How society responds to change
Rajesh Kumar Aggarwal

Economic Reforms and Social Transformation
Ed. S. R. Ahlawat. Rawat Publications, New Delhi. Pages 434. Rs 875.

THIS book is written with a belief that social transformation by way of social development is one of the essential pre-requisites for percolating the benefits of economic reforms across all sections of the society. It argues that economic reforms have encouraged some social vices and problems, particularly in agriculturally advanced states. Prominent among these vices are rising consumerism, alcoholism and drug addiction and rising expenditure on social ceremonies such as marriages. These vices coupled with unemployment, indebtedness, dowry demands becomes worse and result in more suicides, violence against women, female infanticides and foeticide. In this background, the book is divided into three parts viz agrarian and rural transformation; rural power structure and transformation of the excluded; and population, gender, empowerment and transformation.

The first part of the book contains four papers on agrarian and rural transformation and mainly focuses on impact of liberalisation, privatisation, globalisation, changes and stagnation in agrarian Punjab, WTO, agriculture and social concerns and facets of agriculture development in Punjab. Among other things, these articles argue that cultivation is becoming an unrewarding occupation along with the rising debt trap primarily because of high cost of inputs, mono cropping pattern, rising gap between the farm income and rural household expenditure.

The second part includes nine papers which mainly deals with multi-dimensional approach to economic reforms by studying the effects of economic reforms on marginalised groups consisting of SCs, STs and women. This section also argues that when the entire process of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) has no role to place in macroeconomic decision-making, it would be unrealistic to expect a political revolution from it. Most of the papers in this section quoted PRIs examples from Haryana, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh and pointed out how these institutions failed to empower the marginalised groups. The Right to Information Act seems to be a positive step in this direction which asks for responsive, participatory and good governance.

The final part of the book deals with issues related to population, gender, empowerment and transformation. This section contains 10 papers which deal with diverse issues dealing with marriages below the legal age at marriage, across region marriages, issues related to declining sex ratio and girl child in North-West India. Besides, the section deals with some issues related to women’s empowerment.

The book has been written with an inter-disciplinary approach and covers many issues concerning social transformation, but it botch to elaborate how economic reforms are responsible for these social processes. However, the book should have also approached some of the other socio-economic issues such as social security aspects, migration patterns and urbanisation as part of the social transformation.