Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

Indian caste system

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : Social impacts of caste system

Context

  • Indra Meghwal, a nine-year-old boy from Jalore, Rajasthan, got killed. Indra had dared to drink from the pitcher of Chail Singh, the upper-caste principal of the school, a man so driven by caste entitlement and hatred that it was only death, a hate-filled sacrifice, that could keep the tradition alive.

What is caste system?

  • Caste is a form of social stratification characterised by endogamy, hereditary transmission of a style of life which often includes an occupation, ritual status in a hierarchy, and customary social interaction and exclusion based on cultural notions of purity and pollution.

How caste system evolved?

  • According to one long-held theory about the origins of South Asia’s caste system, Aryans from central Asia invaded South Asia and introduced the caste system as a means of controlling the local populations. The Aryans defined key roles in society, then assigned groups of people to them.

Problem’s created by caste system

  • Marriages: Most Indian marriages are arranged by parents. Several factors were considered by them for finding the ideal spouse. Out of which, one’s caste is a significant factor. People do not want their son or their daughter to marry a person from another caste. Just like the word “untouchables” suggests, a Brahmin would never marry a person from an SC or ST caste.
  • Education: Public universities have caste-based reservations for students coming from underprivileged backgrounds. A person from this background can secure a seat in a top tier college with par or below par academic scores based on reservation. However, impoverished Brahmans are disadvantaged with this reservation system. For example, a Brahman has to score 100% on certain exams to get into a top tier university. While the lower caste applicant can even bypass the exam for getting a seat in the university.
  • Jobs: A significant amount of public sector jobs are allocated based on caste reservation. Impoverished communities from Brahman backgrounds get affected significantly because of this reservation.

Case study / Value addition

Remember the exemplary act of Gopalganj IAS officer, Rahul Kumar, who had set an example by eating at the dalit widow’s house after villagers objected to her serving the mid-day meal to their children in the local school.

How Can the Government Solve this Caste Issue?

  • Intercaste Marriage: Cross caste marriage can possibly eradicate the upper and lower caste mentality. Around 5% of marriages in India are between different castes. Around a quarter of the population on matrimonial sites are open to intercaste marriages at the moment.
  • Intercaste Dining: Addressing caste-related issues at large public events can contribute to diversity and inclusion efforts. Several dining events were organized by local state governments to incorporate people from all around the country.

Affirmative actions by government

  • Provisions in the Constitution
  • Reservations in jobs
  • Reservations in Centre and State legislatures
  • Provisions in panchayats
  • Protect stakeholders by various Acts, safeguarding their land, livelihood, and save them from social evils

Way forward

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s political agenda includes caste elimination from the country. India has improved to some extent in this 21st century on several fronts.
  • However, there is still lots of room to grow. The Indian government has an effective plan of bringing people together from all walks of life. Yet, certain inherent ideological contradictions will stand in the way while solving this issue. Regardless, that should not deter our hope in escaping the shackles of casteism.

Conclusion

  • It is just as Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar said, “Caste will stand in your way for political and economical reforms within India.” According to him, eradicating such a strong foundation is extremely difficult yet doable. However, the path to reform has many roadblocks in it.

Mains question

Q. Do you think Caste will stand in way for political and economical reforms within India today? Analyse in context of incidents of social discrimination based on caste hierarchy.

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