‘beat them, tore off the sacred thread and imposed a collective fine on the caste’. Similarly, in north Bihar, the high caste Bhumihars prevented the Yadav (Ahir) from assuming the symbols of upper caste status.
Instances of such violent conflicts were not confined to north India. In the extreme south of India, the Kallar, a dominant caste announced eight prohibitions in December 1930 against the Adi-Dravidas, the disregard of which led to violent incidents. Their huts were set on fire, granaries were destroyed and even livestock was looted. In view of such a response of the dominant caste in a particular area, the lower castes adopted a different strategy to achieve the goal. They avoided imitating practices likely to disturb the dominant caste. They would move rather slowly.
In some cases certain Sanskritising castes openly defied the commands. Although Sanskritisation, more often than not, has a local character it has occurred in every part of India. In this sense, it has been a major process of cultural change in Indian history. Historical evidence shows that various aboriginal groups were assimilated in the hierarchy of castes according to their social position. Such processes also gave rise to new castes or sub-castes. The formation of new caste or sub-caste, in reality, reflected social mobility within the caste system.
Thus, in the historical sense, Sanskritisation speaks of a process which brings about changes in the status of various castes. This process of cultural change allows not only imitation of life-styles but also brings new ideas and values. The Bhakti movement of medieval period is an important example in this respect. It was an all-India movement, which actively involved the low castes and the poor. The Bhakti saints pronounced that the dignity of human beings depended on their actions and not on their birth. It was because of this movement that several individuals from the lower castes including untouchables became religious leaders.
Namdev was a tailor, Tukaram a shopkeeper, Rai a cobbler and Kabir a weaver. The movement had given a jolt to excessive ritualism and caste atrocities. It spread values of equality and social justice. ISLAMISATION It is to be noted here that another process of cultural change has also been operating in India, which is linked CULTURAL PROCESSES OF CHANGE 17 to the process of Sanskritisation. Sociologists have called it Islamisation. Indian contact with Islam dates back to the eighth century. Today almost 14 per cent Indians follow Islam. It is, thus, an important religious tradition in our country.
The process of the spread of Islam called Islamisation is an integral part of our cultural heritage. Accordingly, there are two major aspects of Islamisation that attract our attention. First, the changes which have occurred in the life of the Muslims because of the endogenous change within the tradition of Islam in India. Second, the interaction between Hinduism and Islam during its long history which has produced a composite culture. The significant development in this respect took place in the early phase of Islamic expansion and its consolidation. It broadly happened between A . D . 1206–1818.
It was an important period for several reasons as Yogendra Singh says, “It was not only marked with periods of conflicts and tension but also led to many adaptations and cultural syncretism between the Hindu and the Islamic traditions. ” A more stable co-existence of Islam with the Hindu and other traditions were the natural consequence of this interaction. When Islam reached India its social organisation had started transforming. ‘Equality and brotherhood’ continued to be an ideal but social gradations within Muslim society had already emerged. The ruling groups, at the time of arrival of Islam, consisted of upper groups.
They were called Ashrafs. It included four high status groups known as Sayyid, Sheikh, Mughal and Pathan. These groups later assumed caste-like features. They were both political and cultural torch-bearers and carried forward Islamic cultural tradition. However, it is important to point out that during this phase numerous changes occurred within the Indian Muslim society. Changes came not through the external factors but because of the need of the new sociocultural situation in which Islam was now placed. The emergence and growth of various orders of the Sufi thought was the most significant development in this regard.
Sufis were persons of deep devotion. Sufism was the teaching that identified God with the universe. Sufis laid great emphasis on love as the link between God and the individual soul. Abul Fazl mentions the existence of seventeen Sufi orders in India in the sixteenth century. Some of the practices of the Sufis such as penance, fasting and holding the breath are traced to the Buddhist and Yogic influences. It is difficult to say with certainty whether Buddhist and Vedantic ideas influenced Sufism or the Sufi ideas originated in other philosophical traditions.
What is important to note here is that there were many similarities in the ideas of the Sufis and the Hindu Yogis about the nature and relationship of God and the soul. This provided a basis for mutual tolerance and understanding. Though there were several Sufi orders in India during the medieval 18 SOCIAL CHANGE IN INDIA period only two acquired considerable influence during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. These were the Chishti and Suharwardi orders. Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti established the Chishti order in India. The most famous of the Chishti saints were Nizamuddin Auliya and Nasiruddin Chirag-e-Delhi.
They associated freely with the people of the lower classes including the Hindus. They led a simple life and talked with people in Hindawi or Hindi. Their popularity also increased because of their musical recitations called sama in which often Hindi verses were used to make a greater impact on their listeners. The Suharwardi order entered India during the same period but its activities were confined mainly to Punjab and its surrounding areas. Besides the Sufi tradition of Islam, there were other attempts to reconcile some aspects of the Hindu tradition with Islam.
Among the Muslim rulers, Akbar’s attempt to introduce a synthetic cult called Din-e-Ilahi is well known. A synthesis of Upanishadic ideas with Islam was advocated by Dara Shikoh. In the field of literature, Ameer Khusro contributed so much that his popularity continues till today. Many other Muslim poets and writers have also become part of our literary history. For instance, Jayasi, Nalei, Abdul Rahim Khan-e-Khana, Mirza Asdullah Khan Ghalib have been true representatives of our composite culture. However, it should be remembered that cultural co-existence was only one ide of the story. A larger section of this tradition continued to develop on orthodox lines. The orthodox tradition usually heightened distinctions between what was deemed the correct version of Hinduism or Islam. The situation further changed during the British regime. The liberal tradition was gradually taken over by conservative ideas and beliefs. At the local-regional level where the bulk of Muslims consisted of the converts from Hinduism a similar trend was visible. At this level Islamisation meant an upward social and cultural mobility among the converts to Islam.
The desire for improvement in social status and corresponding increase in power and profit motivated lower castes to Islam. Of course, Islamisation through conversion did not always provide gains but it was psychologically satisfying to the people. The large-scale conversion did not bring an automatic acceptance of their higher status either by the Hindus or by the Muslims. In this sense, Islamisation as a process of cultural change resembles Sanskritisation. WESTERNISATION In addition to Sanskritisation, Westernisation is the other major cultural process of change.
Like Sanskritisation, the term Westernisation has also been made popular in Indian sociology by M. N. Srinivas. It has been used to analyse the exogenous source of social and cultural change in contemporary India. Srinivas, in his book Social Change in CULTURAL PROCESSES OF CHANGE 19 Modern India explains Westernisation in these words, “the changes brought about in Indian society and culture as a result of over 150 years of British rule, and the term subsumes changes occurring at different levels— technology, institutions, ideology, values. It is essential to keep in view that the concepts of Sanskritisation and Westernisation, have been used to explain social change in India in cultural and not in structural terms. They do not refer to changes taking place in social structure. Secondly, the term, Westernisation rather than ‘modernisation’, has been favoured by sociologists because this term is neutral. It does not imply whether it is good or bad. Thus, in spite of its conceptual limitation, Westernisation is an appropriate term to describe the British impact on Indian culture.
We have already discussed in the previous chapter that modern industries were established in India after the Industrial Revolution in Britain. With the growth of science and technology in the West during the nineteenth century, factory production started in India, too. The expansion of industries required fast transport and communication. This in turn led to the beginning and extension of railways, post and telegraph and a wide network of roads. The growth of towns and cities was its natural consequence. In the closing years of the eighteenth century new arrangements were made in the agrarian system.
Modified systems of land settlements were introduced. Important among them were Zamindari, Raiyatwari and Mahalwari settlements. A detailed survey was conducted to prepare records of area and ownership of land. It was used to fix revenue and derive assured income from land. Similarly, modern army, police force and administrative system reached India after the consolidation of the British rule. The introduction of modern legal system with organised courts substantially changed the judicial practices in the country. The establishment of educational institutions was a development of far reaching significance.
Though we had a traditional system of schooling even prior to the British regime, it was not open to all. Education was the privilege of a handfull of people belonging mainly to the high caste groups. In this sense, schools and colleges that were started during the first half of the nineteenth century introduced the system of modern education in India. The British also brought about printing press that facilitated publication of newspapers, books and magazines. The establishment of three universities at Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai in 1857 paved the way for higher education.
Moreover, Wester nisation has brought new ideas and ideology. Among these ideas and values, the most important is what Srinivas calls humanitarianism. It is concerned with ‘the welfare of all human beings irrespective of caste, economic position, religion, age and gender. ’ To put it little 20 SOCIAL CHANGE IN INDIA differently, notions of equality, freedom and secularism are all involved in the basic idea of humanitarianism. In fact, Wester nisation implies humanitarianism which in turn facilitated several reforms during the early nineteenth century.
The abolition of inhuman practices such as Sati, female infanticide and slavery was the result of reforms initiated by the enlightened Indian leaders. Another impact of Westernisation has been the emergence of commercial middle class and traders. Initially, it was confined to only those regions where British influence was potent. They were involved in jobs and vocations that required training and skills different from traditional modes of business and work. Though the people comprising this group were not culturally Westernised in the true sense of the term, their contact with the Western culture was visible.
It was from this class that a new generation of professionals and educated groups emerged in subsequent phases of Westernisation. It is fascinating to note here that Westernisation has also influenced political ideas and thinking. Nationalism and democracy emerged as two great ideas in the West. Both these ideas made a journey to different parts of the world. They came to India through Westernisation. Nationalism stands for the consciousness that gives rise to a nation. The nationalist urge in India started in the latter half of the nineteenth century. But before this urge could crystalise into a struggle for reedom from British colonial rule, a desire to reform traditional Indian society emerged. The establishment of the Brahmo Samaj by Raja Ram Mohan Roy in Bengal in 1828 and the Arya Samaj by Swami Dayanand Saraswati in Gujarat in 1875 aimed at the reformation of Hinduism. The primary objective of these reform movements was to remove social evils of Indian society, namely rigidity of caste system and the low status of women. Nationalism in India, as mentioned, was the result of the contact with the West. The newly educated groups were exposed to the ideals of liberty and democracy through the study of European history and English literature.
The question of Indian political identity was relentlessly debated and gradually it led to the demand for freedom. It is not intended here to trace the growth of Indian nationalism through its long history. Our purpose is only to point out that the ideals of nationalism, democratic polity and secularism have come to India under specific historical context. These systems have been harbinger of cultural modernisation in India. SECULARISATION Secularisation is a process of social change through which the influence of religion declines in public affairs. Religion is replaced by other ways of explaining facts and events.
The importance of religion in regulating social life decreases and it is taken over by utilitarian consideration. The interpretation of reality is in terms of CULTURAL PROCESSES OF CHANGE 21 reason and rationality. When secularisation advances, science replaces religion as the primary approach to understand the natural and social worlds. Thus, the term secularisation implies that issues which were previously regarded as religious are no longer the same. It has rightly been suggested that secularisation in India is the result of almost a century of Westernisation in the country.
The process started with the consolidation of British rule and gradually picked-up momentum with the development of transport and communication. We have seen earlier that industrialisation and urbanisation increased spatial mobility. The people migrated from rural areas to urban areas and from towns to cities in large number. The spread of education changed value preferences which in turn furthered the cause of secularisation. Before discussing the domains of secularisation, it would be proper to indicate how both Sanskritisation and secularisation are simultaneously operating in the contemporary India.
Explaining the reason M. N. Srinivas writes, “Of the two, secularisation is the more general process, affecting all Indians, while Sanskritisation affects only Hindus and tribal groups. Broadly, it would be true to say that secularisation is more marked among the urban and educated groups, and Sanskritisation among the lower Hindu castes and tribes. ” Historically, secularisation of Indian social and cultural life became intense with the new developments in social and cultural arena. The struggle for freedom especially in its Gandhian phase unleashed several forces that increased secularisation.
The civil disobedience campaign launched by Mahatma Gandhi mobilised the masses. Likewise, mobilisation of people against social evils in Hindu society such as untouchability also contributed to increased secularisation. This process was further strengthened with the attaining of independence in 1947, and with the adoption of a Republican Constitution in 1950, India emerged as a secular state. The Constitution adopted in free India guarantees freedom of religion. It declares that there will be no discrimination on the basis of religion in employment and education.
The introduction of universal adult franchise and the equality of citizens before law were some other steps undertaken to ensure the secular character of the Indian State. We shall now discuss the process of secularisation of Indian social and cultural life. The secularisation process has affected every aspect of personal and social life. Some changes are, however, apparent whereas some others may be disguised. Its effects are not uniformly felt. For example, urban dwellers are generally much more influenced by it than the rural folk. Educated sections are deeply moved compared to the illiterates.
Similarly, some regions of the country are more exposed to the secularisation process than others. 22 SOCIAL CHANGE IN INDIA The secularisation process has made its most effective impact on the ideas of pollution and purity. You are already aware that ideas of pollution and purity are central to the lives of people in general and among the Hindus in particular. The notion of pollution and purity determines the hierarchy of castes. It defines the social distance between various castes. Some castes are considered superior and others inferior because some are considered pure and others are taken as relatively impure.
This idea is not only visible in the structure of caste hierarchy but also in food, occupation, styles of life and daily routine. Meat eating and consumption of liquor are considered polluting but vegetarianism and teetotalism are pure practices. A similar distinction is made in occupations. Occupations that involve manual labour are regarded lower than those, which do not require such work. The most conspicuous expression of the prevailing notions of pollution and purity has been the inhuman practice of untouchability in the caste system.
The process of secularisation has considerably reduced and weakened the ideas of pollution and purity. People no longer try to know the caste background of fellow passengers in a bus or a train. They hardly bother about it while visiting restaurants and hotels. The rules of pollution are not observed at the place of work particularly in the urban settings. The styles of life are influenced more by the requirements of jobs and occupations than by caste and religion. The fact being emphasised here is that the orthodox elements of caste and religion are gradually losing significance in the face of growing secularisation of life and culture.
As a result of increased secularisation and mobility caste system has ceased to sustain those values that were hither considered essential. Nonetheless, it is important to point out that while religious values attached to the caste system are disappearing, its role in secular domains like politics is increasing. Now, people are being mobilised on caste lines for political purposes. It is a fascinating sociological question, which needs to be probed, but is currently beyond our scope. There are two other areas, which have been affected by the process of secularisation. They are family system and village community.
While the gradual structural transformation in family produces change in interpersonal relationships, other elements of family life are equally affected. Ceremonies and rituals performed in family such as marriage rituals, funeral rites, worship of family deities all are assuming a different character. They are either curtailed or shortened to suit the convenience of the concerned family. Now, some of these ceremonies are used as occasions to display and advertise affluence. The ostentation associated with wedding receptions has nothing to do with religious practices, which were earlier observed at the time of marriage.
Likewise several community festivals have acquired new meaning and CULTURAL PROCESSES OF CHANGE 23 observances. Baisakhi in Punjab is celebrated more as a cultural festival than a religious one. People from different religious groups join and enjoy its festivity. Durgapuja and Dushahara have assumed new character and their religious rituals have receded into the background. Hundreds of pandals are tastefully decorated displaying various contemporary social and political issues. The latest trend in organising Iftar party during the holy month of Ramzan is also a pointer in this respect.
The village community is also influenced by changes taking place in economic, political and cultural fields. The internal differentiation created by economic forces has altered the harmonious community feelings among villagers. Levels of aspirations have heightened in the wake of numerous developmental measures undertaken by the government. The attitude of surrender before fate and divine will, commonly found among the poor and deprived, has been replaced by the attitude of defiance. They are the products of the process of secularisation. GLOSSARY TWICE-BORN CASTE.
The upper caste who undergoes the initiation or the ‘thread ceremony’ to become dwij, known as twice born. ACCULTURATION. The process by which a dominant group imposes its culture so effectively on subordinate groups that they become virtually indistinguishable from the dominant culture is called acculturation. DIN-E-ILAHI. A new religion started by the Mughal emperor Akbar which was a synthesis of many religions. RAIYATWARI AND MAHALWARI. A system of payment of land revenue imposed by the British government on the peasants, where the peasants had to pay a certain amount of revenue for their land to the Zamindars.
EXERCISE 1. Explain the meaning of term ‘Sanskritisation’. 2. Define dominant caste. Illustrate your answer with some examples of dominant caste. 3. Distinguish Sanskritisation from Islamisation. 4. Discuss the relationship between Sanskritisation and Westernisation. 5. What is the relationship between Westernisation and Secularisation. 24 SOCIAL CHANGE IN INDIA SUGGESTED READINGS 1. Srinivas, M. N. , Social Change in Modern India, Orient Longman, New Delhi, 1972. 2. Srinivas, M. N. , The Dominant Caste and Other Essays, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1987. 3. Desai, A. R. India’s Path of Development, Popular Prakashan, Mumbai, 1984. 4. Beteille, Andre, Caste : Old and New, Asia Publishing House, Mumbai, 1969. 5. Singh, Yogendra, Moder nisation of Indian T radition, Rawat Publications, Jaipur, 1988. STATE AND SOCIAL CHANGE 25 CHAPTER 3 State and Social Change Before analysing the role of state in social change, we must clarify the notion of state itself for a better understanding of the subject. A conventional definition says that a state is a community of persons occupying a definite territory, independent of external control and having an organised government.
All the major elements of state—population, territory, sovereignty and government—are included in this statement. State is also regarded as a social institution which has monopoly over the use of force. It has the authority to exercise control over its citizens. Like all other social institutions, the state is organised around a set of social functions. It maintains law and order and resolves various kinds of disputes through the legal system. The welfare of the people is another domain of its activities. However, it has to be kept in view that the state is not the same as government.
State as a social institution consists of a form and procedure for performing various functions. The parliamentary system of government, for example, is one way of achieving various tasks of governance. Thus, a government is a collection of people who at any given time occupy the positions of authority within a state. In this sense, governments regularly come and go but the state remains. The notion of welfare state is important in the context of the role of a state in social and economic reforms. A welfare state is a system in which the government assumes basic responsibility for the welfare of its citizens.
The state ensures that people have access to essential resources like food, housing, health care, education , employment and so on. Thus, the question of state’s action to accomplish its welfare role assumes significance. A state has to develop policies and programmes for the promotion of the common good of its citizens. Ours is the largest democracy in the world. We have adopted a republican Constitution and a parliamentary system of government after the Independence. We also resolved to secure justice, liberty, equality and fraternity for all our citizens.
In the sections that follow we examine the role of the state in India in bringing about change through 26 SOCIAL CHANGE IN INDIA numerous measures undertaken since the Independence. CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS India is a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic with a parliamentary system of government. The Republic is governed in terms of the Constitution, which was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 26 November 1949 and came into force on 26 January 1950. The Constitution of India has the distinction of being the lengthiest written constitution in the world.
It contains provisions not only for the smooth democratic functioning of the governments of the Union and the states but also for ensuring equality and liberty to the citizens. There are provisions which provide channels for all-round development of the people . In this sense, the Constitution is the prime mover of social change. Some of these constitutional provisions have been discussed here to illustrate the point. Fundamental Rights The Constitution of India has provided some basic rights to all citizens. These are known as Fundamental Rights. These are fundamental because these are essential for civilised human existence.
In the context of our Constitution these are called fundamental because these are protected by the written Constitution and cannot be altered without amending the Constitution. There are six categories of Fundamental Rights. Articles 12 to 35 contained in Part III of the Constitution deal with these rights. These are: (i) Right to Equality: According to this provision, the State shall not deny to any person equality before law. It also prohibits the State from discriminating against any individual on the grounds of religion, race, caste, gender or place of birth. It further provides equality of opportunity in matters of public employment.
Abolition of untouchability in any form has been specified by Article 17. (ii) Right to Freedom: This right consists of Freedom of (a) speech and expression; (b) peaceful assembly without arms; (c) forming associations and Unions; (d) free-movement throughout the territory of India; (e) residence and settlement in any part of the country; and (f) practice of any profession, occupation, trade or business. (iii) Right against Exploitation: It prohibits all forms of forced labour, child labour and traffic in human beings. (iv) Right to Freedom of Religion: Every person has the right to profess, practice and propagate any religion.
No person is compelled to pay taxes for the management of any particular religion. According to it, no person is allowed to impart religious instructions in stateowned educational institutions. (v) Cultural and Educational Rights: Every section of citizen has the right to conserve its distinct culture, language and script. Further, all minorities whether based on religion or language have the right to establish STATE AND SOCIAL CHANGE 27 and administer educational institutions of their choice. (vi) Right to Constitutional Remedies: Under this, every person has the right to seek justice for the enforcement of Fundamental Rights.
Directive Principles of State Policy The Constitution lays down certain Directive Principles of State Policy. Like the Fundamental Rights, the ideals behind the Principles were rooted in our freedom struggle. Leaders of the freedom struggle strived not only for political freedom but also for social and economic upliftment of the toiling millions. These Principles were inserted in the Constitution to provide guidelines for the determination of policies and actions to be undertaken by the State after Independence. Articles 36 to 51 of Part IV of our Constitution deal with these Principles.
The significant aspect of the Directive Principles is that “the State shall strive to promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting as effectively as it may, a social order in which justice—social, economic and political—shall inform all the institutions of the national life. ” Keeping this objective in view the State shall secure (a) adequate means of livelihood for all citizens; (b) control and distribution of wealth so as to subserve the common good; (c) equal pay for equal work; (d) health and strength for all from economic avocations, and (e) protection from child labour.
The state is expected to take steps and secure other social, economic and political programmes. Some other programmes include (a) organisation of village panchayats, (b) right to work and to education, (c) uniform civil code for the citizens, (d) provision for free and compulsory education, (e) promotion of educational and economic interests of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other weaker sections, and (f) separation of the judiciary from the executive. It is, however, important to note that there is one basic difference between the Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles of the State policy.
While the violation of the former can be challenged in the court of law, the latter is not enforceable by any court. In other words, if a citizen’s fundamental rights are curtailed she/he can seek justice from the court. But if the State does not undertake any programme provided for in the Directive Principles, she/he cannot move the court for its enforcement. It does not, however, mean that these Directive Principles have no value. The Constitution clearly states that Directive Principles “are, nevertheless, fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws. Fundamental Duties The Constitution of India has also enumerated fundamental duties for the citizens. By the 42nd amendment of the Constitution, adopted in 1976, Article 28 SOCIAL CHANGE IN INDIA 51A was inserted in Chapter IVA of the Constitution. Accordingly, it shall be the duty of every citizen of India: (a) to abide by the Constitution; (b) to cherish and follow the noble ideas which inspired our national struggle for freedom; (c) to uphold and protect the sovereignty and integrity of the country; (d) to defend the country and render national services; (e) to romote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities; to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women; (f) to preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture; (g) to protect the natural environment; (h) to develop the scientific temper; (i) to safeguard public property and to abjure violence; and (j) to strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity.
We have discussed, so far, some of the general provisions in the Constitution of India having implications for social change. The Constitution also makes some special provisions for the deprived and disadvantaged groups of population such as women, children, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled T ribes, Other Backward Classes and Minorities. These special provisions essentially emanate from the basic features of our Constitution mentioned above. Let us now examine these special constitutional provisions.
Women While Article 14 of the Constitution of India confers equal rights and opportunities for women and men in political, economic and social spheres, Article 15 prohibits discrimination against any citizen on the grounds of gender. Article 15 (3) empowers the State to make affirmative discrimination in favour of women. Similarly, Article 39 enjoins upon the State to provide equal means of livelihood and equal pay for equal work. Article 42 directs the State to make provisions for ensuring just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief.
Finally, Article 51 A imposes a Fundamental Duty on every citizen to renounce the practices derogatory to the dignity of women. Children Realising that children have neither a voice nor political power, the Constitution of India lays down certain special safeguards for them. As in the case of women, Article 15 (3) empowers the State to make special provisions in favour of children. Article 24 prohibits employment of children below 14 years of age in any factory or mines or in other hazardous occupations. Furthermore, Article 45 provides for free and compulsory education for all children up to the age of 14 years.
STATE AND SOCIAL CHANGE 29 Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes We have already seen how the founding fathers of our Constitution wished to secure social, economic and political equality for all the citizens of the country. However, it was realised that this objective could not be achieved unless persons belonging to special disadvantaged groups were provided special protection to emancipate them from centuries-old prejudices and exploitation. Provisions were, therefore, incorporated in the Constitution to promote their economic, educational and social development.
It is against this background that the two types of reservations are available to the members of the backward classes under the Constitution. They are: (a) reservations of seats in the Lok Sabha, the Vidhan Sabha and the various Panchayati Raj bodies and (b) reservation in government services. While the reservations of seats in the Lok Sabha, the Vidhan Sabha and the Panchayati Raj bodies are available to the members of the SCs and STs, the provision of reservation for the OBCs is available only in the Panchayati Raj bodies.
The second type of reservation is available to all the three categories of people. Moreover, under Article 244(2) special provisions have been made for the tribal areas in the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. Constitutional Safeguards for the Minorities Under the Constitution of India, certain safeguards have been granted to the religious and linguistic minorities. Articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution seek to protect the interests of minorities. They recognise the rights of the minorities to conserve their language, script or culture.
They may establish and administer educational institutions of their choice. Article 350A provides for instructions in the mother tongue at the primary stage of education to children belonging to linguistic minorities. Article 350B provides for a Special Officer to investigate all matters relating to the safeguards for linguistic minorities. It is evident from above that provisions of the Indian Constitution are exhaustive and they have helped to design a strong democratic polity under which equality and justice for all the citizens can be achieved.
The Constitution has, thus, created an environment for ushering in an era of effective social change. It has acted not only as a facilitator of change but has also encouraged and promoted economic and social development. Moreover, it has defined and guided the strategy of planning which was adopted and fostered subsequently in the country. The constitution is the driving force effecting socio-economic reforms in the country through the process of amendment. A large number of constitutional amendments 30 SOCIAL CHANGE IN INDIA ave directed, controlled and regulated almost all activities of the society. The process of social change leading to socio-economic transformation of the Indian society was accelerated by these enactments. Some of these have influenced the lifestyle of the Indian people. PLANNING AND SOCIAL CHANGE Planning is an important factor of social change in contemporary society. It implies deliberate interventions in social policy and involves a sequential system that reveals continuity in its chain. It mirrors social objectives and helps to develop the society according to its blueprint.
Planning, thus, conceives of a social order based on rationality and balanced reasoning. Such planning is possible only in democratic welfare states. Planning in India Planning in India was launched after Independence. The Government of India first appointed a Planning Commission with the Prime Minister of India as its Chairman in 1950 to prepare a blueprint for development taking an overall view of the needs and resources of the country. The Planning Commission evolved a system of FiveYear Plans which continues till date.
The declared goals of development policy have been to bring about rapid improvement in living standards of the people. It envisages full employment at an adequate wage and reduction of inequality arising from the uneven distribution of income and wealth. Successive Five-Year Plans have emphasised the necessity to pursue all these objectives simultaneously. However, various Fi v e – Ye a r P l a n s h a v e a d o p t e d different priorities keeping in view the reality of the prevailing situation. The attainment of a high rate of growth has been a major goal of planning.
It has been thought that this goal can be achieved by the coordinated efforts of both the public and private sectors of the economy. The Indian economy is characterised as a mixed economy because of the simultaneous existence of both the public and private sectors. The public sector is a State sector, which operates in those areas which require heavy investments. These investments are mainly in basic and heavy industries. The private sector, on the other hand, covers not only organised industries but also smallscale industries, agriculture, trade and activities in housing and construction.
Major banks, insurance companies, steel plants and heavy engineering corporations, railways, postal service all are public sector enterprises. The Tatas, Ambanis, Birlas, Singhanias are some of the major industrial houses in the private sector. Though economic planning initially envisaged a growing public sector, of late, this process has slowed down considerably. The disinvestment of public shareholding in various public sector undertakings has already taken place. A privatisation drive in the STATE AND SOCIAL CHANGE 31 conomy has gathered momentum and a debate on the issue is in the wings. The Five-Year Plans We have mentioned earlier that the planning strategy in India has been operating within the framework of Five-Year Plans. By now nine Five-Year Plans have been completed and the tenth Five-Year Plan (2002–2007) has just started. The first Five-Year Plan (1951–1956) was launched when the country was recovering from trauma of the partition in 1947 and the crisis created by the Second World War. The country had to import a large amount of food grains in 1951 because of an acute shortage of food grains.
In view of this, the plan accorded the highest priority to agriculture including irrigation and power projects. Almost 44. 6 per cent of the total plan budget were spent on agriculture. At the end of the Plan, the country’s national income increased by 18 per cent and the per capita income by 11 per cent. In the second Five-Year Plan (1956– 1961) the priority shifted from agriculture to industry. It was during this plan period that a new objective was added to the economic policy. It was popularly called ‘the socialistic pattern of society’.
This policy stressed that the benefits of planned development should go more to the relatively under privileged sections of society. It, further, focussed on a progressive reduction in concentration of wealth and income. Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India and Chairman of the Planning Commission said in the Lok Sabha on 23 May 1956, “… broadly speaking, what do we mean when we say, socialist pattern of life? We mean a society in which there is equality of opportunity and the possibility for everyone to live a good life. The third Five-Year Plan (1961– 1966) aimed at securing progress towards self-sustaining growth. Consequently, both agriculture and industry received equal priority in this Plan. Its objectives were to achieve selfsufficiency in foodgrains and to increase agricultural production to meet the requirements of industry and export. It also aimed at expansion of basic industries like steel, chemicals, fuel and power. The performance of the third Plan was, however, discouraging. The national income grew just by 2. 6 per cent as against the target of 5 per cent.
In the agricultural sector also, production suffered a setback. The situation took a serious turn and launching of the fourth Plan in March 1966 was delayed and the period between 1966–69 was often described as a period of ‘Plan holiday’. This period was, however, devoted to repair the ills that had crippled the planning process. The planning process resumed its journey in the fourth Five-Year Plan (1969–1974) with focus on economic stability. It aimed at achieving social justice with equity. The growth of both agricultural and industrial sectors was fully recognised under the 2 SOCIAL CHANGE IN INDIA Plan but again it could not achieve its targets. Neither could it achieve selfsufficiency in food grains nor could it generate adequate employment opportunities. The rate of inflation became unmanageable. Thus, the fifth Five-Year Plan (1974– 1979) was formulated when the economy was under heavy inflationary pressure. People became restive because of the burden of rising prices. Accordingly, removal of poverty and attainment of self-reliance were accepted as the core objectives of the Plan.
It aimed at bringing larger sections of the poor above the poverty line. The Plan also gave top priority to bring inflation under control. Political developments, however, ended this plan in 1978 instead of 1979 and the sixth Plan was started as the ‘rolling plan’. Thus, the sixth Five -Year Plan (1980–1985) was finalised after taking into account the achievements and shortcomings of the past three decades of planning. While removal of poverty remained the core objective of the Plan, emphasis was also laid on economic growth and elimination of unemployment.
This Plan achieved considerable success. Official statistics show that the proportion of people living below the poverty line declined from 48. 3 per cent in 1977–1978 to 36. 9 per cent in 1984–1985. The seventh Plan (1985-1990) emphasised programmes for rapid growth in food grain production, increased employment opportunities and productivity. In order to reduce unemployment, special programmes like Jawahar Rozgar Yojana were launched. During this Plan period, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew at an average rate of 5. 8 per cent exceeding the targeted growth rate by 0. per cent. The eighth Five-Year Plan (1990–95) could not take off due to the changing political scenario at the level of Central Government. Therefore, it was decided that the eighth Five-Year Plan would commence on 1 April 1992 and 1990–91 and 1991–1992 should be treated as separate Annul Plans. Thus, the eighth Five-Year Plan (1992–1997) was launched in the context of new economic reforms which were introduced in the country. The Plan was oriented towards employment generation. More investments were made in small industries, as they were job-intensive.
The Plan aimed at an average annual growth rate of 5. 6 per cent and an average industrial growth rate of about 7. 5 per cent. The economic performance of this Plan was encouraging and the country achieved rapid economic growth. We have just completed the ninth Five-Year Plan (1997–2002). It was launched in the fiftieth year of India’s Independence. Some of the major objectives of the ninth Plan were: (i) priority to agriculture and rural development with a view to generating adequate productive employment and eradication of poverty, (ii) accelerating the growth rate of the economy with stable rices, (iii) ensuring food and nutritional security for all, (iv) providing basic minimum services of safe drinking water, primary health care facilities, STATE AND SOCIAL CHANGE 33 universal primary education, shelter, and connectivity to all in a time-bound manner, (v) containing the growth rate of population; and (vi) empowerment of women and socially disadvantaged groups such as Scheduled Castes, Scheduled T ribes and Other Backward Classes and Minorities as agents of socio-economic change and development. The ninth Plan envisaged an average growth rate of 6. per cent per annum in GDP as against the growth rate of 7 per cent approved initially in the draft proposal. The reduction in the target was necessitated by the changes in the national as well as global economic situation in the first two years of the ninth Plan. In the last fifty years (1950 –1951 to 2000 – 2001) since India became a Republic, the national income has increased 7. 6 times implying a compound growth rate of 4. 2 per cent per annum. The per capita income has increased 2. 75 times from Rs. 3,718 to Rs. 10,654 (at1993–94 prices) registering a compound growth rate of 2. 1 per cent.
It is clear from the preceding discussion that planning in India has covered a long journey of five decades and is still going strong. Nonetheless, it has had mixed results. While it achieved substantial gains in agricultural sector, the success has not been so remarkable in generating employment opportunities. The rate of industrial growth has been moderate in core sector but small-scale industries have suffered serious setbacks. The uneven achievements in social sector like education and health are visible even to a casual observer. While we have made considerable progress in literacy, we cannot say so about health.
Female literacy, for example, has been steadily improving over the years, from 39 per cent in 1991 to 54 per cent in 2001. However, even today 193 million women are illiterate in India. The national policy for women has evolved from ‘welfare’ to ‘development’ to ‘empowerment’. Another area of notable performance has been in providing social justice to and empowerment of the marginalised sections of the society. You know that the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes and Minorities are the major disadvantaged groups in India. These groups have been identified as target groups.
Special programmes have been implemented for their overall development. The Special Component Plan for Scheduled Castes, for instance, is designed to channelise the flow of benefits from the general sectors in Five-Year Plans for the development of SCs. Similarly, the Tribal Sub-Plan is a plan within a State Plan meant for welfare and development of tribals. Measures for the educational and economic development of minorities have also been initiated. Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Zoroastrians (Parsis) have been notified as minorities as per the provision under the National Commission of Minorities Act, 1992.
The National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation 34 SOCIAL CHANGE IN INDIA has been set up for providing concessional finance to eligible beneficiaries belonging to minority communities for setting up selfemployment ventures. It is apparent that state intervention through several measures has brought far-reaching changes in the life of the people. Changes are visible not only in their economic condition but also in their social and cultural life. The democratic political system has created a new social order that is committed to eliminate inequality of status and discriminatory treatment.
State, thus, acts as a strong agent of social change. GLOSSARY WOMEN EMPOWERMENT. When women become conscious of their rights and begin to assert themselves. PRIVATE SECTORS. That part of the economy in which production activities are carried on by private enterprises. A private enterprise is that which is owned and operated by an individual or group of individuals. PUBLIC SECTORS. This includes central, state and local governments and all the enterprises owned and operated by them. MIXED ECONOMY. A market economy in which both private and public enterprises participate in production.
PRIVATISATION. In general, it is the sale of government-owned enterprises to individuals or group of individuals with or without loss of government control in these enterprises. LIBERALISATION. This contains two things viz. (a) allowing the private enterprises to engage in production activities which were earlier restricted to government enterprises and (b) relaxing the rules and regulation meant for private enterprises. This also includes permitting the enterprises run by foreign nationals. EXERCISE 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. What is a welfare State? What do you mean by fundamental rights. List them.
Highlight some of our Directive Principles of the State Policy? List any five fundamental duties. Explain the important goals of the planning in India. What are the Constitutional safeguards for women and children? STATE AND SOCIAL CHANGE 35 7. List the objectives of the ninth Five-Year Plan in India. 8. Critically examine the achievements of Five-Year Plans in India. SUGGESTED READINGS 1. Dubey, S. C. (ed. ), India Since Independence : Social Report on India 1947– 1972, Vikas Publishing House, New Delhi, 1977. 2. Desai, A. R. , State and Society in India : Essays in Dissent, Popular Prakashan, Mumbai, 1975. . Kothari, Rajni, Politics in India, Orient Longman, New Delhi, 1970. 4. Oommen, T. K, (ed. ), Citizenship and National Identity: From Colonisation to Globalisation, Sage Publications, New Delhi, 1997. 5. Mahajan, Gurpreet, (ed. ), Democracy, Difference and Social Justice, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1998. CHAPTER 4 Legislation and Democratic Decentralisation UNDERSTANDING LAW AND LEGISL ATION There is a reciprocal relationship between law and social change. Law is both an effect and cause of social change. In this chapter we shall consider law as a strategy for social change.
In its broadest sense, law includes all patterns of socially expected rule enforcement. In this sense, it covers all customs or rules whose observance is required and enforced by a recognised authority. However, for sociological purposes it is better to limit the term law to formally enacted and recorded norms. Though there is no exact demarcation between law and norms that are found in a society, a distinction has to be made between laws on the one hand and norms on the other. In the present discussion, we shall use law in the sense of rules of action established by a legitimate authority. Laws are enacted by legislatures.
They are always written and recorded in some manner. They are interpreted by courts and enforced by administrative agencies like police. For example, the nature of punishment and the procedures for giving such punishments for theft or robbery are all mentioned in law books. Broadly speaking, there are two categories of law—Criminal law and Civil law. Criminal laws prohibit actions disruptive to society such as theft, murder or fraud. Civil laws, on the other hand, regulate the rights of individuals such as resolving property disputes. Civil law takes many forms depending upon the nature of social life involved.
They may be commercial, constitutional and family laws. The law-making system in every society produces legislations concerning various aspects of life. Legislation may be of different types. Some of them are framed to maintain law and order in society. Such legislations act as a mechanism of social control to maintain social stability. In contrast, some legislation are applied to remove social evils and change the conservative faiths and beliefs. The term social legislation is used to depict these legislations. Social legislations play a dynamic role in society. They are effective instruments of social change.
LEGISLATION AND DEMOCRATIC DECENTRALISATION 37 Law and Social Change History is full of examples where laws have been used to bring about changes in society. Laws have been created to achieve desired goals. It not only articulates but also sets the course for major social changes. In fact, the attempt to change society through law is an important feature of the modern world. This is visible in almost all developed and developing societies. The changes that have occurred with the transformation of Western capitalist societies and the emergence of Soviettype societies have essentially been through laws.
The Soviet Union and several east European countries, for example, have successfully made largescale social changes through laws. Income redistribution, nationalisation of industries, land reforms and provision of free education are examples of the effectiveness of law to initiate change. Nonetheless, a distinction is made between direct and indirect aspects of law in social change. In many cases law interacts directly with social institutions and brings about obvious changes. For instance, a law prohibiting polygamy has a direct influence on society. It alters the behaviour of individuals.
On the other hand, laws play an indirect role also by shaping various social institutions which in turn have a direct impact on society. The most appropriate example is the system of compulsory education which enables the functioning of educational institutions, which in turn leads to social change. However, such a distinction is not absolute but a relative one. Sometimes, emphasis is on the direct aspect and less on the indirect impact of social change, while in other cases the opposite may be true. There is another way of examining the role of law in social change.
Law redefines the normative order and creates the possibility of new forms of social institutions. It provides formal facilities and extends rights to individuals. In India, for example, law against untouchability has not only prohibited the inhuman practice but has also given formal rights to those who suffered from such disabilities to protest against it. In this sense, law not only codifies certain customs and morals, but also modifies the behaviour and values existing in a particular society. Thus, law entails two interrelated processes: the institutionalisation and the internalisation of patterns of behaviour.
Institutionalisation of a pattern of behaviour means the creation of norms with provisions for its enforcement. Internalisation of pattern of behaviour, on the other hand, means the incorporation and acceptance of values implicit in a law. When the institutionalisation process is successful, it in turn facilitates the internalisation of attitudes and beliefs. Legal System in India Historically, no universalistic legal system based on the principle of equality existed in ancient India. In ancient India there was a close 38 SOCIAL CHANGE IN INDIA connection between law and religion.
A rule of law was not different from a rule of religion. It was maintained that all laws were contained in the Dharmshastras. The legal system was primarily based on the social position of castes and classes. No uniform standards were applied in providing justice to people. There was no uniform legal norm at an all-India level. Local customs and regional practices defined and determined these norms. Another important feature of the ancient legal system was its orientation towards the group. Legal norms applied more to the group as a unit rather than to the individual.
This characteristic of legal system continued even during the medieval period. It was only during the British rule that radical transformation took place in the legal and judicial systems of the country. The British introduced numerous changes in the traditional legal system. The new legal system was based on the principle of universalism. The notion of equality before law was recognised and received legal sanction. Law courts were established at different levels. The enactment of the Indian Penal Code and the Codes of Civil and Criminal Procedure produced a strong system of judicial administration.
This legal system was, however, not confined to criminal justice alone. It even brought domestic and personal life of the people under its purview. Several social legislations came into operation which covered areas like collective bargaining, social security and employment contract. A continuous rationalisation of law was introduced by codification of customary law. It increased the separation of law from religion. Moreover, some legislation in relation to prevailing conservative and orthodox social practices were also passed during the colonial period which acted towards social reform.
Indian society in the nineteenth century was under the grip of inhuman customs and practices. Untouchability was practised throughout the country. The position of women was most degrading. Child marriage, widowhood and the cruel practice of sati put women to lifelong misery and humiliation. These inhuman practices were, however, challenged by social reformers and the British Indian Government responded by enacting several social legislations. The practice of sati (widow burning) was declared illegal in 1829. The Hindu Widow Remarriage Act of 1856 legalised the remarriage of the Hindu widows.
When the members of the Brahmo Samaj in Bengal started facing problem in marriage, a Native Marriage Act was passed in 1872. The Brahmos claimed that they did not belong to any religious groups in India. This Act worked like a civil marriage law under which people outside any religious fold could marry. Another important legislation linked with marriage was the Age of Consent Act of 1891. The Act prohibited the performance of marriage for girls below the age of twelve. During the closing years of the nineteenth century, besides personal laws, several other laws relating to land and industry were also enacted.
LEGISLATION AND DEMOCRATIC DECENTRALISATION 39 The Factory Act of 1881 addressed the issue of the welfare of factory workers. The Bengal Tenancy Act of 1885 introduced reforms in land tenure system. Similarly, the Press Act of 1878 was a landmark in the field of mass communication. These legislations not only advanced the cause of cultural change but also contributed towards transformation of the agrarian structure. Social Legislation in Independent India The nature and extent of social change in India have been influenced largely by radical social legislation introduced after Independence.
They pertain to subjects ranging from economy, polity, trade and commerce to marriage, family and inheritance. Legislations impact upon every aspect of people’s lives. The number of legislations enacted after Independence is, however, so large that all of them cannot be discussed here. Therefore, we have selected only some important legislations to highlight their role in social change. Laws have been passed to eradicate social evils. Under Article 17 of the Indian Constitution, untouchability is prohibited and its practice in any form is made punishable.
A comprehensive legislation called the Untouchability (Offences) Act, 1955 was passed later. This Act was further amended as the Protection of Civil Rights Act in 1976. According to this Act, an untouchable (Scheduled Caste) has access to all public places including places of worship. Though this legislation has not been fully able to eradicate the practice of untouchability, it has definitely attacked caste prejudice. Similarly, a number of laws have been enacted for the upliftment of women and children. These Acts have brought about a perceptible improvement in their position in society.
The Special Marriage Act of 1954, the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, the Hindu Succession Act of 1956 and the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 have initiated changes in the very structure of Hindu society. Most of these legislations have further been amended to accommodate more radical and relevant issues. For example, the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 was amended in 1976 to provide the right to a girl to deny marriage before attaining puberty. In fact, the original Act itself was radical because it enforced monogamy and permitted divorce among the Hindus.
The Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 was also amended in 1984 that made cruelty towards women a cognisable offence. The socio-economic changes that have been brought about through legislations have created a favourable situation regarding the status of women. A number of legislations have also been passed to safeguard and protect the rights of children. Some of them are the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956, the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and 40 SOCIAL CHANGE IN INDIA Full Participation) Act, 1996, the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 and so on.
The role of legislation in transforming the socio-economic condition of tribals is even more explicit. We may throw light on this issue by citing the example of north-eastern India, which is home to a large number of tribals. The tribal communities of this region have experienced remarkable changes in their traditional economy, cultural life and political systems. The safeguards provided to tribals in the states of Assam, Meghalaya, T ripura and Mizoram under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India have facilitated numerous programmes for administration and development.
Special provisions under Article 371A of the Constitution have been made for the State of Nagaland to safeguard the cultural identity of the Nagas. The state governments have passed several legislations which have ushered changes along with preserving their identity. The Autonomous District Councils established under the provisions of the Sixth Schedule have been given wide power to maintain control over the tribal land. The Land Transfer Act of 1971 passed by the Meghalaya State Legislature has almost stopped the process of land alienation.
Likewise, the Lushai Hills District (Acquisition of Chief’s Rights) Act, 1954 abolished the age-old system of chieftainship among the Mizos as the people themselves demanded it. What we have attempted to illustrate here is that, in a democratic state like ours, legislation can be effectively used as an instrument of social change. DEMOCRATIC DECENTRALISATION The question of division of power among institutions and individuals has been a matter of considerable debate among the people involved in governance.
This need has been specially emphasised as democracy as a form of government has gained acceptance in the modern world. Decentralisation means sharing of decision making authority with the lower levels in institutions and organisations. It is called democratic as this sharing is based on the basic principle of democracy and democratisation. There are different forms of decentralisation — political, administrative and financial. It is argued that decentralisation is essential for the functioning of a democratic system at different levels. It helps to empower social groups which traditionally have been weak and deprived.
Decentralisation is particularly necessary for a country like ours which is large in size and complex in socio-cultural settings. Diversity exists in India in terms of religion, language, culture and economy. Thus, the geographical and social complexities require decentralisation for the purposes of planning and administration. The need for decentralisation in India has long been realised and attempts have been made to achieve it. Decentralisation became, particularly, LEGISLATION AND DEMOCRATIC DECENTRALISATION 41 important after the Independence to achieve goals of democracy and development.
In the section that follows we will discuss the Panchayati Raj institutions as forms and institutional schemes for achieving democratic decentralisation. PANCHAYATI RAJ INSTITUTIONS Background The history of panchayat in India goes back to hundreds of years. The term panch is ordinarily used for a group of persons (panch = five) who take decisions on collective affairs of the village. The people repose so much confidence in panch that they are called panch par meshwar (God speaks through the five). The system of taking collective decision through panch is known as panchayat. It is, largely, a self-governing institution.
The growth of panchayat in India as a self-governing institution has not been steady in the course of its long history. However, the ideals of panchayat were revived when Mahatma Gandhi arrived on the national political scene. Gandhiji asserted that the village panchayats would now be a living force in a special way, and India would almost be enjoying self-government suited to its requirements. Accordingly, the idea of panchayat as a system of local government remained an important issue in India’s freedom struggle. But when the country became independent the panchayat of Gandhi’s vision did not acquire a central place in