Modern society which is very complex and often contradictory has its origin in the ancient times as far back as 4000 years ago. Deeply rooted in spirituality, yet having equal attraction towards materialism, sometimes leading to unethical behaviour, inclination and commitment towards science, logic and reason, yet superstitious practices are rampant. Untouchability has been constitutionally abolished and caste and community based discrimination banned, its practice is common and it is a major tool of vote-bank politics in India.
Thus, Indian society presents a contradictory picture and can be seen in the perspective of a society in the process of continued change or flux. Social change is a broader term which implies change in infrastructure, facilities and their distribution, change in thought, attitude and behaviour of the people, change in faith, culture, tradition and living styles, etc. Change is a natural inevitable process which continues in every age and will continue to happen even in future. Social infrastructure, cultural, attitudinal and behavioural changes do not remain static.
They continuously change with the passage of time. It is the result of this natural process of change that life underwent sea change from the Stone Age to the Computer Age. Social change basically constitutes a transformation at all level of thought, behaviour and action that does not presuppose either a strict positive or negative impact. In fact, the impact cannot be confined to one direction only. Indeed the change has both positive and negative impact which may lead the society towards progress or regression. Social change is not a sudden process.
It is a gradual process which takes lots of time to happen. Neither is it the result of any single factor. It is the result of so many factors which include demographic, technological, political, economic, cultural and legal. Generally, social conflict, growth and expansion and knowledge and scientific and technological advancement lead to social change. Indeed, the research and advancement in the field of science and technology bring about a change in the outlook of society. Besides, the demographic factors also contribute to social change.
Rising population, rampant illiteracy, housing and health problems, large-scale migration, etc. all have a bearing on social climate. Rapid industrialisation resulting in economic development and urbanisation has brought about the growth of slums in urban areas as well as a great disparity in the standard of living. After independence, the country with the help of fundamental rights tried to bridge the social gap by providing right to equality to all its citizens and abolished untouchability. No doubt, it has a positive effect on society.
It has brought about a decline in social discrimination and reduced the exploitation of the poor. Cultural factors like Sanskritisation, i. e. the process explaining the upward mobility of a sub-caste group in a caste hierarchy, traditional attitudes and customs of the people. Law is also an important tool to bring about social change. In the post-independence era, the Indian Government has taken numerous measures that concern society. The Constitution refuses to recognise the distinctions of religion, sect, caste, sex, etc. in the matter of the opportunities of civil life.
It has largely mitigated a number of social evils resulting from the pluralisitc nature of Indian society with regard to religion and caste. Freedom of belief as a Fundamental Right has made religion a personal choice rather than its earlier compulsive and all- pervasive nature for a family or a group. Endogamous nature of casteism is now on the wane as intermarriage, and even inter- religious ones have been legalised. Reservations in jobs and freedom in the choice of vocations have encouraged vertical mobility of many families, irrespective of their caste and class affiliations.
In short, laws play prominent role in social changes. Family, which has been almost universally considered the ideal and perfect living arrangement, and the backbone of social structure has undergone a transformation under the impact of industrialisation, urbanisation, spread of education, large-scale migration and other changes taking place in different spheres of life. Nuclear families have taken the place of joint family system. Common residence and property are being substituted by functional joint families, who fulfil their social obligations towards each other and come to help each other in their hours of need.
Now old age is perceived with fear. This is rather recent phenomena. The old are now taken as a liability. Old age is viewed as an unavoidable, undesirable and problem-ridden phase of life. This is one of the gifts of modern life. In recent times, economic development and technological advancements have been rapid. They have an inevitable impact on social attitudes and values. This progress has led to the loss of cherished values. With enhanced earning, power and growing consumerism, the parents and children have altered their response to family life. The nature of parenting nd role of spouses have undergone sea change. Family bonds are eroding fast in society, it is particularly frequent in urban society where youngsters, in large numbers, migrate for studies or jobs, their parents, left alone, are faced with the problem of emotional loss and a fear of future. Economic independence has brought in its wake, individualism. In an economically independent society everybody wants to assert himself. A man wants his prominence in various spheres of life. He no longer likes to be ignored or undervalued. It has tremendously affected the woman.
Now she wants her role in family and society as well. This is, in fact, a challenge to the traditional view of society that women as a class are inferior to men. However, her role in decision-making is assuming significance. Modern women are quite aware of their rights and privileges. At the same time social attitude towards women is also changing, though the process is slow. Today’s society is one of freedom and inquiry. In this age of individualism, authority is no longer unquestionably accepted by children. In this age of Information Technology, children are often more informal and aware than their parents.
They no longer stand in awe of parents or any elderly persons. Human values and ethics have taken a backseat. Relations today are increasingly based on mercenary considerations. As a consequence, warmth and obligations have been lost in society. This, in a way, leads to conflict and confusion, adversely affecting family bonds or ties. Age old values of tolerance, hospitality, warmth of attachments, politeness and patience are fast fading out. However, some changes in society are pleasant and encouraging. Technological innovations have changed even the common people’s way of life.
This change can be felt even at the village levels. The prevalence of superstitions and evil practices are no longer as frequent and common in society as they were during the pre-independence era. The accessibility of mass media has changed the village life also. The thinking behaviour and lifestyle of the villagers have tremendously changed. This exposure, though not always beneficial, has served to open Indian minds to receive new ideas and views. As a whole, the change on the mental level, has been slow, however, it is encouraging. Thus, at every level and in every sphere, Indian society is experiencing changes.
The changes are more pronounced and noticeable in terms of dress, behaviour and egalitarianism while traditional beliefs, even if they are outdated and redundant, are practised and refuse to give up their hold on Indian society. Thus, the contradictory situations create confusion and sometimes lead to conflict. The prevailing anger and frustration arising out of inequality in development, loss of values accompanied by a greedy, grasping mercenary attitude, growing corruption on the part of authorities and the ‘elite’ find expression in the form of violent responses from the oppressed and the downtrodden.
Several secessionist movements in different parts of the country are attributed to this retrogressive changes taking place in society. The change is inevitable in a dynamic society but it must be guided by some principles so as to ensure a better future and a progressive society in which everybody can enjoy his share in peace and prosperity. Besides people must be educated and enlightened enough to take its positive impact while ignoring the negatives for the betterment of individual as well as society.