India is a socially deeply stratified society with a small wealthy elite, a growing often highly educated middle class mainly in the cities and a large slum and rural population who rarely live in poverty. The conditions are also very different for men and women, although a strong movement for increased equality gained momentum after a prominent group rape in Delhi 2012.
Many years of high economic growth in India have mainly benefited the growing middle class of cities. Highly educated Indians in Bombay (Mumbai) or Delhi enjoy approximately the same living conditions as the corresponding group in the Western countries. At the same time, a large majority of the population lives under almost medieval conditions, without having been aware of modernization.
- Countryaah Official Site: Official statistics for population in India, including population growth, density, and estimation in next 50 years.
Despite the reforms, the assets that have been created have ended up in private pockets rather than in investments in better healthcare and education. One can also see a growing gap between a less developed north and a more prosperous southern India.
Even though the proportion of poor people has dropped significantly around a fifth of Indians still live in poverty and have problems with access to food, housing, clean water, healthcare and education. The worst is poverty in the states of Orissa, Bihar and Chhattisgarh as well as in the slums of the big cities and in the countryside. Particularly vulnerable are women, children, low-caste and tribal people.
According to an index of the incidence of slavery in the world, the Global Slavery Index, in 2018, nearly eight million people in India lived under slave-like conditions. It placed the country in 53rd place among 167 countries on the list. The index was created by the Australia-based human rights organization Walk Free Foundation, which bases its ranking on conditions such as the prevalence of human trafficking, debt slavery and forced marriage.
Lack of medical care
India has a highly qualified medical profession, which only a fraction of its residents – in the cities – have access to. Social security systems with pensions and other things reach only a small part of the population and are not very extensive.
Child mortality has dropped but still 35 every year of 1 000 children die before the age of one year, and almost 40 percent of all Indian children under five suffer from malnutrition. Tuberculosis and malaria are common diseases.
Lack of clean water and functioning sewage are closely associated with health care. In 2014, the newly-BJP government launched the “Clean India” campaign (about Keep India clean) to increase cleanliness. Among other things, 100 million toilets were promised until 2019. According to Prime Minister Modi, that promise has been fulfilled, but there are critics who question that claim.
In September 2018, the same government introduced a new health insurance system, called Modicare, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It provides the poorest 40 percent of the population (about half a billion people) insurance of the equivalent of $ 6,900 annually for free treatment of serious illnesses.
The woman’s situation
India has a secular constitution but within family law Hindus, Muslims and other religious groups have their own laws. Daughters generally inherit less than sons, boys are often valued higher than girls. In poor families, several daughters pose a huge financial burden, as the girl’s family is expected to pay for a wedding party and a dowry. Claiming a dowry is illegal but is practiced in the form of demands on expensive wedding gifts and gifts for the groom’s family. Abortion of girl fetuses is a widespread problem and making ultrasounds to find out the sex of the fetus is now illegal.
Most marriages are arranged by the parents and occur mainly between people who are from the same caste or profess to the same religion. In the cities so-called “love marriages”, where the couple themselves choose each other, are increasingly accepted. Divorce is still uncommon and in many social groups it can be very difficult for a woman to live as divorced.
The big family dominates and young adults generally live at home until they get married. After the wedding, the woman moves to her husband’s family. The oldest woman in the extended family controls the household as long as she can. It is usually the eldest son’s duty to provide for his parents, as very few have any pension to speak of. In the cities and among the middle class, the nuclear family becomes more common. Occupational work among women is also increasing. Intrinsic home care that takes care of cleaning, cooking and childcare is common among the middle class and rich. Home help gets food and shelter, but wages are low and job security is lacking.
During the 2010 century, a popular movement for increased equality has grown stronger. It was sparked by brutal group rape on a young female student in Delhi in 2012, a crime that led to the victim’s death. Since then, special courts have begun to be set up, the first in Calcutta, where cases involving women’s rights or violence against women must be dealt with extra quickly. Some other laws were also adopted to strengthen women’s rights, but gender discrimination is still a major problem.
In September 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that a 19th-century law that criminalizes adultery violates India’s constitution. According to the law, it was criminal to have a sexual relationship with a married woman without her husband’s permission. According to the HD ruling, the law treated the man as the superior woman in a marriage and violated the woman’s dignity.
In March 2019, a law was passed giving women the right to 26 weeks’ leave with full payment in connection with the birth of the first two children. Thereafter, 12 weeks per child applies.
Children’s and young people’s situation
In the cities there are hundreds of thousands of street children who are sent out to beg or sell small things. Child labor in the textile industry, agriculture and household work is common. The middle and upper class children generally live in a sheltered world, but the pressure to succeed in school is great. Beating children for educational purposes is acceptable.
In the cities, young people are growing rapidly as a consumer group in terms of clothing, communication and entertainment. Bombay’s film industry Bollywood dominates India’s popular culture. Young women are not expected to smoke or drink alcohol, but here too, attitudes are beginning to change. International magazines publish Indian editions for the English-speaking elite with similar content about fashion, sex and relationships as the sister magazines in the western world.
In rural areas and in conservative families, unmarried men and women usually have little contact with each other. Sex before marriage is generally taboo. It is considered inappropriate for men and women to kiss or hold hands in public, even if they are married. Western traditions like Valentine’s Day are slowly gaining ground in the cities but are being countered by conservative religious leaders.
The situation of LGBT people
Indian men are often seen holding hands but only as friends. Until the fall of 2018, homosexual acts were illegal and punishable by up to ten years in prison, according to a colonial-era law of more than 150 years. In 2009, Delhi’s highest court ruled that sex between homosexuals would no longer be a criminal act. The decision was a milestone for Indian gay activists.
In 2013, a backlash came when the Supreme Court of India (HD) ruled that the colonial law was still in force because it is the Parliament that is supposed to establish and abolish laws. In September 2018, however, HD decided that homosexual acts were no longer illegal. The decision upheld the 2013 judgment. The Court ruled that discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation violates fundamental human rights. The HD verdict was a big victory for the country’s LGBTQ movement, while intolerance against LGBTQ people remains strong in many parts of India, especially in the conservative countryside.
Hijras, men who live and dress like women, have a special place in society. An estimated 100,000 are hired in India. They are tolerated but many Indians harbor fear and feel superstition before them. Traditionally, people are supported by blessing weddings and newborn babies, but now more and more people are forced into prostitution, which makes them a particularly vulnerable group for HIV infection.
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FACTS – SOCIAL CONDITIONS
Infant Mortality: 30 per 1000 births (2018)
Proportion of population with access to clean water: 87.6 percent (2015)
Proportion of the population having access to toilets: 59.5 percent (2017)
Public expenditure on health care as a percentage of GDP: 3.9 percent (2015)
Public expenditure on health care per person: $ 63 (2016)
Proportion of women in parliament: 12 percent (2018)
Infants are killed in terrorist acts in Varanasi
A one-year-old girl is killed and about 40 people injured when an explosive charge detonates near the Hindu temple of Vishwanath near the Ganges River in the city of Varanasi. Police say it is likely a terrorist act. The Islamist group of Indian mujahedin takes on the blame for the blast. The group writes in an e-mail that the deed is to be seen as a revenge act for the destruction of the Babri Mosque and a protest against the court’s ruling in the ownership dispute over the location of the mosque (see September 2010).
Telecom scandal – government in windy weather
The Congress party-led government ends up in windy weather. The Minister responsible for telecommunications leaves his post after being accused of having sold licenses for mobile phone traffic at a lower price. The scandal is causing the opposition to block the work in Parliament.
Judgment on the Babri Mosque
A regional court decides that one third of the land on which the demolished Babri Mosque in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, belongs to the Sunni Muslims, one third of the land belongs to a Hindu sect and one third belongs to a number of Hindu organizations worshiping the god Rama (for the background to the conflict around the mosque, see Modern History). The decision is intended to resolve the market dispute that has been going on since 1949, but all parties announce that they will appeal the court’s ruling in the hope of gaining a larger share of land.
Bomb attack against cafe in Pune
German Bakery in the city of Pune outside Mumbai (Bombay) is subjected to a powerful explosion that results in the death of 17 people. At least 64 people are injured. The bakery / café is packed with students and foreign tourists when the explosive charge detonates. A member of a banned militant organization is arrested by police, suspected of planning the blast.