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Change and 
Development in 
Rural Society
4
Chapter 4.indd   41 14 September 2022   12:03:53
Rationalised 2023-24
Page 2


Change and 
Development in 
Rural Society
4
Chapter 4.indd   41 14 September 2022   12:03:53
Rationalised 2023-24
Social Change and Development in India
42
Indian society is primarily a rural society though urbanisation is growing.  
The majority of India’s people live in rural areas (69 per cent, according to the 
2011 Census). They make their living from agriculture or related occupations. 
This means that agricultural land is the most important productive resource 
for a great many Indians. Land is also the most important form of property. 
But land is not just a ‘means of production’ nor just a ‘form of property’. Nor is 
agriculture just a form of livelihood. It is also a way of life. Many of our cultural 
practices and patterns can be traced to our agrarian backgrounds. You will 
recall from the earlier chapters how closely interrelated structural and cultural 
changes are. For example, most of the New Year festivals in different regions of 
India – such as Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Bihu in Assam, Baisakhi in Punjab and 
Ugadi in Karnataka to name just a few – actually celebrate the main harvest 
season and herald the beginning of a new agricultural season. Find out about 
other harvest festivals.
Different means of agriculture and related festivals.
There is a close connection between agriculture and culture. The nature 
and practice of agriculture varies greatly across the different regions of the 
country. These variations are reflected in the different regional cultures. One 
can say that both the culture and social structure in rural India are closely 
bound up with agricultural and the agrarian way of life.
Agriculture is the single most important source of livelihood for the majority 
of the rural population. But the rural is not just agriculture. Many activities 
that support agriculture and village life are also sources of livelihood for 
people in rural India. For example, a large number of artisans such as potters, 
carpenters, weavers, ironsmiths, and goldsmiths are found in rural areas. They 
were once part and parcel of the village economy. Their numbers have been 
steadily lessening since the colonial period. You have already read in Chapter 1 
how the influx of manufactured goods replaced hand-made products. 
Rural life also supported many other specialists and craftspersons as  
story-tellers, astrologers, priests, water-distributors and oil-pressers. The 
Chapter 4.indd   42 14 September 2022   12:03:53
Rationalised 2023-24
Page 3


Change and 
Development in 
Rural Society
4
Chapter 4.indd   41 14 September 2022   12:03:53
Rationalised 2023-24
Social Change and Development in India
42
Indian society is primarily a rural society though urbanisation is growing.  
The majority of India’s people live in rural areas (69 per cent, according to the 
2011 Census). They make their living from agriculture or related occupations. 
This means that agricultural land is the most important productive resource 
for a great many Indians. Land is also the most important form of property. 
But land is not just a ‘means of production’ nor just a ‘form of property’. Nor is 
agriculture just a form of livelihood. It is also a way of life. Many of our cultural 
practices and patterns can be traced to our agrarian backgrounds. You will 
recall from the earlier chapters how closely interrelated structural and cultural 
changes are. For example, most of the New Year festivals in different regions of 
India – such as Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Bihu in Assam, Baisakhi in Punjab and 
Ugadi in Karnataka to name just a few – actually celebrate the main harvest 
season and herald the beginning of a new agricultural season. Find out about 
other harvest festivals.
Different means of agriculture and related festivals.
There is a close connection between agriculture and culture. The nature 
and practice of agriculture varies greatly across the different regions of the 
country. These variations are reflected in the different regional cultures. One 
can say that both the culture and social structure in rural India are closely 
bound up with agricultural and the agrarian way of life.
Agriculture is the single most important source of livelihood for the majority 
of the rural population. But the rural is not just agriculture. Many activities 
that support agriculture and village life are also sources of livelihood for 
people in rural India. For example, a large number of artisans such as potters, 
carpenters, weavers, ironsmiths, and goldsmiths are found in rural areas. They 
were once part and parcel of the village economy. Their numbers have been 
steadily lessening since the colonial period. You have already read in Chapter 1 
how the influx of manufactured goods replaced hand-made products. 
Rural life also supported many other specialists and craftspersons as  
story-tellers, astrologers, priests, water-distributors and oil-pressers. The 
Chapter 4.indd   42 14 September 2022   12:03:53
Rationalised 2023-24
Change and Development in Rural Society
43
diversity of occupations in rural India 
was reflected in the caste system, which 
in most regions included specialist and 
‘service’ castes such as Dry Cleaners, 
Potters and Goldsmiths. Some of these 
traditional occupations have declined. 
But increasing interconnection of the 
rural and urban economies have led to 
many diverse occupations. Many people 
living in rural areas are employed in, 
or have livelihoods based on rural non-
farm activities. For instance, there are 
rural residents employed in government 
services such as the Postal and Education 
Departments, factory workers, or in the 
army, who earn their living through non-
agricultural activities. 
The Diversity of Occupations
43
 ¾ Think of an important festival that is celebrated in your 
region that has its roots in agrarian society. What is the 
significance of the various practices or rituals that are 
associated with that festival, and how are they linked 
to agriculture?
 ¾ Most towns and cities in India have grown and 
encompassed surrounding villages. Can you identify 
an area of the city or town where you live that used 
to be a village, or areas that were once agricultural 
land? How do you think this growth takes place, and 
what happens to the people who used to make a living 
from that land? 
Activity 4.1
Chapter 4.indd   43 14 September 2022   12:03:53
Rationalised 2023-24
Page 4


Change and 
Development in 
Rural Society
4
Chapter 4.indd   41 14 September 2022   12:03:53
Rationalised 2023-24
Social Change and Development in India
42
Indian society is primarily a rural society though urbanisation is growing.  
The majority of India’s people live in rural areas (69 per cent, according to the 
2011 Census). They make their living from agriculture or related occupations. 
This means that agricultural land is the most important productive resource 
for a great many Indians. Land is also the most important form of property. 
But land is not just a ‘means of production’ nor just a ‘form of property’. Nor is 
agriculture just a form of livelihood. It is also a way of life. Many of our cultural 
practices and patterns can be traced to our agrarian backgrounds. You will 
recall from the earlier chapters how closely interrelated structural and cultural 
changes are. For example, most of the New Year festivals in different regions of 
India – such as Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Bihu in Assam, Baisakhi in Punjab and 
Ugadi in Karnataka to name just a few – actually celebrate the main harvest 
season and herald the beginning of a new agricultural season. Find out about 
other harvest festivals.
Different means of agriculture and related festivals.
There is a close connection between agriculture and culture. The nature 
and practice of agriculture varies greatly across the different regions of the 
country. These variations are reflected in the different regional cultures. One 
can say that both the culture and social structure in rural India are closely 
bound up with agricultural and the agrarian way of life.
Agriculture is the single most important source of livelihood for the majority 
of the rural population. But the rural is not just agriculture. Many activities 
that support agriculture and village life are also sources of livelihood for 
people in rural India. For example, a large number of artisans such as potters, 
carpenters, weavers, ironsmiths, and goldsmiths are found in rural areas. They 
were once part and parcel of the village economy. Their numbers have been 
steadily lessening since the colonial period. You have already read in Chapter 1 
how the influx of manufactured goods replaced hand-made products. 
Rural life also supported many other specialists and craftspersons as  
story-tellers, astrologers, priests, water-distributors and oil-pressers. The 
Chapter 4.indd   42 14 September 2022   12:03:53
Rationalised 2023-24
Change and Development in Rural Society
43
diversity of occupations in rural India 
was reflected in the caste system, which 
in most regions included specialist and 
‘service’ castes such as Dry Cleaners, 
Potters and Goldsmiths. Some of these 
traditional occupations have declined. 
But increasing interconnection of the 
rural and urban economies have led to 
many diverse occupations. Many people 
living in rural areas are employed in, 
or have livelihoods based on rural non-
farm activities. For instance, there are 
rural residents employed in government 
services such as the Postal and Education 
Departments, factory workers, or in the 
army, who earn their living through non-
agricultural activities. 
The Diversity of Occupations
43
 ¾ Think of an important festival that is celebrated in your 
region that has its roots in agrarian society. What is the 
significance of the various practices or rituals that are 
associated with that festival, and how are they linked 
to agriculture?
 ¾ Most towns and cities in India have grown and 
encompassed surrounding villages. Can you identify 
an area of the city or town where you live that used 
to be a village, or areas that were once agricultural 
land? How do you think this growth takes place, and 
what happens to the people who used to make a living 
from that land? 
Activity 4.1
Chapter 4.indd   43 14 September 2022   12:03:53
Rationalised 2023-24
Social Change and Development in India
44
4.1 AgrAriAn Structure : c ASte And  
c lASS in r urAl i ndiA
Agricultural land is the single most important resource and form of property in 
rural society. But it is not equally distributed among people living in a particular 
village or region. Nor does everyone have access to land. In fact, the distribution 
of landholdings in most regions is highly unequal among households. In some 
parts of India, the majority of rural households own at least some land – usually 
very small plots. In other areas as much as 40 to 50 per cent of families do not 
own any land at all. This means that they are dependent on agricultural labour 
or other kinds of work for their livelihoods. This of course means that a few 
families are well-to-do. The majority live just above or below the poverty line. 
In most regions of India, women are usually excluded from ownership 
of land, because of the prevailing patrilineal kinship system and mode of 
inheritance. By law women are supposed to have an equal share of family 
property. In reality, they only have limited rights and some access to land — 
only as part of a household headed by a man.
The term agrarian structure is often used to refer to the structure or 
distribution of landholding. Because agricultural land is the most important 
productive resource in rural areas, access to land shapes the rural class 
structure. Access to land largely determines what role one plays in the process 
of agricultural production. Medium and large landowners are usually able to 
earn sufficient or even large incomes from cultivation (although this depends 
on agricultural prices, which can fluctuate greatly, as well as other factors 
such as the monsoon). But agricultural labourers are more often than not paid 
below the statutory minimum wage and earn very little. Their incomes are 
low. Their employment is insecure. Most agricultural labourers are daily-wage 
workers. And do not have work for many days of the year. This is known as 
underemployment. Similarly, tenants (cultivators who lease their land from 
landowners) have lower incomes than owner-cultivators. Because they have to 
pay a substantial rent to the landowner – often as much as 50 to 75 per cent 
of the income from the crop. 
Agrarian society, therefore, can be understood in terms of its class structure. 
But we must also remember the structure is itself through the caste system. 
In rural areas, there is a complex relationship between caste and class. This 
relationship is not always straightforward. We might expect that the higher 
castes have more land and higher incomes. And that there is a correspondence 
between caste and class as one moves down the hierarchy. In many areas this 
is broadly true but not exactly. For instance, in most areas the highest caste, 
the Brahmins, are not major landowners, and so they fall outside the agrarian 
structure although they are a part of rural society. In most regions of India,  
the major landowning groups belong to the upper castes. In each region, there 
are usually just one or two major landowning castes, who are also numerically 
Chapter 4.indd   44 14 September 2022   12:03:53
Rationalised 2023-24
Page 5


Change and 
Development in 
Rural Society
4
Chapter 4.indd   41 14 September 2022   12:03:53
Rationalised 2023-24
Social Change and Development in India
42
Indian society is primarily a rural society though urbanisation is growing.  
The majority of India’s people live in rural areas (69 per cent, according to the 
2011 Census). They make their living from agriculture or related occupations. 
This means that agricultural land is the most important productive resource 
for a great many Indians. Land is also the most important form of property. 
But land is not just a ‘means of production’ nor just a ‘form of property’. Nor is 
agriculture just a form of livelihood. It is also a way of life. Many of our cultural 
practices and patterns can be traced to our agrarian backgrounds. You will 
recall from the earlier chapters how closely interrelated structural and cultural 
changes are. For example, most of the New Year festivals in different regions of 
India – such as Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Bihu in Assam, Baisakhi in Punjab and 
Ugadi in Karnataka to name just a few – actually celebrate the main harvest 
season and herald the beginning of a new agricultural season. Find out about 
other harvest festivals.
Different means of agriculture and related festivals.
There is a close connection between agriculture and culture. The nature 
and practice of agriculture varies greatly across the different regions of the 
country. These variations are reflected in the different regional cultures. One 
can say that both the culture and social structure in rural India are closely 
bound up with agricultural and the agrarian way of life.
Agriculture is the single most important source of livelihood for the majority 
of the rural population. But the rural is not just agriculture. Many activities 
that support agriculture and village life are also sources of livelihood for 
people in rural India. For example, a large number of artisans such as potters, 
carpenters, weavers, ironsmiths, and goldsmiths are found in rural areas. They 
were once part and parcel of the village economy. Their numbers have been 
steadily lessening since the colonial period. You have already read in Chapter 1 
how the influx of manufactured goods replaced hand-made products. 
Rural life also supported many other specialists and craftspersons as  
story-tellers, astrologers, priests, water-distributors and oil-pressers. The 
Chapter 4.indd   42 14 September 2022   12:03:53
Rationalised 2023-24
Change and Development in Rural Society
43
diversity of occupations in rural India 
was reflected in the caste system, which 
in most regions included specialist and 
‘service’ castes such as Dry Cleaners, 
Potters and Goldsmiths. Some of these 
traditional occupations have declined. 
But increasing interconnection of the 
rural and urban economies have led to 
many diverse occupations. Many people 
living in rural areas are employed in, 
or have livelihoods based on rural non-
farm activities. For instance, there are 
rural residents employed in government 
services such as the Postal and Education 
Departments, factory workers, or in the 
army, who earn their living through non-
agricultural activities. 
The Diversity of Occupations
43
 ¾ Think of an important festival that is celebrated in your 
region that has its roots in agrarian society. What is the 
significance of the various practices or rituals that are 
associated with that festival, and how are they linked 
to agriculture?
 ¾ Most towns and cities in India have grown and 
encompassed surrounding villages. Can you identify 
an area of the city or town where you live that used 
to be a village, or areas that were once agricultural 
land? How do you think this growth takes place, and 
what happens to the people who used to make a living 
from that land? 
Activity 4.1
Chapter 4.indd   43 14 September 2022   12:03:53
Rationalised 2023-24
Social Change and Development in India
44
4.1 AgrAriAn Structure : c ASte And  
c lASS in r urAl i ndiA
Agricultural land is the single most important resource and form of property in 
rural society. But it is not equally distributed among people living in a particular 
village or region. Nor does everyone have access to land. In fact, the distribution 
of landholdings in most regions is highly unequal among households. In some 
parts of India, the majority of rural households own at least some land – usually 
very small plots. In other areas as much as 40 to 50 per cent of families do not 
own any land at all. This means that they are dependent on agricultural labour 
or other kinds of work for their livelihoods. This of course means that a few 
families are well-to-do. The majority live just above or below the poverty line. 
In most regions of India, women are usually excluded from ownership 
of land, because of the prevailing patrilineal kinship system and mode of 
inheritance. By law women are supposed to have an equal share of family 
property. In reality, they only have limited rights and some access to land — 
only as part of a household headed by a man.
The term agrarian structure is often used to refer to the structure or 
distribution of landholding. Because agricultural land is the most important 
productive resource in rural areas, access to land shapes the rural class 
structure. Access to land largely determines what role one plays in the process 
of agricultural production. Medium and large landowners are usually able to 
earn sufficient or even large incomes from cultivation (although this depends 
on agricultural prices, which can fluctuate greatly, as well as other factors 
such as the monsoon). But agricultural labourers are more often than not paid 
below the statutory minimum wage and earn very little. Their incomes are 
low. Their employment is insecure. Most agricultural labourers are daily-wage 
workers. And do not have work for many days of the year. This is known as 
underemployment. Similarly, tenants (cultivators who lease their land from 
landowners) have lower incomes than owner-cultivators. Because they have to 
pay a substantial rent to the landowner – often as much as 50 to 75 per cent 
of the income from the crop. 
Agrarian society, therefore, can be understood in terms of its class structure. 
But we must also remember the structure is itself through the caste system. 
In rural areas, there is a complex relationship between caste and class. This 
relationship is not always straightforward. We might expect that the higher 
castes have more land and higher incomes. And that there is a correspondence 
between caste and class as one moves down the hierarchy. In many areas this 
is broadly true but not exactly. For instance, in most areas the highest caste, 
the Brahmins, are not major landowners, and so they fall outside the agrarian 
structure although they are a part of rural society. In most regions of India,  
the major landowning groups belong to the upper castes. In each region, there 
are usually just one or two major landowning castes, who are also numerically 
Chapter 4.indd   44 14 September 2022   12:03:53
Rationalised 2023-24
Change and Development in Rural Society
45
very important. Such groups were termed by the sociologist M.N. Srinivas as 
dominant castes. In each region, the dominant caste is the most powerful 
group, economically and politically, and dominates local society. Examples of 
dominant landowning groups are the Jats and Rajputs of U.P., the Vokkaligas 
and Lingayats in Karnataka, Kammas and Reddis in Andhra Pradesh, and Jat 
Sikhs in Punjab.
While dominant landowning 
groups are usually middle or high 
ranked castes, most of the marginal 
farmers and landless belong to lower 
caste groups. In official classification 
they belong to the Scheduled Castes 
or Tribes (SC/STs) or Other Backward 
Classes (OBCs). In many regions of 
India, the former ‘Untouchable’ or 
dalit castes were not allowed to own 
land and they provided most of the 
agricultural labour for the dominant 
landowning groups. This also created 
a labour force that allowed the 
landowners to cultivate the land 
intensively and get higher returns. 
The rough correspondence between caste and class 
means that typically the upper and middle castes also had 
the best access to land and resources, and hence to power 
and privilege. This had important implications for the rural 
economy and society. In most regions of the country, a 
‘proprietary caste’ group owns most of the resources and can 
command labour to work for them. Until recently, practices 
such as begar or free labour were prevalent in many parts 
of northern India. Members of low ranked caste groups had 
to provide labour for a fixed number of days per year to 
the village zamindar or landlord. Many of the working poor 
were tied to landowners in ‘hereditary’ labour relationships. 
Although such practices have been abolished legally, they 
continue to exist in many areas. 
4.2 t he i mpAct of l And r eformS
t he ColoniAl Period 
There are historical reasons why each region of India came to be dominated by 
just one or two major groups. But it is important to realise that this agrarian 
structure has changed enormously over time, from the pre-colonial to the 
There is a direct correspondence between 
agricultural productivity and the agrarian structure. 
In areas of assured irrigation, those with plentiful 
rainfall or artificial irrigation works (such as rice-growing regions 
in river deltas, for instance the Kaveri basin in T amil Nadu) more 
labour was needed for intensive cultivation.  Here the most 
unequal agrarian structures developed. The agrarian structure 
of these regions was characterised by a large proportion of 
landless labourers, who were often ‘bonded’ workers belonging 
to the lowest castes. (Kumar 1998).
Box 4.1
 ¾ Think about what you have 
learned about the caste 
system. Outline the various 
linkages between the agrarian 
or rural class structure and 
caste. Discuss in terms of 
different access to resources, 
labour and occupation.
Activity 4.2
Chapter 4.indd   45 14 September 2022   12:03:53
Rationalised 2023-24
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FAQs on NCERT Textbook - Change and Development in Rural Society - Old & New NCERTs for IAS Preparation (Must Read) - UPSC

1. What is the significance of change and development in rural society?
Ans. Change and development in rural society are significant as they contribute to the overall growth and progress of the country. It helps in improving the living standards of rural people by providing them with better infrastructure, healthcare facilities, education opportunities, and employment options. It also reduces the income gap between rural and urban areas and promotes socio-economic equality.
2. What are the factors that lead to change and development in rural society?
Ans. Several factors contribute to change and development in rural society. These include government initiatives, policies, and schemes aimed at rural development, technological advancements, improvement in transportation and communication networks, access to education and healthcare facilities, agricultural and industrial development, and the role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in empowering rural communities.
3. How does education play a role in the change and development of rural society?
Ans. Education plays a crucial role in the change and development of rural society. It empowers individuals by providing them with knowledge, skills, and awareness. Education opens up opportunities for employment, entrepreneurship, and higher education. It also helps in eradicating social evils and promoting gender equality. Educated individuals actively participate in the decision-making process and contribute to the overall development of their communities.
4. What are the challenges faced in bringing about change and development in rural society?
Ans. Bringing about change and development in rural society is not without challenges. Some of the common challenges include inadequate infrastructure, lack of access to basic amenities like clean water and sanitation facilities, illiteracy, poverty, unemployment, and limited healthcare services. Additionally, traditional beliefs and cultural barriers, limited resources, and geographical isolation pose challenges in implementing and sustaining development initiatives in rural areas.
5. How can the government and society contribute to the change and development of rural areas?
Ans. The government and society can play a significant role in the change and development of rural areas. The government can implement policies and schemes focused on rural development, such as providing financial assistance, improving infrastructure, promoting agricultural and industrial growth, and ensuring access to education and healthcare facilities. Society can contribute by actively participating in community development programs, promoting awareness about social issues, supporting local artisans and entrepreneurs, and fostering a sense of collective responsibility towards rural development.
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