The cinema is an important tool of both education and entertainment whose magnetic charm has captivated millions of hearts all across the globe. The glamorous story that is depicted across the cinema screen combines the delights of fiction with truthfulness of real life and presents for the pleasure of our mind a material whose intellectual and emotional values linger last in mind and remain unsurpassed by other kinds of artistic creation. Big crowd of people at cinema halls is proof of its immense popularity. This great mass appeal of cinema has invested it with great deal of social influence.
The nature of its influence-good or bad-naturally depends upon the social awareness associated with it, namely filmmakers, artists, audience and producers, etc. The cinema is expected to treat the subject matter in a way that does not imperil values of society and in any way does not cause erosion in social values. Today, we live in a world dominated by media. The mass media, especially the cinema, is increasingly becoming an important part of our lives, despite the advent of television and other means of mass communication.
The scenes of violence, crime, sex, etc. cause fear and lead to abnormal social behaviour in children. Such scenes in films are often presented as a justifiable means of settling disputes of our daily life. Continued viewing of such scenes tends to inculcate among the audiences, particularly in children, a tendency to use violence in their real life. Indeed, the impression created by the cinema on the minds of the audiences is strong and lasting. This characteristic of cinema adds to its social obligation.
In the early days of cinema films were made with some social message though profit motive was certainly there. The filmmakers in the treatment of theme and subject matter were quite aware of their social responsibility. But such films were never oblivious of the needs of society at large. Films like Achhoot Kanya, Godaan, Awara, etc. were made to promote nationalism, social solidarity, mutual cooperation, mutual harmony, patriotism, etc. Through films the filmmakers tried to attack the social evils such as child marriage, sati, and prohibitions of widow remarriage, untouchability and social discrimination.
With growing materialism and consumerism, the social obligation of the cinema has been replaced by the commercialism. To the filmmakers the commercial value of the cinema is the main consideration. The hits and flops of the film at the box office is the most important thing which is taken into account during the process of filmmaking. Keeping this in mind, such ingredients are jammed, necessarily or unnecessarily, in the films, to ensure its success, without thinking that such ingredients of sex, violence, etc. are causing great injury to the social fabric and the individual as well. This trend of commercialism of cinema is causing great loss to society. To add to the woes, eminent personalities like Mahesh Bhatt, Nana Patekar ignore the social responsibility of cinema and assert their object is not to bring social reform, which is really shocking.
The group of filmmakers with such mindset is responsible for the degradation of the aesthetic quality of films. Such filmmakers and producers are solely concerned with the profit making of the film without any concern for society. The producers who provide financial backing to the films want a surety of handsome returns on the investment. Furthermore, the distributor will never come forward for any such films which do not ensure him of high returns. The economies of production have also sounded the death-knell for the ‘Art’ films.
The cinema started its journey with scripts largely based on mythological and historical plots. Later the stories, plays and novels of eminent scholars provided the themes for the cinema. Of course, the literary works of these eminent personalities contain messages, largely meant to rid the society of its evils or to reinforce social norms or values. However, this tradition continued for a considerable time. Later the cheap scripts took its place and caused erosion to moral aspects of the films. Perennially plagued by plagiarism, they are characterised for double meaning dialogues and lacking in variety. Sometimes, the dialogues are very vulgar. As a result, the majority of films produced today are stuff with cheap materials to serve the commercial ends. They are completely devoid of any social purpose, messages, relevance and significance.
The films of today are predominantly characterised for the excess portrayal of woman. She is atrociously made-up decoration piece required to dance, hug, expose and vanish. A scene of rape appears to have acquired almost a mandatory status. Such scenes are picturised in a way that instead of generating pathos they produce negative impulse in the viewer. This perverse depiction of women as glamorous props and objects of titillation and rape as an exciting and adventurous act is considered in no way to be responsible for the increasing atrocities against women.
When films galvanize act of violence, the minds of the audiences are so much impressed that they feel tempted to initiate all those things in real life. In general the social psyche gets desensitized to the violent acts as a result of repeatedly seeing them. They appear to be normal incidents. In short, frequent scenes of violence and crimes pollute the young minds and cause to germinate in them seeds of chaos, unrest and turmoil. The cinema has indirectly caused a fall in social morals. It has vitiated the social ambience.
This deviation of Indian cinema from its social responsibility is a matter of grave concern. This growing tendency of the film industry to exploit sex and violence must be firmly curbed. In a developing country like India, where percentage of poverty and illiteracy is high, the cinema has a major role to play. It contains immense potentiality to inform and educate people besides to entertain. Optimum exploitation of this potential of the cinema should be ensured laying down guidelines for the people involved in its making and there must be provision of stringent action against those who violate them. The Censor Board can be supplemented by a committee of writers and artists who can prudently pronounce on whether a film has been made with social responsibility or not.
Rural development is of paramount importance for national development. It implies not only the development of rural areas but the overall development of the rural communities, including health, education, sanitation, communication and everything. In other words, it intends to liberate the rural masses from the grip of ignorance and poverty and help in creating a self-reliant, self-sustaining and developing advanced community. Hence, rural development can no longer be identified with mere increase in gross national product or per capita national income. The benefits of growth need to be used to address the problems of prevailing social and economic inequalities. The economic development of the country and the advancement made in various fields would in reality be meaningless, if they fail to offer quality of life and dignity to our rural masses.
Since independence the focus of the country has been more on rural masses. Rural development and poverty alleviation has been accorded top priority in the planning process of the country. Schemes meant for the development of the rural community has been an integral part of the planning in India right from the First Plan to the current, Eleventh Plan. Undoubtedly, with these efforts the government has brought about great changes in the rural society.
The Constitution of India has laid down provisions for the progress of rural development Article 46 of the Constitution states, “The State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people and, in particular, of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.” Further, Article 40 of the Directive Principles of State Policy lays down responsibility on state governments for organising village panchayats. These panchayats, the smallest units of local self-government, were to provide the basic needs of life to the rural people as they were endowed with necessary powers and authority to carry on the tasks entrusted to them by the Constitution of India. Again an important principle of state policy laid down in the Constitution is that social, economic and political justice shall be secured for the people. Thus, Constitution of India lays down sufficient provision for the development of rural community.
To realise the constitutional provision, the Community Development Programme was started on October 2, 1952 with a view to revive and revitalise the social, political, economic and cultural life of the villagers by ensuring active participation of the rural people. During 1950s the Balwant Rai Mehta Committee was constituted to look into the matter related to community development and to suggest measures to bring about changes in local administration. The Committee in its report recommended a scheme of democratic decentralisation and makes rural people participants in the governance and in the process of development.
Later, as a recommendation of the Balwant Rai Mehta Committee, three-tier local self-government was initiated in 1957, and the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) remained more or less moribund except in a few states like Gujarat, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Karnataka. The Indian bureaucracy imbued with colonial mentality, however, was a great hurdle in the way to democratic decentralisation.
When the Panchayati Raj Institution was introduced, it was highly appreciated by the then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Later, many committees were constituted to study the functioning of the Panchayati Raj and suggest changes as per the changing socio-economic scenario. The L.M. Singhvi Committee wanted to accord constitutional status to the Panchayati Raj Institutions. Acting on the suggestion of the Committee, the government passed the 73rd and the 74th Constitutional Amendments. The 73rd Constitutional Amendment was an important milestone in the process of decentralisation of village administration. In fact, the Amendments provided more power to the institutions to carry on the administration and to work for rural development.
However, mere legislation is not enough to bring about desired results. What actually is required is the creation of a local body which may act in accordance with the constitutional provisions. It needs to become more concerned with issues directly related to the life of the rural people in particular and the whole of the country in general. Moreover, the Panchayati Raj Institutions have a prominent role to play in bridging the wide gap that divides the rural and urban masses and make the benefits of development accessible to the grass¬roots levels.
However, the 73rd Amendment, which gave a statutory status to the Panchayati Raj Institutions, was an important step ahead in the democratisation of the process. By providing thirty- three per cent reservations to women, the institutions ensured participation of a major section of society-women-who have long been neglected and isolated from the development work. No doubt, this provision has brought about a qualitative change in the composition of local bodies. But certain issues such as caste, feudalism, apathy and family status, need to be addressed to make the institutions work more effectively and democratically.
Furthermore, an equitable distribution of available land resources among the weaker sections of the rural community has been a welcome step taken to realise the constitutional provisions of the country. Issues related to land, namely landholdings, landowner ship, land reforms, etc. are integral part of rural development, which during sixty years of independence, have been addressed in the plan process of the country. It has, of course, brought encouraging results. But more remains to be done.
It is a bitter reality that only 2.4 per cent landholders are operating more than 22.3 per cent of the area under cultivation while 74.5 per cent farmers hold only 26.3 per cent of the area. This underscores the skewed pattern of land holdings in India at present. Holdings above 10 hectares constituting 2.5 per cent operate as much as 22.87 of the total area. This highlights the concentration of land in a few hands and marginalisation of the weaker sections of society, despite the land ceiling laws in the country. Recent surveys reveal Thai most of the redistributed land has reverted to the original owners. The most part of it is that, where intermediary tenancy has been abolished, concealed tenancy have surfaced with no rights and securities for such tenants. The initiatives taken by the state government in this regard have been dismal. This is a great hurdle in the way of rural development in India.
In addition, misuse of government funds earmarked for bringing about balanced regional development in the country is also a great constraint, which invites immediate investigation and solution. The existing socio-economic inequalities need to be removed and equal distribution of wealth and resources need to be a social reality. The equal participation of the grass-roots levels of society should be ensured in the development process of the country. This could be possible by bringing the benefits of technology in their lives. Besides, price control, credit supply, water management and other inputs may also contribute in ushering an era of rural development.