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II.5.1.1 Significance of village study in India

Types of Village study

(a) Studies/Reports brought out by Administrators:

(i) W.F. Firminger’s “The Fifth Report from the select committee of the House of Commons on the Affairs of the East India Company” (1812).

(ii) Charles Metcalfe’s “Minutes on the village of Delhi” (1830).

(iii) H.S. Maine’s “Village Communities in the East and West” (1871).

(iv) B.H. Baden-Powell’s “The land system of British India” (1892) 3 volumes.

(b) Studies Conducted by the Economists:

(i) S.J. Patel (1952) has described the nature of agrarian crises almost all over India by the end of First World War.

(ii)G. Keatings and Harold Mann of Mumbai, Gilbert Slater in Madras and E.V. Lucas in Punjab initiated intensive studies of particular villages and general agricultural problems.

(iii) The Punjab Board of Economic Enquiry organised village surveys conducted by individual workers since 1920s. The Bengal Board of Economic Enquiry was setup in 1935 and it conducted village surveys.

(iv) J.C. Kumarappa, a Gandhian economist developed Gandhian economic perspective by conducting surveys in the villages. His book is “An Economic survey of Matar Taluka” (1931).

(c) Studies prepared by Sociologists and Anthro­pologists:

In “Caste in modern India and other Essays” has made an attempt to stress the importance of anthropological studies of Indian villages for others disciplines.

Importance of Village Studies:

Village studies have its own importance. These have enriched the knowledge of the Indian Society in general and rural India in particular. These have given great encouragement to the growth of rural society.

After independence, planners in India realised that unless Indian villages were properly studied, no real progress could be made. Village studies has following use-

1. Village studies help in planning rural reconstruction:

According to M.N. Srinivas, village studies provide detailed information regarding various aspects of rural life. In these studies, either the holistic nature of the village communities is discussed or certain specific aspects of rural life are focused.

The planning commission gave maximum attention to solve the social problems of rural India by the help of village studies also. From village studies, various aspects of rural life, for example, the extent of sub-division and fragmentation of holdings, the nature of rural credit, the conditions of landless labourers etc. are derived. It helps in planning rural reconstruction.

2. Village studies provide useful information to other disciplines:

The sociologists and social anthropologists collect data Lo study different villages – its several aspects, its problems etc. The collected data are more accurate, reliable and unbiased. Hence these are highly useful for other social scientists. These are raised by economists, political scientists and others. Village studies also provide the historians with lot of information about rural social life.

3. Village studies provide useful knowledge about Indian social reality:

The significance of the village studies is such that sometimes their value may extend beyond national boundaries. But it is true that an understanding about different aspects of social reality is highly influenced by the indo-logical literature. Village studies have assumed sociological and socio-anthropological Importance.

Main Drawbacks of Village Studies in India:

According to S.C. Dube, one should be very critical about their validity and be aware of their limitations. Few limitations of such studies are-

(a) Village studies are not often representative in nature.

(b) Village studies exaggerate the unity and self-sufficiency of the village. Here unity and solidarity of the village is over-emphasised. It ignores the connecting links with other units of society,

(c) Village studies are influenced by the alien concepts. Those who undertake village studies, blindly Imitate western methods, western styles and western models.

There are also some problems related to village studies in India:

  1. There is a lot of duplication in data collection.
  2. There is no real comprehension about village studies. There is lack of co-ordination among the scholars of village studies.
  3. The scholars have tried to study village community in a biotic frame of reference. They practically ignore a basic reality that Indian village is a synthesized community.
  4. Most of the village studies are of mechanical nature. These do not add much to the existing knowledge about villages.

Significance of Village Studies:

Srinivas made the following observations through his field experiences:

  1. Sociologists and anthropologists basically depend on other social scientists because they rely on first hand Information with emphasis on micro detailed in depth studies.
  2. He distinguished between anthropologists as a field and social worker and the government officials. Government officials are biased, not very minute in their observation. They go by erroneous superficial Government Records.

M.N. Srinivas (1955) edited work “India’s villages” contains 17 village studies conducted by Indian, British and US anthropologists. Among the Contributors are included M.N. Srinivas, David Mandelbaum, Eric J. Miller, Kathleen Gough, Mackim Marriott, S.C. Dube and others.

These studies have taken into consideration the totality of the village life. However, same issues are raised in some of the studies. Some of the contributors have come out with certain conceptual constructs. The concept of “Dominant caste” has for the first time appeared in this edited book.

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