Social Reforms In India Category : Secondary School Level

Social Reforms In India

Category : Secondary School Level

Social means 'pertaining to life in an organized community’, and Reform means 'to transform or to amend’. Thus, social reforms imply amending the ills pertaining to life which are prevalent in the community.


India possesses tremendous contrasts and enormous ethnic, linguistic and cultural diversity. Race, language, status and class are the main reasons of social inequality and discrimination. Indian intellectuals have seized upon caste divisions, untouchability, religious obscurantism, practices of dowry and sati, girl-child infanticide, child marriage, child labour and bonded labour as destructive evidence of India's perennial ills needing social reforms.


The caste system and untouchability still survive in various forms, more so in rural areas, strengthened by a combination of social perceptions and divisive policies. The dalits, earlier referred to as 'untouchables’, in the past suffered from social segregation in addition to extreme poverty. People of higher castes forbade those from the lower castes to perform a common temple worship, or interact with them .Those from the lower castes could not even collect water from the same source. If somehow a member of a higher caste came into physical or social contact with them, the former was defiled and had to bathe thoroughly to purge oneself from the impurity.


Caste can not preserve a non-existent 'racial purity’, and its worst feature is the anti-social spirit. There have been challenges to the caste system and caste-based prejudice from the time of Lord Buddha, and then renounced by Brahmo Samaj andArya Samaj. Mahatma Gandhi and Dr B. R. Ambedkar contributed greatly toward the emancipation of untouchables. Both of these ills have now been outlawed by the Constitution of India.


The Indian culture and religion is of great complexity, with people being free to follow their own religion and cultural practices. These religious and linguistic factors prevent a fusion of different groups.


Dowry deaths, sati practice, atrocity against women, female infanticide are all common aggressive social evils. Gender discrimination puts the women as the underprivileged member of the populace. Silenced by their culture, they tolerate abuse and subsequent death because their parents are unable to give the required dowry to satiate the greed of the groom or his family. Women who are beaten and unhappy must suppress their mind-set to keep the husbands blissful or face shame in the community. Payment of dowry was prohibited in 1961 under Indian Civil Law; and subsequently, provisions were made in Indian Penal Code against dowry deaths, in 1986, and for cruelty against women, in 1983. However the evil seems to have increased its grip on the populace due to rising consumerism and materialism.


Sati is the traditional practice of a widow immolating herself on her husband's funeral pyre. It was considered to be the most virtuous act for a married woman and was believed that such a woman would transcend directly to heaven; she was worshipped as a goddess and temples were built in her memory. However, this practice was not made obligatory. Raja Ram Mohan Roy through his organization Brahmo Samaj was the first who fought to eliminate this evil, and the British banned it in 1829. The law against it is still in force. However, two isolated instances have been reported, one in Rajasthan (late 1980s) and another in Madhya Pradesh (2002).


Female infanticide has been very common in cities as well as in rural areas. Generally, parents want to have a son to further their progeny, inherit property, and save themselves from the torment of dowry. Social sex selections and pre-natal sex determination through ultrasound for sex-selective abortion, have been made illegal in India.


Government has also enacted laws against the predestined social evils of child marriage, child labour and bonded labour. The society is also exhibiting serious awareness and concern in this area. Hopefully, in due course, these practices will be totally eradicated. Any reform movement, in any case, is a kind of social I movement that aims to make gradual change for the better in the society.

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