Urbanization: Social Perspective

By Prashant Jain

This is a well accepted phenomenon that aggregation of human settlements improve the service delivery efficiency provided infrastructure is in place for such a delivery. While America and Europe already achieved high levels of urbanization, Asia and Africa still have some miles to go. Among the BRICS nations, India has the lowest level of Urbanization. Though urbanization is the road to a developed society, there are certain hurdles to it both social and economical and though they are related, this essay is intended to primarily cover the social aspect of the urbanization on Indian Society.

To start with, lets look at a typical village of North West India. Primary occupation here is agriculture and caste system is quite prevalent with local institutions (Traditional Panchayats) legalizing it. Now, people migrate to urban areas when the land availability per capita decrease due to increased population and decreasing production using conventional methods. These urban areas can be located nearby (migrating to the district centre) or sometimes far away (Kerala has 50% migrant working population from states as far as Bihar and Odisha). Look into your locality and find out the original homeland of maids, sweepers, drivers etc (i.e. unorganized lower income jobs) and you will find that majority of them have migrated due to lack of opportunity in their local regions or opportunities in your place. To an extent, they are providing you the service which you are hesitant to do or you feel convenient if somebody do it for you in exchange of small fraction of your income. You get your job done and the migrants improve their living standard of themselves and their families back there by sending money to them. Its just a win win situation or is it?

The problem with the above argument is the structure of the destination. While it can absorb some of the migrants, excess of manpower results in low living standards, high unemployment and higher criminal activities. Ever increasing slums at the face of the big 4 cities of India gives the certificate to the above observation. But this is just one face of urbanization. Lets go to the main theme of Essay now, i.e., changing social setting due to Urbanization.

Caste has different meaning in cities, a diluted one one can presume. Have you heard of Jain Samaaj, Agrawal Samaaj, Brahmin Sabha etc in cities. The observation is that caste has been institutionalized for various social, political and economical reasons. They have correctly understood the significance of caste unity. Mass marriages (intra-caste), celebrations of festivals and their organization by sub-committee of the umbrella association (like Ramlila samiti for Ramlila during Diwali season) are some examples of increasing institutionalization of activities which were previously seen as harmonious activities done by society without any set framework. While organizing is fine, the social feeling of these festivals has been seen disappearing as the society has increasingly reduced itself to the customer of the “service” provided by this institutions. Though inter caste marriages have increased, but it cannot, in any way, imply the dilution of caste system. I would rather say it is evolving by keeping their fundamental principles and being fed by contemporary means. This should be mentioned here that in big towns like Mumbai and Bengaluru, above observations does not fully hold true. People are relatively free from caste system and intermixing is quite regular.

This brings us to the next social institution, family. Families in urban areas are getting rationalized and their size is decreasing (not because of family planning because of the shift from “joint family” to nuclear families). Education level is increasing and consumption pattern is changing (not covered here, though one can search for “Impact of Globalization on Indian Society” ). With all factors incorporating, the concept of “family” has been reduced to a “vertical line” concept in which a father is concerned with his son and vice versa. Cousins, Aunts don’t fit into this definition and the relationship with them is like formal one in which you meet them for work and then forget about the meeting later. While rationalization is good in the context of contemporary world, it has impaired this traditional social institution. Here, we are not judging this as positive change or negative. The reader is free to make his own opinion.

To conclude, we observed there are some structural changes in the different social settings and whether these are good or bad purely depends on the people living in these settings. Migration has changes demography of an urban settlement and its upon the State Administration to undo the negative impact of the migration while keeping the positives. The talk about urban infrastructure and related issues is beyond the scope of this essay but it would be good, at least for me, if the base of society is based on benevolence, secularism and mutual respect between different sections of the society.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s