Discussion on Caste Problem
The caste system is based on the principle of inequality. It believes that some people are higher in status and better endowed than others. The so-called higher castes are considered to have better intelligence and entitled to occupy a higher position than the lower castes. On the other hand, the latter are believed to possess low intelligence and considered unfit to live amongst high caste people. They are deprived of all privileges and facilities. The philosophy of the caste system has resulted in the creation of two basic problems, namely:
a) Social inequality.
b) Social injustice.
Insofar as social inequality is concerned, the problems created were:
(i) The high and the low caste were not allowed to mix.
(ii) The low caste was denied equal educational facilities, which were the privilege of the upper caste.
(iii) Denial of entry into temples for the low caste.
(iv) The low caste was deemed fit only for degrading work and the least rewarding occupations.
(v) Intercaste marriage was taboo.
(vi) The low castes were not allowed to draw drinking water from the wells from which the upper castes drew water.
Equally, there was the problem of social injustice, which was created in the following ways:
(i) Since the low castes were poor, they lived from hand to mouth and had no time to demand social justice.
(ii) Their educational backwardness stood in the way of their awareness on their rights of social justice.
(iii) Being educationally backward, they had virtually no say in the bureaucracy and decision-making process.
(iv) Since they were economically weak, they could not seek justice in the courts of law, this being an expensive proposition.
(v) The wide gap between the incomes of the high and low castes had created a proportionate gap in the field of social justice.
The problems of social injustice and social inequality have assumed gigantic proportions. The depressed castes are now demanding that longstanding injustices be removed. Many steps in this direction have already been taken and many more are being taken to ensure that injustices perpetuated through generations are brought to an end. Some of the major steps taken in this regard include:
(i) The removal of untouchability (Article 17)
(ii) Opening of religious and public institutions to deprived classes (Art 25)
(iii) Right to practice any profession, occupation or business (Art 19)
(iv) Removal of discrimination regarding admission to educational institutions (Art 29)
(v) Reservation of seats in all elective bodies (Art 16 and 35)
(vi) Ending of all sorts of exploitations (Art 42)
Every society is caste-ridden in one form or the other and to some extent or the other this system exists even among the most advanced societies of the world. For instance, in a developed country like Germany, surnames are related to one's profession. Thus, the surname 'Schumacher' denotes a 'shoemaker' and 'Kohl' implies a 'farmer'.
Unfortunately, in India the caste system has been all pervasive. Caste believes in dividing society into various groups and compulsory associations. In it, the status and position of an individual is not decided by wealth and knowledge, but by birth. The castes are quasi-sovereign bodies and in many cases, allegiance to a caste is considered more important than to the community as a whole. It is this particular aspect that has been exploited by various political parties in order to form vote banks. As a matter of fact, it is our political leaders who stand to gain by dividing society along caste lines. It is due to this caste problem that in UP and Bihar many regional parties have mushroomed by touting themselves as champions of the socially deprived classes and the downtrodden, which is actually an eyewash.
In the caste system, each caste wants to have a monopoly over occupations and people are not allowed to change their occupation. Usually, it is believed that a particular person belonging to a particular caste will follow his occupation only. It is considered more or less impossible for caste people to leave their ancestral occupation and switch over to a new occupation. This age-old mind set has also created a schism between the upper and the lower castes and as a result of which there is mutual hatred between the two castes.
Reservations for scheduled castes, which is more of an upliftment process for the lower castes, has been treated with contempt by the upper castes. However, one cannot ignore the fact that in a: democratic structure the caste system curtails the liberties of the lower castes and this in itself is a slur on democracy.