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Social Change and Development in India

With the opening up of the market and removal of restrictions to the import of many products we have many more products from different corners of the world in our neighbourhood shops. Since April 1, 2001, all types of quantitative restrictions (QR) on imports were withdrawn. It is no surprise now to find a Chinese pear, an Australian apple vying for attention in the local fruit stall. The neighbourhood store also has Australian orange juice and ready to fry chips in frozen packets. What we eat and drink at home with our family and friends slowly changes. The same set of policy changes affects consumers and producers differently. What may mean greater choices for the urban, affluent consumer may mean a crisis of livelihood for a farmer. These changes are personal because they affect individuals’ lives and lifestyles. They are obviously also linked to public policies adopted by the government and its agreement with the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Likewise macro policy changes have meant that instead of one television channel we have literally scores today. The dramatic changes in the media are perhaps the most visible effect of globalisation. We will be discussing this in greater detail in the next chapter. These are just few random examples but they may help you to appreciate the close interconnection that exists between your personal lives and the apparently remote policies of globalisation. As mentioned earlier the sociological imagination enables to make this connection between the micro and the macro, between the personal and public.

Sociology has been often defined as the discipline that studies ‘society’. You would remember from your discussions in Book 1, Class XI that the boundaries of ‘society’ are not easy to draw. A study of a village not only meant study of different social groups and their ‘societies’ but would also have to take into account, the ways the village society was linked to the outside world. This linkage is more valid today than ever before. The sociologist or social anthropologist cannot study society as though it was an isolated entity. The compression of space and time has changed this. Sociologists have to study villages, families, movements, child rearing practices, work and leisure, bureaucratic organisations or castes taking this global interconnection into account. Studies will have to take into account the impact of WTO rules on agriculture and therefore on the farmer.

The effect of globalisation is far reaching. It affects us all but affects us differently. Thus, while for some it may mean new opportunities, for others the loss of livelihood. Women silk spinners and twisters of Bihar lost their jobs once the Chinese and Korean silk yarn entered the market. Weavers and consumers prefer this yarn as it is somewhat cheaper and has a shine. Similar displacements have come with the entry of large fishing vessels into Indian waters. These vessels take away the fish that used to be earlier collected by Indian fishing vessels. The livelihood of women fish sorters, dryers, vendors and net makers thereby get affected. In Gujarat, women gum collectors, who were picking from the ‘julifera’ (Baval trees), lost their employment due to the import of cheaper gum from Sudan. In almost all cities of India, the rag pickers lost some of their employment due to import of waste paper from developed countries. We will see later in the chapter how traditional entertainers are affected.

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