The multi-religious nature of society and conflict among the different religions has given rise to the problem of communalism in India. The phenomenon of communalism, as a vitiated form of inter-religious group relationship, particularly between Hindus and Muslims is a grave problem in India. The policy of a 'soft state' and not taking hard decisions against communal organizations has also aggravated problems of communalism in India. The considerations of electoral gains by using religions have also contributed in the growth of communalism in the post-independent period of India.
The caste system is an important social structure in India .The caste system has been divided Indian population into numerous groups that enter into relationships of various types and degrees among them. It has been the root cause of various social problems in India. The casteism as a problem refers to both the discrimination of one caste against another and the particularistic tendency of favoring one's caste group in violation of the principle of universalism. The practice of mobilization on the basis of caste and favor or disfavor shown in education and employment on caste considerations are the major features of casteism. The scheduled castes signify those groups of people who were out of the caste system. They comprise the bulk of untouchable castes. They have been discriminated against by the superior castes through the ages and they have never had any kind of social acceptance from the majority of people who belong to the upper castes. Over the ages they had no share in the social, political and judiciary powers and their position was like that of a slave.
India has recognized the socio-political reality of language by reorganizing the states on the basis of language that has encouraged the assertion of linguistic identities. The situation arising out of this peculiar linguistic configuration has created the problems of linguistic minorities in several states, border dispute between states, and the question of the medium of instruction in educational institutions.
India is a country with large population of Tribals. Tribals in India are not a homogeneous group. They differ in terms of their ways of life, exposure to the outside world and adoption of the programmes of welfare and development. The Tribals have been isolated from the mainstream of the Indian society for several years that accounted for their backwardness. The process of land alienation among the Tribals has been going on for a long time. The land has been taken over by the Government for mining and industries. The tribals are uprooted and displaced from their land. They have also not benefited from industrialization. As the tribals have remained mostly unskilled their claims for government jobs are overlooked. A large number of tribals are living below poverty line. The education level is low as most of them are engaged in agricultural activities with their children. Many tribes are nomads who move from place to place. There are others who migrate in search of employment. The medium of instruction is another hindrance for promotion of education among the tribes. The tribal population in India is still at fringe and development has hardly touched them. They remain discontented to a large extent.
Minority problem can be seen in two broad forms i.e in a democratic set up a minority community may compete as well as collaborate with the majority. The basic issues of minority are for political, social and economic equality. In India among different minority groups the economic status may vary. The minorities whose position is economically weak may easily promote disaffection particularly in a situation with the increased communication facilities and frequent interaction among the different groups. Many minority institutions allege governmental discrimination against them. Many such institutions insist on religious or traditional education and those oppose the modern scientific education. This keeps the minority youth deprived of modern education and lagging behind others.
The population in India has been growing phenomenally during this century. Development and welfare programmes for the masses have not been able to catch up with the increasing population. Consequently, the benefits of the developmental programmes have been far below the expectation. With the increase in population, the problems of poverty, unemployment and illiteracy have been accentuated in India. The sheer size of the population is also a factor that affects the increasing ethnic problem of various kinds. The larger the size of the caste or the tribe, the greater is the tendency to assert their parochial or ethnic identities at the cost of national integration.
The increasing population of India is making increasing demands on the resources of the land, capital and forest. The hunger for land in both rural and urban areas is increasing. With the growing burden on the national finance, the welfare programmes and social services like education, health, employment, rural development, welfare of the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, backward castes, youth and women etc. are adversely affected.
A cultural element that has been relevant to social problems in India is fatalism. The Hindu doctrines of "karma" and rebirth contain strong elements of fatalistic attitude to life–an attitude of acceptance of and resignation to the vicissitudes and failures in life. It has proved to be a one of the mechanisms for checking the resistance of the masses against of injustice and exploitation.
Another cultural trait widespread in Indian society is particularism as against universalism. This reflected in the excessive consideration for one's own people, kin group, caste or religion. Corruption involving favoritism or discrimination that is prevalent in our society is the result of such disregard for the norms of universalism.
The Indian society, by and large, has been patriarchal where woman is subjected inferior to man. The role of woman in the Indian society has been conceived as that of wife and mother. The problem is further accentuated by the cultural need to have male offspring for perpetuating the family performing the rituals after one's death. It has contributed to the cultural preference for a male child and imposition of inferior status to the female. This had led to the subjugation of women and discrimination against them in various spheres of social life.
Economically, India remains predominantly an agricultural society. There is an excessive dependence of labor force on agriculture. This overdependence of the labor force on the underdeveloped agriculture is the major cause of many of the social problems in India. It directly leads to poverty that is one of the basic causes of many other social problems in India. The malnutrition, ill health, beggary, prostitution, etc. are rooted in the large-scale poverty in India.
Indian society is characterized by the unequal distribution of wealth. There is affluence amidst pervasive poverty in both the rural and urban area of India. On account of this disparity, benefits of development and welfare services also accrue unequally to the different sections of the society. The benefits that the poor gain are comparatively low.
Child labour, a manifestation of poverty in the country has become a social problem in India. A large number of families belonging to the poor section of the society are forced to depend upon their children's contribution to the family income. They are not in a position to spare their children for full-time or even part-time schooling. Thus children who are expected to be in schools are found working as laborers. Apart from the economic constraints of the families of the working children, the owners of some of the small-scale enterprises also prefer to employ child labor. For them, child labor is cheap. It reduces the cost of production and maximizes their profit. Thus, child labor gets encouragement from both - the parents of the children and the owners of the enterprise. Therefore, despite the appalling conditions under which children work and the low wages they earn, child labour thrives in India.
Widespread poverty has its own repercussions on education in India. The problem of mass-illiteracy in the country is largely by the result of the situation of poverty under which the masses live. The poor are so preoccupied with the concern for their survival that they do not have the inclination or time for education. It is ridiculous to convince a poor man about the value of education when he is struggling to make both ends meet. Most of the people belonging to the poor section are not inclined for schooling of their children. Many of those who enroll their children in schools withdraw them before they acquire any meaningful standard of literacy. The result is that India is faced with the problem of mass-illiteracy.
The process of industrialization and urbanization has been slow in India. Industrialization has been concentrated in certain pockets in the country. The result is the inordinate growth of population in a few urban centers. This over- growth of population in a few urban centers has created various problems of urban poverty, unemployment, congestion, pollution, slum, etc.
Rural poverty and unemployment have had their own contribution to the urban problem in so far as people migrated from the rural areas to the urban centers in numbers larger than the urban areas can absorb. As a large section of the rural migrants are illiterate and unskilled, they are unable to adjust themselves into the urban economic situation and thereby suffer from unemployment and poverty.