Tuesday, August 9, 2016
One area where colonial impact was the most profound was - cultural sphere. Our education system, our dressing, our architecture, our sports - all gave way for a new cultural system. Not only in India, it happened across the world. It is also termed as 'cultural universalization/homogenization' by some who see it as an inevitable cultural evolutionary process. Some countries like China and Japan preserved some aspects - like their languages which others couldn't -but they also gave away to a lifestyle which is primarily Western. English (and other European languages) became colloquial languages in their colonies to a large extent. This is also termed as 'cultural hegemony' by many socio-political analysts, while others don't have such an adverse view. Some form of cultural exchange is inevitable in a globalized world, but it is problematic if it is skewed. When some ideas dominate over others, there can be cultural backlashes as well. Recent instances of call to glorious pasts and rise of fundamentalists are cases in point.
Friday, August 5, 2016
Some years back, I watched a wonderful play 'Ambedkar vs Gandhi' at Shriram Center, Delhi presented by the Asmita Theater Group. It was based upon the ideological differences between Gandhiji and Ambedkar on the issue of caste. Gandhiji had a reformative view of the caste system, as he had similar views about all distorted social systems. He was of the view that caste as a system was not atrocious per se, but the way it was practiced was. He had a great respect for all forms of human labor and he viewed caste as more of a division of labor with no notions or values attached on the qualitative aspects of the labor. To prove his point, he did all the work that was considered lowly by the then prevailing society. On the other hand, Ambedkar had diametrical opposite views. He deemed caste as an evil which had oppressed the Shudras and vitiated the whole Indian society as well. According to him, thought of reformation of such a deeply entrenched system was Utopian and the only way to get rid of it was annihilation of the system itself. He suggested the decimation of cultural dogma related to caste via constitutional framework and the rule of law. However, contribution of both the leaders in creation of an egalitarian society was enormous and unmatched by any other leader in India. It was just that they chose different paths to reach the same goal.
Thursday, August 4, 2016
Early Britishers and Europeans stereotyped India as a country of snake-charmers. Many early Indologists banked upon the ancient Hindu literature to create an Indian imagery which was at best only a partial conceptualisation of the diverse Indian society. India is a unique canvas which is suitable for many hues. It is modern and traditional, conservative and outgoing, all at the same time. It is a place which appears the way you want it to appear. You change the glasses and it appears as a different place.
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Darwinian hypothesis of biological evolution was one of the most path-breaking postulates of past couple of centuries. Its effect were felt across the disciplines. Even many theological arguments were turned on their head. It is even said that it heralded infusion of secular into the religious space. Many thinkers were so mesmerized by this hypothesis that they fancied new theories in their own respective disciplines. In fact, the circumstances that gave birth to the discipline of Sociology had a lot of bearing on Darwinian theory of Evolution. Early social thinkers were so infatuated with Darwinian thought that many linear evolutionary theories of society were put forth by as late as 1950s. Even today, we tend to believe that our ecosystems are evolving in some definite direction - some say it is progressive, while some others say it is regressive and downfall of human race will be the end result of the evolutionary process.
Friday, July 22, 2016
'Hind desh ke niwasi sabhi jan ek hain, rang roop, vesh bhaasha chahe anek hain' was a line from a beautiful 7 minutes animated film titled 'Ek, Anek aur Ekta' by NCERT in 1970s. Most of us remember these nostalgic lines from the video which won National Award as well as Best Children's Short Film in Japan. The message is so relevant even today in the chaotic order that prevails across the globe today. We tend to forget that all religions and philosophies point to some simple truths of life. We have tendency to deify pious humans into Gods, but we ourselves often fail to behave like humans.
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Social Mobility is a measure of change in social status. When an individual shifts from one social setting to another, some social mobility always happens. Actions like migration, marriage, education, employment etc lead to social mobility. However, it is not same as other similar sounding concepts like socio-economic development, GDP growth etc. Social mobility is always a measure of individual (or a small group placed in a similar situation) upliftment. Others are generally collective indicators. A fast growing economy may still have millions of poor. In India also, a section of population had been less socially mobile than others. When benefits of development are reaped unequally, differential mobility is witnessed. The fact that we still have a quarter of population below poverty is a reflection of that.
Thursday, July 14, 2016
Socialism is dead. Many tend to claim this in the backdrop of the rise of capitalism in most of the countries in various forms. Even the so called socialist countries adopted some form of ‘modified capitalism’. This picture is far from the Marxian conception and prophecy of annihilation of capitalism and advent of socialism and the end of dialectic process of social evolution. It has not happened so far, but at the same time ideology of socialism also refuses to die and it incarnates in newer avatars. The fact is that capitalism and socialism maybe two binary ideologies, but never in the history have they been practiced in their pure form. Socialism is not merely about state hegemony and all things red. US adopted some of its elements in form of the new economic policy after The Great Depression, Europe continues to follow it in form of social security schemes, deficit budget of all governments in the world to fund public welfare is another hard to ignore example. Socialism remains relevant so longer there is human misery and inequality in society as the greatest emphasis of socialism is on equality of human beings and not so much on an all powerful state.
Tuesday, July 12, 2016
Joint family is an amazing place to live. Old timers see it as an idyllic place which is the cradle of social learning and emotional bonding. For kids it is a haven of fun with unlimited supply of love and care. Working spouses find a solace here as kids are taken care of by the elderly members. Elderly people in turn find meaning to their lives as they turn children again with the new members of the family. Away from this rosy picture, many feminists see the joint family as a noose around the freedom of the womenfolk of the house. In a patriarchal society like India, the burden of joint family falls unequally on the members of the family. Women are made to make compulsory sacrifices for the family. While every member strives for freedom and individuality, joint family sometimes imposes collective will on them. It creates conflict as well and joint family becomes a liability. Apart from economic causes, relationship management is a big challenge in maintaining the cohesiveness of a joint family or even a nuclear family for that matter.
Tuesday, July 5, 2016
'Middle Class' is an interesting word. People belonging to this stratum of society are so heterogeneous that many would even agree that they don't even belong to single class. A bureaucrat, a skilled workman, an entrepreneur, an emerging artist, a doctor and so on, each one of them claim to belong the ubiquitous middle class family. To reposition these heterogeneous members, concepts like 'upper' and 'lower' middle class were also introduced, but they are also equally volatile as the concept middle class itself. Some project middle class as the torchbearer of social innovations and change, while others blame it as an inward looking group always preoccupied with its own trifling issues. Demographers see a burgeoning middle class as potential future labor force, while the industry looks upon it as a profitable consumer base. Middle class imagination is far more diverse today than it was a couple of decades back when a typical family with a scooter was a poster child of the Indian middle class.
Sunday, July 3, 2016
Development is a relatively simple sounding word, but is very difficult to define. Fallout of past developmental models have shown that how wrong we have been in the understanding of this word. However, whatever be the definition, it entails one irreplaceable ingredient – land. From housing to infrastructure, from schools to research parks, everything needs land. In India, land is not only an economic entity, but also has cultural and social significance attached to it. For a significant chunk of population, it is the only means of livelihood. However, historically the process of land acquisition process has been carried out in a sub-optimal manner. The benefits which accrued from the land were shared in an inequitable manner with the original right holders. Worst sufferers of this process were those like tribal people of India who had the least capacity to raise their voices. This further skewed the socio-economic scenario, especially in the context of rural-urban development. The new Land Acquisition Act of 2013 is a right step to correct some of the defects of the earlier legislation, but still a lot more needs to be done.
Thursday, June 30, 2016
Demographic dividend is often cited as a panacea for the over-populated developing countries. It is often assumed that the population is actually not a burden and the part of the population in the working age group shall be productive and contribute towards economic growth. This in turn will have domino effect on all socio-economic developmental dimensions. Over-enthusiasts often project that a young population of a billion will translate into a pair of billion working hands. However, human beings are not machines. A billion young hands are not same as a billion machines. All humans have different capabilities and sometimes these capabilities have to be developed also. Education and skill development are two important aspects of this development process which can transform the potential of population into real tangible demographic dividend. Without doing so, the potential demographic dividend may turn out to be a demographic burden instead as a billion pair of hands also come with a billion mouths to feed. Behavioral dimension of the population has also become increasingly important. Punjab is an example. If the behavior of the young population is allowed to go awry, prospects of demographic dividend dim even further.
Tuesday, March 8, 2016
Today is International Women’s Day. It celebrates the centuries old struggle of women for equality. Contemporary international women’s movements date back to beginning of 20th century when early rights such as equal adult suffrage and other civil rights were demanded by women. In India also this period witnessed the growth of many women’s organizations such as ‘All-India Women’s Conference’, ‘Women’s India Association’ etc. They had a pan-Indian appeal. Later in 1970s, the women’s movement resurfaced with newer liberal issues. Many victories were scored by these in India and abroad, but many battles are still to be won. In India, workforce participation of women is mere 18%. Their representation in 16th Lok Sabha is just 61 (out of 545 odd members) i.e. barely 12% – and that’s the all time high figure! Violence against women is still unabated despite plethora of legislation. This cannot change unless we remove our cultural glasses which see woman as inferior species. And to do that time is now. It is a good sign that, the day before President of India expressed concern over delay of Women’s Reservation in Legislatures Bill and today Government of India announced a belated entry of women into fighter pilot roles.
Wednesday, March 2, 2016
Recently a company announced a smartphone at a price of a simcard. After initial jubilation, all sorts of speculations and allegations started flowing thick and fast. As a result, the company was forced to announce the return of the money and declare that it will now deliver phones on cash-on-delivery basis. Imagine this situation in a country where having a smartphone is the last priority for 50 million households. 300 million people can't read the messages in that smartphone given the absence of basic literacy skills. Leave alone e-literacy skills. In broadband penetration, we fare worse than Bhutan and hence the phone will be like a dud piece of electronics for rural folks. NFHS4's recent data shows stunting among children is still at alarming levels. Information and communication are tools of empowerment, but they cannot substitute for the basic needs especially food for a hungry population. A 3G phone cannot address the core 1G developmental issues that we still face. That requires adequate public investment, job creation and minimum social security to all, not a dubious marketing gimmick.