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The Census

The 1991 final census count gave India a total population of 846,302,688. However, estimates
of India's population vary widely. According to the Population Division of the United Nations
Department of International Economic and Social Affairs, the population had already reached
866 million in 1991. The Population Division of the United Nations Economic and Social
Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) projected 896.5 million by mid-1993 with a 1.9
percent annual growth rate. The United States Bureau of the Census, assuming an annual
population growth rate of 1.8 percent, put India's population in July 1995 at 936,545,814. These
higher projections merit attention in light of the fact that the Planning Commission had estimated
a figure of 844 million for 1991 while preparing the Eighth Five-Year Plan.

Intro To Social Structure

INDIA IS JUSTLY FAMOUS for its complex social systems. Indian society is multifaceted to an
extent perhaps unknown in any other of the world's great civilizations. Virtually no generalization
made about Indian society is valid for all of the nation's multifarious groups. Comprehending the
complexities of Indian social structure has challenged scholars and other observers over many

The ethnic and linguistic diversity of Indian civilization is more like the diversity of an area as
variable as Europe than like that of any other single nation-state. Living within the embrace of
the Indian nation are vast numbers of different regional, social, and economic groups, each with
different cultural practices. Particularly noteworthy are differences between social structures
in the north and the south, especially in the realm of kinship systems. Throughout the country,
religious differences can be significant, especially between the Hindu majority and the large
Muslim minority; and other Indian groups--Buddhists, Christians, Jains, Jews, Parsis, Sikhs, and
practitioners of tribal religions--all pride themselves on being unlike members of other faiths.

Social Interdependence

● One of the great themes pervading Indian life is social interdependence. People are
born into groups--families, clans, subcastes, castes, and religious communities--and live
with a constant sense of being part of and inseparable from these groups. A corollary
is the notion that everything a person does properly involves interaction with other
people. A person's greatest dread, perhaps, is the possibility of being left alone, without
social support, to face the necessary challenges of life. This sense of interdependence
is extended into the theological realm: the very shape of a person's life is seen as
being greatly influenced by divine beings with whom an ongoing relationship must be
● Social interaction is regarded as being of the highest priority, and social bonds are
expected to be long lasting. Even economic activities that might in Western culture
involve impersonal interactions are in India deeply imbedded in a social nexus. All social
interaction involves constant attention to hierarchy, respect, honor, the feelings of others,
rights and obligations, hospitality, and gifts of food, clothing, and other desirable items.
Finely tuned rules of etiquette help facilitate each individual's many social relationships.

Future Trends

● By the twenty-first century, India's population will be more than 1 billion. Approximately
one-third of this enormous population will live in urban areas, which means adding the
population of another Calcutta, Bombay, or Madras to India's already overburdened
cities each year into the foreseeable future. In rural areas, pressures on land and other
resources will continue to intensify.
● In India's democracy, ideas are often vociferously expressed, and members of different
groups are increasingly demanding what they consider a fair share of resources and
benefits. Tolerance for inequity is diminishing among the less privileged, even as
inequity is increasing in both rural and urban areas. As competition for scarce resources
and benefits grows, some political leaders have been encouraging the populace to
blame these problems on religious differences.
● Prosperity is available to many, and access to education and an expanding range of
consumer goods is possible for an ever-increasing number of people. At the same time,
the sheer numbers of the poor and less privileged are increasing as they are left behind,
inadequately educated, and forced by circumstance to labor under insecure conditions.
Class and gender justice, widely sought by a significant number of people, remains an
elusive goal.

Economic Structure(Acc. to 1995 data)

● INDIA'S ECONOMY HAS MADE great strides in the years since independence. In
1947 the country was poor and shattered by the violence and economic and physical
disruption involved in the partition from Pakistan. The economy had stagnated since the
late nineteenth century, and industrial development had been restrained to preserve
the area as a market for British manufacturers. In fiscal year (FY--see Glossary) 1950,
agriculture, forestry, and fishing accounted for 58.9 percent of the gross domestic
product (GDP--see Glossary) and for a much larger proportion of employment.
Manufacturing, which was dominated by the jute and cotton textile industries, accounted
for only 10.3 percent of GDP at that time.
● India's new leaders sought to use the power of the state to direct economic growth
and reduce widespread poverty. The public sector came to dominate heavy industry,
transportation, and telecommunications. The private sector produced most consumer
goods but was controlled directly by a variety of government regulations and financial
institutions that provided major financing for large private-sector projects. Government
emphasized self-sufficiency rather than foreign trade and imposed strict controls on
imports and exports. In the 1950s, there was steady economic growth, but results in the
1960s and 1970s were less encouraging.
● Beginning in the late 1970s, successive Indian governments sought to reduce state
control of the economy. Progress toward that goal was slow but steady, and many
analysts attributed the stronger growth of the 1980s to those efforts. In the late 1980s,
however, India relied on foreign borrowing to finance development plans to a greater
extent than before. As a result, when the price of oil rose sharply in August 1990,
the nation faced a balance of payments crisis. The need for emergency loans led the
government to make a greater commitment to economic liberalization than it had up to
this time. In the early 1990s, India's postindependence development pattern of strong
centralized planning, regulation and control of private enterprise, state ownership
of many large units of production, trade protectionism, and strict limits on foreign
capital was increasingly questioned not only by policy makers but also by most of the

Mixed Economy

● As India moved into the mid-1990s, the economic outlook was mixed. Most analysts
believed that economic liberalization would continue, although there was disagreement
about the speed and scale of the measures that would be implemented. It seemed likely
that India would come close to or equal the relatively impressive rate of economic growth
attained in the 1980s, but that the poorest sections of the population might not benefit.

● At independence the economy was predominantly agrarian. Most of the population was
employed in agriculture, and most of those people were very poor, existing by cropping
their own small plots or supplying labor to other farms. Landownership, land rental, and
sharecropping rights were complex, involving layers of intermediaries (see Land Use,
ch. 7). Moreover, the structural economic problems inherited at independence were
exacerbated by the costs associated with the partition of British India, which had resulted
in about 12 million to 14 million refugees fleeing past each other across the new borders
between India and Pakistan (see National Integration, ch. 1). The settlement of refugees
was a considerable financial strain. Partition also divided complementary economic
zones. Under the British, jute and cotton were grown in the eastern part of Bengal, the
area that became East Pakistan (after 1971, Bangladesh), but processing took place
mostly in the western part of Bengal, which became the Indian state of West Bengal in
1947. As a result, after independence India had to employ land previously used for food
production to cultivate cotton and jute for its mills.
● India's leaders--especially the first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, who introduced
the five-year plans--agreed that strong economic growth and measures to increase
incomes and consumption among the poorest groups were necessary goals for the new
nation. Government was assigned an important role in this process, and since 1951 a
series of plans have guided the country's economic development. Although there was
considerable growth in the 1950s, the long-term rates of growth were less positive than
India's politicians desired and less than those of many other Asian countries. From FY
1951 to FY 1979, the economy grew at an average rate of about 3.1 percent a year in
constant prices, or at an annual rate of 1.0 percent per capita (see table 16, Appendix).
During this period, industry grew at an average rate of 4.5 percent a year, compared
with an annual average of 3.0 percent for agriculture. Many factors contributed to the
slowdown of the economy after the mid-1960s, but economists differ over the relative
importance of those factors. Structural deficiencies, such as the need for institutional
changes in agriculture and the inefficiency of much of the industrial sector, also
contributed to economic stagnation. Wars with China in 1962 and with Pakistan in 1965
and 1971; a flood of refugees from East Pakistan in 1971; droughts in 1965, 1966, 1971,
and 1972; currency devaluation in 1966; and the first world oil crisis, in 1973-74, all
jolted the economy.

Economic Differences

Access to wealth and power varies considerably, and vast differences in socioeconomic status
are evident everywhere. The poor and the wealthy live side by side in urban and rural areas.
It is common in city life to see a prosperous, well-fed man or woman chauffeured in a fine
car pass gaunt street dwellers huddled beneath burlap shelters along the roadway. In many
villages, solid cement houses of landowners rise not far from the flimsy thatched shacks of
landless laborers. Even when not so obvious, distinctions of class are found in almost every
settlement in India.Urban-rural differences can be immense. Nearly 74 percent of India's
population dwells in villages, with agriculture providing support for most of these rural residents.
In villages, mud-plastered walls ornamented with traditional designs, dusty lanes, herds of
grazing cattle, and the songs of birds at sunset provide typical settings for the social lives of
most Indians. In India's great cities, however, millions of people live amidst cacophony--roaring
vehicles, surging crowds, jammed apartment buildings, busy commercial establishments,
loudspeakers blaring movie tunes--while breathing the poisons of industrial and automotive

Capitalism In India

As we move on to the second decade of the 21st century, here’s my core hypothesis: India is
geared to have significantly more of capitalism than what we have had up to now. And the more
the better.

Let us begin with agriculture. Nowhere is there a more intensely capitalistic venture than
farmers choosing the crops that they sow, water, weed, harvest and sell. Since the late 1960s,
economists have run thousands of regressions called supply response functions, which
quantitatively determine what best explains crop acreage and output over long periods. What
are the results? From the turn of the 20th century right up to now, crops were planted according
to expected prices and/or profits — surrogated by the price signals of the previous few years.
Of course, other variables mattered such as rainfall, irrigation and fertiliser use. But the driving
force was profits. Capitalism, therefore, defines 17 per cent of India’s GDP, namely agriculture.

Now to services, which accounts for 55 per cent of GDP. If you deduct the share of government
services, there is still some 40 per cent of GDP, much of it in the private sector. This is huge.
And many of the activities are driven largely by profits. Whether it be mobile telephony, retail
trade, restaurants, real estate, storage, hotels, road transport or finance, each service — big,
medium, small or holes in the wall — rises, shrinks, falls, re-grows or disappears according to
supply, demand, costs and pricing. Even earlier anti-market behemoths such as public sector
banks and insurance companies have become more attuned to prices and profits than anyone
could have imagined in the mid-1990s.

Thus, 57 per cent of India’s GDP is tuned to capitalism. What about industry, which accounts
for 28 per cent of GDP? Some two-thirds of it is purely private. That is another 18 per cent
approximately. Moreover, most public sector undertakings are more price-and-profit oriented
than ever before.

So, hello capitalism! It accounts for at least three-quarters of our GDP. It may be higher still. But
75 per cent will do for now. Contrary to what the CPI, CPI(M) and some ‘don’t confuse me with
facts’ professors tell you, India is awash with capitalism. Like China, you turn any corner, and
you will meet someone who wants to start some business or the other: a photocopying shop, an
STD booth, a local agency for Dabur, Godrej or Hindustan Unilever, automobile spare parts —
the list is endless.


Given the vast diversity of Indian society, any observation must be tempered with the
understanding that it cannot apply to all Indians. Still, certain themes or underlying principles of
life are widely accepted in India.