Law and Social Transformation in India

Published On: 29th November, 2023

Authored By: Ayushi Shrivastava
Hitkarini Law College



The word “law”, in its best and general sense, means that there are different kinds of rules and principles that govern human behavior in political society. This is an important and heterogeneous organization comprising people of different castes, creeds, genders, and backgrounds and there must be laws to ensure their safety. The abstract concept of “social change” includes aspects of the characteristics of groups of people. Any action that affects a group of people with positive values ​​or characteristics is sometimes called “social change.

” Indian society has witnessed many control methods which are still successful but to a lesser extent as there are a large number of people in the society who can identify weaknesses in situations, financial transactions, and business checks.”  Laws determine not only the rights recognized in society but also the standards that people must accept for their well-being. Rules and codes of conduct are established by society based on legal knowledge for equality, fairness, control, and punishment.

I. Socio-economic structure and issues in contemporary India: a conceptual framework

  1. Socio-cultural Structure in India

The varna and jati systems form the foundation of the social structure. The Varna system divides society into four sections based on personality traits and activities: Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Sudras. There is also a category of people who do not fit into this classification, the sanyasi or ascetics.

  • Traditionally, Brahmins are priests and other scholars responsible for protecting and expanding knowledge.
  • Kshatriyas are politicians and members of the military, responsible for protecting the country from internal and external threats.
  • Vaishyas are businessmen whose main task is to generate wealth.
  • The Sudras form the majority of the population and are laborers. 4,444 households do not live with their parents as a joint family.

Historically, women have played an important role in India’s social and political structure. In ancient times, women enjoyed many freedoms, but with the advent of Islam, the purdah system became popular in northern  India. In many regions, women have become more confident as their education levels have improved, but they are still very submissive.

In  Indian society, men are seen as breadwinners and are responsible for their families. He is very dominant and likes to dominate women. India is primarily patriarchal, with the father dominating the family unit. Men hold the reins of the family unit. He is the head of the family. The oldest male member has a greater say in family matters. In the southern Indian state of  Kerala, women in the household hold the dominant power. She decides about her family. Marriage is an important social obligation fulfilled by most Indians.

II. Contemporary social crimes: issues and challenges

1. Caste system and caste discrimination/violence:

In common usage, caste is defined as “a system of stratification that manifests itself in everyday aspects of lifestyle, is more institutionalized than other class systems, is slower to change, and is less likely to change than general class characteristics.” This means that class divisions are also heavily involved ~ “A stratified society.” This common-sense definition of caste, the assumption that caste is equivalent to class, and the underlying concept of caste as a particularly ‘deep’ form of social difference, do not fit the contemporary Indian context. There is no direct translation of “caste” in India, and it is derived from the Portuguese word “casta”, which means “pure race”. In India, “caste” corresponds best to his two concepts of varnas and jatis. Varna means “color”. In Sanskrit, it refers to the four divisions of the traditional Hindu hierarchy and was first mentioned in Vedic literature. Kshatriya (warrior), Vaishus (merchant), And Sudras performed a wide range of other tasks. Therefore, the Varna system that emerged during this period was the result of social and economic development.

However, over time, this led to a division in society between upper and lower-caste people who were unable to mix. Eating and marriage between castes were prohibited. People belonging to the so-called lower castes were exploited and the situation worsened over time. They were poor and did not enjoy equal rights in society. They were not even allowed to draw water from the village’s communal well, visit temples, or approach people from the so-called upper castes.

Therefore, the caste system hindered the healthy development of various professions, as access to certain professions was based on birth rather than ability. Caste-based discrimination can sometimes lead to violence. The caste system also makes it difficult for democracy to function in our country. Society is divided into artificial groups that tend to support candidates belonging to their caste. They don’t pay much attention to whether the person is a suitable candidate. This is not good for the health of India’s democracy.

Our country cannot achieve real progress until we completely uproot this system. After independence, i.e. after 1947, governments focused on these issues through legislation (the enactment of laws to address these issues) and social measures (through the involvement of civil society, NGOs (non-governmental organizations) I tried to address the issue (Government agencies) and social groups. These measures have helped improve the situation, but more needs to be done.

2. Issues related to women: gender discrimination/violence and dowry deaths:

Discrimination against women in India starts at home. Despite religious and regional differences in Indian society, most communities are rife with customs and traditions that undermine women’s legislative and other achievements. In the private sector, while more women, especially in urban areas, are showing interest in education and employment, women’s independent decision-making without family involvement, especially decisions regarding marriage, is still hindered, and family and marriage dominate women’s lives since she was born.

Dowry is requested both before and at the time of marriage, but if it is requested after marriage, it is also often requested after marriage. This may be done as an exercise of the legitimate prerogatives of the groom and his girlfriend’s family, to express dissatisfaction with what was given at the time of marriage, or in social comparison with neighbors who later find the dowry insufficient. It is considered as one of the things that are recognized as date. The most common dowry request is cash, usually used to expand a business, pay for a wedding, or purchase expensive items. This is followed by household furniture. 

Dowry demands can be made both before and at the time of the marriage, but in most cases also after the marriage if the demand is made after the marriage, this is an exercise of the legal privileges of the groom and his family, It is considered. Alternatively, the dowry may be perceived as insufficient at a later date to express dissatisfaction with what was given at the time of marriage or with social comparisons with neighbors.

The most common dowry request is cash, usually used to expand a business, pay for a wedding, or purchase expensive items. This is followed by home furnishings, luxury goods, jewelry, a share of the bride’s father’s assets, and other demand options. If these demands are not met, there will be serious consequences for the young bride.

3. Substance abuse and addiction:

Drug trafficking is a worldwide illegal trade that involves the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, and sale of substances that are subject to anti-drug laws. UNODC  continuously monitors and investigates the global illicit drug market to obtain a more comprehensive understanding of global illicit drug market trends. At current levels, global heroin consumption (340 tonnes) and seizures translate to 430-450 tonnes of heroin entering the global heroin market annually.

Of this, about 50 tons are opium produced in Myanmar and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, and the remaining 380 tons of heroin and morphine are made only from opium produced in Afghanistan. About 5 tons are consumed and confiscated in Afghanistan, while the remaining bulk, 375 tons, is smuggled around the world through routes with Afghanistan’s neighboring countries. The Balkan Peninsula and Northern Route is a major heroin trafficking corridor connecting Afghanistan with vast markets in the Russian Federation and Western Europe. The Balkans route passes through the Islamic Republic of Iran (often via Pakistan), Turkey, Greece, and Bulgaria, and then through South-Eastern Europe to the Western European market, with an annual market value of approximately USD 20 billion. The northern route mainly passes through Tajikistan and Kazakhstan (Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan) to Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation. The total size of this market is estimated at $13 billion annually.

In 2008, global heroin seizures reached a record 73.7 tonnes. The majority of heroin was seized in the  Middle East and Southwest Asia (39 percent of the global total), Southeast Europe (24 percent), and Western and Central Europe (10 percent). The global increase in heroin seizures from 2006 to 2008 was primarily due to continued increases in seizures in  Iran and Turkey. In 2008, these two countries accounted for more than half of the world’s heroin seizures, making them the world’s largest and second-largest heroin seizures for the third year in a row.

4. Communalism:

India is a country of different religious faiths. India is home to people from several communities, including Christians, Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, Parsees, and more. The aggressive attitude of one community towards the other creates tension and clashes between two religious communities. Hundreds of people die in communal riots. It breeds hatred and mutual suspicion. The problem of communalism must be addressed and resolved. It is a serious threat to our nation’s unity and democracy. As a result, it stands in the way of our advancement. One crucial tool we have to try to create harmony and peace in society is education. We must remember that we all are human beings first before we belong to a religious community. We must respect all religions. Our country is secular, which means that all religions are treated equally and everyone is free to follow his religion.

5. Issues related to the elderly population:

India is aging! The stark reality of India’s aging scenario is that currently India has 77 million elderly people and this number will increase to 177 million in the next 25 years. Average life expectancy has increased from 40 years old in 1951 to 64 years old now, so a person will live 20 years longer than he did 50 years ago. However, this is not without its problems. In this aging scenario,  all aspects of elderly care are under pressure, including financial, health, and accommodation. In the early 21st century, it is clear that the elderly are becoming increasingly secure in India.

 As the elderly age, households become smaller and more burdened, creating stress on extended and extended families. Even when they live together, generational gaps and lifestyle changes can leave older people feeling alienated, isolated, and anxious. Increasing life expectancy has also led to chronic functional impairment, with older adults requiring assistance in managing tasks as simple as activities of daily living. The traditional system of housewives taking care of elderly family members at home is gradually changing as home-based women also participate in activities outside the home and have professional ambitions. There is a growing recognition among older people that children often feel like they are a burden.

In India, where the value-based joint family system is said to be widespread, age has never been an issue. Indian culture automatically respects elders and is cooperative. Against this background, elder abuse has never been seen as a problem in India and has always been seen as a Western problem. However, the coping abilities of younger and older family members are currently being tested, and in most cases, the number of undesirable factors in younger family members that are recognized as abnormal by older family members but cannot be classified as such action exists. The number of people aged 80 and over was 82,000, with a higher proportion of men (54.4%) than women (45.6%). The state’s population aged 60 and over is expected to exceed 1 million by 2020.

6. Issues of poverty and unemployment: beggary:

Although hard work and self-respect are generally extolled as virtues, every society faces varying degrees of difficulty dealing with slackers and social parasites who make a living off the efforts and profits of others. This parasitic mode of existence manifests itself in a variety of ways. Generally, social parasitism is caused by one of three motives. The first is economic necessity arising from extreme repentance and poverty. secondly, through an altruistic spirit based on religious or traditional considerations, as in the case of the ‘sadhu’, ‘sanyasi’, ‘darvesh’, ‘fakir’; and ‘Suri’, through hard labor and Hard work to avoid through hedonistic considerations aimed at eliminating hard work. Ancient Indian society allowed people to make a living from the efforts and income of others. The ashram educational concept was closely related to the practice of students earning a living by collecting alms from homeowners. A life of almsgiving was also prescribed as a way of life for Brahmins and others who renounced worldly possessions. The practice of “daan” or almsgiving was considered an important religious duty of homeowners. It is important to understand the attitude of tolerance and even support for social parasitism in the actual socio-economic conditions of the ancient world. Society was broadly in a pre-feudal or feudal stage of development.

7. Problems related to children: juveniles in conflict with law and the juveniles in need of care and protection

Children have always been considered the most important asset of this planet and every effort should be made to provide them with equal developmental opportunities so that they can become the resilient citizens of tomorrow. Research shows that children and young people who are essentially neglected are more likely to become victims of crime. As early as 1895, Britain’s Gladstone Commission officially recognized and strongly endorsed the view that today’s juvenile offenders will become tomorrow’s hardened and persistent adult offenders.

According to this hypothesis, it ranked 53rd worst when juvenile crime could be understood and prevented. Some adult crimes can be prevented and controlled. It is clear that preventing juvenile delinquency and crime, like all other phenomena of an unpleasant and destructive nature, is much better than subsequently dealing with them after they have occurred. Crime prevention can be achieved in a variety of ways and situations.  However, in the current context,  criminologists use the word prevention in a limited sense.  In other words, prevention in this sense includes improving family relationships, promoting better adaptation at school, providing education and recreation to produce a useful and upright population, as well as social work, medicine, and psychiatry.

 Includes efforts to use tools in the field.  These programs can be implemented in moderately prosperous societies.  In a country experiencing mass poverty like India,  the limitations of prevention programs seen in other countries will inevitably become more apparent.

III. Economic structure and issues in contemporary India

The word “globalization” has become commonly used to summarize the modern world order. It means that the world is becoming increasingly integrated into a capitalist political economy that operates based on neoliberal, free market ideology. Economic globalization, as we see it in the world today, is not a new phenomenon. It has evolved in recent years and is gaining momentum day by day. Current trends are moving from a global economy based on national market economies to a borderless global market economy increasingly governed by a set of rules. Globalization in this context means global economic liberalization, the development of a global financial system, and a transnational production system based on homogenized global laws of value.

The end of the Cold War contributed to the emergence of a new aggressive and competitive world economic order. This has been made possible primarily through the integration of emerging and largely developing countries. Globalization and market liberalization have led to some progress in terms of economic growth in some countries, but all fences and barriers have been removed and the world has entered a new state of rapid and free flow of people. As we begin to witness, it also has many negative effects on developing societies. Globalization will then bring prosperity to all peoples around the world, the cherished values ​​of democracy, freedom, and justice will spread, and the world will witness unprecedented enjoyment of human rights everywhere. Probably, On the other hand, if we imagine that globalization transforms the world into a global market for goods and services dominated, controlled, and greedily dominated by the power of huge multinational corporations, it is clear that the world’s people. All human rights of the people will be at risk. The global south will be under serious threat.

Development or economic development is widely viewed as a historical process that occurs in nearly all societies, characterized by economic growth and increased production and consumption of goods and services. Development is often used in a normative sense as a multivalued social goal, encompassing a variety of areas such as improved material well-being, living standards, education, health care, and broader work and leisure opportunities. It includes all desirable social goals. social and material well-being; However, in today’s globalization, the concept of development itself is interpreted differently, and the concept of the right to development is not seriously considered.


In conclusion, the relationship between law and social change in India is complex and multifaceted. Although legal reform has played an important role in addressing social issues and promoting equality, progress has often been slow and uneven. Finally, it is important to recognize that laws alone cannot bring about complete social change. It must be accompanied by broader social change, awareness, and a commitment to justice and equality for all.

India’s journey towards a fairer and more inclusive society continues and the law serves as an important tool to achieve these goals. The intersection of law and social change in India is marked by both successes and challenges. The legal system has made significant contributions to reducing discriminatory practices, promoting social justice, and protecting individual rights.

Landmark legislation and progressive judicial decisions, such as the Right to Information Act and the Right to Education Act,  have had a positive impact on society. However, it is important to recognize that legal reform alone cannot drive overall social change.

India’s diverse and complex social structure is fraught with deep-rooted problems such as caste discrimination, gender inequality, and economic inequality, which require not only legal reforms but also changes in thinking and attitudes. Equally important is effective enforcement and implementation of the law, and a responsive and accountable legal system.

Furthermore, it is important to ensure that legal reforms are accessible and beneficial to all sections of society, especially those who are marginalized and vulnerable.  Inclusion, representation, and participation in legal processes are essential for meaningful social change. The law remains a powerful tool as we move towards a fairer, more just, and inclusive India.  Achieving social change depends on a comprehensive approach that combines legal reform with education, awareness, social action, and a commitment to the principles of equality, justice, and human rights for all.


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