History of India

Social History of the Republic of India

Refugees and Emigrants . When the Dominions of India and Pakistan were released into independence, in violent circumstances both countries exchanged refugees, 7.226 million Muslims leaving India for Pakistan (with East Bengal), 7.249 million Hindus and Sikhs leaving Pakistan (with East Bengal; figures after Wikipedia) for India. India received further non-Muslim immigrants from Pakistan in 1964-1967, and temporarily hosted c.10 million Muslim refugees from East Bengal in 1971-1972.
Other groups of refugees arrived in India from Tibet in 1959, ethnic Indians from Uganda in 1972, Sri Lanka Tamils since 1983, ethnic Nepalese from Bhutan in 1991, their total numbers, by comparison, being less significant.
Since 1947, Indians have emigrated in search of better-paid jobs or education, to countries like the U.K., Canada, the U.S., since the 1970es to the Gulf region.

Demography since 1947 . According to censi, the Republic of India in 1951 had 363 million inhabitants, in 1961 438 million, in 1971 547 million, in 1981 685 million, in 1991 843 million, in 2001 1.027 billion; thus the population roughly tripled since independence, and continues to grow. Since independence, India has roughly quadrupled her annual rice production, increased her wheat production eightfold (IHS p.198); India's Agricultural Revolution thus supporting the rapidly growing population.
In 1951, Delhi had 914,000 inhabitants, in 1991 7,206,000; Kolkata (Calcutta) in 1951 2.5 million, in 1991 11.0 million; Chennai (Madras) in 1951 1.4 million, in 1991 5.4 million, Mumbai (Bombay) 2.8 million in 1951, 12.5 million in 1991. India experienced rapid urbanization.
The Republic of India has achieved a significant growth of its GNP, but due to strong population growth, until 1970, the standard of living has risen only marginally. Recognition of the fact that such a population growth rate is insustainable as resources such as water and arable land are limited, caused the Congress administration in the 1970es to aggressively push for birth control; this policy proved extremely unpopular and resulted in the electoral defeat of Congress in the 1977 election. The issue has not been raised again, and India's population continues to grow rapidly.

Caste Society . About 80 % of the Indian population adheres to Hinduism, which again emphasizes the stratification of the population into castes and subcastes, according to profession. While the original number of castes is 4, that of subcastes exceeds 1,600. Individuals are expected to search for a job appropriate to the subcaste they were born into, and marry within their subcaste. Then, according to Hindu tradition, there are the outcastes (Dalits, Pariahs) and the tribal people, despised by Brahmins.
During the campaign for independence, Gandhi and the INC appealed to the Indian populace to stop excluding the Dalits from society. In 1955, India passed laws introducing monogamy for Hindus, replacing the outcastes and tribal people by the term 'scheduled classes' and making it a criminal offense to treat an individual as an outcaste. The marriage of minors was also banned.
India is huge, and the implementation of these legal provisions has been only partially effective, to a higher degree in an urban environment and the adjacent countryside, to a lesser extent in the remote countryside; in large segments of Indian society, discrimination against lower classes continues until this day. Occasionally, local incidents of upper caste mobs attacking lower caste victims occur. In Tamil Nadu in 1981 complaints were raised against the conversion of members of the scheduled classes to Islam; as neither Islam nor Sikhism nor Christianity recognize castes, such a conversion was seen as a threat to social order. On the other hand, a law in Tamil Nadu 1994 reserved 69 % of posts in state service to scheduled and other backward classes; a 1993 law in Karnataka reserved 73 % of posts in state service to scheduled and other backward classes.
Since independence, the Republic of India has striven to spread education. While not every Indian child is assured elementary education yet, the percentage of children which do get it has been raised significantly over the last number of decades, with a higher percentage of boys benefitting from this service. Education is intended to provide members of the scheduled castes with an opportunity to rise in social status.
Such legislation places the secular state in opposition to conservative Hinduism.
The rural population of the Vidarbha region in Maharashtra state felt alienated by a state policy investing less in the subsidy of agricultural produce than neighbouring states did (Maharashtra emphasized the development of the urban industries of western Maharashtra); this frustration resulted in demonstrations and a movement aiming at Vidarbha statehood.

Urban, Industrial Society . Until into the mid 1980es, India pursued a protectionist policy, implementing 5 Year Development Plans. In colonial times, India served the British Empire by mainly producing raw materials; now India developed industries of her own, with the aim of serving the domestic market, reducing the dependence on imports.
Thus industrial centers like Rourkela (steel factory) emerged. Such boomtowns attract workers and engineers from near and far, thus establishing multicultural societies, often located in a monocultural area. Such industries require a core of employes with a higher degree of education, this higher education often being given in English language. Thus, in India's urban centers, a polyglot middle class emerged.
When India switched from a protectionist to a free market economy in the mid 1980es, low Indian wages and an elite fluent in English attracted foreign investors; Bangalore (Karnataka) developed into a software center. Many jobs from high salary countries were transferred to India (Outsourcing). India currently experiences high economic growth figures, mainly affecting India's English-educated urban elite.
This, however, affects only a part of the urban population. The city administrations can not cope with population growth; a policy intending to replace slums by decent housing projects, where implemented, sees new slums appearing elsewhere. Most of these slum dwellers are desparate for jobs, lack any kind of social security, fear being evicted. The city of Kolkata (Calcutta, West Bengal) has a Communist administration, in office for thirty years, because it attempts to address the needs of the poor.

Tribal Societies . India's tribal people have experienced the immigration of Hindi, Assamese, Bengali etc. into their lands, saw themselves marginalised in what they regarded their own lands, their way of life threatened. Often denied a voice in the administration of their land, the Nagas, Mizos, Bodos of northeastern India have responded with violence. Nagaland achieved statehood and self-government in 1963, Mizoram in 1987; the Bodos in Assam are still fighting.
In an attempt to address the issues of the tribes, which made up minorities within states, in 2000 the new states of Uttaranchal (carved out of Uttar Pradesh), Jharkhand (separated from Bihar) and Chhattisgarh (separated from Madhya Pradesh) were created.

Demographics of the Partition 1947-1965, from Wikipedia
Article Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, from Wikipedia
List of Cities in India, from Wikipedia
Demography of India, from Wikipedia
DOCUMENTS Historical Population Statistics : India, from Population Statistics, Univ. Utrecht
REFERENCE IHS : International Historical Statistics : Africa, Asia & Oceania 1750-2000, edited by B.R. Mitchell, Basingstoke : Palgrave MacMillan 4th ed. 2003

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on May 20th 2007

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