Latasinha's Weblog

Social and political Values and Systems in India.

DNA of Hinduism and caste system

Traditional living had been an anchor, keeping our boat in safe harbour, Now that the anchor had gone and the boat is at the mercy of wild waves on a stormy ocean.

“Caste and Hinduism succeeded in doing in India, what no state, no conqueror and no economy was able to do – the establishment of a single unified system of society throughout the whole of India, accommodating numerous semi-autonomous communities arising at many times and in many places), a system of society, which was able to comprise a greater range of local differences in a single system than any society has previously accomplished.”  And

“Through caste system, India has simultaneously accommodated “it to an almost endlessly varied system of semi-autonomous community and at the same time, it brings considerable unity, harmony and condition of peace.” …. And it “succeeded in wielding an enormously varied plurality of semi-autonomous communities arising at many times and in many places and adopting themselves to many different conditions into a single system of society…” (Don Martindale, India since 1947, p 39)

DNA of Hinduism and caste system

Part 1  Introduction

Hinduism – Hinduism presents one of the oldest,  continuous and uninterrupted living culture and civilization in the world. Sometimes, during 19th century, English writers have added ‘ism’ into the word ‘Hindu’.

Philosophers, thinkers intellectuals and reformers regard Hinduism, culture and philosophy, in its purest form, as one of themost scientific ideology and way of living ever developed anywhere in the world. Hindu values, systems and principles have always remained an inspiring icon of peace, harmony, compassion and other human values for the whole universe. Caste system associated with Hinduism has worked as one of the instruments to maintain the continuity of Indian culture and civilization without interruption.

Gold-mine of Knowledge – The gold mine of Hindu knowledge in different spheres of real life still commands the respect and attention of an average Indian. It has inspired not only Indians, but foreigners as well.  Intellectuals from various countries have translated it in their own languages and reinterpreted it for a rational mind. reinterpreted it for a rational mind. Values and principles of Hinduism have always remained an inspiring icon of peace, harmony, compassion and other human values for the whole universe. It has guided people not only to live a quality of life here in this world, but also tells how to make life better after death.  Its rituals are techniques for leading a harmonious life.They speak of everything- on staying healthy, social evils, improving concentration and tenets of behaviour, which are relevant even today.

When in the past, the rest of the world was passing through the Dark Age, India was full of light. The first few centuries are recognized as the golden period of Indian history. During this period, arts, commerce, crafts, philosophy and knowledge flourished magnificently. Its people reached a high level of intelligence having specialization in different areas. It was rich in literary, philosophical and religious fields.

Issues – There are so many conflicting views about Hinduism and its caste system, that common men get confused. What is Hinduism, a religion of Hindus, a culture or a way of life? Has Hinduism and its caste system become obsolete in the light of modern times? If yes, then why along with caste system, Hinduism has not been replaced by other religion/religions? Why not only Hindus, but other communities living in India and having faith in other religions are influenced by the principles of Hinduism and values and systems of caste system?

Origin of the terms ‘Hindu’, ‘Hindustan’ or Hinduism? –  India and its people are known by different names. India is also known as Bharat, Hind, Hindustan. India and its people as Hindus, Hindustani, Bhartiya or Indians. The name Hindu refers to Indo-Aryans people. Each of these terms has historical significance.

  • Bharat – Ancient India, was referred to as Bharat-varsh and its people  as Bhartiya. Derived from the Sanskrit term ‘Bharata’ that means ‘the cherished’, this name dates back to the ancient ‘Hindu Puranas’ (Hindu scriptures). According to it, the legendary Emperor Bharata was the first conqueror of the entire Indian subcontinent and the founder of the famous Bharata dynasty. After him, the Indian land is known as ‘Bharatavarsa,’
  • Hind, Hindu and Hindustan – The credit of the emergence of the terms Hind, Hindu or Hindustan goes to Sind river. These terms have been in use in Greek since Herodotus (4th century BCE). The invaders from Persia and Greece came to Indian subcontinent around 5th century BCE. They took inspiration from the name of river Sindhu, which runs mostly through present day Pakistan, Jammu & Kashmir in India and Western Tibet. And people living there, mostly Indo-Aryans, were called  Hindus (‘Sindhu’). The term ‘Hindu’ is the Persian equivalent of  ‘Sindhu’. And their religion and culture were termed as Hinduism.
  • Hindusthan – When invaders came to India from land route, they called the land beyond Sind river as Hindusthan. ‘Stan’ in Persian means ‘land’ or ‘country,’ much like ‘sthana’ in Sanskrit means ‘place’. In the early 11th century a satellite state of the Ghaznavids in the Punjab with its capital at Lahore was called “Hindustan”. After the Delhi Sultanate was established, north India, especially the Gangetic plains and the Punjab, came to be called “Hindustan”.
  • India – By 13th century, India became a popular alternative name for Hindustan. Since then, Latin term “India” has been widely in use for the Indian sub-continent. During the British Raj, instead of Bharat or Hindustan, where Indo-Aryan culture is strongly based there. The term ‘Hindus’ evolved to ‘Indos’ and made its first ever appearance in Old English in 9th century and re-emerged in Modern English in the 17th century. After Independence, it is known as the “Republic of India”.

Hinduism as a way of living, a culture/civilization – Along with a religion, Hinduism is also a philosophy, a culture and an Art of living to lead a Quality of Life.

According to Hindu MythologyBelievers in Hindu Mythology think that Hinduism, its culture and civilization has been existing since times-immemorial. With the passage of time, a large number of social groups migrated into India, earlier from the land route, later from sea route from other parts of the world. They settled down here and ultimately merged into the mainstream of Hinduism.

Historical Evidences – Historical evidencesshow that Hinduism as a Vedic culture originated during the period of Indus Valley Civilization (around 3300–1300 BCE on the Indo-Gangetic Plains, (in northern parts of India) and matured by 2600–1900 BCE). It spread/flourished throughout India during 1500 BC and 500 BC. The blending up of migrating social groups with that of the indigenous people living in this region gave rise to Vedic Culture of Hinduism.

Hinduism as Vedic culture – The Vedic culture is a magnificent example of scientific division and orderly arrangement of rules. Its literature contains in itself vast human knowledge, about almost all the aspects of life, be it phonetics, arts, literature, medicine, polity, metrics, law, philosophy, astrology or astronomy.

Hinduism as a religionIs Hinduism merely a Religion? Somehow it is difficult for the Western world to understand the true meaning, ethos and nuances of Hindu “DHARMA”. They describe Hinduism as a religion/religious tradition. To them, it is a set of religious beliefs like Christianity or Islam. They have  literally translated the Sanskrit word ‘Dharma’ into English as ‘religion’.

Hinduism not merely a religion – Hinduism is not a merely a religion like Christianity or Islam. ‘Hinduism’ is  ‘a way of life’ and ’fusion of various beliefs’. It is mainly based on the principle ‘Dharma’/Sanatan Dharma. (Before the colonization of India, Hinduism was popularly known as Sanatana Dharma). At present, in the world, Hinduism is followed by 15%, after Christianity followed by 33% and Islam by 24.1%  of the world population. It is supposed to be one of the oldest and largest religion

Origin of ‘Hindu‘Dharma’, much older – Hindu ‘Dharma’ of Indus Valley Civilization is much older than the meaning of the term ‘religion’ in its present sense. The meaning of ‘religion’ in its present form was non-existent, when Upanishads (Vedic texts) were composed, containing the earliest emergence of some of the central religious concepts of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. The roots of Hindu Dharma can be traced back to prehistoric times, over 5,000 years ago. In the past, gradually Hinduism spread all over South-eastern Asia, China, Korea, and Japan. Hindus worship a single god with His different forms.

Origin of the term “Religion” – According to the philologist Max Müller (the 19th century), the term ‘Religion’isoriginated from the Latin word ‘Religio’ meaning“to bind together.” It wasused originally to mean reverence for God or the gods, careful pondering of divine things, piety.

Renaissance Movement separated worldly things from Spirituality – After Renaissance movement, the term ‘Religion’ was used as a set of religious beliefs. It was first used in the 1500s to distinguish worldly things from spirituality  and  morality and set the domain of the church. From that time onwards, religion meant belief in or worship of God/Gods and a system of religious beliefs and practices.

Narrow meaning of ‘Hinduism’, as merely a religion, has been started in India only after the colonization, under the influence of Europeans, especially the British. Sometimes, during 19th century, English writers had added ‘ism’ to Hindu and termed their religion and culture as Hinduism.

Despite centuries of foreign rule, about 79.8% of the population of India identify themselves as Hindus, (roughly about 966 million people) as per 2011 Census of India, who have faith in the Vedic principles of Varna, Dharma, and Karma. 14.2% of the population follow Islam and the remaining 6% adhere to other religions like Christianity, Sikhism, Jainism or Buddhism etc.

Hinduism accepted other faiths as they are – Hinduism even as a religion has never tried annihilate other faiths, or the way of living, internal order, customs, culture or language of the people having faith in other religions of the world. Since ages, a large number of social groups migrated to this area from other parts of the world and willingly merged into the mainstream of Hindustan. Whenever migrated social groups desired to join the mainstream of Hinduism, they were neither prevented to join it, nor were they allowed to disturb its existing internal social order. Rather all the incoming groups were welcomed and given enough freedom to prosper according to their internal rhythm.

Hinduism as Philosophy – Hindu Philosophy is the base of Hinduism.  It has taken thousands of years to take a shape. It cannot be found in one single authoritative text, nor can it be attributed to one single author. All its principles cannot be found in one single authoritative text, nor can it be attributed to one single author.

Part II Hinduism as a Philosophy

How Principles of Hindu Philosophy passed on up-to present generation –  Hinduism has been followed by the majority community (Indo-Aryans) living in India since ages. The priestly schools had devised a most remarkable and effective system of transferring knowledge to succeeding generations in the form of hymns, restricting it only to those, possessing brilliant feats of memory and capability to keep extreme sanctity. Later on, it was put together in ‘Vedas’, ‘Smritis’ ‘Sutras’, and ‘Upanishads’. These Epics “contain an ocean of knowledge in a jar.”[i]

Hindu philosophy, simple and in conformity with nature – The speciality of Indian philosophy is its simplicity, solidity, and conformity with the forces of Mother Nature. Vedic literature, Scriptures and philosophy of Hinduism are described in’Vedas’, ‘Smritis’ ‘Sutras’, ‘Upanishads’, Ramayan and Bhagvat Gita etc. These are not merely the scriptures/religious/spiritual books, but also a perfect guide to lead a quality of life. The ”Rig Veda” , dated to between 1500–1200 BCE is said to be the oldest  complete religious holy book that has survived into the modern age. Ramayana and Mahabharat are the two great epics of Hinduism.

Laws of Manu/Manu Smriti or  Mānava-Dharmaśāstra also leaves a deep impression in the minds Hindus. Mythologists believe that Manusmriti is the record of the words of Brahma and the code of conduct for inter-caste relationships in Hindu society. The time of its recording is uncertain, but some believe it to be about 200 BC.

Manu Smriti was a hybrid moral-religious-law code and one of the first written law codes of Asia. It still sustains paramountcy in  conservative Hindu society in spite of its age and many controversies linked with it. 

Principles of Hindu PhilosophyFollowing are some of the basic principles of Hindu Philosophy:-

  • Atma (Self) and Parmatma (Creator of Universe)The Vedas conceptualize “Brahman” as the Cosmic Principle. ‘Brahman’ is a key concept found in the Vedas, and it is extensively discussed in the early Upanishads. According to Principle of non-duality, Atma and Parmatma are the two integral parts of the same God, and therefore inter-linked. the also known as ’Bramhan’/’Parmatma’ (God). The ultimate purpose of human life, according to Indian thought, is to unite with the ultimate Reality, the Divine/Brahman.
  • Meaning of Brahman “world soul”/”cosmic soul”) or Parmatma (Highest Divine Reality)In Upanishads, Brahman or Parmatma is described as a ‘Ultimate Supreme Divine Reality”, “world soul” or “cosmic soul.” He has been variously described as the creator and destroyer of the entire Universe. He is all-pervasive, infinite, permanent, eternal truth and bliss which does not change, yet is the cause of all changes. HE is present in all the objects, including human body. He is essence of this universe and way for ‘Atman’ to achieve Sat-cit-ānanda (truth-consciousness-bliss).
    • According to Upnishad, every human has two components – the body and the soul. Death can destroy a human Body, but Soul is indestructible. Body, which is  (made up of eight elements earth, water, air, sky, fire, mind, intellect and ego). Death merely changes the form of the body. Human body does not retain its original form or shape and changes its shape even in one life with moving times.
    • Atman Atman resides within a body of any living thing, be it a human, an animal or a tree. means ‘Eternal Self’ or ‘Real self’. It is often referred to as ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’ beyond human body or illusions/false ego of human mind. It indicates the true self or essence, which underlies human’s existence. Atman (soul) is the spiritual identity of human body. Body gets destroyed, but not the “Atman”. Like Parmatma, Atman is also eternal, being the integral part of the Supreme.
    • Principle of Reincarnation Hinduism believes in the Immortality of the soul, and in the ‘Principle of Reincarnation’. It means that the soul is a deathlessness entity. After death it is reborn again and again depending on the deeds of previous birth till it attains salvation. After several births and deaths of body, one can reach a state of immortality. But once it attains Salvation, it is not born again.

Ultimate purpose of human life, Moksha/Salvation – The ultimate purpose of human life is Immortality/Salvation/Moksha, get rid of the pangs of rebirth and death. In order to set itself free from the cycle of multiple rebirths and deaths, one should do follow the path of ‘Dharma’. Here dharma means ‘Sadachaar’ (good behaviour) by keeping purity and sincerity in  ‘Aachar’, ‘vichaar’, and ‘karma’ (thinking, behaviour and action). Good deeds of human can help to reach up to the stage of salvation. One needs to practice continuously detachment by restraining one’s senses from drifting towards the objects of worldly pleasures, (materialism and consumerism). A balanced mindset is required to practice detachment and keeping oneself away from illusions or irresistible lure for worldly pleasures.

  • Avatars to save humanity from evil – Hinduism believes in Avatars. According to Hindu mythology, the Supreme power visits the earth from time to time in some form of Avatars to save humanity from evil. So far these Avatars have visited the earth – Mats avatar (fish), then to Kurma (tortoise)); Varaha (wild boar); Narsimha (half animal half mam); Vamana (dwarf); Parushrama with axe (tool); Rama, the Maryadapurusha; Krishna the playful and serious avatar; and ninth, Budha the enlightened one. The world is awaiting for the 10th avatar in the form of Kalki, a genetically supreme bionic man. (‘Know your religion through its philosophy’ by Prakash Shesh, the Speaking tree, TOI, January 14, 2016, p. 20)

Righteousness always wins over Evil – The morale of the stories about Avtaars is that Righteousness always wins over Evil. It inspires and encourages masses to follow the path of virtue and keep themselves away from evils. Different rituals, traditions, and customs give to the people, a purpose to live for and follow the path of righteousness.

  • Teachings of Ramayana and Mahabharata – Mahabharata and Ramayana are two great Hindu epics, which commands the respect and attention of an average Indian. These Epics speak on everything, be it in the sphere of spirituality or material well-being – on keeping good relationship with other humans, staying healthy, overcome social evils, improve concentration and mannerism, which are relevant even today. The basic principles of these Epics  guides people to lead a worthwhile quality of life here in this world. And after death enable the soul to make its onward journey by improving the prospects re-births.  

Teachings of Bhagvat Gita – It is amazing that Bhagwat Gita, a book as old as 5000 years is still relevant even in the  age of Artificial Intelligence(AI) of 21st century. Teachings of Gita give an exercise to human minds in the same manner as yogic exercises to bodies. It has solutions to all doubts, fears, dilemmas, problems etc. and guide humans to live a happy, peaceful and prosperous life. Following five basic principles of Gita can change human life positively –

  1. Focus on your action and not on the results – Focus on your action and not its results. “Karm Karo, Fal ki Chinta mat Karo”. (Verse 47, Chapter 2, Bhagwat Gita) Because results are not solely dependent on your efforts. Result depends on other factors as well like other people, circumstances or atmosphere etc. If results are not as per your expectations, pain is unavoidable.
  2. Do not resort to inaction – When the work is hard and burdensome,  never lose interest and attach oneself to inaction (निष्क्रियता).
  3. Be Fearless – The biggest fear in our lives is “Fear of Death”. Fear creates deterrence in whatever you wanted to do it in life. Only body is destroyed, Soul is glorious, fearless, free from old age and immortal.
  4. Eliminate fear of death from your mind. (Verse 20, Chapter 2, Bhagwat Gita)
  5. Gateways to hell/unhappiness – There are three gateways to unhappiness – Lust, Greed and Anger, abandon these three completely as it disturb the balance of mind and soul, and leads to self-destruction. 

Following are lessons of Gita give an exercise to human minds in the same manner as yogic exercises to bodies:

  • Detach from illusions and attach to Divine. Give priority to divinity. See divinity all around.
  • Have enough knowledge/intellect/devotion to see the truth as it is.
  • Attachment is the cause of all distress.
  • Detachment is the way to progress and prosperity.
  • The attainment of True Knowledge is the ultimate aim of all such deeds.
  • Fight for right cause in life is the ultimate solution to all problems.
  • Live a simple life-style that matches your vision.
  • Always remain steady.
  • Renounce the ego and attain salvation leading to unending peace and happiness.
  • Every act should be done in moderation.
  • True Knowledge is far Superior to the knowledge of the Sacred Scripts.
  • Stress is on Detachment and Equanimity. Happiness and unhappiness should be considered alike. For achieving detachment or renunciation, Knowledge and intellect play an important role.
  • Concept of Right And Wrong, according to Indian philosophy – Right and wrong are relative terms. The idea of sin and virtue, good and evil are creations of the mind. They reflect the needs of society and therefore bear not much value. Truth lies somewhere in between various differing opinions. Yesterday’s Right/truth/Justice may be today’s wrong/falsehood/injustice, and today’s right tomorrow’s wrong. Truth is like a chameleon in reverse. It always assumes colors other than those of its environment. People chase truth/justice without embracing it. To understand it one needs a balanced approach. A rational opinion about it can be formed only by keeping these four variables in mind:
  • Desha (region) – The culture of a place, in which a person is born,
  • Kala (time) -The period of historical time, in which a person
  • is born,
  • Shrama (Effort)-The efforts required of him at different stages of Life,
  • Guna (Quality)-Aptitude and innate psycho-biological traits.
  • Positive and negative Mindset of human beings (Gunas) – Hindu philosophy believes that the whole world of activities is a result of complex intermixing of three basic qualities of human nature Satva, Rajas and Tamas. When born, a person, is like a clean slate – pure, formless, undifferentiated Consciousness. What s(he) writes on it, depends on the relative strengths of three Gunas –Tamas, Rajat and Sattva. The categorization in these three groups is usually depend on degree of attachment-detachment, austerity, Purity/cleanliness of body, speech and mind, charity and positive or negative thinking.

‘Satva’ Guna (Positive mindset) – ‘Satva’ is associated with peace purity, knowledge with clarity in  thinking positive attitude and consistency in actions. (1) Fearlessness, (2) Cleanliness of mind and body, (3) Devotion towards God, (4) Acquisition of true knowledge, (5) Suppression of the senses, (6) Study of scriptures, (7) Recitation of God’s name, (8) Taking pain in following one’s own code of conduct, (9) Simplicity of mind, inner self and senses, (10)Non-violence in all its forms, (11) Speaking Truth in a pleasant manner, (12) Absence of anger, (13) Non attachment, (14) Peace of mind, (15) Not speaking ill of others, (16) Kindness towards all, (17) Forgiveness, (18) Patience, (19) Lack of ego and (20) Feeling ashamed while doing something against Laws or Traditions. “Sat” or “austerity is required for pursuing knowledge,

‘Rajas Guna’ (Having power to control people and events)) –‘Rajas’ is associated with passion/lure for comfort, often makes an individual, self-centered.  Rajas represents itself by power, passion, action, energy and motion. Rajas Guna drives people towards passion, power, ambition, and love for comfortable living. It often makes an individual self-centred. It does not care much about any particular value. It can contextually be either good or bad. 

‘Tamas’ (Negative mindset) – Individuals with Tamas or negative thinking are the victims of ignorance, sloth carelessness. It usually suppresses good qualities and leads towards `Adharma (immoral behaviour, harsh words), Alasya (laziness) and Agyan (ignorance, Lack of knowledge). Tamas/negative mindset manifests (1) Ego, Ahankar (2) cruelty/Inhuman behaviour, (3) Injustice (Anyay), (4) Lust (5) Over- pride (mad) (6) Greed (Lobha) (7) Anger (Krodha), (8) . Jealousy, (9) Attachment (Moh), (10). Selfishness (Swartha).

Persons with negative mindset are usually responsible for different kinds of social evils, exploitation and miseries of the people. Most of the time, they make their own life quite stressful, as there is a gap between expectations and reality. In order to keep oneself away from negative mindset, one should first ‘Think’ before taking any step, then ‘evaluate’, and try to be Creative and confident, while setting goals.

Inter-play of the three qualities determine personality of a person – Inter-play of the three qualities determine the tendencies, potentialities, limitations, traits and character of different individuals and give them direction for action. The material world through senses attracts human mind towards a mirage/illusion or attachment. Many a times, such attachment leads to impurities. Freedom of mind from attachment/illusion is consciousness. In order to become civilized, one has to keep in control and observance of cleanliness – of body, speech and mind. The purpose of human life should be to overcome Tamas, refine Rajat and inculcate Sattva.

  • Hinduism provides legitimacy to Principle of Varna -Hinduism has provided legitimacy to the Varna followed by Jati-Pratha, which has prepared a political and social framework for Hindu society. Principles of Varna, Dharma and Karma are the Foundation pillar of Hinduism. Together these principles have given  a sustainable social structure and a distinct identity to Hindu society.
  • Principle of VarnaPrinciple Of Varna has provided continuity and stability despite numerous foreign invasions, migrations and assimilation of various groups.

Division of Labour/work according to Attitude and aptitude – According to Hindu philosophy, individuals differ from each other in natural endowments, intelligence, aptitudes, attitudes, skills, personal needs and other innate characteristics.  Their physical strength, mental capacity and moral aspirations, like and dislikes, inclination and expectations of everybody in the society are not the same. Therefore, Principle of Varna assigns different activities to different sections of society according to its natural endowment/inclinations, qualities attitudes, aptitudes, Gunas (psychological characteristics), personal needs and other innate characteristics.

The doctrine of Varna distributes and organizes systematically the performance of various functions; provides  a quality of life to its people; defines roles, duties and vocations for different sections of society on the basis of their attitude and aptitude roles; organizes inter-relationship of various sections of society. This way, Principle of Varna has organized and distributed  performance of various functions systematically needed for the survival of society.

Manu’s classification of Hindu society is was based on the principle of ‘Division of Labour’. He has grouped the people into four Varnas according to their attitude and aptitude –

  • Brahmins (Learners) – Persons who  have had qualities of “Sat”/“austerity (needed for pursuing knowledge) are put in Brahmin’ category. They are assigned the job of guiding the society in right direction. Ancient Greek philosophers have called such persons ’Philosopher King’.
  • Kshatriyas (Warriors) – Action-oriented, courageous/brave persons having quality of ‘Rajas’ have been given the charge are  put in Kshatriyas group. Their job was to exercise power and to protect the whole society from internal or external aggressions. Ancient Greeks called them ‘Warriors’.
  • Vaishyas (Business men) Business men inclined towards trade are put in Vaishyas group.
  • Shudras (Workers) – Persons needing guidance of above three groups for doing any  job have been put in Shudras category.

Numerous castes and sub-castes emerged within each Varna – As population increased and more and more indigenous and foreign social groups were merged into the Hindu-fold, Vedic Varna system gave way to  Jaati-pratha. Assimilation of various social groups, indigenous and foreign, (be it racial, immigrants, locals, tribal, professionals or other groups) into Hindu-fold, gave birth to Jaati -pratha.  Each new group coming into its fold was assigned  a new separate caste identity. The way of living and culture of each identity has been carefully nurtured and preserved.

Basic difference between Varna and Jaati – Initially, according to Smritis one fitted into a particular Varna not by birth. It was based on  qualities and deeds. But membership of jaati was by birth. With the passage of time, circumstances and convenience tended to make even Varnas hereditary. 

‘Varnas’ were never more or less than four and always remained the same. Numerous castes and sub-castes emerged within each Varna. Castes had its ethnic roots as denoted by Jati and a ritualistic and symbolic significance in its Varna aspect. Each caste found its place under a Varna on the basis of their nature of work, its being ritually clean or unclean and amount of self-discipline, they exercised.

“Castes” have its ethnic roots as denoted by Jati and a ritualistic and symbolic significance in its “Varna” aspect. Almost all castes have found their place under a Varna on the basis of their nature of work, its being ritually clean or unclean and amount of self-discipline, they exercise.

Modern India – As against this system, modern India has stratified Indian society into five unbridgeable watertight compartments – Upper castes or caste Hindus, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Backward Castes and Minorities. Employment/occupation/profession now depend on number of formal degrees/ diplomas/certificates. Jobs are divided into white-collared jobs, blue-collared jobs and menial/derogatory jobs. It is the contribution of Western world, a post-industrial-revolution development.

  • Principle ofDharma” Scholars have repeatedly commented that the word ‘Dharma’ is not translatable in English. Words like law righteousness, ethics, morality all together are not enough to give justice to the meaning of Dharma. The principle of Dharma embraced within itself religion, law, duty, righteousness, morality and conformity with truth”. Along with its being a religious idea, Dharma was also a principle and a vision of an organic society, in which all participating members were independent, yet their roles complimentary. 

Dharma guides individuals to remain true and to fulfil their duties earnestly, enables different groups to act cooperatively. It  regulates the behaviour and inter-personal relationship of its component members within the society. It provides universal, practical and eternal guidelines to be followed in personal life, family life, community life, social life, professional life and national life.

Common Dharma for all – Principle of Dharma has given universal, practical and eternal guidelines to be followed in personal life, family life, community life, social life, professional life and national life. All the people in the society are governed by Dharma at all times, be it a ruler or ruled, parent or child, teacher or student or man or woman. There is a common Dharma, which is applicable to all. These are the norms and values of good conduct, which lead individuals to the path of righteousness.

Specific and separate Dharma for different sections of society – Principle of Dharma also specifies role, duties, privileges and restrictions of each role separately. It prescribes a separate Dharma appropriate to each Varna, each class and each stage of human life. Separate Dharma for different communities is based on inherent qualities, aptitude and potentialities of its members. The Dharma of Brahmin was not that of a Shudra, or the Dharma of a student not that of an old man.

Follow Swadharma – ‘Dharma’ prepares an atmosphere to inspire people to do their own duties, ‘Swadharma’ honestly. Following one’s own Dharma gives everybody else opportunities to live and prosper socially, professionally, economically, and spiritually according to their own rhythm.

Will power to follow the path of ‘Swadharma’ – Moulding life according to Swadharma is not an easy task. It requires will power and a strong character. Therefore, persons with weak faculties finds it difficult to observe Dharma. Dharma along with Karma was the means, through which a person approached the desired goal of life, the ultimate aim being salvation from the cycle of birth and death.

Hindu culture assured people that proper performance of Swadharma with honesty and sincerity assures both, worldly honour and spiritual happiness. Proper assignment and performance leads the whole society to live quality of life. While performing Swadharma without hesitation, a person gets earns a rightful place in the society and a feeling of being an integral part of the society, not an outsider to it. Proper performance of Swadharma with honesty and sincerity assures both, worldly honour and spiritual happiness.

Principle of Karma with Detachment – Whereas, Western cultures have grown around the idea of `rights‘, forming the natural foundation of human relationship, Hinduism evolves around the concept of “duty, tolerance and sacrifice”. Emphasis on duty usually makes a person or a group humble and tolerant. It makes the inequalities, prevalent in the society, tolerable to an average Indian. It ensures social harmony and prevented rivalries and jealousies. Its helps people to adjust themselves, without much difficulty, to most drastic changes. India has achieved its freedom in a peaceful manner under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. Hindus are basically filled with a sense of duty.

Karma, the Central Theme of Gita – Karma is the central theme of Bhagwat Gita. The Philosophy of Gita is simple. It guides people ‘Rely on one’s own Laws and Traditions. Do one’s own duties/deeds without hesitation and with complete devotion towards God, and achieve what is generally achieved by such deeds. 

Together these principles of Varna, Dharma and Karma have prepared an atmosphere of co-existence for different sections of its society – be it ruler or ruled, rich or poor; and  have held together different castes and communities having diverse languages and practices for generations – thus making unity in diversity a reality.

  • Work is WorshipHindu Philosophy teaches that Work is Worship. Society assigns everybody a specific task to do as per one’s own karmas and destiny. A person earns a rightful place in the society by doing his assigned duties honestly. While performing one’s duty/action, one gets a feeling  that he is an integral part of the society, and not an outsider to it.

One should do without hesitation the duties/deeds assigned to him/her  by the society and with complete devotion towards God, and achieve what is generally achieved by such deeds. 

  • No work superior or inferior – All kinds of work are worth pursuing and respectable, if done in its sincerely. No work is superior/high or humble/inferior/derogatory/ or waste. Any work done in its true spirit could never be derogatory or a waste. The work of a priest, warrior, manual worker or yogi, all are equally important for the society and are, therefore, right, respectable and worth pursuing. The idea of white-collared jobs, blue-collared jobs and menial/derogatory jobs is the contribution of Western world, emerged especially after industrial Revolution.
  • Every act should be done in moderation – Gita teaches that control over mind is necessary for purification of Soul. And for purification of Soul, one should fulfil the duties assigned to him in proper manner and in moderation.
  • Detachment – Work should be done with detachment.Dedicate the results of all your deeds to God. Detachment is the key to get control over restless mind. An individual should feel that he is the doer of the deeds. With detatchment, one can reach beyond the scope of the three qualities, saintly, worldly, and lethargic.
  • Work, not for external award – Work is done not so much for its external reward, but for the intrinsic satisfaction towards realization of ‘Swadharma’. Society assigns each one a specific duty as per one’s own karmas and destiny. Everyone should do His/herthe duties/deeds assigned to him without hesitation and with complete devotion towards God, and achieve what is generally achieved by such deeds.
  • Sanatan Dharma (Principle of Eternal Values) of Hinduism  – The term ‘Sanatan means eternal/beyond time and ‘Dharma’ means duty.It is said that things perfected by nature are better and more sustainable than anything else. The whole scheme of Sanatan Dharma is in conformity with time and forces of nature. All its instructions are in tune with the nature. It nurtures  basic instincts of human beings over nature. takes care of the basic physical, mental and spiritual needs of the human beings at different stages of life.

Sanatan Dharma is universal, eternal, applicable to all human beings  irrespective of race, caste or creed. Its norms of conduct takes care of their basic physical, mental and spiritual needs at different stages of life, which are as relevant even today, as it was earlier in ancient times. It attaches importance to social values. Its norms of conduct at different stages of life. are as relevant even today as it was earlier.  

Based on the experiences and deep study – Many learned sages and intellectuals, belonging to different communities at different point of time did  a deep study of natural instincts, inherent attributes, natural behavioural pattern and felt needs (physical, mental and spiritual) of humans at different stages of life. On basis of their experiences and deep thinking,  they formulated a compact life package, known as ‘Sanatan Dharma’.

  • According to Sanatan Dharma, for living life fruitfully and aging gracefully, every  individual passes through four stages of life. At each stage of life, he performs different roles like role of a student or a house-holder. It tells clearly what are the rights and duties of a person at what time and what is right age to study or enter into the real life.

Four stages of human-life – According to it, there is one pre-stage followed by four stages in human life. Different stages of human life are known as Ashrams, which are as following :-

  • Pre stage of Balyavastha or Childhood – First 5 or 6 years of infants’ and toddlers’ life is the pre-stage of learning. It is the best period of human life. This is the time for a child to learn and understand the first lesson of real life, about human relationships and mannerism. During this  period, the ground for  learning is prepared at home under the full-time attention, loving care and guidance of his parents. Constant interaction between parents and children prepares an atmosphere to develop child’s mental and physical faculties and character. It is the responsibility of parents to shape the attitude of their children. Obedience is expected from child.
  • Brahmacharya Ashram, First stage of human life – After Balyavasha (childhood) and beforeentering into real life is the right time for learning. The duty of young and grown up child is to learn and acquire knowledge.  It is a period of strict discipline. Students should lead a simple life. They should not bother much for worldly pleasures/comforts., They should work hard and devote their full time to acquire knowledge. It is teacher’s job to impart knowledge, shape attitudes, cultivate skills and build work habits, so that when they enter into real life environment after completing their course, they are better adjusted. Teachers should help students to develop their mental and moral faculties and guide them to get control over their senses, mind and intellect. At this stage society rears, protects and gives its best as heritage to coming generation.
  • “Grahasthashram/life of a householder” – Of all the Ashrams (stages) Grihasthashram has been given a high place of honour. Giving maximum importance to it shows that Indian philosophers and Epic writers attached great importance to social values.

During second phase of life, a person enters into the real life and joins work-force. It is the most energetic period of human life. As a householder, one raises family and enjoys the  married life. He gets a real ground to utilize one’s intellectual and physical capabilities. He works for financial and material success, get involved in economic activities.

  • Rights – This is the time to enjoy life fully and fulfil all his desires and dreams, with emphasis on – Dharma (piety, morality, duties), Artha (wealth, health, means of life), Kama (love, relationships, emotions) and Moksha (liberation, freedom, self-realization).
  • Duties – Householders are directly or indirectly in contact with the whole society. It is their duty to make direct contribution to the society, in consistent with the capacity, dictates of their knowledge and conscience. They are responsible to take care of their dependents, to look after the management, and the needs of  other three Ashramas, or financially help the people of other three Ashrams 

Dependents include elders, children, members of extended family, educational institutions and strangers in need of help. 

  • Third Stage of life, Vanaprastha Ashram – Grihathashram is conceptually followed by Vanaprastha Ashram. At this stage, running after luxurious life style or material success is not the aim. After fulfilling familial liabilities, time comes to start to lead a retired life, to start process of withdrawal, to delegate authority to next generation, start process of detachment from familial bonds and renunciation of worldly pleasures should start.. It is the time for ‘Simple living and high thinking’, to start process of withdrawal, delegation of authority to next generation, detachment from familial bonds and renunciation of worldly pleasures. 

Elders can provide extended care, to help in taking decisions, maintaining discipline within their respective groups. Time can be utilized by doing social service like helping and taking care of poor, helpless members of society like widows, destitute or weak. Spare time can be spent in contemplation or attending spiritual discourses..

  • Fourth Stage of life, Sanyas (renunciation) – At this stage, a person is completely free from any social obligation. It is a time for complete detachment, resignation and renunciation. to prepare oneself to leave this world and go to an unknown world. Realization of spirituality and wisdom is the aim.

Earlier, when human life was not so complicated and men were closer to nature, people could follow the principles of Sanatan Dharma without much difficulty. With the erosion of moral values and life becoming more and more complex, it became difficult for people to practice it.

  • Knowledge, a never ending process (‘Neti’, ‘Neti’) Vedas tell that creation and quest for knowledge is a constant process, without any beginning or an end. It is a never ending process (‘Neti’, ‘Neti’). Indian  Sages (Rishis and Munies) believed that even Vedas are not the end for quest for knowledge or prescribes any final absolutes.

According to Gita, Senses are superior to the body, Mind is superior to the Senses and Knowledge or intellect is superior to the Mind. Knowledge is better than Abhyas (practice), Meditation is better than Knowledge. Renunciation of the fruits of action is still better than Meditation as peace immediately follows such renunciation.

Knowledge, the key to know the truth – Knowledge is supposed to be necessary for giving Action (Karma) its due meaning, direction and value. It is necessary to know about one’s surroundings or understand what is right or wrong. Ignorance was considered to be leading to futile efforts destroying direction. Hinduism tries to inculcate discipline and sense of direction amongst ignorant masses through rituals, prayers, practices, and customs. But as said earlier it should not be followed blindly without understanding the purpose behind it.

There are choices before human beings – take action with developed mind/intellect or action with weak mind, bridled with desire, based on emotion, impulse, hatred, greed and selfishness. Intellect needs to be developed to make mind rational. Gita prescribes for ‘action’/’deed’ to be combined with intellect (knowledge with positive energies) governed by intellect makes a person calm and content. Knowledge with negative energies quite often leads to agitation/aggression and discontent.

Ignorance leads to futile efforts destroying direction. There are choices before everyone – either to take any action with knowledge and positive attitude or do a deed with ignorant/negative mindset.

  • Self-discipline, self-reliance and self-restraint – Hinduism gives importance to the considerations of self-discipline, self-reliance and self-restraint. It  suggests all social groups or Varnas to lead a self-restraint and self-disciplined life-style in all respects, be it in the matter of daily routine, occupation or inter group relationship. In the past, knowledge, spirituality, morality, hygiene, cleanliness of body and mind (concept of purity and impurity) and usefulness of their work to the society as a whole were the considerations , which determined the social, economic and political status of a group within society vis-a vis other social groups. Purer a varna or caste was, higher it was considered. Greater were the self-restrictions imposed on its behaviour through rituals by the society.

Discipline was inculcated and a sense of direction was given to the general public through infinite variety of rituals, prayers, practices, customs and meditation.

  • Tolerance and acceptance/interdependence Hindu philosophy values interdependence, acceptance and tolerance. Since ages, Hinduism sends messages like ‘Live and let live’, ‘Vasudhaiv-Kutumbakam’ (The whole world is one family) and ‘accept others as they are’, Truth, Ahimsa, peace and non-aggression are imbibed in Indian ethos. It can be seen everywhere in common men’s way of life  in India. People  endure without much protest injustice and unfairness until they are pushed right to the wall. It has prevented its people to exercise coercion, force, violence or aggressions. It is the reason, why it is one of the oldest living culture in the whole world.
  • Tolerance level of Hinduism  – Tolerance is most evident in the field of religion.  Hindu’s faith in an all pervading omnipresent god and multiplicity of god/goddesses as representing some portion of the infinite aspect of the Supreme Being inspires to accommodate people of all faiths.  Hinduism concedes validity to all the religions and does not lay down strictures against any faith or reject any religion or its god as false.  That is why, all the twelve major religions of the world are present and flourishing in India without much hindrance. 

Accepts others as they are – Hinduism values interdependence and accepts other communities as its integral parts.

  1. It accepts that there are different paths leading to God and be humane;
  2. It gives complete liberty to worship any god or goddess of their choice, as well as use their own methods of worship;
  3. It does not impose its own codes of conduct on other faiths;
  4. It is liberal enough to see atheism as a legitimate pursuit.

In the past, Hindus had accepted oppression and exploitation without much protest, while such situations, elsewhere in the world, would have led to bloody revolutions. Intolerance of people elsewhere in the world had compelled the people either to work under the threat of a whip or led to bloody revolutions as had happened in ancient Greece, Rome or other European countries. However, tolerance in India had kept on adapting itself to changing times and had prevented people from taking up the path of violence. It is continuously internalizing the changes and has kept on adapting itself to changing times. India has entered the modern era without any cultural break.

Area where tolerance is harmful – Even today, the people are tolerating the criminalization of politics, corruption, scams and scandals and inefficient governance without much protest. Governance of the nation is one such area, where tolerance is harmful, because it does not only hinder the development, but also pushes the nation backwards. Hindus have not raised their voice against inefficiency in administration, corruption, scandals, scams, oppression or exploitation by powerful lobbies so far. They have tolerated even criminalization of politics without much protest.  Elsewhere in the world, such situations would have led to strong protests/bloody revolutions.

  • Hinduism a wonderful example of assimilation and Inclusiveness – More than anywhere else in the world, India holds a multitude of thoughts, processes them and practices them. There has been co-existence of varied belief, pattern and thought due to inter-mixing and cultural mingling.

Adopted the path of assimilation – Beauty of Hinduism lies in the way, it has assimilated numerous social groups coming from different parts of the world at different points of time in waves immigrants, locals, tribal, professionals or others – into its mainstream unlike Islam or Christianity.

No conversion – It does not believe in conversion or imposing its beliefs, practices and customs on others. Hindu religion has neither repulsed any trend vehemently, nor allowed others to sweep its own established culture off the roots.

Caste-system used as a mechanism for inclusion of other groups – Caste system assigned each incoming new group a separate caste identity. Society remained stable, while offering a place to a new community. The system neither disturbed its existing internal social order nor prevented any new group to develop itself. Without any conversion, caste system made new groups its integral part. It never tried to annihilate their faith, originality, internal order, customs, culture or language. Instead, it gave all incoming groups freedom to prosper/make changes into their systems according to their internal rhythm.

III Caste system 

Don Martindale has described caste as “the system of social life, in which Hinduism was expressed. …  Caste and Hinduism succeeded in doing in India, what no state, no conqueror and no economy was able to do – the establishment of a single unified system of society throughout the whole of India (accommodating numerous semi-autonomous communities arising at many times and in many places), a system of society, which was able to comprise a greater range of local differences in a single system than any society has previously accomplished.” Caste is unique Indian institution upheld by a complex cultural ideology.

Caste-system is inseparably related to Hinduism by traditional customs, values and systems. It is having both religious and social sanction behind it. In the present understanding of caste system, element of caste is dominant and a system has been considerably suppressed. Castes has its ethnic roots as denoted by Jati, and a ritualistic and symbolic significance in its Varna aspect.

Meaning of the term caste – The term “caste” was unknown in ancient India. The terms ‘Varna and jaati’ were used in ancient and medieval India to identify different social groups and sub-groups. The term ‘Caste’ has been in use ever since British came to rule India.

The term caste has originated from Portuguese ‘casta’, meaning race, breed, ancestry. Portuguese first used the terms ‘casta’ meaning “breed, race, caste and ‘casta-raça’ meaning ‘unmixed race’. Portuguese observers described that Hindu society in western and southwestern India has divided itself through caste system into different socially ranked occupational groups. In an effort to maintain vertical social distance, these social groups practiced mutual exclusion in matters relating to eating and, presumably, marrying.

Application to Hindu social groups ‘Varna’ and ‘Jaati’ was picked up by English in India 1610s from Portuguese casta. The Latin word for it is castus, meaning “chaste” or purity of breed. Subsequently, British have merged both the terms ‘Varna’ and ‘caste’ into one word ‘cast’ or ‘caste’. Subsequently ‘caste’ has become the established word for the combination of ‘Varna’ and’’jaati’. 

Later on, major European languages (notably Dutch and French) also, ‘caste’ in the same specific sense.  has become established term The term Caste was recorded officially in 1840 for the first time by European colonizers, to mean persons belonging to the same hereditary social group. Instead of using ‘Varna or Jati’ separately, they Since then, the whole scenario about caste was messed up. The meaning and understanding about caste system has been changed drastically. 

Mystified western world – Western world is mystified by amazing pluralities and unique social structure of India based on caste. It is difficult for the western world to understand the role of caste – past or present – in Indian society. Complete localization and unfamiliarity makes it difficult to understand and appreciate fully, caste as a system in its totality and to know the nuances, the nature, role (both in the past as well as in present) and value of caste as a system.

Caste-system is inseparably related to Hinduism by traditional customs, values and systems. The roots of Varna system and Jaati-Pratha are so deep,  that it is virtually impossible to think of India without it. It has been one of the dominant features still running through the entire social fabric of India. Caste has its ethnic roots as denoted by Jati, and a ritualistic and symbolic significance in its Varna aspect.

Meaning of the terms Varṇa (वर्णः) and Jaati – ‘Caste’ has its ethnic roots as denoted by Jati, and a ritualistic and symbolic significance in its Varna aspect. The term “Varna” is a Sanskrit word, which means type, order, colour or class. ‘Jati’ is also a Sanskrit word  meaning ‘Jana’. Membership of ‘Varna’ is based on the attitude aptitude and deeds of a person, whereas by birth, everyone belongs to a Jaati. ‘Jaāti’ refers to thousands of endogamous social groups, sub-groups and sub-sub- groups coming under each Varna, living across the subcontinent. A jati may be divided into exogamous groups based on the same gotras. (Dumont, Louis, 1980, Homo hierarchicus: the caste system and its implications, University of Chicago Press, pp. 66–67)

Origin of Varna and Jaati Pratha (Caste system) in India – The origin of ‘Varna or Jaati’ can-not be found in one single authoritative text like Christian’s “Bible” or Islam’s “Kuran”, nor can it be attributed to one single founder, like Jesus Christ for Christianity or Mohammad Sahib for Islam. It is the development of thousands of years. to develop with the association of numerous social groups into it at different point of time. It started with the arrival of Aryans hereditary kinship and tribal groups in India in waves, from different parts of the world.

Different shades and meaning of caste system with changing times – Caste system has survived the vicissitudes of time, and saved itself by erosion from within and assault from outside. Credit of its prolonged life goes to its adaptability, flexibility and absorptive nature, which has internalized even the alien influences. It has taken different shades and meaning with the changing times and places. Once changed, it never returned to its original form. Such flexibility is not seen in the West. When Christianity broke away from Judaism, it departed totally from the common cultural traditions. 

Wonderful process of assimilation – Wonderful process of assimilation and fusion of different social groups has been a continuous process of the Hindu civilization. It contributed to the cultural richness of Bharat.  All the sects present in India, whether foreign or indigenous, have been influenced greatly by Hindu thinking, caste system, its practices and systems.

Different stages of making and evolution of Varna/casteFollowing are the different stages of the evolution of Varna/caste – 

  • Caste during Ancient period -As Basham has pointed out, Caste system may well be called a natural response of many small and primitive groups of people, who were forced to come to terms, with a more advanced economic and social system. Caste system provided a mechanism, by which numerous discrete tribes, all sorts of groups and associations arising for political, sectarian or other reasons could be internalized and preserved within the whole.
  • Pre-Vedic period – The making of caste system can be traced from the times of pastoral tribal society. Roughly ten millennia ago, people lived  in small migratory groups, living the life-style of wandering “nomadic herdsmen”. These small groups mostly lived in hilly areas, not far from rivers. Tribal communities were nomadic or semi nomadic and egalitarian. They depended on nature for its subsistence.
  • Settled agricultural society – Then came the period of making of the agricultural societies. People started  cultivating land and settled down Gradually pastoral tribal society transformed into a settled agricultural society, confining its activities and life within a small area or territory. Clans and tribes settled permanently in different parts of the country. As reflected in ‘Rigveda’, during early stages of Vedic Age people ceased to be a wandering people, started a settled life.
  • Entry of Aryans – Aryans entered into India in waves from land-side at different points of time. Aryans, after entering into India first conquered its original inhabitants of Northern part of India, colonized and established kingdoms, then Deccan and then south. During the period, it was possible to have high ranks, but not high social classes.
  • Development of structures and systems – Socio-political structures and systems were evolved leisurely over about 2000 years (roughly between 2000 BC to about 600 BC) and kept on coping with the changes slowly, time had brought in.
  • In the beginning people hardly possessed more than what was needed for their subsistence/survival.
  • The practice of cultivation, rise of crafts and iron tools transformed the egalitarian society into fully agricultural and stratified society sometime during 6th century BC.
  • Initially a simple class division was seen in the social structure, i.e. nobility and the ordinary tribesmen. Slowly, possession of land, slaves and hired laborers started. People started producing and possessing more than they needed. The kings collected their surplus yields.
  • The power of kings gradually increased. For regular collection, administrative and religious methods were devised.
  • Varnas and Jaatis (Caste) during Vedic Period – Vedic society is considered as the most advanced civilization in every respect be its social structure or its culture. This was the time when the social structure was taking shape under “Varna System”. Historical time of the origin and slow but steady evolution of Varna system is estimated around 3300–1300 BCE; mature period 2600–1900 BCE. It was the period of beginning of Indus Valley Civilization. Varna system originated and flourished in northern parts of India (on the Indo-Gangetic Plains of the Indian subcontinent) and later on spread throughout India during 1500 BC and 500 BC. Society was relatively egalitarian one. There was no distinct hierarchy of socio-economic classes or castes.

Emergence of “Jaatis” now known as Caste within each Vana – Later on, numerous racial, tribal, occupational and other groups entered in waves into India via land routes from different parts of the world. The assimilation of these migrating social groups into the  main-stream of Hinduism was done through jaati pratha. Each incoming new group was assigned a separate Jaati (caste) name. This way, numerous Jaatis emerged within each Varna. Jaati pratha had not only accommodated and bound migrating social groups into a single cultural system, but gave them full freedom to continue their own culture and way of living and flourish.

To discipline the society, Hinduism now clearly defined rights and duties. Along with all the freedom to flourish within its own soil, Hindu society imposed some restrictions as well. Slowly and steadily developed rules of endogamy, ritual purity, interdependence and hierarchical order of its social units. This way, Hinduism has neither repulsed any trend vehemently, nor allowed others to sweep its established culture off the roots.

  • Castes during Medieval PeriodMany changes took place, during medieval period in the caste system. Turks, Afghans and Mughals continuously invaded India. Invasion of Ghazni (998-1030 AD), and others, the establishment of Slave Dynasty (1206-1290), Khilji Dynasty (1290-1320), Tuglak Dynasty (1320-1412 AD) Sayyed Dynasty (1414-51) Lodi Dynasty (1451-1526) and Mughal Empire (1526 to 1757) continuously pressurized Hindu Social system. Earlier they drained out the wealth of the nation to foreign lands.  But afterwards, they conquered and made India their homeland.

Downfall of Hindu Raj along with decline of traditional Hindu values, imposition of Zaziya on Hindus and intolerance of alien rulers towards their Hindu subjects made it difficult for Hindus to preserve their identity and indigenous culture. Hindu society turned inwards to save their identity. Excesses by rulers resulted in conscious efforts by Hindus to save their identity, values and honour by making caste rules and rituals stricter and more rigidly applied than before[i]. It gave birth to many social evils like Sati Pratha; Dowry, Purdah system or superstitions. Feudalistic attitude, extravagance and luxurious life style of rulers and those at the helm of authority had increased the disparity between the rulers and the ruled.

Despite of all these socio-economic and political changes, the institution of caste was independent of the government’s intervention till medieval period.   It made the Hindu society stable but not static. Traditional decentralized self-regulated systems were the mode for keeping checks and balances in the social life of the country. The influence of caste system was immense on public minds because:-

  • The cultural endowments formed the basis of social status of different Varnas –
  • The ranking of different Varna was not based on wealth or material gains, but on intellectual and spiritual attainments and on self-discipline.
  • As late as the eighteenth century, no all-India hierarchical order of different Varna has taken an all-India character. Generally the position of Brahmins was considered at the top and that of Shudras at the bottom. The Brahmin strongholds were the centres of learning. But in between the two, there was an ambiguity about the status of all the castes, which was acceptable to all concerned in any local area. 
  • This, itself, has given a large element of fluidity to caste system.

Upward mobility was possible for different groups by improving their attitude and mannerism.

  • Close association of caste There was a close association of caste with occupation. As leading sociologists pointed out, in addition to their hereditary occupation, agriculture and army were open and had accommodated all social groups of society – indigenous or alien. The basic qualification for doing any work was mainly having the qualifications needed for that specific job.
    • There was no dearth of employment for aspiring workers.  A substantial labour market existed in agricultural sector. Immense influence  of powerful peasant was a reality of the rural life of Medieval India. Indian peasantry in UP, Bihar and MP were armed.  In fact, non-Kshatriya peasant provided leadership of most armed bands. They were numerically predominant and economically and politically strong at the village level. 
    • Military service was also accessible to anybody, from any strata of society including the lowest in the ritual terms.  There was no discrimination in recruitment and treatment of soldiers of any kind on the basis of caste.  Rajput status was given to soldiers. [Jain Girilal – The Hindu Phenomenon p9, 1994.]
  • Members of any caste group did not exercise monopoly over a profession. It is an established fact of Indian History that Brahmin or even Shudras sometimes became the kings. Khatriyas and Shudra were accepted and revered as philosophers or spiritual teachers.  In order to increase their strength, there were times, when inter caste marriages took place in the past. ]
  • Alternative ideologies and styles of life were available in India. The floating population, consisting groups like Gujjars, Bhattis, Rajput rangers, who remained outside caste system, were so strong, that they terrorized settled agriculturists for centuries. Forests, which competed with arable land in size and importance, till the 18th century, gave shelter and food to large sections of society and served as havens for those in search of escape from society.
  • People of different social-groups enjoyed a large measure of freedom in respect of their internal customs, rituals and life styles. All activities were confined within a small local area, having very little links with the outside world due slower means of transport.  Only merchants visited different distant places.
  • The plurality of society provided automatic checks and balances and controlled the arbitrariness or unbalanced growth of power of any group. Upward mobility was possible for different groups. Sometimes inter-caste marriages were also permitted. [ii]
  • The local societies before British rule used to be self-sufficient mutually `supporting and caring for each other. They were bound together by economic and social ties and had a strong bond of mutual dependence. Local character of society made close interaction and cooperation between different castes, a reality. Traditions and rituals required the participation of all social groups (castes). Even untouchables were assigned important social duties. Harijan women helped all castes at the time of child birth, sweepers beat drums in front of Hindu’s houses or in front of a procession at the time of an important ceremony, village barber spread news, arranged marriages and served food during celebrations.  Occasionally non-Brahmins or Harijans served as priests of temples of goddesses like Sita or Kali, where all castes made offerings.
  • There was not much disparity between different forward or lower castes.  There was hardly any question of all India tyranny of any caste group.  Not a single group was identifiable as very strong-dominating all the others, or as an enemy to defeat.  Laws remained unmodified and flexible with the capacity to adapt to local customs and situations.  People in power and position cared for the lower castes in order to acquire and retain local followers. The system made upper castes generous in matters of food, drinks and loans, when required. The tropical climate of the country compelled the people to the distribution of surplus, as it was difficult to store anything for long. [Sriniwas MN,  Times of India, Dated September 9, 1990, p 6.]
  • Teachings of Bhakti and Sufi saints like Sur, Tulsidas, Chaitnya Mahaprabhu, Nanak, Kabir etc. gave some breathing space to the rigidity of caste system, which suffocated the society during medieval India.

Pr. Rajni Kothari also accepts that till medieval times: –

  • There was a hierarchical social order, through which infinite ambiguities had been accepted, tolerated and regulated.
  • A multi-cultural framework of governance existed, which had restrained hegemonical and majority’s dominating tendencies.
  • A highly flexible ethics code was there, through which constant and continuing distortions, clash of personalities, major paradoxes in elite behaviours and instances of humiliation, acrimony and hypocritical behaviours in the conduct of public affairs were managed.[Times of India, dated July 28, 1997,  p13.]
  • Caste system during Modern Period – Caste system has always been a centre of attention for Westerners, politicians, intellectuals, activists or reformers from other faiths. It has been both defended and opposed vehemently in the political circles of modern India.

During Seventeenth century, many Dutch, Portuguese, French, British and Spanish companies came to India in search of market. Weakening of Islamic power, internal fights among various group leaders and communal unrest gave East India Company success not only in ousting other European companies from India, but also in establishing its rule in India and monopolizing its trade. Once firmly established, the authority was transferred from the Company to the Crown, through the Act of 1858.

After establishing their rule in India, British rulers adopted the policy of “divide and rule”. To keep their power intact, they played off one part against other, Prince  against Princes, Hindus against Muslims, province against provinces and caste against caste. They launched an ideological attack on Hindu practices and caste-system. To them, caste system was “discriminatory,” “iniquitous,” “exploitative,” “oppressive” “barbarous,” “uncivilized” and “highly stratified”. It was responsible for all evil social practices, feudalistic attitude, backward thinking, belief in dogmas and superstitions sustained by a unique set of rituals, and whimsical concept of purity and pollution.

Through Modern education system, British succeeded in disassociating many individuals from their traditional way of living, classical roots and knowledge. With it faded Indian values, philosophies, systems and traditions. It made many Indians to lose their faith in social values and systems. Many leaders like Mahatma Phule, Ambedkar or Gopal Ganesh instilled in the minds of millions of unlettered Hindus, venom against caste-system and the Brahmin community. They also held Caste system responsible for treating lower strata of society as lesser human beings; engaging them in forced labour, unsavoury jobs imposing many restrictions on them; preventing them from joining the mainstream of the society; and the subjugation of lower castes with the help of religion. They regarded untouchability as an inevitable concomitant of caste system.

There was another group of national leaders and reformers, who got alarmed at the erosion of Indian Culture, divisible policies of the rulers, economic loot, political subjugation, racial discrimination, assertion of lordly superiority over the subject on the ground of race, assumption of  haughty exclusiveness, persistent insulting and supercilious behaviour towards all Indians, exclusion of Indians from all places of authority and responsibility and denial of their capacity for self-governance united Indians against British rule. It gave birth to National movement.

Reformers also organized meetings to make ignorant masses aware of the social evils/real issues like superstitions or irrationality in observing rituals blindly. They advised people to stop treating low caste Hindus inhumanly. They advised to give underprivileged sections of society their rightful place in society. The intellectual ferment was strongest in West Bengal, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

In 1928, Raja Ram Mohan Roy founded Brahma Samaj in Bengal. He inspired the people of Bengal, UP, Punjab, Madras and other provinces, to form similar organizations and interpret religion rationally. Prarthana Samaj in Maharashtra (1867), Arya Samaj in Northern India, Rama Krishna Mission, Theosophical Society of India (1879), Dev Samaj in Lahore and Servants of India Society took up the job to awaken the masses. They talked about the greatness of Hindu Vedic culture and about Vedas as the source of all knowledge and truth. Swami Vivekanand founded the Rama Krishna Mission tried to reveal to the world Indian Philosophy and culture. Some reform institutes like Vivekanand’s or Rama Krishna Mission or Theosophical Society of India tried to familiarize the Western World, too, to the charm and graciousness of Indian Culture. Swami Vivekanand gave a call to “Return to Vedas”. He said, “Each nation like each individual has a theme in this life, which is its centre, the principle note, around which every other note comes to form the harmony. If any nation attempts to throw off its national vitality the direction which has become its own through the transmission of centuries the nation dies.”

They advised people not to be swayed away by Western culture. First they should know their own heritage and try to revive what is good in it.

  • Caste system after the Independence – Seventy four years after the Independence, Indians have lost the excuse of blaming the British for anything going wrong. Since 15th August 1947, Independent India is committed to democratic, secular and egalitarian principles as enshrined in the Constitution of India. Preamble of the Indian Constitution promises to secure to all its citizens: JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation. Article 15 of the Constitution prohibits any kind of discrimination on grounds of caste, race, religion, gender or place of birth; Article 16 gives equality of opportunity in matter of public employment, Article 338 creates National commission for Scheduled Castes to safeguard their interests etc.

In the eyes of common-man, Caste a social Institution – General public in Indiastill considers as one of the fundamental social institution – a natural, inevitable unit of society. Family, which is a natural unit of an extended family; Extended family of Kula; Kula of a tribe (Vish); and a tribe of a Jana of Jati (Caste). In a way, all are fundamental social institutions. To them, Caste is a large extended family bonded by same language, customs, thinking and way of living and occupation. It is second only to the family in widening a person’s social radius and in getting importance in his/her private and occupational life.

A person’s relation with members of his caste is closer than with those, belonging to other castes. Caste values, beliefs, prejudices, injunctions as well as distortions of reality are the indivisible part of a person’s psyche and conscience. It makes one feel good and loved, when he lives up to the norms, and anxious and guilty, when he transgresses them. It still provides an individual with social security. To foreigners, Varna/caste system represent the ancient culture in its eternity.

Amendments and legislations to protect people from the rigidities of Caste System – Since Independence, the government has passed a number of amendments in the Constitution and legislations to remove the unreasonable practices developed into the system. Like untouchability is declared a crime. Bonded labour is abolished by law. Civil Rights Act, 1955, aims to eliminate injustice against weaker sections. Amendment to Prevention of Atrocities Act (SCT) 1989 provides for stern punishments for offenses committed against SCT by Upper Castes. Special Courts, under SCT Act, have been established for punishing officials, who are found guilty.

Caste now more liberal in social sphere – With the spread of literacy and growing awareness among masses, Castes system has become less restrictive in social arena. Castes no longer enjoy legal or religious sanctions. Expulsion from castes now means little. Earlier it meant complete social ostracism. Old style of authority and power exercised by caste-elders has already diminished except for a few castes in, rural areas especially in Haryana and Rajasthan. Restrictions or interactions between different castes arising due to considerations for purity and pollution are fading away from public life even from rural areas.

Traditional barriers on marriage, hereditary occupations and commonality are losing its importance. Slowly but steadily, many discriminatory practices and deformities developed in Caste system, while living under alien rule are diminishing. Caste system is now more liberal and less restrictive in social life of the people. Still, caste system is considered problematic. Why? What is now wrong with the caste system? Does fault lies somewhere else? Yes, problem lies in entry of caste into politics.

Entry of Caste System in Politics – Caste system started entering into politics during British rule, who followed the policy of ‘Divide’ the people and ‘Rule’ as long as possible. The seeds sown by colonial rulers flourished in full in Independent India.

Winding up

Hinduism and its Caste system has travelled a very long distance experiencing many ups and downs since then. It has been both defended and opposed over the course of Indian history and up-to the present day. Especially Caste-system has drawn the attention of politicians, intellectuals, activists or reformers from other faiths. It has been interpreted praised, distorted or criticized the system  in the manner, whatever suited to their purpose or according to vested interests of that particular era.  Many changes have taken place in the system as time passed on. Especially during Muslim rule many deformities and rigidities had developed into the system. And during British rule, it has been criticized vehemently. After Independence also there are many political parties and pressure groups all over India, who criticize it strongly. So much and so that there is a section of Indian society, which desires to completely wipe caste system out from Indian scene and create a casteless society.

There is a big difference between caste as a system and casteism, and dreaming of replacing caste based society into a casteless society is almost impossible in near future –

Caste as system – Caste is an organised social institution having many salient features mentioned above. This term is specifically used to refer the social structure of Hindu India. Broadly speaking, the fourfold division of society has been sanctioned in ancient scriptures and said to structure all social relations.

Caste-ism – Generally law follows social changes. But after the Independence, the political leadership in their hurry and enthusiasm, tried to foster social changes through law and paternalistic policies and Plans based on caste rather than on economic criteria, in order to solve the problem of age-old imbalances and cumulative disparities of power, wealth and culture. It led to politicization of Caste-system. There is a section of Indian society, which desires to completely wipe caste system out from Indian scene and create a casteless society.

Is creation of casteless society possible – It is a distant dream because –

  • So far, the supporters of “caste-less society” have not been able to suggest a better alternative of caste system or thought of  support systems and norms needed to substitute caste-system into classless society. They do not even know, how to transform the caste-based Indian society into a classless society.
  • Reluctance of common man – Common men, too, are not willing to experiment new systems. They are reluctant to replace or abandon caste-system – an institution of proven value on trial and error basis. They are not sure about the effectiveness of proposed new systems to be created by the proponents of caste-less society. Therefore, elimination of caste in social life still remains a distant dream.
  • Majority of Hindus wish for rational reforms in the already existing system Most of the Indians understand that electoral politics has given a life to casteism. That is why they wish to make improvements in the tried and tested old system by removing deformities developed into it with time. A change is good for the growth of a society. But changes must be based on constant interpretation of past experiences and opinions, present requirements and existing ground realities of the place and future prospects.

Politicization of Caste System – Though the entry of Caste and Community in politics began during British rule, under their policy to ‘Divide’ the people and ‘Rule’ as long as possible. But the seeds sown by colonial rulers flourished in full in Independent India. How?

  • Ossification of caste-system – ‘Caste’ has become a bye-word for Indian politicians. Narrow loyalties of caste and religion are encouraged in political arena. Also with the spread of education and awareness, rising aspirations of people and demands of different social groups has created added problem.
  •  Caste as easiest and powerful weapon in the hands of politicians – For almost all  Political leaders, caste is the easiest and most powerful tool to sway public opinion emotionally and to create a large vote bank for themselves. It may be called ossification of caste-system fallen into the hands of power brokers and vote guzzlers.
  • Emergence of Political identities – For political and governance purposes, the government has divided Indian population in most insensitive manner into  following unbridgeable groups – Upper castes, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled tribes, Other Backward Class and Minorities. Sectional interests are being promoted on caste or communal basis shamelessly.
  • Sub-castes and Sub-sub-castes joined hands to increase their numerical strength – Such an official division of castes has grouped together and increased the numerical strength of lower strata of Hindu society. There emerged many powerful and assertive pressure groups amongst so called Scheduled castes and Backward Class to pursue their sectional interests.
  • Beneficiary castes stick to their caste identity – So-called lower-castes are  more tenacious about their caste-identity than the higher. So that they can continue their preferential status in matter of education, jobs and other facilities offered by the government from time to time.
  • Caste Hindus side-lined – The voice of upright and honest citizens, irrespective of their caste or community, is being continuously throttled mercilessly. In present day vote-bank politics based on game of numbers, it is very easy now for the pursuers of political power to side-line them.
  • Casteism giving rise to Sub-cultures – The combination of casteism and communalism has generated sub-cultures like caste-ism, favouritism, and lure for easy money, nepotism, parochialism, communalism, regionalism etc. Bigoted sentiments and irresponsible comments are spreading in-discipline and agitation in the society.
  • Increased inter-caste and intra-caste rivalry – Inter-caste and intra-caste, inter-community and intra-community and inter-tribal and intra-tribal rivalries have increased in order to get more space caste-wise in the corridors of power.

Paternalistic policies of Government – Entry of caste in politics started with the electoral politics and with successive governments initiating some of its economic policies and practices, based on caste rather than on economic criteria. The argument, that these policies are just to uplift of submerged sections of society has led to casteism. The paternalistic policies for bringing the submerged sections of the society into mainstream and creating a casteless society has not yielded the desired results, because-

  • These policies are devised by self-proclaimed leaders and mostly administered by bureaucrats, who follow the dictates of leaders of the political party in power.
  • Plans are not rooted in local priorities or skills.
  • Selection of the beneficiaries’ castes   is biased, It often depends on patronage networks of those, who have money or political power.
  • So far, it has mostly benefitted the rural elite or creamy layer of the beneficiary castes.

Unfortunately, instead creating a better future, paternalistic policies of government have generated many complications. General public do understand that it is not because of caste system, but because of circumstances that has pushed millions away from the mainstream. Suffering of lower strata of society is mainly because of centuries old enslavement, suppression or ostracism. But  Deteriorated condition of most of such individuals, not of the whole caste has stopped growth of their personality and made them dependent on powerful lobby of society for their livelihood.

Humanitarian obligation to empower the submerged sections of society – No doubt, it is a humanitarian obligation of any civilized society to uplift and empower its submerged sections. Generally law follows social changes. But after the Independence,  Political leadership of India, in their hurry and enthusiasm to end age-old imbalances and cumulative disparities of power, wealth and culture, have tried to foster social changes through law.  Their aim was to create a casteless secular society. But, in the process knowingly or unknowingly, they have encouraged Caste-ism and communalism.

Recently, many reformers and religious/spiritual institutions are focusing their attention on community development. Many self-help groups (NGOs) have emerged all-over India. They bypass the government mechanisms and go straight communities. Wherever and whenever harnessed properly, efforts of such self-help groups have yielded rich dividends. For example the Parsi and Christian communities, institutions run by Veerashaivya Mutts of Karnataka, Ramakrishan Mission, Radhaswami Satsang, Satya Sai Baba, Sadhu Vasvani and many others are practising community based approach for the development of humanity. They provide far better municipal, civic, educational, and medical services than the government.

Conclusion

  • Both Hinduism and its caste system have not become weak or obsolete in social arena even today. Many  ideological attacks have been launched on Hinduism and its caste system from time to time.  But so far, both have not only survived   the vicissitudes of time and saved itself from erosion from within or assault from outside, but have become stronger every time.  Still, both these institutions give present Indian society a distinguished identity and a solid social structure with a system of thought, a way of life, and sense of direction.,
  • The roots of Hinduism and  its ‘Varna/jati-Pratha’, now known as caste system, are so deep that it is virtually impossible to think of India without Hinduism and its caste system. Caste-system is inseparably related to Hinduism by traditional customs, values and systems. Hinduism and caste system is going strong in India.
  • Caste system associated with Hinduism has acted as a major force, through which Hindus retained their cultural identity, while living under an alien political order, whether it was Mughal, Portuguese or British.  It was the major force for the failure of Islam, Christianity and other religions to make headway in India even after mass conversion.
  • It is not the malice of castes-Hindus, but the circumstances, that have pushed individuals from lower strata of society away from the mainstream. Suffering from centuries old enslavement, suppression and ostracism deteriorated severely the condition of lower strata of society, stopped growth of their personality and made them dependent on others for their livelihood.
  • In-spite of all the accelerated changes in the society due to modernization, technological advancement, Westernization and Globalization of Indian society and the tough times it faced so far, Hinduism and its caste system have  survived and saved itself.  Whenever, it was on decline, it not only re-emerged, but re-emerged with greater force.
  • It is a humanitarian obligation of any civilized society to uplift and empower the submerged sections of society. Generally law follows social changes. But in India, after the Independence, in order to the political leadership in their hurry and enthusiasm, tried to bring social changes through law. 

At present, the whole atmosphere is in a state of turmoil. Economy of the nation is in a critical condition. Technology has advanced to such an extent, that phones are wireless; cooking is fire-less; cars are key-less; food is fat-less; tyres are tubeless; and tools are cordless. But along with it, main organs of the Government  Political institutions are clueless and almost paralyzed because of corruption; leaders are shameless; masses are helpless; youth are jobless; relations are meaningless; feelings are heartless; education is valueless; attitude is careless, and children are manner-less. Modernity has ignited the desire for position, name and possession. . People are gradually losing faith in traditional values and systems. Even institution like family has lost its sheen. It is quite a tough job for India to cope with the new challenges. Traditional living has been like an anchor, keeping the boat in safe harbour. Now that the anchor has gone and the boat is at the mercy of wild waves on a stormy ocean.

People like C. Rajagopalachari think that If there is honesty in India today, any hospitality, any charity…. any aversion to evil, any love to be good, it is due to whatever remains of the old faith and the old culture.

At present, when people are getting away from their roots, Hinduism can make their feet firmly grounded on earth and  instil right values in them. Its values and traditions give to the people, a purpose to live for and ideals to be achieved. Only after raising oneself from ignorance, a person could be able to understand the greatness of the Indian value system. Like a jeweller, one could spot out gems from among worthless pebbles.  A knowledgeable person could pick up knowledge and leave the undesired obsolete elements developed in it with passage of time. 

Modern India is desperate to pick up the lost threads of its true culture, and beliefs. It has to create an atmosphere, where different identities can once again live together in harmony and people can say proudly “we belong to a nation known as India, Hindustan, and Bharat”.


[i]            Basham, Wonder That Was India, p51-52.

          **********

March 24, 2021 Posted by | General, Social and political values and systems | 1 Comment

Reservations in Government services in India?

 “Authority without wisdom is like a heavy axe without an edge.” Anne Bradstreet

“Work is worship. There is no substitute for hard-work”

INTRODUCTION ­

Biggest experiment of Twentieth century – Policy of Reservations in government jobs is one of the biggest experiments in the history of Twentieth Century. It is a very sensitive issue. It was started to uplift the submerged sections of Indian society, to protect their rights and to overcome the cumulative disparities of power, wealth and culture existed among various sections of society. From its very nature, the policy is discriminatory and exclusive. It empowers state authorities to give preference to one or more groups in the society to exclusion of others and encroach on domain of right to ‘equality to all’. Of late, it has become a source of considerable controversy, as it also involves emotional feelings of people.

“Reservation in Government services” – Reservations in government services involves two contradictory principles – one, the principle of “Efficiency in administration” and the other the principle of “Social justice”. Reservation Policy aims at improving the lot of backward sections of society and empowering them for a better future. For a successful administration the keynote is efficiency, which means right people on right positions at right time.

An efficient administration can provide convenience to the public at large, and attain the developmental and welfare goals of the nation within time and cost parameters. It could secure maximum results with minimum labour and resources. However, Reservation policy suggests, as understood by Indian authorities, to appoint less- qualified persons on the crucial positions of power structure by relaxing the standards and fixing up a separate quota for each of its weaker sections.

Issues – The question arises, is it possible to find out a way, which can keep a balance between the two contradictory principles? Is it not desirable to make weaker sections strong and eligible first and then facilitate their entry into such services of the nation? How can a capable and confident team from amongst vast majority of backward people be prepared to shoulder responsibilities of administration judiciously?

What is Reservation Policy – Dictionary meaning of Reservations – According to the “New Webster Dictionary”, reservation means “Keeping aside something for some specific purpose.” In the Indian context, Reservation Policy refers to a situation, wherein to uplift the submerged section of society, some jobs and other facilities are especially reserved in various institutions/organisations, so that they could be brought back into the national mainstream.

Social structure of Indian society – Before discussing the views of supporters and critics of Reservation Policy, It is necessary to know something about Social Structure of India. In ancient India, Hindu society was classified in four functional groups known as “Varna” –

  1. Brahmins to preach,
  2. Kshtriyas to rule and defend the community,
  3. Vaishyas to carry on the business and
  4. Shudras to do the menial jobs for the society as a whole.

During Ancient period, though the concept of Nation-State was non-existent, but Hindu philosophy, its values, systems and culture had bound the people of this peninsula from one end to the other. The systems worked well. So much and so, that ancient India was known as ‘Sone ki Chiriya’ ( A Bird of Gold). However, the system Developed deformity with passage of time.

  • In ancient India, numerous social groups came to India in waves at different points of time and desired to join the mainstream. All of them were assimilated into it without any conversion by giving each one a different caste name. It gave rise to the caste-system.
  • Then Turks, Afghans and Mughals continuously invaded India. Earlier, they drained out the wealth of the nation to foreign lands. But afterwards, they conquered and made India their homeland. There had been alien rule in the country for centuries, first of Mughals rule and then of British.

Developed deformity with passage of time – As time passed, there developed many distortions. The society got divided into innumerable castes and sub-castes within each of four Varnas. Disparity and inequality grew amongst them with the passage of time.

Pathetic condition of Shudras and untouchables – By the beginning of twentieth century, the condition of Shudras/untouchables and women became quite pathetic  due to ignorance, superstitions, illiteracy and they were in general economically deprived. Worst of all was the position of women. They had no freedom. There were prejudices/discrimination against them in every sphere of life, from day-to-day living to work to social status.

Social Reformative movements of nineteenth and twentieth centuries – From time to time, Intelligentsia, nationalist leaders and social reformers were deeply concerned about the inequality and injustice prevalent in the society against lower castes and women of the society.  Reformative movements during the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century were seriously concerned about the sufferings of women and untouchables. They  made efforts to uplift their position and eliminate all forms of exploitation, oppression, discrimination and evil practices prevalent in the society.

It was also impressed upon the masses that “Abhava” (Scarcity), “Agyan” (Ignorance), “Anyaya” (Injustice), and “Alasya” (Laziness) were the sources of all the evils. To get over these shortcomings, they organized many awareness programs for the masses. Intelligentsia, nationalist leaders and social reformers made people alert and aware of their rights. They advised masses no more to accept from now onwards, misery, ignorance and economic deprivation, which they earlier accepted as their lot,

Desire to establish a new economic order – The public desired to go forward quickly and to establish a new economic order, in which common man and weaker sections of society could have better deal. Masses desired to get benefited from the resources of the nation. It forced the national governments to take upon themselves the responsibility of protecting and nurturing them in such a manner that they got enough opportunities to grow, to their fullest stature. Millions of people started demanding with persisting insistence better facilities in life – they demanded protection from five major evils of an underdeveloped or developing society – want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness.

Start of Quota system by British Government to improve the status of weaker sections – In the later half of the Nineteenth century, British government in India started the practice of ‘Quota system’ in India. It opened the doors of education for all.  To  help the weaker sections of the society, it bestowed upon them some special concessions and preferences through the policy of fixing up Quotas (former form of ‘Reservation policy’) first in education and then in jobs for different communities. .

Scene after World-War II – After World War II, “Laissez-faire” theory of government’s function gave way to the concepts of “Welfare State”, and “Development Administration”. These concepts aimed at bringing about “Social, political and economic justice” and “Betterment to the lot of the submerged sections of the society” by building up a rapidly expanding and technologically progressive economy, in which the downtrodden could have a better deal.

With the general acceptance of the concepts all-over the world, the national governments gradually assumed the responsibility of welfare of all its citizens from “Womb to tomb”. Specific concessions, protections and assistance were given to the weaker sections of society in one form or the other all-over the world. In India, one of such protection measures adopted has been “Reservation Policy”.

Much before Dr. Ambedkar demanded Reservations for untouchables in Government jobs and separate electorate for them (a demand conceded by the British Governments in 1932), many Provincial Governments, especially those in the South, had already fixed up quotas on the basis of castes and communities. They were giving preferences to certain castes and communities in educational institutions and government jobs.

Interestingly enough the Government of India Act, 1935, did not contain any specific provision for reservation. It, however, contained a few Sections (Section 275 and 298) which indirectly dealt with the subject through “Negative Protection” to those suffering from disability by reasons of race, religion, place of birth, descent, colour or any of them. The reservations in the Central services started since 1943, whereas the ST’s became eligible for reservations since 1950.

Scene after Independence

 There has been a perplexing diversity in geography, culture, caste, religion and language in India. Along with it, there has been a great disparity between different sections of society – socially and economically. The attention of national leaders was drawn towards illiteracy, ignorance, superstitions, and taboos on food, drink and marriages, social segregation, lack of communication, living in inaccessible areas, unhealthy loyalties, continuing discrimination and lack of security,­ economic, social and legal.

Primary Goals  according   – After independence, India, being a democratic country pursued the principles of ‘Welfare State’ and ‘Social Justice’ after the Independence. The primary goals of the government for the independent India were:

  • To build a self-reliant nation through optimal utilization of its resources.
  • To establish an egalitarian and tolerant society based on the principles of justice, social economic and political,
  • To ensure to everyone equality of status and opportunity and
  • To give underprivileged a fair start

Views of Constituent Assembly members – Different views were exchanged during constituent Assembly debates –

  • Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Chairman of Drafting Committee of Indian Constitution and founder of reservation policy in India, was of the opinion that social structure of India and its ‘Principle of Varna’ was responsible for the pathetic condition of ‘Avarna Hindus’, and keeping them far away from the mainstream and progressive influences. Varna system has divided the whole society of India into – Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas (Savarna Hindus) and Shudras (Avarna Hindus). Saverna Hindus were in privileged position. But the condition of Avarna Hindu castes, low Castes, Primitive Tribes, Untouchables and Criminals was pathetic. Avarna Hindus were given neither fair start nor equal opportunity nor square deal. Bringing these submerged sections of society into main stream needed Government’s intervention and initiate the practice of reservation as a government policy.

According to Ambedkar, lower castes did not have the courage to demand reasonable wages for their labour. They did not hold property (Land or cash) – they were born to work or starve. They were there only to wait, serve and submit. They were there to do or die.

  • Giani Gurumukh Singh Musafir – Giani Gurumukh Singh Musafir, a member of the Constituent Assembly thought that India had made the Harijans live in very poor condition for hundreds of years. He, therefore, advocated during the Constituent Assembly Debates on November 29, 1947: “Now when India has become free, it becomes the first and foremost duty of Central and Provincial Governments and of every Indian to see that these crores of downtrodden men are uplifted.”…. “They should be provided water, housing and education.”…. “So long as these depressed classes have this idea amongst themselves that they belong to this particular sect, so long as they think that they have this label affixed to them, it is difficult for them to progress. The very names give them this complex that he belongs to a depressed class.”
  • Shri Subhash Lal Saxena – Shri Subhash Lal Saxena, another member of the Constituent Assembly, said during the Constituent Assembly Debate on same day as Giani Gurumukh Singh Musafir i.e. November 27, 1947: “If capable Harijans are available, they should be recruited to superior posts. Besides the ordinary posts, the Harijan should be given all such jobs for which they are eligible. Harijans should be recruited in the Police. They should be given the post of Patwaries, School masters and Head masters etc. These posts would remove the inferiority complex, which is prevailing among them.
  • Many constituent Assembly members apprehended the fall of efficiency and administrative standard. Pt Hriday Narayan Kunjru feared, The regulations, made in this regard, may be unnecessarily wide or they may even be changed in such a way, from time to time, as to enable the executive to exercise a considerable amount of undesirable patronage.  

Constitution on Reservation – Seeing the pathetic condition of masses, Constitution-framers thought, if independent India made the weak to stand and compete with the strong on equal footing, it would be throwing the dice in favour of the strong. Therefore, the Constitution authorizes Central and State governments to take special care of millions of under-fed, under-read and under-clothed people of free India and make special provisions for their sustainable development. Therefore,  Article 15(4) primarily provides for educational opportunities and Article 16 (4) to job opportunities. Directive principles, through Articles 38, 39, 41, 43, 45, 46 etc. gave some guidelines to the future Government. It  allowed  the government to make provisions for reservations for ten years after the implementation of the Constitution and empowered the Parliament to extend the period, if required. The aim was to include and absorb lower strata of society into the mainstream of the nation.

While the Constitution framers were dealing with the topic, special provisions relating to certain classes specifically mentions that as far as the government services are concerned “The claims of the members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes shall be taken into consideration, consistent with the maintenance of efficiency of Administration, in the making of the appointments to services and to posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a State”.

Article. 17 of Constitution of India abolished “Untouchability” and made its practice a cognizable offence the most heinous aspect of the Indian society by. Article 15 guarantees equality of opportunity for all citizens irrespective of religion, race, caste, descent, place of birth or any other reason.

Areas, in which Reserved category people get benefits – Reservation Policy benefits reserved category people (SCs, STs and OBCs) in the following areas –

  • Political institutions consisting of the elected representatives of the people.
  • Admission in educational institutions.
  • Reservations in jobs.
  • Reservations in promotions.

In addition to it, candidates, belonging to reserve quota, if succeed to get jobs on their merit, their names are included in General category list, not in the reserved category/quota list. That means the number could even be more than mentioned above in a year. Besides if the candidates with required qualifications are not found in a particular year, the unfilled vacancies are carried over and added in the next years. These can not be filled with other qualified persons.

Measures taken to uplift submerged sections – Under Article 340 of the Constitution, a Commission is to be appointed by the President to investigate the condition of socially and educationally backward citizens, the difficulties under which they labour, make recommendations for removal of those difficulties and other ameliorative measures needed to be taken.

In 1978, a Commission for SC/ST was setup within the Ministry of Horne Affairs to monitor the comprehensive program and to ensure their all- round development. The financial allocations for the welfare of downtrodden have been increased tremendously after independence. The sincere effort towards their development began with Five Year Plans, which aimed at reducing the imbalances and disparities.

The First Five Year Plan identified the problem areas needed to be tackled viz absence of communication, paucity of drinking water, supply and irrigation, education and health facilities and universal poverty etc. Accordingly, many Integrated Development Plans and Sub–Plans were initiated besides reservations.

Reservations for OBC’s – In 1955, Kaka Kalelkar Commission on Backward Classes and in 1980, MandaI Commission, were appointed to suggest ways to improve the condition of poor people in India. On August, 1990, V.P. Singh’s Government accepted to implement, partially, the suggestions made by MandaI Commission viz. reserving 27% jobs for “Other Backward Castes” in all Central Government institutions or institutions aided by the Central Government. It received a great deal of resistance from the people and litigation in Supreme Court. Since 1992 27% seats in jobs are reserved for OBC’s.

Started as a temporary measure – Reservation was accepted by the constitution framers as a temporary measure. Article 330 provides for reservation in Legislature for ten years, unless at the end of this period the reservation is continued by an amendment of the Constitution. However, the Constitution was amended again and again in 1961, 1971, 1981, 1991 and 2001 to extend this period for another ten years at each instance. Now it has become a never-ending program. And the list of beneficiaries groups has kept on increasing. All state Governments have their own plans for job-reservations in their respective states and extending the list of beneficiary castes. At provincial level, different state-governments have fixed up their own quotas for different castes and communities.

Constitution on De-reservation – Before Independence, there was a provision of reservation in government services for Anglo-Indians. Article 336 of the Constitution clearly says that for the first two years after its start, reservations (in favour of the Anglo-Indians – a minority community) should continue on the basis as before; then during every succeeding period of two years, this reservation is to be progressively reduced by at-least ten percent, so that by the end of ten years all such reservation might cease.

The process of de-reservation could be started now for other sections of society, 70 years after the independence  in similar way, without much reactions. Reservations  could be progressively reduced by at-least ten percent after every few years, so that after a reasonable time, all such reservation could be ceased and people could be confident enough to move forward without chrutches.

As Giani Gurumukh Singh Musafir had suggested during the Constituent Assembly Debates on November 29, 1947: “Now when India has become free, it becomes the first and foremost duty of Central and Provincial Governments and of every Indian to see that these crores of downtrodden men ….  bn  should be provided water, housing and education.”…. “So long as these depressed classes have this idea amongst themselves that they belong to this particular sect, so long as they think that they have this label affixed to them, it is difficult for them to progress. The very names give them this complex that he belongs to a depressed class.”

Arguments of the Supporters Of Reservation policy – Policy of reservation has been hailed by it supporters as a “Historic step” the advocates of reservation. To them policy of reservation has been adopted to break the shackles of caste and to improve the lot of the poor masses. Arguments in favour reservation policy –

    • Lower castes under-represented in power echelons – Backward castes constitute about 80% of India’s total population (15% Scheduled Caste, 8% Scheduled Tribes and 52% Other Backward classes), but their representation in echelons of power including the senior in Government of India is a paltry 4.69%. Therefore, supporters of reservation policy demand that employment in government services should be on pro-rata basis.
    • ‘Due share’ to lower strata in power echelons – Founder of Bahujan Samaj Party, Kanshi Ram said, “The reservation for SC/ST began with only 2% in 1935. Now it is 22.5%. Gradually all reservations would be according to proportion of different castes in the population. My aim is to give reservation (to the upper caste minorities), not to demand it. V.P. Singh has made my job easier.” … Ex Prime Minister, V.P. Singh, Prime Minister from Janata Dal, while implementing the MandaI Commission recommendations in August, 1990 said in his independence-day speech, “We want to effectively give to the depressed, downtrodden and backward people their share in the power structure and in decision-making to run country and improve things.”
    • Suppression of downtrodden for centuries – Lower castes had been treated unequally in the past, now they should be given a more than equal status to make empower them. Competition could be just and valid only among equals. Since upper castes had suppressed lower castes on basis of their birth, present generation has to correct age-old imbalances and make reparations by giving downtrodden advantage through reservations. It is a noble and just cause in return for centuries of oppression.
    • Little dilution of meritocracy does not matter – Forward castes are better educated and settled because of the environment, in which they are brought up. But deprived castes, in absence of proper environment and economic constraints are unable to compete on equal terms with upper castes for jobs in the government, public or private sectors. Besides educational capabilities and economic status, socio-political dominance of upper caste is a powerful factor influencing selection process. Witnessing all these aspects social justice demands that jobs should be shared with backward even at cost of little dilution of meritocracy.
    • Foundations of Reservations social, not economic – “All foundations for government’s reservation policy were social, not economic” says Ram Vilas Paswan “Each caste is standing with one foot on the forehead of the one below it in the social hierarchy…” Shri Ram Avdhesh Singh, a M.P. of Lok Dal says, “Even the rich backwards are not given the social status, which poor forwards enjoy. That is why we need representation in the government on caste basis, where wealth and respect go hand in hand. These reservations are not for the economic good, but to link backwards with the State.” (India Today, September 30, 1990) Therefore supporters of Reservation Policy are against the idea of economic criteria. V.P and his associates said that it was introduced in Tamil Nadu in the past, but did not worked there (Times of India news item on September 4, 1990).
    • Whitewash a bitter historical reality – Swami Agnivesh of Bandhua Mukti Morcha had said, “We have created our fractures and schisms – it was not the Mughals, it was not the British, it was the Vedas that consolidated the casteism in Indian culture. We can describe the reservation policy today as palliatives, an attempt to whitewash a bitter historical reality, sitting on a handful of armchair sociologists and pretending the rest of backward India doesn’t exist. That we need is radical social change.”
    • Reservation Policy has empowered backwards as a composite pressure group – “Reservations, on the basis of caste, give the backwards an identity as a composite pressure group. This is a concrete achievement, which will help them to unite and fight for equality. Besides, caste is still a dominant factor in Indian social-structure; its existence should be accepted for recognising the under-privileged groups.” (News item in Times of India, September 15, 1990)
    • Merit not a prerogative of upper castes only – Merit is not found in upper castes only. There are many meritorious and talented boys and girls amongst the SC/ST/OBC. They only need proper atmosphere and opportunities for education and employment in order to shine to their full capacity. In old Madras Presidency, there were 100% reservation/job quotas, both for “Forward” and Backward” castes. Today about 68% seats are reserved for SC/ST/OBC in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, and they are far ahead of other provinces in matter of prosperity and good governance, where there is upper caste domination in administration.
    • Norm of ‘pull’ and ‘push’ – Ram Vilas Paswan, ex-minister says, “There is no such thing as merit in India today, there is only “pull” and “Influence”…. “Merit” is only a term used for the purpose of disruption by agitators.” Shri Paswan asks why forward class does not look towards merit in candidates admitted in institutions of higher learning because of capitation fee or selected for influential posts because of their family background.
  • ‘Bearer best knows where shoe pinches’ – V.P. Singh told the nation that society would be served best by filling the civil services by downtrodden as they were the bearers who knew where the shoe pinched. They had the qualities of heart, which the administration of the country needed more than the quality of head. They are committed to the uplift of their brethren. Syed Shabuddin of the “Insaf party” had said, “In a democracy every social group is entitled to share the fruits of development and keep a hand on the levers of power…. Both intra and inter group disparities must be reduced by Legislative policies. If the backward classes come into administrative posts, they may be able to increase efficiency, as they will be having grass-root knowledge of actual problems.” (News item in the Times of India, September 15, 1990)

In short, supporters of reservation consider it necessary to empower the downtrodden, to reduce economic inequalities, to give them social respectability, to reduce imbalances created due to upper class influence and to break the psychological barrier, to give downtrodden their due share in power structure.

Arguments of Anti-reservationists – Anti-reservationists doubt the efficacy of Reservation Policy. Reservation has been a source of turmoil in society many a time. They have shown their resentment every-time Parliament had extended the period for reservations. In seventies and eighties, the agitation against reservation policy took a major turn by taking a shape of national movement affecting many parts of the country. The agitation against reservation sparked violently in Gujarat in 1983 and spread to other places when a meritorious physically handicapped student of upper caste was denied admission in MD course and the quota student with much less marks was admitted. Such cases definitely arouse public sentiments and they criticise the government for following the policy blindly. Somehow the authorities were able to suppress it. But scars were left. They say –

    • Contrary to principles of equality – Reservations are contrary to principles of equality, fraternity and social justice. There is something fundamentally wrong with Reservation Policy. In the name of social justice, fundamental rights of many deserving people are curtailed or negated. It benefits and increases the number of those, who are desirous to find an easier way-out.
    • Genesis of Reservation Policy in “Divide and Rule” dictum – Reservations were first introduced by the British rulers to “Divide” the Indian population and “rule” the nation as long as possible. The British government divided Indians on the basis of caste and community. British rulers, who got alarmed about the increasingly power and influence of Brahmins, purposely propagated myth of tyranny of the “Forward Castes”, especially of Brahmins over rest of the society. Therefore, British rulers pinpointed Brahmins as oppressors and tyrants, who wilfully kept others down. They encouraged anti-Brahmin formations in the South. They started the practice of fixing-up quotas in various educational-institutions and government jobs on one side and separate electorate for religious groups on the other. Later on, Reservations started in other parts of the country as well for backward communities.
    • Source of Vote-bank politics – Now many politicians and their parties advocate to fix a quota for more castes,  to increase the percentage of quota and extend its time-frame for ever in order to create vote banks. Like Britishers, politicians and supporters of pro-reservation want to divide the nation, on the basis of caste, community or gender. They want to grab and hold political power as long as possible. Already, there is a perplexing diversity in India along geography, culture, caste, religion and language lines. They are spreading venom in the heart of each identity against other. If not checked on time, communalism and casteism are bound to destroy the unity of the nation and narrow down the aspiration of people.
    • Administration and policy-making for Sustainable Development requires services of most talented – The task of administration is one of the most difficult. It is so complex that it requires services of most talented, sincere, hardworking and honest people. A preference to a person with inferior talent over a person with superior talent is not only unjust but against national interests. Reservations in employment contemplates putting those on responsible positions in the government, “Who are not qualified for the job” – (Arun Shourie). And in the process, power passes from meritocracy to mediocracy (Nani Palkiwala). It also means that sub-standard services would be rendered to the general public.
    • Common-men suffer more – The policy of reservation affects adversely the efficiency of administration as a whole. Deteriorating standards of working in government institutions and poor law and order situation have already done irreparable damage to the development of SC/ST and OBC communities and made their lives miserable. The larger objective of eradicating the poverty and bringing the downtrodden in the main-stream could never be achieved by laying stress on quantity rather than quality and lowering the standards of education or governance. Does reserving a very few places for SC, ST & OBC satisfy the basic needs of millions of underfed, under-clothed and under-read people of India
    • Contributions of upper class – Kaka Kalelkar had said in, ‘Note of Dissent of First Backward caste Commission “It would be well, if representatives of the Backward-classes remembered that whatever good they find in the Constitution and the liberal policy of the Government, is the result of the awakened conscience of the upper classes themselves. Whatever Government is doing by way of atonement is readily accepted and acclaimed by the nation as a whole. The upper classes have contributed their share in formulating the policies of the Government. Removal of untouchability, establishment of equality and social justice, special consideration for backward classes, all these elements found place in the Constitution without a single voice of dissent from the upper classes.” Upper castes are still contributing their share through taxes (the money collected from taxes is supposed to be spent on developmental plans.) Somewhere, they are supporting, elsewhere actively participating in formulating developmental policies of the government.
    • Quantity of reservation quota – So long as “only a few places” were kept aside for those severely disadvantaged – Harijans and Girijans, the people tolerated the policy as functioning of institutions did not stand much risk of being vitiated and consideration of caste and community were placed under control. But, when V.P. Singh announced to implement 27% for reservation in jobs for OBCs, in addition to 22.5% reservation for SC/STs in government jobs, heart burning and stir against Reservation Policy passed all the limits. The whole nation was in for caste wars.
    • Reservation policy ignores merit – Reservation policy as it ignores merit. In 1947, when the Constitution framers were dealing with the reservation policy, they showed clearly their concern for efficiency. Art. 335 directs that ‘reservations for SC/ST should be consistent with the maintenance of efficiency of administration.’ Today, when economy is in shambles, inflation has touched 13%, coffers are empty, and common man is suffering due to inefficiency and mal-functioning of the government, the nation can not afford to ignore merit and efficiency. In Private Sector, survival and prosperity depends on merit. It picks up the best talent available in the country from the educational institutions itself by conducting “Campus interviews” and does not allow sub­standard working. That is why it is attracting the talents of the nation and is prospering.
    • Discourages development of skills – Reservation has discouraged development of skills, resources and attitudes in SC/STs needed to succeed without the crutches of reservation and has encouraged backwardness, inefficiency and lack of competitive merit amongst the castes enjoying reservation.
    • Making people lazy and increases malpractices – People of lower castes have taken these concessions for granted and expect it to last for ever. It has made even competent persons amongst them lazy and complacent. Guarantee of share in power structure without much effort develops an attitude never value the dignity of labour and work hard. The reservation policy is adding fuel to this attitude. Obtaining false certification about caste is increasing in order to get the advantage of the limited spoils. It has raised the expectation of others as well.
    • Short time measure – In many provinces, scheduled castes were enjoying the benefit of reservation in proportion to their population since 1935. Constitution had provided for state patronage to SC/ST for ten years i.e. till 1960, to SCs, because they were far away from the mainstream on account of “Untouchability” and other constraints, and STs because of “Social isolation due geographical reasons”. After the end of this period, the concession could be  continued by an amendment of the Constitution, which was not very likely. It was hoped that underprivileged would be at least in a position to stand on their feet by 1960.
    • Times have already changed – Vote-bank politics has changed everything since then. Successive governments have ignored the sweeping changes that have occurred throughout the country over the last 70 years. Through various measures, including Reservation Policy, people of all castes have progressed. Anti Brahmin movements in former Estates of Madras and Bombay had effectively eliminated Brahmins as a dominant political force. Lower strata of society had organized themselves, consolidated their economic and acquired political power. Through reservations they have succeeded in occupying position of power.
    • Shift of power in favour of Backwards – Political power has already shifted in favour of backwards, almost completely in the South and in massive strides in Bihar and UP, where they constitute nearly 40% of the Legislative strength. At State and local levels, especially in more populous rural areas their influence is continuously growing. Untouchables have made concerted efforts to mobilize themselves and to secure their upward mobility as may be seen in the case of Izhavas of Kerala, Mehars of Maharashtra, Chamars of UP, Meenas of Rajasthan, etc. Radical movement such as that launched by the militants Dalit Panther in Maharashtra have made the emerging strength of the lowest caste felt with increasing effectiveness.
    • Rigidity of caste wearing out – Rigidity of caste has been gradually wearing out. Introduction of railways, opening of hotels and restaurants, radio, TV and cinema houses have contributed to the relaxation of caste prejudices and rigidities. Besides education and training, land reforms, industrialisation etc have brought awareness amongst backward castes. The end of many practices, which created distances between different castes in the past, is a hopeful sign and guarantee for the future well being of every Indian citizen.
    • New lease of life to caste – Entry of caste into political arena through reservation policy has given a new lease of life to caste in the form of caste-ism. Caste-ism has not only held its ground but began to strengthen its hold in the politics at national as well as provinces levels. Politicians of Independent India are well-versed in making its increasing use in politics.
    • Time for gradual de-legitimization of caste – Yogendra Singh, Dean of Political Science in the Jawaharlal Nehru University says, “Forty years have seen enormous differentiation in class and caste division. Caste should not be the central element in dispensing social justice. In fact, there should be a process of gradual de-legitimization of caste by finding scientific methods for the exit of SCs and STs from the reserved quota.” (India Today, September 30, 1990)
    • ‘Past is past’ – Vasant Sathe of Congress (I) says “Reservation is no solution for a crime so many centuries old. Nor it is ethical to punish our present society for the sins of our fore fathers.” It is a law of jungle to hold responsible the present generation for the follies of its previous generations. According to Rule of law the present generation can not be punished for what their forefathers did.
    • Undermines ‘Principle of Equality’ – Anti-reservationists argue that there was a case to end the quota business in 1960 itself. Yet it has been allowed to continue till today. The Indian Constitution is committed to two different principles both of which relate to equality: ‘principle of equal opportunities’ and “principle of redress’. Now it is over due that ‘principle of equality’ be enforced in its true spirit without any favour. Since policy of reservation undermines the principle of equality, it should be gradually discontinued as had been done in the case of Anglo Indians in accordance with the Article 336 of the Constitution.
    • Inter and intra caste wars – Reservation policy does not consider all individuals equal. Instead caste becomes the basis to get this privilege. It leads to inter-caste rivalry. Anti-reservationists accuse the pro-preservationists for inciting the caste war by provoking public feelings. Brahmins and upper castes has been pinpointed as an enemy of downtrodden, who have always exploited the downtrodden mercilessly.
    • Distortion of historical facts – Political adventurers, dictators and fundamental fanatics have distorted the history in the past and used it as a ploy to serve their own selfish or partisan interests. It does not even matter to them, whether their own version of history is real or based on fantasy. When Hitler walked into Sudetanland, he claimed historical authority. When Mussolini attacked Ethopia in 30′s, he quoted history. When Zionists claimed Jeruselem, they tried to justify their act by citing history. When Saddam Hussain walked into Kuwait on August2, 1990, He staked his claim on the basis of raking up old history. Same thing had happened on August 15, 1990, when V.P. Singh announced 27% reservation for OBCs, it was hailed by his supporters as “A historic decision which will go a long way in giving the rightful share to socially and economically backward castes in the power structure of the country, of which they were denied under the pressure from the vested interests.”
    • Reasons of backwardness other than caste – At present, submerged section of society does not suffer so much due to discrimination on the basis of caste as for other reasons. Kaka Kalelkar, first Chairman of First Backward class Commission had said, ““If the backward communities have neglected education it is because they had no use for it (in the past). Now that they have discovered their mistakes, it is for them to make the necessary efforts for making the leeway…As far as the assistance in the matter of education for the backward classes, I am convinced that introduction of basic education in all the states with help the backward communities to cultivate self-confidence. They will also have a better chance of succeeding in life and have the advantage of mixing with other people.”
    • Glamorization of Backwardness –Earlier, backwardness was considered as stigma. People of lower castes attempted to improve mannerism in order to climb up in the ladder of social status. These days, many castes claim for a lower status and want to be included in the list of SC/ST, so that they may taste the fruits of reservation as well. No more any caste is ashamed of being called untouchable or backward. Reservations have created vested interests in the “Backwardness.” Now backwardness is a status symbol, because it eases the position, while one is in search of jobs. Therefore, more and more communities are clamouring for the “Backward class” tag. Those in power find it politically expedient to oblige them. The list of castes wishing for reservations has become very long. Witnessing all this it stands to logic that the beneficiary group should be kept under constant review, so that who have over the years reached a stage where they could survive with dignity without any crutches, could be delisted.
    • Creamy layer of lower castes at advantage – Benefits of Reservations are confined within the creamy layer of lower strata, while, it was supposed to benefit ‘poorest of the poor’. How can all the 80% downtrodden be accommodated in power echelons by reserving only 49.552% jobs out of 1% of total government jobs available in the country? Naturally, only few people are benefited, others are given only false assurances during the times of elections.
    • Economic criteria as a basis – Anti-reservationists argue that consideration of caste instead of economic backwardness is not just. Reservations, if it is necessary should be given on the basis of ‘economic criteria’ to all the poor regard less of their caste identity. There should also be an income ceiling for SC/ST and others with the entitlement of their children for reservations in job and admission to educational institutions. Then only really deserving people could be benefited.
    • Led to Brain drain – Reservation has shaken the confidence of the youth of so called forward class. About 50% reservations in government jobs have left many deserving and intelligent youths unemployed or underemployed. Some of them choose the path of crime or violence. Unemployment has been one of the reasons behind Punjab and Kashmir problems. Many intelligent and hard working youth are losing their interest, rapidly, in government jobs. They prefer to go abroad in search of greener pastures, where they get good return for their talents and hard-work. In addition, they get job satisfaction because of tension free atmosphere at work-place. Reservations have, thus, led to brain drain. It has already squeezed out many meritorious by leading the country to massive brain drain.
    • Cry for social-Justice? – The attempt to establish a socialistic government does not carry much weight. The USSR a super-power of pre-1990 days collapsed like a house of cards, despite having Socialistic government for last 70 years. With all its State control and public support, it could not provide expected relief to its masses. How could socialistic ideals provide relief to the masses in India, where there exists so much corruption and inefficiency in administration?
    • Feeling of alienation – Creation and perpetuation quotas in educational institutions and jobs has made backward classes alienated from the main stream. It is adversely affecting national solidarity. It is sowing the seeds of hatred among the people and put hindrances on the way of mutual help, mutual respect and mutual trust necessary for the development of the nation as a whole. Along with it, efficiency or excellence, probity, integrity of institutions and trust, which are required for overall well-being are adversely affected.
  • Reservations in Government jobs need not be a political program – Issue of Reservation in government jobs should not be politicized, keeping an eye on electoral mathematics. It has been envisaged to uplift the submerged sections of society and make their future better. Governance is one of the most difficult and specialized tasks. Government employees are supposed to have sufficient professional knowledge and expertise in various disciplines – functional, technical, specialist as well as managerial and generalist – so that they could properly aid and advise the elected representatives of the people and dig for them the expert knowledge from the raw material, give it a shape with a sense of commitment. For attaining that expertise, they have to be equipped with knowledge in various educational institutions. Therefore, the government should be very careful while recruiting people in government jobs.

If politicians are so keen to give reservations to lower castes, a share in the power structure of the nation, why not quotas are fixed for members of different castes by law and elect turn by turn or by rotation – the President, the Prime Minister, the Vice President, Cabinet Ministers, Ambassadors, Governors, Chief minister of every state? In these positions, the representatives of the people are elected or selected and entrusted the power and make decisions for a fix period. If their performance is not satisfactory, at-least they can be removed or changed. But government jobs are permanent and government servants can not be removed easily till they retire after 32 or 35 years of service. Wrong person in wrong position could adversely affect the standard/functioning of the governance which should not be allowed.

Wanchoo Commission Report, 1968, and Railway Reforms Committee Report, 1983, on the working of Railways observed that reservations in jobs and promotions adversely affects the enthusiasm, incentive for hard work and devotion to duty and in-turn the efficiency and the morale of the civil servants. Sikri Commission on Railways, 1968, linked accidents with reservations. These three reports are just about one government department and that too when reservation is only 22.5% for SC/ST. What is going to happen, now when it is 50%? Who would be the ultimate sufferer. It is the innocent public only.

  • Double standard – The government itself has exempted certain services and posts from reservation in order to maintain efficiency, discipline and loyalty to the nation intact such as all the Defence Services, Scientific and technical posts in the Department of Space, Atomic Energy, Electronics, posts of pilots and top technical persons in Air India and Indian Airlines, all scientific posts of Indian Institute of Science, Banglore, teaching posts in IITs and IIMs, private secretary to the PM and other Ministers, Planning Commission Members etc. (A Handbook on reservation for SC/ST compiled by Sharma and Purohit). It proves that the government maintains double standards.
  • Reservations for women – If any class in India needs reservation on the grounds of social discrimination or under-representation in power echelons, it is only the women in India. How about reserving 50% seats for them in all educational institutions and government jobs? That would be their just share and will not divide the society along the caste lines either. If it cannot be done, then at least 50% of the reserved quota could always be kept aside for women of respective castes. Are the politicians prepared to make such provision for women too?

In short, Anti-reservationists think that there is something fundamentally wrong with the Reservation Policy. It has been criticized for creating many conflicting identities like – majority and minority, backward and forwards, urban and rural, north and south and man and woman etc. It is being extended again and again with an aim to create “Vote-bank” in the garb of helping the needy.

In the name of social justice, fundamental rights of many deserving people are being curtailed or negated. It is a farce in the name of social justice, a slap on the face of education and merit, a vote catching measure and misuse of power by political parties.

Views of prominent persons on Reservation Policy – The views of some prominent leaders on reservation, are as follows:

    • Shri V.P. Singh – In his independence-day speech on August 15th, 1990, Shri V.P. Singh, ex-Prime Minister of India announced, while accepting the recommendations of Mandal Commission: “Bureaucracy is an important organ of the power structure and it has a decisive role in the decision-making exercise. We want to effectively give to the depressed, downtrodden and backward people their share in the power structure and in decision making to run this country and improve things. “
    • Mahatma Gandhi – In his book titled “India of my dreams” Mahatma Gandhi wrote: “So far as the reservations in the government departments is concerned, I think, it will be fatal to a good government, if we introduce there the communal spirit for administration to be efficient, it must be always in the hands of the fittest. There should be certainly no favouritism.”… “Distribution of posts should never be according to the proportion of members of each community. “… “Those who aspire to occupy responsible posts in the government of the country can only do if they pass the required test.”
    • Pundit Jawahar Lal Nehru – In a letter dated June 27, 1961, addressed to Chief Ministers of various States, Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru, Ex-Prime Minister of India wrote, “I have referred above to efficiency and to our getting out of the traditional rut. This necessitates our getting out of the old habit of reservations and particular privilege being given to this caste or that group. It is true that we are tied up with certain rules and conventions about helping the SC/STs. That deserve help, but even so I dislike any kind of reservation, more particularly in services. I react strongly against anything which leads to inefficiency and second rate standards. I want my country to be a first class country in everything. The moment we encourage the second rate, we are lost.” “This way, lies not only folly but disaster.”
    • Kaka Kalelkar – As Chairman of the Backward Class Commission, Kaka Kalelkar expressed his views on reservation in education (Backward Class Commission Report, 1956, Vol. I, page X). He wrote: “As far as the assistance in the matter of education for the backward classes, I am convinced that introduction of basic education in all the States will help the backward communities to cultivate self-confidence. They will also have a better chance of succeeding in open competition and having the special advantage of mixing with people and serving them, they will prove themselves better administrators and leaders of society.”                                       On page VIII of the same report, he has expressed his views on reservation in government services too, as under: “I am definitely against reservations in government services for any community for the simple reason that the services are not meant for the servants but they are meant for the service of the society as a whole. Administration must have the services of the best men available in the land and these may be found in all the communities. Reservation of posts for certain backward communities would be as strange as reservation of patients for a particular doctor. The patients are not meant to supply adequate or proportionate clientele to all the doctors what ever their qualifications.”
    • Sri B.D. Sharma – Shri Sharma, the Commissioner for SC/ST has pointed out in his 29th Report, tabled in Parliament on August 31st, 1990, as under: “The policy of reservation in government jobs has not improved the lot of the bulk of SC/ST in the country. In fact, in many cases, their condition has further deteriorated. “It is quite clear that even if the policy of positive discrimination were to succeed fully, it could benefit only a small section of these communities. On the other hand, if inequality continues to increase in our country or continues even at the present level, the maximum damage will” befall on the members of these communities themselves, because their condition is already the worst as in the case of the SC or because they are facing the most severe backlash of development as in the case of the S.T……” ” The policy of reservation is ironical, as it demands a share for the weaker section” in the gains of iniquitous system, which in the ultimate analysis cannot be anything, but the proceeds of exploitation of other poor belonging to the same group who remain at the bottom.”

    • Chowdhary Charan Singh – Chowdhary Charan Singh, the founder of Lok Dal and charismatic leader of Backward castes and class, wrote: “It must be conceded that reservation on the basis of caste is a vicious principle and creates many problems. More than reservation in recruitment, it is reservation in promotions that has led to great heart burning and great inefficiency in our services. Such reservation whether in favour of Scheduled or Backward castes, was, in my opinion beyond intentions of the founding fathers. Boys belonging to poor families, particularly those, where large section of our people are considered socially inferior for centuries past, are entitled to consideration rather than concessions at the hands of the government of independent India.”                                                                                                                      Chowdhary Charan Singh was also against extending reservation to SC/ST beyond 10 years “The intelligent and hard working youth are losing their interest, rapidly, in government jobs. They prefer to go abroad in search of greener pastures, where they get return for their talents and hard-work. In addition, they get job satisfaction because of tension free atmosphere at work-place. … “The Union Government, however, has for political reasons, been extending the period of reservations decades after decades. There should be bars on children of those who have benefited from reservation and those who are income tax payers, so that other less fortunates could be helped.” (A letter, February 12,1982 to Banarasi Dass, the then Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh)

  • Ram Vilas paswan – The Dalit Sena president and Janata Party leader, Mr. Ram Vilas Paswan, in his speech at Benipatti, Madhubani, on December 12, 1987 demanded for amendment to the Constitution to end the prevalent reservation system for Harijans and other backward classes in the Government services and replacing it by right to work for every body…. Reservation system had failed to achieve its purpose and had created social tension in the country. Mr. paswan said that despite Constitutional provisions and related laws, the government at the Centre and State had failed to protect the interest of Harijans.                                                                                     Later on, Paswan became the champion of reservation policy. He advocated reservations in jobs and educational institutions on permanent basis. It should continue till the caste system persists in India. Since caste system can not be put to an end, therefore, there is no justification for finishing the reservation for the downtrodden.

Views of intelligentsia regarding reservations in government jobs –

    • Professor Andre BeteilIe – Professor Beteille said: “Once the uneven distribution of caste in public institutions comes to be perceived as a problem of distributive justice, institutional well-being takes the back seat.” “Job reservations in public institutions are required to protect the interest of SC/ST, backward classes and minorities – if this argument is believed to be right and acted upon then our institutions can not function as they ought to, their well-being will be irreparably damaged.” … “The best course would be to expand the pool of qualified candidates at the lower level but this would call for patience which no government in India has so far shown.” “A quicker course, whose effects would show immediately in official statistics, would be to alter the proportions directly, through reservation of jobs.” (6th T. T. Krishnamachari Memorial lecture on “Distributive Justice & Institutional well-being”, November 11, 1990, the Institute of Economic Growth)
    • Shri H.M. Seervai – Shri Seervai wrote: “Reservations affect five parties adversely:

       

        • The State – to whose service persons are recruited by open competition in examinations held by independent Public Service Commissions.
        • The public – As the very phrase “Public servant” shows.
        • The persons – who are discriminated against, by reservations in favour of members of SC/ST.
        • Members of SC/ST – In whose favour discrimination is being made by fixing reservation quota; and
      • The service – That is each service considered as a whole. (“Is an efficient public service irrelevant in India”, Indian Express, September, 1990)                                                               “A service which lacks spirit-de-corps, that is, consciousness of and pride in belonging to a particular service, lacks an element essential to an efficient an harmonious administration. The position further deteriorates in a service in which in matters of promotion, people with superior qualifications are subordinate to people with admittedly inferior qualifications.”
    • Nani A Palkiwala – Shri Palkiwala opined that Reservation policy suffers from five fatal flaws:
        • The sub-standard replaces the standard, and the reins of power are to pass from meritocracy to mediocracy.
        • It ignores the reality that there are no backward castes but backward individuals.
        • Reservations in promotion are disastrous enough for the civil administration.
        • It divides the country on caste lines and is against social harmony and social intermingling of various castes.
      • Equality is the very heart of free republic, the foundation stone of true republic, the source of inspiration, the criteria for its citizenship and the hope for its welfare. The bedrock of reservation is discrimination in-reverse: it is discrimination against merit and calibre. (“Unity and security of State at stake”, Indian Express, September 14, 1990)
  • Arun Shourie – Arun Shourie, in an Article titled “This way lies not only folly but disaster” appearing in the Indian Express on August 22, 1990, writes: “A job should be something one has to work to get, something which one has to do one’s utmost to retain and advance in. It should not be, advancement in it must not be anyone’s by right”. But reservation definitely develops the ethos that the job, the promotion is mine by right and that too because of by my birth, not work. How can a modern society survive, let alone grow with this as its ethos?

An analysis of the issue

There are certain basic truths, which needs to be accepted and pay attention to, before taking policy-decisions. Such as:

Society as an organic body – Society behaves and develops like an organic body. Each organ does a particular function and coordinated working of all organs together keeps the whole body fit and alive. Like other organic bodies, each and every section of society is an indispensable part of the society, which needs equal attention and proper care for the balanced growth of the society as a whole.

Just like in an organic body, weaker parts need special care, but not at the cost of others. So is in the society. Each and every section of the society needs to be assigned a specific function. Each one should perform its respective job. Society needs the services of all sections of the society. The work of any section is neither inferior nor superior to other. Each and every section of society needs to be aware of its indispensability to the whole. A society can move and prosper to its fullest, when each and every section of society does its functions well and lives in harmony; and when there is mutual help, respect and trust amongst the various sections of the society.

Society as an organisation – For an efficient and smooth functioning, like an organization, society also needs –
•Division of labour – Nobody can do all the work by himself. Division of different functions required in a society is the first requisite.
•Grouping of activities – All functions and activities should be so grouped as to avoid confusion. Activities of similar nature or having same objectives are grouped under one section.
•Structure – An organization needs a structure with well defined functions. The structure must be simple and easy to understand. It should also ensure continuous growth and, therefore, should not be rigid.
•Balance of activities – Proper weight-age to different activities, in proportion to their contribution to organization as a whole, is necessary. No activity should either be over-valued or under-valued.
•Team spirit – Relationship between various groups within an organization should be based on the principle of “mutual help, mutual respect and mutual trust”. It facilitates better coordination of diverse activities performed by different sections. Smooth relations amongst its constituent’s leads to optimal utilisation of resources and to satisfaction of all its constituent members.
•Specialisation – Concentration of a section on the performance of a single task, leads to greater efficiency and more specialisation. Functions need to be assigned on the basis qualifications, skills, attitude and aptitude of its employees.
•Creative thinking – A good organisation encourages initiative and creative thinking.
•Satisfaction – Organization must be able to satisfy the biological as well as psychological needs of its employees as an individual as well as a group.
•Adoption of new technologies and development – An organization helps adopts new improved means of doing things, permits prompt adoption and optimum use of technological advancements. It must avoid nepotism, favouritism and must give an upper hand to merit and talent.

Indian society contains all the essentials of a good organisation.

Truth about “Varna-system” – “Varna system” along with its castes and sub­-castes is not as bad as has been portrayed earlier by British rulers, now by some leaders and the pro­-reservationists. It is based on principles ‘mutual respect, trust and tolerance for each other’, ‘There is enough for everybody’s need, but not enough for anyone’s greed’ or ‘To each according to his needs and from each according to his capacity’. ‘Division of work’ was based on attitude and aptitude of an individual. It has given to India a solid social-structure, which is simple to understand. Above all, it has provided unity of culture which has been able to bind the people of Indian peninsula from one end to the other.

Mahatma Gandhi said “The main reason of our economic and spiritual degeneration is that we have not correctly followed the “Varna System”. This is the main reason of poverty and unemployment and one of the main reasons that there is untouchability”. He suggested to encourage education amongst the masses for the growth a self-contained and self-regulated society; all occupations to be given equal respect; people to be encouraged, not to be forced to adopt their hereditary occupations; and difference of income derived from various occupations should be narrowed down to the minimum.

“Policy of reservation” lost its validity – “Policy of reservation” adopted by the independent India has lost its value and justification now. Reformatory movements of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, attempts of constitution-framers spread of education and awareness amongst general public. Many changes have come about in the whole atmosphere, in thinking, attitude and aspirations of common-men. Recent technological advancements have made the life of common-men easier and created enormous opportunities to earn more. The experiences of recent past reveal that Policy of reservation has lost its value and justification now because –

SC/STs and OBCs emerged as powerful pressure groups – After the green revolution of sixties, the economic and political status of people engaged in agriculture India has improved tremendously. India being an agricultural country, 75% of its population (mostly belonging to SC and OBC categories) is engaged in agricultural sector only. Reforms gave them permanent rights as owners or otherwise. New agricultural technologies, backed by administrative and financial support by governmental agencies, helped them the chance to get out of the trap of poverty. They have organized themselves and emerged as a very powerful pressure group both in the fields of economics and politics. Still, if many SC/STs and OBCs have not been able utilise this opportunity fully, fault lies somewhere else and not in caste system. In their under-nourished faces are written the failures of the successive Governments and their policies that have ignored their actual needs.

Caste is no longer a barrier in the matter of jobs – Doors of education have been opened for all. Many scholarships, loans, hostel facilities, and admission in select institutes of the country (Where the whole expenditure is borne by the government) are being made available to them. Many Integrated Development Programmes and Sub Plans have been initiated to improve their position – socially and economically.

Immense choices in matter of occupation – Earlier people were forced to earn their living only by doing their hereditary jobs. But the Constitution of India gave everybody freedom and equal opportunity to select one’s source of earning. Society has accepted the change-over to any profession a person wishes to pursue and for that he has to prove his suitability in the job market. Educational facilities have been provided to them. Many scholarships, loans, hostel facilities, and admission in select institutes of the country (Where the whole expenditure is borne by the government) are being made available to them. Many Integrated Development Programmes and Sub Plans have been initiated to improve their position – socially and economically. However, sub-merged people of SC/ST community have not so far been able to utilise this opportunity fully. Benefits are benefitting the creamy layer amongst them.

Label of Brahmin or Shudra meaningless today – Today, the label of Brahmin or of Shudra does not matter much in choosing a profession. There is no dearth of employment opportunities. From all sections of society, people are acquiring necessary qualifications and are entering into areas of their choice. Experience shows that all are doing well in almost all spheres.

Increasing opportunities in service sector – A vacuum has been created in the service sector, when many traditional jobs became obsolete. Jobs in service sector could also fetch a handsome amount of money. Recently some people engaged in this field such as tailors, carpenters, dyers and drycleaners, owners of hotels and restaurants, owners of video libraries, scooter and taxi drivers even Paanwalas are doing much better than ever before. The key to their success appears to be the very same as elsewhere – hard-work, excellence, maintenance of standard or quality and entrepreneurial skill. Today, in the lure of safe and secure job, easy and quick money, government jobs in local, state or central levels are becoming very popular.

That day appears not to be far off when in complex technological society, the white-collared jobs would loose their present attraction and the service sector would get a prominent place. An excellent plumber then may become more admirable than an incompetent scientist. Therefore, instead of disturbing the efficiency and working of the organized sector, the government could concentrate on enormous opportunities of self­ employment available in this sector, and thus helping the downtrodden to establish well themselves in the society.

Creamy layer amongst beneficiary groups – On the one hand, it has been experienced that Benefit of reservations is confined within a few dominant and prosperous SC/ST and OBC castes. They have now acquired economic, political and above all muscle power. Many of them make vote banks for the politicians, capture booths during elections and could ask their unfortunate brethren to shut their mouths or to meet the consequences. In certain regions, they themselves have become the exploiters of their unfortunate brethren – suppressing the agricultural labours and are heaping atrocities on Harijans.

Efficiency in administration – A service which lacks spirit-de-corps, that is, consciousness of and pride in belonging to a particular service, lacks an element essential to an efficient an harmonious administration. The position further deteriorates in a service in which in matters of promotion, people with superior qualifications are subordinate to people with admittedly inferior qualifications.

It is feared that relaxation in matter of recruitment standard, as reservation policy suggests, adversely affects efficiency of administration. It creates a distance between quota officers and non-quota officers, adversely affects integrity and coordinated efforts of services for development of the nation as a whole. Merit oriented approach in matter of filling crucial and important posts, in principle, opposes reservation of any kind, which gives preferences to a person over a more talented person. It is a humanitarian obligation of a civilized society to uplift and empower the weaker sections of its society. But it should not be done at the cost of efficiency in administration. Mal-administration or ineffective and inefficient administration makes the life of common people more miserable.

False assurances – Politicians and political parties with vested interests are luring the poor masses by promising them to give government jobs through reservations. Government jobs still fascinate the masses as with it are attached the attraction of fix salary, prestige, power, influence, security of employment and scope to distribute patronage. If without acquiring the needed qualifications and without much effort one can get all these things, no body minds it.

Vast reservoir of talents amongst the lower strata of society – There is a vast reservoir of potential/talent amongst backwards as well, only they need opportunities to grow. Their hidden qualifications and capabilities Sound education and training would make aware them aware of their hidden qualifications and their capabilities. Their confidence can be restored, only when they are brought to the level of forward castes people so that they could compete for jobs and promotions on equal terms.

Hurt feelings of poor belonging to upper castes – The deprived and poor people, belonging to so called “Forward caste”, feel betrayed by their own Government. They are being victimised because of no fault of their own. ‘Economic criteria’ offers a general formula to help to all extremely poor and underprivileged individuals irrespective of their caste or creed. Many dynamic and talented youths have lost their faith in the government and interest in government jobs. Upright officers do not get a proper atmosphere in the office or reward for their merit, intelligence, hard work and honesty. On the contrary, due to politicization, growing disregard for the work-culture and overstaffing, upright officers are sidetracked. Fixed salary is just sufficient to keep them from hand to mouth. They have to struggle all through their lives – after paying the taxes, meeting their children’s school fees and coping with ever increasing prices of essential items to maintain a decent life style.

Backwardness of some, not unique in India only – Backwardness of some sections of society having such massive demographic entities is not peculiar to the Indian conditions only. It is universal phenomena. Every nation has it and adopts its own ways to uplift the sub-merged people. The Chinese approach, in this regard is through education and not through unmeritorious reservation of jobs, as there is no need to create vote banks there. Grooming of downtrodden in India could also be done by providing sound education to them. Already there are many institutes and some more may be opened especially for lower strata of society, where they could study the same syllabi and to go through the same courses as other students from a good background. The students from poor background may take more time to go through the same courses and reach up-to the same standard as others. The process may be slow but is steady. The quality of education should not be allowed to deteriorate at any cost as is being done.

Times when Governmental intervention needed – When individuals are proved to be working under special handicap or are not allowed to function freely as citizens, then only the government may intervene irrespective of caste or creed so that deserving persons from all sections of the society may get the needed help. It should punish the culprits strictly and make special provision for advancement of under privileged or handicapped persons. It need not necessarily be in the form of reservations. Reservations have been proved to be disruptive to the peace of the society and unpractical.

Conclusion and suggestions

The past experiences have made it clear that the remedies suggested through reservation proved worse than evils, the leaders were out to combat. To some, this discrimination is positive and to others, negative and contrary to principles of equality, fraternity and social justice.

Deserving people get lost amidst the gore and gusto – The faces of poor people, really deserving support from the government, have been lost amidst the gore and gusto of pro and anti-reservationist movements. ‘Shudras’ have been the life and blood of the Indian society for centuries in the past and led the nation to the ‘Golden Era’. They still provide essential services to the whole community in different disciplines. But in exchange, today, they get very little – not even enough to satisfy their basic minimum needs. Reservation made no difference in their lives.

There is no denial to the fact that for centuries, Shudras have been the life and blood of the Indian society. They have been performing certain traditional standardised services for the whole community. In exchange, as usual, even today they get very little – not enough even to satisfy their basic minimum needs. Reservation made no difference in their lives.

Side effects of Reservation policy – Reservations have developed many side affects. Instead of becoming a viable instrument for the upliftment of the submerged section of the society, it has created vested interests of the powerful lobbies of society. It is serving the interest of those people who do not need it any more and making the administrative machinery sick. Giving additional weapon in weak hands is no remedy. First the hands need to be made strong enough to hold and use the weapon properly through awareness of the surroundings, sound education and-training. Then they themselves without any help from an outside agency will pick up the weapon in their hands and protect themselves and others in the society with it. Education alone can make them more knowledgeable in the fields of their works, more laborious and more confident, so that they could earn enough to live with honour and dignity.

Plans needs to be based on real issues – Witnessing the various views and past experience, it becomes clear that instead of reservation, other development measures should be tried after identifying the real issues and actual needs of these people. Downtrodden must be made capable to stand upon their feet and make their due place in the society. Policy of generating confidence and inculcating skills, knowledge, attitude and habits through sound education should be pursued, so that they could be brought to the required intellectual level, do justice to the jobs assigned to them, hold their positions without any complex and live in the society with honour.

Only two ends in Governance, ‘nation, and ‘individual’ – The unity and solidarity of the nation demands that its population should not be divided along the lines of different identities i.e. caste, region, language, religion or base – rural or urban – by giving preference or over- protection to one section or group over the other. As Kaka Kalelkar had suggested, while framing policies, government should recognise only two ends – the individual on the one hand and the nation as a whole on the other. No sectional or communal grouping should be encouraged to flourish itself in between the two, which could undermine the equality, liberty and freedom of the individuals and the solidarity of the nation.

Result-oriented action programmes needed – Issues should be identified rationally and result-oriented action programmes needs to be implemented sincerely as suggested by the Planning Commission, various government departments and voluntary organisations. The backwardness of most of the people is due to poverty, illiteracy and many evils that go with it such as ignorance, superstitions, mal-nutrition, lack of access to shelter, clothing, health, hygiene etc. These problems can never be solved by making policy of reservation as a major remedial measure. Other remedial measures are required for the development, which could produce desired results within time and cost parameters. More stress should now be given to fair distribution of surplus land and other anti poverty programmes, which could benefit a large number of poor people everywhere if honestly pursued.

Reservations as “Disastrous”, “Fatal” and even a “Vicious principle” – Witnessing the various views and past experience, it becomes clear that instead of reservation, some other measures should be tried after identifying the real issues and actual needs of these people. It was not only the first Prime Minister Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru, but Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the nation, and Chowdhary Charan Singh, the charismatic leader of backward caste, considered reservations as “Disastrous”, “Fatal” and even a “Vicious principle”.

Positive steps needed to be taken – More than Reservations is needed to the inculcation of concentrate on skills, knowledge, attitude and habits through sound education. It would make weaker sections to stand upon their own feet and to survive without the crutches of Reservations. It would bring backwards to the required intellectual level, make them capable do justice to the jobs and fulfil their responsibility without any complex. It would ultimately generate confidence in them and live in the society with dignity and honour.

Vision of Nehru – The vision of Nehru suggested putting emphasis on education – “The real way to help a backward group is to give opportunities of good education; this includes technical education, which is becoming more and more important. Everything else is provision of some kind of crutches which don’t add to the strength or health of the body. We have recently made two decisions: one is universal free elementary education that is the base and the second is scholarships on a very wide scale at every grade of education to the bright boys and girls and this applies not merely to literary education but much more so, to technical, scientific and medical training. I lay stress on the bright and able boys and girls, because it is only they who will raise our standards.” …. “But if we go in for reservation on communal or caste basis we swamp the bright and able people and remain second rate or third rate.” (Chief Ministers Conference, June 27, 1961,)

Authorities like Shri B.D. Sharma, Commissioner for SC/ST, and many others have also opined that policy of reservations in government jobs has not improved the position of the bulk of SC/ST and CECs. Instead it had further developed many problems.

Winding up
•If India wants to emerge as a strong nation in the world, it should give preference to efficiency, motivation, discipline, tenacity of purpose and will to achieve the desired goals.
•It is not the policy of reservation which is required but a policy of generating confidence in backward caste.
•Stress should be given to basic education.
•No sectional or religious group be allowed grow between the government and the individual.
•Really-deserving individuals needing special attention must be identified by assessing their economic condition without any bias.
•All help, such as free and extra tuition, subsidised and extra nourishment, residential accommodation etc., to overcome their disabilities and to acquire requisite abilities should be provided
•Abilities to shoulder responsibilities at entry point and performance throughout the career should always be given importance.
•In postings and promotions, Standard set should apply equally to all and strictly to all.
•At no time and at no level, the standard should be allowed to deteriorate.
•The method of assessment should be continually honed, so that more meritorious persons could be selected.
•Wages should be enough to enable them to work honestly and live in the society with dignity without clamouring for dishonest money.

In the words of Shri C. Rajgopalachari, which he said long ago that for any system “To be good and efficient as a whole we want right type of men. The quality of men placed in position is more important than laying down rules and methods of operation. The caste consciousness is a hard reality. It unites and divides in a very real manner today whatever be our goal and today is most important in matter of administration. Short sighted favouritism and concessions to produce contentment among classes and castes will be very short-lived and will deteriorate into a constant pondering to intrigues and factions, if we do not look to the real efficiency.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 4, 2017 Posted by | Reservation/Affirmative action program | , | 2 Comments

Caste system vs Casteism

Caste System vs Casteism

“In modern understanding of ‘caste-system’, element of ‘caste’ has been  highlighted,  and element of ‘system’ has been considerably suppressed.” Lata Sinha

Traditional living had been an anchor, keeping our boat in safe harbour, Now that the anchor had gone and the boat is at the mercy of wild waves on a stormy ocean.

Introduction – It has become a fashion these days in certain quarters to criticize caste system. For many mordenites, national and international politicians, intellectuals, activists or reformers from other faiths, “Caste” has become a derogatory word. It is not caste system, but casteism is bad and needs to be controlled at its earliest.

Difference between caste as a system and casteismThere is a big difference between ‘caste’ as a ‘system’ and ‘caste-ism’. In the modern understanding of caste system, the element of caste is predominant and the element of system is less. First of all, everybody needs to understand that there is a big difference between ‘caste-system’ and ‘caste-ism’.

  • Caste as system – Caste is a well-organised social institution. This term is specifically used to refer the social structure of Hindu India. Broadly speaking, the fourfold division of society has been sanctioned in ancient scriptures and said to structure all social relations.
  • Caste-ism – Rigid attitude in observance of caste practices without having regard for reason or rhyme or using it for vested interests of powerful lobbies leads to casteism. It has generated many abnormalities and distortions in the system. Caste is a social institution.  Bringing it into politics and using it for political gains is the biggest disservice one can do to the nation.”

Caste as a social institution – Caste as a system has “succeeded in doing in India, what no state, no conqueror and no economy was able to do – the establishment of a single unified system of society throughout the whole of India, accommodating numerous semi-autonomous communities arising at many times and in many places), a system of society, which was able to comprise a greater range of local differences in a single system than any society has previously accomplished.”

Caste-system worked well, till the society was simple and gave importance to moral values. A person’s relation with members of his caste is closer than with those, belonging to other castes. Caste values, beliefs, prejudices, injunctions as well as distortions of reality are the indivisible part of a person’s psyche and conscience. Caste norms define an individual role in the society. Rules of endogamy, ritual purity, interdependence, specialization and hierarchical order of social units have been its important traits. It makes one feel good and loved, when he lives up to the norms, and anxious and guilty, when he transgresses them. It still provides an individual with social security. To foreigners, Varna/caste system represent the ancient culture in its eternity.

Derailment of Caste as a system during medieval period, after the downfall of Hindu Raj  –  After the downfall of Hindu Raj and old Hindus values. Continuous invasions of Turks, Afghans and Mughals during medieval period, when most of the Muslim rulers and Priests humiliated and annihilated the value system of Hindus, destroyed their places of worship and made them victim of all kinds of excesses -like conversion of Hindus into Islam, willingly or forcibly, imposition of Zaziya on Hindus etc.

It was difficult for Hindus to preserve their identity and indigenous culture during medieval period. The conscious efforts by them to preserve their values and honour, made the caste rules and rituals stricter and more rigidly applied than before. (Basham, Ibid pp 181-82). Many deformities and social evils like Sati Pratha, Dowry, Purdah system etc. have been developed into caste system. Religious fundamentalism was born. Hindu and Muslim priests, alike, arbitrarily distorted and misinterpreted the tenets of their respective religions. It led to the process of stiffening/ hardening/ crystallizing of the caste system. Besides, the feudalistic attitude, extravagance and luxurious life style of Mughal rulers and those at the helm of authority, increased the disparity between the rulers and the ruled.

However, the institution of caste remainedwas independent of the government’s intervention. Traditional decentralized self-regulated systems were the mode for keeping checks and balances in the social life of the country. The influence of caste system was immense on public minds.

Teachings of Bhakti and Sufi saints like Surdas, Tulsidas, Chaitnya Mahaprabhu, Nanak, Kabir etc. gave some breathing space to the rigidity of caste system, which suffocated the society during medieval India.

Beginning of casteism – Beginning of casteism can be traced back to the period of British rule (earlier under the East India Company’s and then the Crown’s rule). The developments of last two or three centuries,  have transformed caste system into Casteism. Entry of caste into politics has led to casteism and emergence of valueless politics.

Position of Britain and India before colonial rule –  During Mughal Empire, Indian sub-continent was one of the biggest global economy and manufacturing power. Ałex Von Tunzelmann has described as following the position of  –

  • India – India was ” a vast, mighty and magnificent empire, brilliantly organized and culturally unified. It dominated a massive swath of the earth.  An average Indian peasant enjoyed  a relatively higher income, and lower taxation. Than his descendants ever would again. Though under Mughal rule, it’s people, Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists were allowed the freedom of conscience and custom.” And
  • Britain  – “At the same point of time, England was an undeveloped, semi feudal realm, riven legions factionalism and barely able to feed its illiterate, diseased and stinking masses areas and worked on land, going hungry during the frequent food shortages. They were prevented from moving into industry by the protectionist rackets of guild entry fees Begging was common. Nations ten thousand vagabonds were the terror of the land. Quality of life was not good. About two third population lived at subsistence  levels.” (Ałex Von Tunzelmann, Indian Summer, the secret history of the end of Empire, P. 11-12)

Two-three centuries later, the situation of Britain and India was reversed. India had become an underdeveloped country under British domination, while Britain was on the top of the world. How, when, why and what did happen, which has led to unchecked of casteism ?

Beginning of British-rule in India – During Seventeenth century, many Dutch, Portuguese, French, British and Spanish companies came to India in search of market. Weakening of Islamic power, internal fights among various group leaders and communal unrest gave East India Company success not only in ousting other European companies from India, but also in establishing its rule in India and monopolizing its trade.

Unchecked growth of casteism – Once firmly established, the everything authority was transferred from the Company to the Crown, through the Act of 1858. It brought an end to company’s rule and placed India directly under the Crown. With it ended era of expansion and commercial exploitation and the nation ushered into the era of economic exploitation and policy of divide and rule. To keep their power intact, they played off one part against other, Prince  against Princes, Hindus against Muslims, province against provinces and caste against caste. 

Regenerative and destructive mission of Imperial rule – As Karl Marx had pointed out, that British had a double mission in India, one destructive, i.e. annihilation of the old Asiatic Society, the other laying material foundation of Western Society in Asia.

  • Regenerative policies – The regenerating character of British rule can be seen in laying down foundation of many democratic institutions, introducing Grammar school  modern education system, which attracted the attention of all towards existing social evils. English language was made the medium of learning and official language. It brought Modernization in economic sphere, political unification of the country and laid foundations of many democratic institutions.
  • Destructive policies – The reactionary and destructive character was seen in the way, they implemented their policies, which gave boost to caste-ist tendencies. The spread of education amongst non-Brahmin communities led them to organize their caste fellows and to form associations.  The rulers allowed political formations/organizations on the basis of race, religion, caste, creed, or place, to pursue their sectional interests. It gave rise to caste-ism in social sphere and allowed the entry of Caste in politics.

Occidental irritation against everything native – The Rulers had prejudice against everything native. They arranged debates between conservatives non-interventionists and Protestant-inspired interventionists on Hinduism and its caste system.

  • Views of Protestant-inspired interventionist thinkers– Protestant-inspired interventionist European teachers, missionaries, bureaucrats and sociologists like Max Weber, J.S. Mill or Louis Dumont, showedtheir occidental irritation.Kitts criticized caste-system, as lacking all rational arrangements. All of them launched an ideological attack on Hinduism and its Caste system. They had discredited both and  forcefully implanted in the minds of people, the real and imaginary, evils of Hindu Social structure and its practices. They depicted the Indian culture and practices as discriminatory barbarous, uncivilized”. They considered Hindu social system based on caste as highly stratified where multiplicity of communities and their cultures were exploiting each other for their own advantage.  They forcefully implanted in the minds of people, the real and imaginary, evils of Hindu Social structure and its practices.

Caste responsible for social evils – The sociologists made caste an excuse for the selfishness, covetousness, indolence and apathy of individuals. They held caste system responsible for all social evils and practices, feudal attitude, increasing disparities, backward thinking, belief in dogmas and superstitions sustained by a unique set of rituals, beliefs and whimsical concept of purity and pollution. They easily put all the blame on caste system for peoples’ poverty, misery and deprivation.  They made caste appear as one of the greatest scourges of the country, which doomed large classes of men, to mental and physical degradation and kept them away from education, prosperity and honour. Caste system, to them created an iniquitous society, exploitative and oppressive by nature, which fostered caste-conflicts and caste rivalries.

Contrary to every principle of justice and polity – Ward alleged Not only is the caste contrary to every principle of justice and polity, it is repugnant to every feeling of benevolence.  The social circle is almost invariably, composed of persons of the same caste, to the careful exclusion of others.  It aims one class of men against another; it gives rise to greatest degree of pride and apathy.  It forms a sufficient excuse for not doing an act of benevolence towards another, that he is not of the same caste, Ney, a man dying with thirst will not accept a cooling drought of water from the hands or the cup of a person of a lower caste.  The on of sub-castes and sub-sub-castes is predominant. It developed a complex in Indian minds of educated Indians about their heritage and caste system.

  • Views of liberals on caste-system – Conservative non-interventionalists liberal thinkers like Burke or administrators like Shore etc took a Natural Law view of India in which the “peaceful and orderly polity” was anchored in the caste system. Each Indian had a place in the structure, and each performed a task useful to society. This polity preserved “the liberties and rights, as well as the duties of all groups”. The accusation of ‘Indian despotism’ was false— the power of the rulers was projected through a complex prism of caste and tradition, inevitably moderating it. Thus, in order to preserve “the fabric of Indian society”, India was to be governed “according to Indian experience and tradition”. This staid view provided the basis for the remarkably mild colonial approach to administration Sir John Strachey described in 1911. He wrote that the British, “instead of introducing unsuitable novelties…have taken in each province…the old local institutions as the basis of our own arrangements,”14 including the incorporation of the Law Code of Manu.

Implementation of various Policies fanned casteism – Imperial rulers fanned casteism and communalism in a very sophisticated manner for political reasons. Before laying down the policies for modern India, Colonial rulers gathered information, and then exploited material relating to social, demographic, linguistics, religious and cultural diversities of India.  They exaggerated the distortions developed into the system and carefully avoided telling the whole truth or strong points of Indian culture.

The implementation of rulers’ plans and policies was done quite cleverly. It served a double purpose for them. They got the credit for laying down the foundation of democratic institutions in India, and for amelioration and protection of Indian society. On the other hand, they succeeded in creating differences between different sections of Indian society in a very sophisticated ways.  A complex was developed in the minds of educated Indians about their heritage and caste system. Caste and community were used as tools to distribute political power.

On surface, everything appeared fine. But in reality, distribution of power on communal basis made Indians enflamed caste and community feelings and led them to fight amongst themselves. Their infights kept the rulers to balance of power, and prolong their rule in India. They Following are the policies, that paved way for Imperial designs :

  • Grammar School Modern education –Since its inception in 1835, it has influenced the Indian society and its caste system in a big way. In 1835, modern Education system was introduced by Lord Macaulay. The purpose was to “Anglicize (Indians) in terms of both cultural and intellectual attainments.. And also To form a class, who may be interpreters between us and millions of whom, we govern, a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinion, in morals and in intellect.
  • Plus points – It has both of constructive and destructive effects on its culture. It offered to Indian intelligentsia the key to the treasures of scientific and democratic thoughts of Modern ‘West’. It attracted the attention of all weaknesses, rigidity and harshness of caste system towards weaker sections of the society evil practices developed under alien rule, into the system after the downfall of Hindu Raj.
  • Adverse effect at social front – Modern education system has disassociated Indians from their traditional way of learning in Gurukuls under strict discipline, classical roots and knowledge. With it faded Indian values, philosophies, systems and traditions. It made many Indians to lose their faith in social values and systems.
  • Dependence on government jobs – In the near absence of industrial, commercial or social service activity, the educated Indians depended heavily on Government jobs. Opportunities in modern education and government jobs became the bone of contention. Cut-throat competition was started between different sections of Indian society, to get hold on modern occupations. It led to inter-caste/intra caste rivalries, social tensions and group conflicts among Indians.
  • Access to modern education was not available to the masses, because the education was expensive and its mode of instruction was an alien language – the English.  New opportunities based on modern education, therefore, were inaccessible to majority of people.
  • Effect of Industrialization and modernization process on caste system – With the beginning of the process of industrialization in 1765, everything started changing,  be it the life style, pattern of occupations/employment or work culture. So far, various industrial revolutions have been based on energy of coal, gas, electronics, nuclear, and internet. At present the focus is on renewable energy.

Positive and negative effects of Industrialization – Progress and poverty had grown simultaneously during the earlier two phases of industrialization. The positiveeffects of industrialization were large scale production of goods, machines helping people do their work more quickly. saved their time and labour, optimized productivity. Modern means of transport and communication shortened distances and made mobility and communication faster and easier. But at the same time, it had led Mal-distribution of wealth and power has pushed the world towards many wars including the two world wars.

Beginning of Industrialization – Industrialization began in 1765 with the development of technologies in the spheres of science, engineering and warfare. Under British rule, there had been two industrial revolutions –

  1. (coal)- The industrial revolution began in 1705, when water and steam power were harnessed. It lessened the pressure on human muscles and opened doors for factory/mills culture. The first factory was a cotton mill in Britain. Steam power helped the trading business. As Railways proliferated, their networks strongly influenced urban growth.
  2. (discovery of electricity, gas and oil around 1900) –  With second industrial revolution came the times of innovations in Petro-chemicals, Electronics and aviation. Use of electricity and chemicals continuously improved  day today life of people by making it more comfortable and healthier. Developments in communication technology got a jump with the telegraph and telephone. Transportation grew very fast with the invention of plane and car. Mechanical production grew in speed through the start of mass production. Third and fourth industrial revolutions happened after the Independence.

India missed out first few phases of Industrial revolution, one that revolutionized agriculture and textile production and the second one happening during the last quarter of the 19th century, when science was fused with technology. It resulted in slow progress. India could produce only low technology, low productivity, low wage and low profit items under British rule. It left India economically far behind the advanced nations.

Changes in life-style due to industrialization – Industrialization changed the life-style, occupation and work culture of people in following spheres –

  • Connection between occupation and caste – Earlier, there was a close association of caste with occupation. Process of Modernization and Industrialization loosened the sanctity of caste rules in matters of occupation. Industrialization has given freedom to individuals to select any profession of their own choice/liking. From community-based, employment/occupation has become individual based. It led to urbanization as well.
  • Emergence of new occupations – With the beginning of industrialization and modernization, many new occupations emerged giving choice of occupation, accessibility to which was mainly through modern education, knowledge of English language and loyalty to British. More, a person withdrew from physical labour, more civilized, honoured and qualified he was regarded by modern society. White collared jobs gained importance.
  • Growing aversion towards traditional occupations – Many occupations were regarded more hazardous, more time consuming and less paying. It resulted in discrediting many traditional occupations. Slowly and steadily a large number of traditional occupations became obsolete. Many castes of rural artisans, or craftsman involved in traditional occupations abandoned their traditional work. Outcome of such a development has been casualty of workers first, afterwards their work style, commitment, motivation and culture. It scattered efforts, sense of direction and manufacturing skills of millions of artisans, craftsman, weavers etc.
  • Unemployment increased – Earlier there was no dearth of employment for aspiring workers. In addition to hereditary occupation, a substantial labour market existed in agriculture and army. It was open and had accommodated all social groups of society. dated all social groups of society – indigenous or alien. The basic qualification for doing any work was mainly having the qualifications needed for that specific job.

In the near absence of industrial, commercial or social service activity, the educated Indians depended heavily on Government jobs. Opportunities in modern education and government jobs became the bone of contention and led to a keen competition between different sections of Indian society. It led to inter-caste/intra caste rivalries and communal rivalries. Social tensions and group conflicts increased in matter of employment, which has done irreparable damage to the nation.

It affected the most, a large number of illiterate people, who could neither enter into the modern sector, nor could stick to their traditional occupations considering menial work derogatory. They lost their creativity, sense of achievement and pride. They considerably increased the numbers of poor agricultural laborers, industrial workers or marginal labours or unemployed. In addition to it, it had adversely affected employment prospects of youth, especially unskilled workers living in rural areas.

  • Position of farmers – Earlier, in old agricultural society of India, economics, employment and work culture revolved around long lasting structures. British imperial rule had undermined every pillar of agricultural society. Immense influence  of powerful peasant was a reality of the rural life of Medieval India. Indian peasantry in UP, Bihar and MP were armed. Company’s rule forced Indian farmers to produce cotton plantation so that it can fuel English factories. British rule had reduced India to a producer of raw material and market of their products.
  • Destruction of Indian handicrafts and cottage industryApathy towards indigenous skills, knowledge and occupations pushed millions backwards in a very subtle manner. Local genius, cottage industries and fine arts were discouraged. Their competition was directly with the cheap machine goods. It led to the decay of village industries. Indian markets were flooded with machine- made goods cheaper than hand-made products. It adversely affected loom-made textiles and handicrafts. The vast majority of people belonging to peasants, artisans sunk in poverty and misery.
  • Increased disparities – Mal-distribution of wealth and power divided the society and the whole world into two, ‘haves and have nots’. Earlier People in power and position cared for the lower castes in order to acquire and retain local followers. The system made upper castes generous in matters of food, drinks and loans, when required. The tropical climate of the country compelled the people to the distribution of surplus, as it was difficult to store anything for long. [Sriniwas MN,  Times of India, Dated September 9, 1990, p 6.] It has pushed the world towards many wars including the two world wars.
  • Destroyed local character of caste – Earlier,  local castes were confined within a small area, having very little links with the outside world due slower means of transport. Local societies used to be self-sufficient and mutually `supporting and caring for each other.

Different castes enjoyed a large measure of freedom in respect of their internal customs, rituals and life styles. At the same time, they were bound together by economic and social ties and had a strong bond of mutual dependence. It made close interaction and cooperation between different castes, a reality. All castes were bound together by economic and social ties. Each and every caste was assigned some important social duty. They shared moments of joys and sorrows. Traditions and rituals required the participation of all castes.

Plurality of castes had provided automatic checks and balances and controlled the arbitrariness or unbalanced growth of power of any caste group. There was hardly any question of all India tyranny of any caste group. Only merchants visited different distant places. Modern means of transport and communications destroyed the local character of caste system, shortened distances and made mobility faster and easier.

Modern means of transport The modern means of transport and communications destroyed the local character of caste system, shortened distances and made mobility faster and easier. Small local castes, which were confined within a small area earlier, grew in size, embracing a much wider area than before. Many caste organizations emerged and entered into region-wise caste alliances.

It sharply restricted the hold of caste-elders over its members and replaced the traditional pattern of checks and balances and leadership by voluntary associations, social reformers and leaders.

Many caste organizations and pressure groups emerged and entered into region-wise caste alliances. Industrialization sharply restricted the hold of caste-elders over its members and replaced the traditional pattern of checks and balances and leadership by voluntary associations, social reformers and leaders.

  • Census operation – After consolidating their position in India, British Government started census operations to gather information and understand  size, distribution, socio-economic conditions, demography and other characteristics of Indian society, whom they wanted to rule. He purpose was to chalk out strategies for the colonial governance accordingly.

For the first time, the Census operations drew the attention of the rulers, intelligentsia and public to the diversity of Indian society and multiplicity of castes and sub-castes throughout India.The first volume of Man in 1901 (the Journal of Royal Anthropological Institute) noted, The entire framework of native life in India is made up of groups of castes and tribes, and status and conduct of individuals are, largely, determined by the rules of the group, to which he belonged.

Re-classification of Indian society by British – In 1901, Census Commissioner Risley, like modern Manu, had divided all the castes and communities into following unbridgeable groups – Brahmins, Non-Brahmins, Muslims, Anglo-Indians, untouchables, non-Hindu Communities and backward castes.  Through legal process, each one got a new separate and distinct identity.

Adverse effects on Indian society by the way information collected was used –The gathered information helped the rulers to instigate caste consciousness/ caste animosities.

  • Census enumeration was far from neutral. Recording of caste and sub-casted – Recording and putting in order numerous castes in hierarchical order in 1901 census had fossilized, imparting it a solidity, it did not have earlier.[i]  
  • Caste used as a tool – From now onwards, political, religious and cultural battles are fought the basis of caste. Different sections of Indian society fight amongst themselves to be one up, without any sign of relief even as of today. This division done by Risley remains a by-word even for the present day political leaders of Independent India. For them caste is an effective tool to instigate caste consciousness, caste animosities for vested interest.
  • Destroyed the flexibility of caste-system –  – Earlier, Caste was a flexible and fluid unit of Indian society. Alternative ideologies and styles of life were available in India. Floating population, consisting groups like Gujjars, Bhattis, Rajput rangers remained outside caste system. They were quite strong.  Forests gave shelter and food to large sections of society and served as havens for those in search of escape from society. There was no all-India hierarchical order of different Varna/castes. Cultural endowments like intellectual and spiritual attainments and self-discipline formed the basis of their ranking. Accordingly, position of Brahmins were considered at the top, then came the number of Kshatriya’s, Vaishyas and Shudras. In between the two, there was an ambiguity about the status of all the castes, which was acceptable to all concerned in any local area. This itself gave a large element of flexibility to caste system.

Census operations destroyed its flexibility. It led to an all-round hardening of social-system, codified the castes and standardized the system by placing all the jatis into new social groups formed by Risley. It led to an all-round hardening of social-system, codified the castes and standardized the system by placing all the jatis into four Varnas or in the categories of outcastes and aborigines. All the floating population like Gujjars, Bhattis, Ranger Rajputs, who remained out-side caste system were fused into one.

Ranking was based on administrative convenience. Brahmins were pinpointed as enemy of non-brahmin communities. British rulers retained the distinctions between different sub-castes, relevant to them for organizing labour and homogenized all those sub-castes, for which they had no use, therefore, no interest.

Middleton, a Census Superintendent remarked, We pigeonholed everyone by caste and community. We deplore its effect on social and economic problems. But we are largely responsible for the system…Our land records and official documents have added iron-bonds to the old rigidity of caste…. The government’s act for labels and pigeon-holes had led to a crystallization of the caste system, which, except amongst the aristocratic caste, was really very fluid under indigenous rule.”

  • Casteism and Electoral Politics – Many democratic policies and systems were introduced in India  by British Imperial rulers in the beginning of 20th century like Elections at frequent intervals and Census Operations. Through free and fair electoral process, people formally delegate them the authority to form a government and  look after the welfare of the people, and development of the society and nation as a whole. Election process is also used in many other private and business organizations, from clubs to voluntary associations and corporations.

Those in the corridors of power, whether before Independence or after, know it well that that, in Hindu society, caste opinion and caste loyalties always remained a cohesive regulatory force and the easiest, quickest and the most powerful mode to communicate.

Caste entered into political arena, when elections were introduced in India. Competition for scarce positions of power and prestige through elections under British Raj was the starting point. It had divided the people into different uncompromising groups. How? –

Power in numbers – Introduction of elections at the beginning of 20th century gave rise to Power in numbers. It gave political leverage to the non-Brahmin castes and communities on account of their numerical strength. First, electoral politics created a rift between Hindu and Muslims. Then Hindu population was successfully divided into two uncompromising groups, `We the Non-Brahmins and `They the Brahmins and caste Hindus.

  • Government of India Act of 1909 – Granting of separate Muslim Electorate by Minto Morley Reforms, known as Government of India Act of 1909, brought the idea of communal electorate to the forefront in the minds of all the castes and communities.
  • Suggestion to exclude Untouchables from Hindu-fold Suggestion of Census Commissioner to exclude untouchables from Hindu fold in the coming 1911 census immediately increased the importance of untouchables in political circle, in social circle, and in their own eyes too. Till now the political activities and resentment against  Brahmins hold Around 1909, Non-Brahmin community was divided into two Backwards and untouchables. For the first time, the lowest layer of Hindu Community was conceptualized under the name of untouchability in the political circles.
  • Communal Award of 1932 – Communal Award of 1932 created a permanent split in Hindu Society and perpetuated casteism further. Dr. Rajendra Prasad said, ‘the principle of dividing population into communal groups, which had been adopted in the Minto Morley reforms had been considerably extended, even beyond what had been done by Montagu Chelmsford Reforms… The electorate in 1919 was broken up into 10 parts, now it is fragmented into seventeen unequal bits… Hindu community was further weakened by giving separate representation to Scheduled castes. Division on the basis of religion, occupation and service were made. Every possible cross division was introduced by the British”. The Communal Award strengthened the roots of casteism in politics.
  • Venom against Brahmins/caste Hindus – Earlier, not a single group was identifiable as very strong-dominating all the others, or as an enemy to defeat. There was hardly any question of all India tyranny of any caste group. British government realized  soon the growing influence of Brahmins everywhere in socio-economic and political spheres. For them, intelligentsia belonging to Brahmins/upper castes was a potential threat to the British-rule. Therefore, the rulers purposely pinpointed Brahmins as enemy of millions of unlettered poor non-Brahmin community and kept them at periphery. Other castes were instigated to raise their voice against Brahmins.
  • Leaders of the backward caste like Mahatma Phule, Ambedkar or Gopal Ganesh vehemently criticized its hierarchical structure of caste system. To them, caste. was responsible for the subjugation of lower castes with the help of religion. It treats them as lesser human beings; engages them in forced labour, unsavoury jobs, imposes many restrictions on them and prevents them from joining the mainstream of the society. Dr. Ambedkar made it abundantly clear that, it was through political power that untouchables were to find their solution, not through acceptance by Hindus.  Eradication of caste system became the major plank of ‘backward’ castes and ‘untouchable’ castes.
  • Patronage to non-Brahmin castes and communities through “policy of Preference” – The policy of reservation was originated in the form of Communal Representation on ‘Preferential’ basis at beginning of the twentieth century.

Idea of Preferential treatment or reverse discrimination initiated by Britishers – British Government in India initiated the policy of Reservation in the form of Preferential treatment given to selected social groups in education and employment. That too at a time, when the idea to uplift the suppressed sections of society through preferential treatment, was unknown to the whole world. Before  Second World War Period, discrimination of any kind, Affirmative or otherwise, was considered to violate the Principle of Equality. Even in USA, it started in the late sixties by President Nixon in the form of Affirmative Action Program to enable American Blacks, women and ethnic minorities to overcome their historic handicaps.

Growing influence of Brahmins alarmed the rulers – British rulers got alarmed by the dominance of Brahmins in education, administration and other areas of modern callings. Muslims and non-Brahmin castes were not able to compete  directly with Brahmins. To restrict Brahmin’s entry in Government jobs and make it available to non-Brahmins communities, British rulers devised a novel method to distribute and balance power on ‘preferential-basis’.

Along with them, Non Brahmin castes raised their voice for government’s intervention to give them more space in education and employment. Practice of “Preferences” was started informally first at Madras and Mysore Presidencies (in 1874) at provincial and local levels by fixing 20% quotas for Non-Brahmin communities. Patronage of British rulers to non-Brahmin castes led to emergence of  many pressure groups in political sphere to pursue their sectional interests.

Served many purposes – It served many purposes for the rulers,

  1. Got credit for amelioration and protection of downtrodden,
  2. Successfully restricted Brahmin’s entry into government services by fixing Quotas for different castes and communities.
  3. Distribution of power on communal basis kept balance of power.
  4. It kept natives busy in their in-fights by instigating caste consciousness and caste animosities.
  5. Caste was made a tool in political, religious and cultural battles.

Incentives to Non-Brahmin communities – Non-Brahmins castes got financial assistance and preferences in education and Government employment at local and provincial level. For the first time reservations appeared on national scene formally in 1932 with the Communal Awards.

Beneficiaries’ list on caste basis – As advised by Hutton, the British Government opted for caste instead of individual as the primary basis for inclusion in the list of beneficiaries of preferential treatment by the government. 1931 census operations were done on caste basis.

  • New Legal system – Earlier, laws remained unmodified and flexible with the capacity to adapt to local customs and situations. Discipline and order was maintained by Shastric and customary laws. Political, economic and social matters of different castes were decided by their own caste councils. Loyalty to one’s caste was wide spread in traditional social order. It granted equality before law and equal access to all castes and communities.

New legal system introduced by British government took control of it by establishing nationwide civil, criminal and commercial legal system. It granted equality before law and equal access to all castes and communities. Section 8 of Bengal Regulation III of 1793 made a beginning in Administration of justice in new direction, Bombay Regulation II of 1827 made further change and in 1850, the Caste Disabilities Act (Act 21 of 1850) further eroded the authority of caste laws.

New legal system and uniform application to all castes and communities eroded the authority of caste-system tremendously. Authority of caste groups in matters of civil rights was diminished, but in other spheres, it received legitimization from the courts in the form of caste autonomy.

  • New settlement Policy – Land revenue was one of the major sources of income for Britishers in India. Settlement Policy differed from region to region depending upon the geography, history and customs. The British policy of land revenue extracted as exorbitant amounts as possible from the peasants, which compelled the cultivators to live at the mercy of landlords, for the fear of eviction.

There were broadly three types of land revenue policies in existence depending on the mode of payment of land revenue during the British rule in India –

  • The Zamindari System – It was introduced by Lord Cornwallis in 1793 –  the land revenue was collected from the farmers by intermediaries known as Zamindars. The system was most prevalent in West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, UP, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. The share of the government in the total land revenue collected by the zamindars was 89% and 11% was the share of Jamindaars.
    • Ryotwari System – It was introduced at the end of the 18th century by Sir Thomas Munro, the governor of Madras Presidency. Under the Ryotwari system, the land revenue was paid by the farmers directly to the state. The system was prevalent in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Berur, East Punjab, Coorg and Assam.
    • Mahalwari system – In 1822, Englishman Holt Mackenzie devised a new system known as the Mahalwari System in the North Western Provinces of the Bengal Presidency (most of this area is now in Uttar Pradesh).  Land revenue was collected from the farmers by the village headmen on behalf of the whole village (and not the zamindar). The system was popularised by Lord William Bentick in Agra and Awadh and was later extended to Madhya Pradesh and Punjab.

A major drawback of the new settlement policy was that it left a space for manipulations and corruption. It gave rise to a new class of Middleman, who often oppressed villagers. The farmers did not have the ownership of the lands they cultivated. Cultivators found the system oppressive and exploitative, due to rack-renting, high rates of interest and uneconomic cultivation. Marginal farmers were caught into the clutches of moneylenders. Money-lenders (Mahajans who granted loans to cultivators by mortgaging their land) exploited the cultivators and evicted them from their land in case of loan default. It forced many marginal farmers to become landless laborers.

Exploitative policies of rulers – In short:

  • Earlier, there was not much disparity between different forward or lower castes.
  • Colonial rule destroyed textile and handicrafts industries.
  • Flooded the market with machine made goods cheaper than hand-made products.
  • Indian farmers were forced to produce cotton plantation to fuel English factories.
  • It led to inter-caste/inter communal rivalries, inter group conflicts, which has done irreparable damage to India.

These exploitative policies were opposed strongly by traditionalists, social reformers/cultural elites or national leaders.

British rule drained the wealth and resources of India – Thus, while laying down the foundation of democratic institutions in India, the oppressive way of their implementation drained the wealth and resources of India in a most systematic, shrewd and unjust way. The economic  exploitation, economic drain and repressive attitude submerged the masses in ignorance, enfeebled by diseases and oppressed by wants.[ii]  In 1880, WT. Thortan confessed that the annual tribute, tapped India’s very heart blood and dried up the mainspring of her industrial position.[iii] Sir William Hunter remarked, there remains forty million Indians, who go through life on insufficient food.[iv]

Casteism in Independent India

The seeds of casteism and communism sown by colonial rulers, flourished in full in Independent India. Indianpoliticians of Independent India know it very well that, in the Indian society, caste opinion and caste loyalties have always remained a cohesive regulatory force and the easiest, quickest and the most powerful mode to communicate. Caste’ has become a bye-word for Indian politicians, even though caste has become quite liberal in social matters. Narrow loyalties of caste and religion are encouraged in political arena.

Caste becoming more liberal in social sphere – After independence, with the spread of literacy and growing awareness among masses, Castes system has become less restrictive in social arena. Castes no longer enjoy legal or religious sanctions. Expulsion from castes now means little. Earlier it meant complete social ostracism. Old style of authority and power exercised by caste-elders has already diminished except for a few castes in, rural areas especially in Haryana and Rajasthan.

Restrictions or interactions between different castes arising due to considerations for purity and pollution are fading away from public life even from rural areas. Traditional barriers on marriage, hereditary occupations and commonality are losing its importance. Many evil practices developed in Caste system, while under alien rule, are fading away steadily. Caste is now more liberal and less restrictive in social life of the people.

Still, critics of caste system consider it problematic. Why? What is now wrong with the caste system? Does fault lies somewhere else? Yes, problem lies in entry of caste into politics or politicization of caste system.

Politicization of Caste System – During pre-Independence days, entry of caste into political arena for grabbing political power and administrative convenience. After independence, ossification of caste-system has been fallen into the hands of power brokers and vote guzzlers. Electoral politics has given a new lease of long life to ‘caste’, in the form of casteism. Why and how? –

  • Caste as easiest and powerful weapon in the hands of politicians – For almost all  Political leaders, caste is the easiest and most powerful tool to sway public opinion in their own favour emotionally and to create a large vote bank for themselves. Politicians have no other option other than to use the channel of caste to propagate their ideas, to collect votes  and lure the electorate. No matter, what happens to the country, the politicians are happily riding the caste tiger!
  • Political identities – Instead of classifying the society on the basis of attitude and aptitude, the leaders of modern India have followed the pattern of British rulers. For political and governance purposes, political leaders of independent India have blindly followed the classification of Indian society initiated by the Imperial rulers in most insensitive manner. For all political purposes, the society is divided into five unbridgeable groups – Upper castes (unreserved category), Scheduled Castes, Scheduled tribes, Other Backward Class (all the three under reserved category and Minorities (having special privileges). It led to the creation of many pressure groups, which promote sectional interests on caste or communal basis shamelessly.
  • Casteism glamourized backwardness – There was a time, when people thought it a stigma to be called Backward.  Numerous caste groups clamored for higher caste status in census operations of 1901, 1911, and 1921 and supported their claims with different factors.  But the political acceptance of Reservation as a tool of social engineering has glamorized backwardness. In recent past, SCs and OBCs are more tenacious about their caste-identity than caste-Hindus. During post Mandal period, reversed trend is seen. Different groups vie with each other to be included, preferably in the SC list, failing which in the OBCs list. The number of people included in the beneficiaries list is increasing continuously. The percentage of enumerated OBC population in early 50’s was 18.9% and their estimated population was 31.8%.[v]  Kaka kalelkar Commission identified 2399 castes as backward in 1956. Mandal 3748 castes in 1980.  Still many more clamor for inclusion into either SCT lists or OBC list.  The trend indicates that after fifty years of the Independence, India generated more backwards than before.
  • Power of numerical strength– Casteism or caste-politics has taken firm roots in India because of the electoral politics. Present day elections are  based on vote-bank politics, which is nothing but a game of numbers. The advantage of numerical strength is always there with the backward castes. politicians can never ignore the backward groups. Under such circumstances, it is easy for the authorities to withdraw the facilities and opportunities from non-beneficiary castes and bestow it not on needy persons but on reserved category castes. 

In order to increase their numerical strength different castes, sub-castes or sub-sub castes have joined hands together. They have grouped together and emerged as powerful and assertive pressure groups to pursue their sectional interests. Amongst them, most prominent are Scheduled castes, backward castes and Muslim community claiming their minority status.

  • Strange permutations and combinations – Post-Mandal era has witnessed emergence of many political parties (having different ideologies) and pressure groups to follow their own sectional interests. They come together, just  to  increase their vote bank and grab political power. Various permutations and combinations are being tried like AJGAR, MAJGAR, KHAM, MY, DS4, BHUREBAAL etc. have been formed in political arena for electoral purposes. They incite caste rivalries.
  • Paternalistic policies of Government – After Independence, special paternalistic policies and practices of government, (which are based on caste rather than on economic criteria) for bringing the submerged sections of the society into mainstream, have flared up casteism.

Earlier the demand for preferential treatment from the government  was confined to South India only and the fight was against Brahmins. But now after Mandal, this venom has engulfed the whole nation. Selection of the beneficiaries’ castes   is biased, It often depends on patronage networks of politically powerful, vocal or aggressive pressure groups.

So far, it has mostly benefitted the rural elite or creamy layer of the beneficiary castes. Anyone doubting the efficacy of Reservation Policy is labelled today as a part of Manuwadi Brahminical system, which is alleged for using religious scriptures, injunctions, propaganda and plain force to impose on the masses many deprivations. Beneficiary castes stick to their caste identity to protect their preferential status in matter of education, jobs and other facilities offered by the government from time to time.

  • Non-beneficiary Castes side-lined –At present, Non beneficiary castes are scattered. SCs/OBCs are politically united and well-organized. Honest and upright persons are sidelined irrespective of their caste or community. Pursuers of political power forget that in recent past, Reformists and intelligentsia had tried to ameliorate the condition of the disadvantaged sections of Indian society, be it women, untouchables or poor living in abject poverty, much before the rise of Naikars, Ambedkars or Periars in the Indian scene. Not a single reform or desired change could be brought about without active support and participation of the intelligentsia of the society. They throttle the voice of upright and honest citizens. Talented youth of non-beneficiary castes feel that they are being treated as second rate citizens in their own country by the State, because of no fault of theirs. intellectuals and reformists, mostly belonging to upper castes  They taught the people to leave the meaningless rituals and rigidities, which had tended them to treat majority of people as lesser human beings. They advised to treat all humans humanly irrespective of caste or creed.
  • Post-Mandal era witnessed that the lower strata, which is supposed to be the victim of caste order, has been more adamant to preserve its caste-identity. Political parties, which hold caste system responsible or all discrimination and deprivation of lower strata of society and preach total eradication of caste-system, are glued firmly on caste-identity and assert their claims on the basis of caste itself.  Their vested interest don’t allow them to rise above Caste-ist and communal politics.
  • Massive shift in the power structure in favour of Dalits and OBCs – The advantage of numerical strength is always there with the backward castes.  Therefore, the politicians cannot ignore the backward groups. During Post Mandal period, there was a massive shift in the power structure in favour of Dalits and OBCs after the Mandal Commission recommendations were accepted by the government, when V P Singh was the Prime Minister. Different castes and sub-castes have come together under the banner of SCs or OBCs for political actions. But they have never forgotten their separate identities. Rather their unity of under the label of SCs  and OBCs is an illusion. Neither the term Schedule caste nor [LS1] OBC nor Dalit make them a homogeneous class. In the opinion of MSS Pandian, an academic with Madras Institute of Development Studies, The current inter caste rivalries are part of series of periodic revolt, whose prime object is self- assertion.[vi]
  • Ambedkarization and Mandalization of politics – Post 90’s period has seen Ambedkar and Mandal being projected among the masses as second only to God. They have gained  popularity much more than it was there during their lifetime.The attempt to  Ambedkarize  and Mandalize the Indian politics has sharpened the caste-divide and added to tensions.
  • Disillusioned public – Politicians and their parties remain unmindful to take any lesson from the past experience.  The electorate has shown, again and again, its disgust against valueless caste-politics.  The electoral verdict, in the past, has shown that the public is more concerned about other issues. In 1967, the rising prices created an anti-Congress wave at provincial level, that wiped it out from almost all the provinces from Punjab to West Bengal. In 1971, the support to Mrs. Gandhi was on Remove poverty call. The year 1977 saw the downfall of Mrs. Gandhi due to excesses during emergency. In 1984, the sympathy wave gave victory to Rajiv Gandhi. In 1989, it was the call to end corruption. In 1991, the people showed their disgust against caste politics. Every time it was an anti-establishment verdict except for 1984. But the politicians remain unmindful of it.
  • Increased inter-caste and intra-caste rivalry – Inter-caste and intra-caste, inter-community and intra-community and inter-tribal and intra-tribal rivalries are continuously increasing in order to occupy more space caste-wise in the corridors of power. Animosity between different castes gives rise to politics of revenge, confuse the authorities and take  irrational decisions like reverse discrimination, which have not so far  helped the majority of really disadvantaged. [vii] 

No doubt, casteism has resulted in inter-caste/intra-caste conflicts, instability, in-decisiveness, rigidity and irrationality. Issues are not decided by rational thinking in politics, but by the demonstration of caste strength and vote-bank.  Mandal has conditioned the public and politician’s mind to look at every issue through distorting prism of caste. Elections are fought on the basis of caste.  Officers are recruited, posted or transferred on caste basis.  Caste is becoming increasingly more important in the governance of country.

Conclusion – Modernity has disassociated majority of Indians from their traditional way of living, classical roots and knowledge. With it faded Indian values, philosophies, systems and traditions. It made many Indians to lose their faith in social values and systems.

Modern age political leaders are fully aware that caste opinion and caste loyalties always remained a cohesive regulatory force and the easiest, quickest and the most powerful mode to communicate. They also know it well that it is not the caste-system, but the bad politics and poor governance, which is responsible. Still their vested interest is in enflaming Inter-caste and intra-caste, inter-community and intra-community and inter-tribal and intra-tribal conflicts. Casteist tendencies helps them to secure more space in the corridors of power.

They propagate that Caste is responsible for the miseries of submerged sections of society. It could vary from illiteracy to creating disparities of power, wealth and culture, escalation of violence, crimes and corruption leading the nation towards disintegration, discrimination and exploitation of weaker, unprivileged sections of society to forcing destitution on vast number of people.

Under-currents of caste politics pushing real issues into the background – Under-currents of caste politics have made the government incapable to solve the real issues like mass-scale illiteracy, poverty, unemployment, inflation, deteriorated law and order situation, increasing violence or general coarsening of moral fibre of the Indian society etc.

Disparity – The population of India is sharply divided into two – “haves” and “have-nots”. The most important factor responsible for this disparity is vote-bank politics, irrational and corrupt ways of pursuing the paternal policies and government’s failure to address real issues at central and State levels.

Encouragement to narrow loyalties of caste and religion – Narrow loyalties of caste and religion are encouraged in political arena. It has generated sub-cultures like caste-ism, favouritism, and lure for easy money, nepotism, parochialism, communalism, regionalism etc. Bigoted sentiments and irresponsible comments are spreading in-discipline in the society. The rising aspirations and demands of people, with the spread of education and awareness, has created added problem for the government.

Maintaining law and order is becoming more and more difficult. The voice of upright and honest people belonging to middle class is being continuously throttled mercilessly. They are being punished for following sincerely family-planning norms, which has decreased their numbers. In present day vote-bank politics based on game of numbers, it is very easy to side-line them.

People for whom caste is important? – For a common man, caste is a natural social institution, for those very people. The critics of caste enflaming casteist-tendencies is necessary to survive in political world. Their interest lies in keeping the majority of people ignorant, insecure and out of mainstream. Caste is a recipe for them to create vote-banks. Reserved category castes cling to their caste identity very strongly, as it is the base to enjoy special privileges/benefits of affirmative action programs initiated and implemented by the Government at central and provincial levels. Creamy layer of lower castes protects its turf under the banner of backward/underprivileged castes. And here lies the crux of present day’s caste-ist politics.

Casteism giving rise to Sub-cultures – Unfortunately, instead creating a better future, caste policies have generated many complications and problems for the government. It has generated sub-cultures like caste-ism, favouritism, and lure for easy money, nepotism, parochialism, communalism, regionalism etc. Bigoted sentiments and irresponsible comments spread in-discipline and agitation in the society. With spread of education and awareness in public, aspirations and demands of different social groups are rising, which create added problems for the government.

Increasing[LS2] [LS3] [LS4] [LS5] [LS6]  disparities – Prosperity and poverty has grown simultaneously in modern India. Modernity and technical developments have changed everything drastically, be it thinking, life-style or work culture of people. There is mal-distribution of wealth and power. The gap between rich and poor is increasing every-day. Rich are becoming richer. The society has been divided into Haves and Have-nots.

Living like without an anchor – Traditional living has been like an anchor, keeping the boat in safe harbour. Now that the anchor has gone and the boat is at the mercy of wild waves on a stormy ocean. Caste system has not become weak or obsolete in social arena even today. It has given the Indian society a distinguished identity and a solid social structure with a system of thought, a way of life, and sense of direction. The roots of ‘Varna/jati-Pratha’, now known as caste system, are so deep that it is virtually impossible to think of India without caste system.

Present day challenges  – At present, the whole atmosphere is in a state of turmoil. Pandemic Karona-19 has added fuel in fire. Economy of the nation is in a critical condition. Technology has advanced to such an extent, that phones are wireless; cooking is fire-less; cars are key-less; food is fat-less; tyres are tubeless; and tools are cordless. But along with it, main organs of the Government  Political institutions are clueless and almost paralyzed because of corruption; leaders are shameless; masses are helpless; youth are jobless; relations are meaningless; feelings are heartless; education is valueless; attitude is careless, and children are manner-less. Modernity has ignited the desire for position, name and possession.  People are gradually losing faith in traditional values and systems. Even institution like family has lost its sheen. It is quite a tough job for India to cope with the new challenges.

It is not the caste system, but the circumstances, that have pushed millions of persons belonging to lower strata of society away from the mainstream. Suffering from centuries old enslavement, suppression and ostracism deteriorated severely the condition of lower strata of society, stopped growth of their personality and made them dependent on others for their livelihood.

Suggestions – It is not the caste system, but the circumstances, that have pushed millions of persons belonging to lower strata of society away from the mainstream. Suffering from centuries old enslavement, suppression and ostracism deteriorated severely the condition of lower strata of society, stopped growth of their personality and made them dependent on others for their livelihood.

Venom against caste in some quarters does not lie in distant past, but only about 150 years back. It got escalated during British Imperial rule in India. The roots of present socio-political and economic ills and deprivation of masses on large scale lie not so much in caste system as mainly on the issues like poverty, illiteracy, population-explosion, or mass-unemployment etc.

  • Humanitarian obligation to empower the submerged sections of society – It is a humanitarian obligation of any civilized society to uplift and empower the submerged sections of society.Generally law follows social changes. After  Independence,  in their hurry and enthusiasm to end age-old imbalances and cumulative disparities of power, wealth and culture, political leadership of India has tried to foster social changes through law. Their aim was to bring the downtrodden sections of society into the mainstream. But, in the process knowingly or unknowingly, they have encouraged Caste-ism and communalism.
  • India is trying its best to prosper – After Independence, India not only picked up the previous backlog, it had faced during first to industrial revolutions, However Casteism has complicated the situation. Groupism and casteism in politics is slowly drifting the nation towards disintegration and disaster.  What have been put at stake are not the past, but the future of the country.
  • People feel that entry of caste in politics has complicated the situation. ‘Politicization of caste’ needs to be arrested at its earliest. They wish to make improvements in the tried and tested old system by removing deformities developed into it with time. A change is good for the growth of a society. But changes must be based on constant interpretation of past experiences and opinions, present requirements and existing ground realities of the place and future prospects.
  • Contribution of self-help groups – Recently, many self-help groups (NGOs) have emerged all-over India for development of society as a whole. They bypass the government mechanisms and go straight communities. Wherever and whenever harnessed properly, efforts of such self-help groups have yielded rich dividends. For example the Parsi and Christian communities, institutions run by Veerashaivya Mutts of Karnataka, Ramakrishan Mission, Radhaswami Satsang, Satya Sai Baba, Sadhu Vasvani and many others are practising community based approach for the development of humanity. They provide far better municipal, civic, educational, and medical services than the government.

Today the nation demands more than the yesteryears to subsume all the differences created on caste, religion, class, region, gender and language grounds under a wider imperative i.e. sustainable development of the nation in real sense.  India can advance only if all the Indians act as one, feel as one, and develop respect for each other.  If differences or diversities continue to act as defining factors, India can never progress.


[i]       Das Veena and Kagal Ayesha, Through the Prism of Clerkdom, Times of India, dated September 16, 1990, p2.

[ii]           Tarachand, History of Freedom Movement in India, Vol.I, pp283-84.

[iii]           Annie Besant, India – A Nation, pp98-99.

[iv]           Fisher FB, India’s Silent Revolution, pp37-38.

[v]           Galenter,ibid, P168.

[vi]           Pandian MSS, Sunday PP. 12-13 8-14 June, 1997.

[vii]          BCCI, para VII and VIII, Note of Dissent.


 [LS1]

 [LS2]

 [LS3]

 [LS4]Do not like this style

 [LS5]

 [LS6]

September 14, 2021 Posted by | Caste as a system | Leave a comment

Politicization of Caste System or Casteism

“In present understanding of ‘caste-system’, element of ‘caste’ has been  highlighted,  and element of ‘system’ has been considerably suppressed.” Lata Sinha

“Societies crumble and collapse, not because of the mindset of few’ Bad’ men, but because of the apathy and silence of many ‘Good’ men”

Traditional living had been an anchor, keeping our boat in safe harbour, Now that the anchor had gone and the boat is at the mercy of wild waves on a stormy ocean.

Introduction – It has become a fashion these days in certain quarters to criticize caste system. For many mordenites, national and international politicians, intellectuals, activists or reformers from other faiths, “Caste” has become a derogatory word. It is not caste system, but casteism is bad and needs to be controlled at its earliest.

Difference between caste as a system and casteismThere is a big difference between ‘caste’ as a ‘system’ and ‘caste-ism’. In the modern understanding of caste system, the element of caste is predominant and the element of system is less. First of all, everybody needs to understand that there is a big difference between ‘caste-system’ and ‘caste-ism’.

  • Caste as system – Caste as a system is a well-organized social institution. It Caste as a system has “succeeded in doing in India, what no state, no conqueror and no economy was able to do – the establishment of a single unified system of society throughout the whole of India, accommodating numerous semi-autonomous communities arising at many times and in many places), a system of society, which was able to comprise a greater range of local differences in a single system than any society has previously accomplished.” Caste has always provided social security to individuals. Its norms define an individual role in the society. Rules of endogamy, ritual purity, interdependence, specialization etc. have been its important traits. A person’s relation with members of his own caste remains closer than with those, belonging to other castes. Caste values, beliefs, prejudices, injunctions as well as distortions of reality are the indivisible part of a person’s psyche and conscience. It makes one feel good and loved, when he lives up to the norms, and anxious and guilty, when he transgresses them.
  • Caste-ism Rigid attitude in observance of caste practices without having regard for reason or rhyme or using it for vested interests of powerful lobbies leads to casteism. It has generated many abnormalities and distortions in the system. Caste is a social institution.  Bringing it into politics and using it for political gains is the biggest disservice one can do to the nation.”

Caste-system worked well, till the society was simple and gave importance to moral values.

Derailment of Caste as a system during medieval period, after the downfall of Hindu Raj  –  After the downfall of Hindu Raj and old Hindus values. Continuous invasions of Turks, Afghans and Mughals during medieval period, when most of the Muslim rulers and Priests humiliated and annihilated the value system of Hindus, destroyed their places of worship and made them victim of all kinds of excesses -like conversion of Hindus into Islam, willingly or forcibly, imposition of Zajiya on Hindus etc.

It was difficult for Hindus to preserve their identity and indigenous culture during medieval period. The conscious efforts by them to preserve their values and honour, made the caste rules and rituals stricter and more rigidly applied than before. (Basham, Ibid pp 181-82). Many deformities and social evils like Sati Pratha, Dowry, Purdah system etc. have been developed into caste system. Religious fundamentalism was born. Hindu and Muslim priests, alike, arbitrarily distorted and misinterpreted the tenets of their respective religions. It led to the process of stiffening/ hardening/ crystallizing of the caste system. Besides, the feudalistic attitude, extravagance and luxurious life style of Mughal rulers and those at the helm of authority, increased the disparity between the rulers and the ruled.

However, the institution of caste remained independent of the government’s intervention. Traditional decentralized self-regulated systems were the mode for keeping checks and balances in the social life of the country. The influence of caste system was immense on public minds.

Teachings of Bhakti and Sufi saints like Surdas, Tulsidas, Chaitnya Mahaprabhu, Nanak, Kabir etc. gave some breathing space to the rigidity of caste system, which suffocated the society during medieval India.

Beginning of casteismCasteism began during British rule (earlier under the East India Company’s and then the Crown’s rule). It had transformed caste system into Casteism, allowed castes to enter into politics, with which began valueless politics.

Position of Britain and India before colonial rule –  During Mughal Empire, Indian sub-continent was one of the biggest global economy and manufacturing power. Ałex Von Tunzelmann has described as following the position of  –

  • India – India was ” a vast, mighty and magnificent empire, brilliantly organized and culturally unified. It dominated a massive swath of the earth.  An average Indian peasant enjoyed  a relatively higher income, and lower taxation. Than his descendants ever would again. Though under Mughal rule, it’s people, Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists were allowed the freedom of conscience and custom.” And
  • Britain  – “At the same point of time, England was an undeveloped, semi feudal realm, riven legions factionalism and barely able to feed its illiterate, diseased and stinking masses areas and worked on land, going hungry during the frequent food shortages. They were prevented from moving into industry by the protectionist rackets of guild entry fees Begging was common. Nations ten thousand vagabonds were the terror of the land. Quality of life was not good. About two third population lived at subsistence  levels.” (Ałex Von Tunzelmann, Indian Summer, the secret history of the end of Empire, P. 11-12)

Within two-three hundred years, the position of Britain and India reversed. India had become an underdeveloped country under British domination, while Britain was on the top of the world. How, when, why and what did happen, which has led to unchecked of casteism ?

British-rule in India During Seventeenth century, many Dutch, Portuguese, French, British and Spanish companies came to India in search of market. Weakening of Islamic power, internal fights among various group leaders and communal unrest gave East India Company a success, not only in ousting other European companies from India, but also in establishing its rule in India and monopolizing its trade.

Unchecked growth of casteism – Once firmly established, East India Company transferred the authority to rule India to the Crown, through the Act of 1858. With it, ended the era of expansion and commercial exploitation. The nation ushered into the era of economic exploitation and policy of divide and rule. To keep their power intact, they played off one part against other, Prince  against Princes, Hindus against Muslims, province against provinces and caste against caste. 

Regenerative and destructive mission of Imperial rule – As Karl Marx had pointed out, that British had a double mission in India, one destructive, i.e. annihilation of the old Asiatic Society, the other laying material foundation of Western Society in Asia.

  • Regenerative policies – The regenerating character was concerned with social transformation through modern education, English language as a medium of learning and official language, modernization in economic sphere, political unification of the country and laying foundations for many democratic institutions.
  • Destructive policies – The reactionary and destructive character was seen in the way, they implemented their policies, which gave boost to caste-ist tendencies. The spread of education amongst non-Brahmin communities led them to organize their caste fellows and to form associations.  The rulers officially allowed political formations/organizations on the basis of race, religion, caste, creed, or place, to pursue their sectarian interests. It gave rise to caste-ism in social sphere and allowed the entry of Caste in politics.

Ideological attack on caste system British had prejudice against everything native. They arranged debates between conservatives non-interventionists and Protestant-inspired interventionists on Hinduism and its caste system.

  • Views of Protestant-inspired interventionist thinkers –– Protestant-inspired interventionist European teachers, missionaries, bureaucrats and sociologists like Max Weber, J.S. Mill or Louis Dumont, showed their occidental irritation. All of them launched an ideological attack on Hinduism and its Caste system. They had discredited both and  forcefully implanted in the minds of people, the real and imaginary, evils of Hindu Social structure and its practices. Kitts and others criticized caste-system, as lacking all rational arrangements. According to them Indian culture and caste practices were discriminatory barbarous, uncivilized”. They considered Hindu social system based on caste as highly stratified where multiplicity of communities and their cultures were exploiting each other for their own advantage.  They forcefully implanted in the minds of people, the real and imaginary, evils of Hindu Social structure and its practices.
  • Caste responsible for social evils – They held caste responsible for all social evils and practices i.e. selfishness, covetousness, indolence and apathy of individuals, feudal attitude, increasing disparities, backward thinking, belief in dogmas and superstitions., sustained by a unique set of rituals, beliefs and whimsical concept of purity and pollution. Even the blame for peoples’ poverty, misery and deprivation was put on caste-system.  It was posed as as one of the greatest scourges of the country, which doomed large classes of men, to mental and physical degradation and kept them away from education, prosperity and honour. Caste system created an iniquitous society, exploitative and oppressive by nature. and fostered caste-conflicts and caste rivalries.
  • Contrary to every principle of justice and polity – Ward alleged Not only is the caste contrary to every principle of justice and polity, it is repugnant to every feeling of benevolence.  The social circle is almost invariably, composed of persons of the same caste, to the careful exclusion of others.  It aims one class of men against another; it gives rise to greatest degree of pride and apathy.  It forms a sufficient excuse for not doing an act of benevolence towards another, that he is not of the same caste, Ney, a man dying with thirst will not accept a cooling drought of water from the hands or the cup of a person of a lower caste.  The on of sub-castes and sub-sub-castes is predominant. It developed a complex in Indian minds of educated Indians about their heritage and caste system.
  • Views of liberals on caste-system – Conservative non-interventionalists liberal thinkers like Burke or administrators like Shore etc took a Natural Law view of India in which the “peaceful and orderly polity” was anchored in the caste system. Each Indian had a place in the structure, and each performed a task useful to society. This polity preserved “the liberties and rights, as well as the duties of all groups”. The accusation of ‘Indian despotism’ was false— the power of the rulers was projected through a complex prism of caste and tradition, inevitably moderating it. Thus, in order to preserve “the fabric of Indian society”, India was to be governed “according to Indian experience and tradition”. This staid view provided the basis for the remarkably mild colonial approach to administration Sir John Strachey described in 1911. He wrote that the British, “instead of introducing unsuitable novelties…have taken in each province…the old local institutions as the basis of our own arrangements,” including the incorporation of the Law Code of Manu.

Implementation of various Policies fanned casteism Imperial rulers fanned casteism and communalism in a very sophisticated manner for political reasons. Before laying down the policies for modern India, Colonial rulers gathered information, and then exploited material relating to social, demographic, linguistics, religious and cultural diversities of India.  They exaggerated the distortions developed into the system and carefully avoided telling the whole truth or strong points of Indian culture.

The implementation of rulers’ plans and policies was done quite cleverly. It served a double purpose for them. They got the credit for laying down the foundation of democratic institutions in India, and for amelioration and protection of Indian society. On the other hand, they succeeded in creating differences between different sections of Indian society in a very sophisticated ways.  A complex was developed in the minds of educated Indians about their heritage and caste system. Caste and community were used as tools to distribute political power.

On surface, everything appeared fine. But in reality, distribution of power on communal basis made Indians enflamed caste and community feelings and led them to fight amongst themselves. Their infights kept the rulers to balance of power, and prolong their rule in India. They Following are the policies, that paved way for Imperial designs

Grammar School Modern education –Since its inception in 1835, it has influenced the Indian society and its caste system in a big way. In 1835, modern Education system was introduced by Lord Macaulay. The purpose was to “Anglicize (Indians) in terms of both cultural and intellectual attainments.. And also To form a class, who may be interpreters between us and millions of whom, we govern, a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinion, in morals and in intellect.

Plus points of Modern education -Modern education system has both of constructive and destructive effects on its culture. It offered to Indian intelligentsia the key to the treasures of scientific and democratic thoughts of Modern ‘West’. It attracted the attention of all weaknesses, rigidity and harshness of caste system towards weaker sections of the society evil practices developed under alien rule, into the system after the downfall of Hindu Raj.

Adverse effects at social front – Modern education system has disassociated Indians from their traditional way of learning in Gurukuls under strict discipline, classical roots and knowledge. With it faded Indian values, philosophies, systems and traditions. It made many Indians to lose their faith in social values and systems.

Dependence on government jobs – In the near absence of industrial, commercial or social service activity, the educated Indians depended heavily on Government jobs. Opportunities in modern education and government jobs became the bone of contention. Cut-throat competition was started between different sections of Indian society, to get hold on modern occupations. It led to inter-caste/intra caste rivalries, social tensions and group conflicts among Indians.

No access to masses – Access to modern education was not available to the masses, because the education was expensive and its mode of instruction was an alien language – the English.  New opportunities based on modern education, therefore, were inaccessible to majority of people.

Effect of Industrialization and modernization on Caste-systemIndustrialization began with the development of technologies in the spheres of science, engineering and warfare. With the beginning of the process of industrialization in 1765, everything started changing,  be it the life style, pattern of occupations/employment or work culture. So far, various industrial revolutions have been based on energy of coal, gas, electronics, nuclear, and internet. At present the focus is on renewable energy.

Positive and negative effects of Industrialization – Progress and poverty had grown simultaneously during the earlier two phases of industrialization. The positive effects of industrialization were large scale production of goods, machines helping people do their work more quickly. saved their time and labour, optimized productivity. Modern means of transport and communication shortened distances and made mobility and communication faster and easier. But at the same time, it had led Mal-distribution of wealth and power has pushed the world towards many wars including the two world wars.

Under British rule, there had been two industrial revolutions –

  1. First Industrial revolution (based on coal)- The industrial revolution began in 1705, when water and steam power were harnessed. It lessened the pressure on human muscles and opened doors for factory/mills culture. The first factory was a cotton mill in Britain. Steam power helped the trading business. As Railways proliferated, their networks strongly influenced urban growth.
  2. Second Industrial revolution (discovered electricity, gas and oil around 1900) –  With second industrial revolution came the times of innovations in Petro-chemicals, Electronics and aviation. Use of electricity and chemicals continuously improved  day today life of people by making it more comfortable and healthier. Developments in communication technology got a jump with the telegraph and telephone. Transportation grew very fast with the invention of plane and car. Mechanical production grew in speed through the start of mass production. Third and fourth industrial revolutions happened after the Independence.

India missed out first few phases of Industrial revolution, one that revolutionized agriculture and textile production and the second one happening during the last quarter of the 19th century, when science was fused with technology. It resulted in slow progress. India could produce only low technology, low productivity, low wage and low profit items under British rule. It left India economically far behind the advanced nations.

Changes in life-style due to industrialization – Industrialization changed the life-style, occupation and work culture of people in following spheres –

  • Connection between occupation and caste – Earlier, there was a close association of caste with occupation. Process of Modernization and Industrialization loosened the sanctity of caste rules in matters of occupation. Industrialization has given freedom to individuals to select any profession of their own choice/liking. From community-based, employment/occupation has become individual based. It led to urbanization as well.
  • Emergence of new occupations – With the beginning of industrialization and modernization, many new occupations emerged giving choice of occupation, accessibility to which was mainly through modern education, knowledge of English language and loyalty to British. More, a person withdrew from physical labour, more civilized, honoured and qualified he was regarded by modern society. White collared jobs gained importance.
  • Growing aversion towards traditional occupations – Many occupations were regarded more hazardous, more time consuming and less paying. It resulted in discrediting many traditional occupations. Slowly and steadily a large number of traditional occupations became obsolete. Many castes of rural artisans, or craftsman involved in traditional occupations abandoned their traditional work. Outcome of such a development has been casualty of workers first, afterwards their work style, commitment, motivation and culture. It scattered efforts, sense of direction and manufacturing skills of millions of artisans, craftsman, weavers etc.
  • Unemployment increased – Earlier there was no dearth of employment for aspiring workers. In addition to hereditary occupation, a substantial labor market existed in agriculture and army. It was open and had accommodated all social groups of society. dated all social groups of society – indigenous or alien. The basic qualification for doing any work was mainly having the qualifications needed for that specific job.
  • Increased inter-itra caste rivalries – In the near absence of industrial, commercial or social service activity, the educated Indians depended heavily on Government jobs. Opportunities in modern education and government jobs became the bone of contention and led to a keen competition between different sections of Indian society. It led to inter-caste/intra caste rivalries and communal rivalries. Social tensions and group conflicts increased in matter of employment, which has done irreparable damage to the nation.
  • Adversely affected illiterate manual labor’s class – It affected the most, a large number of illiterate people, who could neither enter into the modern sector, nor could stick to their traditional occupations considering menial work derogatory. They lost their creativity, sense of achievement and pride. They considerably increased the numbers of poor agricultural laborers, industrial workers or marginal labors or unemployed. In addition to it, it had adversely affected employment prospects of youth, especially unskilled workers living in rural areas.
  • Position of farmers – Earlier, in old agricultural society of India, economics, employment and work culture revolved around long lasting structures. British imperial rule had undermined every pillar of agricultural society. Immense influence  of powerful peasant was a reality of the rural life of Medieval India. Indian peasantry in UP, Bihar and MP were armed. Company’s rule forced Indian farmers to produce cotton plantation so that it can fuel English factories. British rule had reduced India to a producer of raw material and market of their products.
  • Destruction of Indian handicrafts and cottage industry – Apathy towards indigenous skills, knowledge and occupations pushed millions backwards in a very subtle manner. Local genius, cottage industries and fine arts were discouraged. Their competition was directly with the cheap machine goods. It led to the decay of village industries. Indian markets were flooded with machine- made goods cheaper than hand-made products. It adversely affected loom-made textiles and handicrafts. The vast majority of people belonging to peasants, artisans sunk in poverty and misery.
  • Increased disparities – Mal-distribution of wealth and power divided the society and the whole world into two, ‘haves and have nots’. Earlier People in power and position cared for the lower castes in order to acquire and retain local followers. The system made upper castes generous in matters of food, drinks and loans, when required. The tropical climate of the country compelled the people to the distribution of surplus, as it was difficult to store anything for long. [Sriniwas MN,  Times of India, Dated September 9, 1990, p 6.] It has pushed the world towards many wars including the two world wars.

Modern means of Transport and communication destroyed local character of caste – The modern means of transport and communications shortened distances and made mobility faster and easier. But at the same time, it destroyed the local character of caste system. Earlier,  local castes were confined within a small area, having very little links with the outside world due slower means of transport. Local societies used to be self-sufficient and mutually `supporting and caring for each other. They enjoyed a large measure of freedom in respect of their internal customs, rituals and life styles. At the same time, they were bound together by economic and social ties and had a strong bond of mutual dependence. It made close interaction and cooperation between different castes, a reality.

All castes were bound together by economic and social ties. Each and every caste was assigned some important social duty. They shared moments of joys and sorrows. Traditions and rituals required the participation of all castes. Plurality of castes had provided automatic checks and balances and controlled the arbitrariness or unbalanced growth of power of any caste group. There was hardly any question of all India tyranny of any caste group. Only merchants visited different distant places. Modern means of transport and communications destroyed the local character of caste system, shortened distances and made mobility faster and easier.

After the developments in modern means of transport and communication, different social groups grew in size, embracing a much wider area than before. Many pressure groups emerged and entered into region-wise caste alliances.

Industrialization sharply restricted the hold of caste-elders over its members and replaced the traditional pattern of checks and balances and leadership by voluntary associations, social reformers and leaders. It sharply restricted the hold of caste-elders over its members and replaced the traditional pattern of checks and balances and leadership by voluntary associations, social reformers and leaders.

Effect of Census operation on caste system – After consolidating their position in India, British Government started census operations to gather information and understand  size, distribution, socio-economic conditions, demography and other characteristics of Indian society, whom they wanted to rule. He purpose was to chalk out strategies for the colonial governance accordingly.

For the first time, the Census operations drew the attention of the rulers, intelligentsia and public to the diversity of Indian society and multiplicity of castes and sub-castes throughout India. The first volume of Man in 1901 (the Journal of Royal Anthropological Institute) noted, The entire framework of native life in India is made up of groups of castes and tribes, and status and conduct of individuals are, largely, determined by the rules of the group, to which he belonged.

Re-classification of Indian society by British – In 1901, Census Commissioner Risley, like modern Manu, had divided all the castes and communities into following unbridgeable groups – Brahmins, Non-Brahmins, Muslims, Anglo-Indians, untouchables, non-Hindu Communities and backward castes.  Through legal process, each one got a new separate and distinct identity.

Adverse effects of census on Indian society by the way information collected was used – The gathered information helped the rulers to instigate caste consciousness/ caste animosities.

  • Census enumeration was far from neutral. Recording of caste and sub-casted – Recording and putting in order numerous castes in hierarchical order in 1901 census had fossilized, imparting it a solidity, it did not have earlier.[i]  
  • Caste used as a tool – From now onwards, political, religious and cultural battles are fought the basis of caste. Different sections of Indian society fight amongst themselves to be one up, without any sign of relief even as of today. This division done by Census Commissioner Risley remains a by-word even for the present day political leaders of Independent India. For them caste is an effective tool to instigate caste consciousness, caste animosities for vested interest.
  • Destroyed the flexibility of caste-system –  – Earlier, Caste was a flexible and fluid unit of Indian society. Alternative ideologies and styles of life were available in India. Floating population, consisting groups like Gujjars, Bhattis, Rajput rangers remained outside caste system. They were quite strong.  Forests gave shelter and food to large sections of society and served as havens for those in search of escape from society.
  • No all-India hierarchical order of different Varna/castes – There was no all-India hierarchical order of different Varna/castes. Cultural endowments like intellectual and spiritual attainments and self-discipline formed the basis of their ranking. Accordingly, position of Brahmins were considered at the top, then came the number of Kshatriya’s, Vaishyas and Shudras. In between the two, there was an ambiguity about the status of all the castes, which was acceptable to all concerned in any local area. This itself gave a large element of flexibility to caste system.
  • Census Operations led to all-round hardening of social-system – It led to an all-round hardening of social-system, codified the castes and standardized the system by placing all the jatis into new social groups formed by Risley. It led to an all-round hardening of social-system, codified the castes and standardized the system by placing all the jatis into four Varnas or in the categories of outcastes and aborigines. All the floating population like Gujjars, Bhattis, Ranger Rajputs, who remained out-side caste system were fused into one.
  • Ranking on the basis of administrative convenience – Ranking was based on administrative convenience. Brahmins were pinpointed as enemy of non-brahmin communities. British rulers retained the distinctions between different sub-castes, relevant to them for organizing labor and homogenized all those sub-castes, for which they had no use, therefore, no interest. Middleton, a Census Superintendent remarked, We pigeonholed everyone by caste and community. We deplore its effect on social and economic problems. But we are largely responsible for the system…Our land records and official documents have added iron-bonds to the old rigidity of caste…. The government’s act for labels and pigeon-holes had led to a crystallization of the caste system, which, except amongst the aristocratic caste, was really very fluid under indigenous rule.”

Casteism and Electoral Politics – Many democratic policies and systems were introduced in India  by British Imperial rulers in the beginning of 20th century like Elections at frequent intervals and Census Operations. Through free and fair electoral process, people formally delegate them the authority to form a government and  look after the welfare of the people, and development of the society and nation as a whole. Election process is also used in many other private and business organizations, from clubs to voluntary associations and corporations.

Those in the corridors of power, whether before Independence or after, know it well that that, in Hindu society, caste opinion and caste loyalties always remained a cohesive regulatory force and the easiest, quickest and the most powerful mode to communicate.

Caste entered into political arena, when elections were introduced in India. Competition for scarce positions of power and prestige through elections under British Raj was the starting point. It had divided the people into different uncompromising groups. How? –

Power in numbers – Introduction of elections in the beginning of 20th century gave rise to Power in numbers. It gave political leverage to the non-Brahmin castes and communities on account of their numerical strength. First, electoral politics created a rift between Hindu and Muslims. Then Hindu population was successfully divided into two uncompromising groups, `We the Non-Brahmins and `They the Brahmins and caste Hindus.

  • Government of India Act of 1909 – Granting of separate Muslim Electorate by Minto Morley Reforms, known as Government of India Act of 1909, brought the idea of communal electorate to the forefront in the minds of all the castes and communities.
  • Suggestion to exclude Untouchables from Hindu-fold Suggestion of Census Commissioner to exclude untouchables from Hindu fold in the coming 1911 census immediately increased the importance of untouchables in political circle, in social circle, and in their own eyes too. Till now the political activities and resentment against  Brahmins hold Around 1909, Non-Brahmin community was divided into two Backwards and untouchables. For the first time, the lowest layer of Hindu Community was conceptualized under the name of untouchability in the political circles.
  • Communal Award of 1932 – Communal Award of 1932 created a permanent split in Hindu Society and perpetuated casteism further. Dr. Rajendra Prasad said, ‘the principle of dividing population into communal groups, which had been adopted in the Minto Morley reforms had been considerably extended, even beyond what had been done by Montagu Chelmsford Reforms… The electorate in 1919 was broken up into 10 parts, now it is fragmented into seventeen unequal bits… Hindu community was further weakened by giving separate representation to Scheduled castes. Division on the basis of religion, occupation and service were made. Every possible cross division was introduced by the British”. The Communal Award strengthened the roots of casteism in politics.
  • Venom against Brahmins/caste Hindus – Earlier, not a single group was identifiable as very strong-dominating all the others, or as an enemy to defeat. There was hardly any question of all India tyranny of any caste group. British rulers realized  soon the growing influence of Brahmins everywhere in socio-economic and political spheres. For them, intelligentsia belonging to Brahmins/upper castes was a potential threat to the British-rule. Therefore they purposely pinpointed Brahmins as enemy of millions of unlettered poor non-Brahmin community and kept them at periphery. Other castes were instigated to raise their voice against Brahmins.
  • Leaders of the backward caste like Mahatma Phule, Ambedkar or Gopal Ganesh vehemently criticized its hierarchical structure of caste system. To them, caste. was responsible for the subjugation of lower castes with the help of religion. It treats them as lesser human beings; engages them in forced labor, unsavory jobs, imposes many restrictions on them and prevents them from joining the mainstream of the society. Dr. Ambedkar made it abundantly clear that, it was through political power that untouchables were to find their solution, not through acceptance by Hindus.  Eradication of caste system became the major plank of ‘backward’ castes and ‘untouchable’ castes.
  • Patronage to non-Brahmin castes and communities through “policy of Preference” – The policy of reservation was originated in the form of Communal Representation on ‘Preferential’ basis at beginning of the twentieth century.

Quota system in the form of Preferential treatment/Reservation policy – The idea of quota system initiated by Britishers.Reservation Policy in the form of Preferential treatment to selected social groups in education and employment was started by British rulers at provincial level, that too at a time, when the idea to uplift the suppressed sections of society through preferential treatment, was unknown to the whole world. Before  Second World War Period, discrimination of any kind, Affirmative or otherwise, was considered to violate the Principle of Equality. Even in USA, it started in the late sixties by President Nixon in the form of Affirmative Action Program to enable American Blacks, women and ethnic minorities to overcome their historic handicaps..

Growing influence of Brahmins alarmed the rulers – British rulers got alarmed by the dominance of Brahmins in education, administration and other areas of modern callings. Muslims and non-Brahmin castes were not able to compete  directly with Brahmins. To restrict Brahmin’s entry in Government jobs and make it available to non-Brahmins communities, British rulers devised a novel method to distribute and balance power on ‘preferential-basis’.

Along with them, Non Brahmin castes raised their voice for government’s intervention to give them more space in education and employment. Practice of “Preferences” was started informally first at Madras and Mysore Presidencies (in 1874) at provincial and local levels by fixing 20% quotas for Non-Brahmin communities. Patronage of British rulers to non-Brahmin castes led to emergence of  many pressure groups in political sphere to pursue their sectional interests.

Served many purposes – Quota system served many purposes for the rulers –

  1. Got credit for amelioration and protection of downtrodden,
  2. Successfully restricted Brahmin’s entry into government services by fixing Quotas for different castes and communities.
  3. Distribution of power on communal basis kept balance of power.
  4. It kept natives busy in their in-fights by instigating caste consciousness and caste animosities.
  5. Caste was made a tool in political, religious and cultural battles.

Incentives to Non-Brahmin communities – Non-Brahmins castes got financial assistance and preferences in education and Government employment at local and provincial level. For the first time reservations appeared on national scene formally in 1932 with the Communal Awards.

Beneficiaries’ list on caste basis – As advised by Hutton, the British Government opted for caste instead of individual as the primary basis for inclusion in the list of beneficiaries of preferential treatment by the government. 1931 census operations were done on caste basis.

New Legal system – Earlier, laws remained unmodified and flexible with the capacity to adapt to local customs and situations. Discipline and order was maintained by Shastric and customary laws. Political, economic and social matters of different castes were decided by their own caste councils. Loyalty to one’s caste was wide spread in traditional social order. .

British Government established nationwide civil, criminal and commercial legal system. It granted equality before law and equal access to all castes and communities. Section 8 of Bengal Regulation III of 1793 made a beginning in Administration of justice in new direction, Bombay Regulation II of 1827 made further change and in 1850, the Caste Disabilities Act (Act 21 of 1850) further eroded the authority of caste laws.

Authority of caste groups in matters of civil rights was diminished, but in other spheres, it received legitimization from the courts in the form of caste autonomy.

New settlement Policy – Land revenue was one of the major sources of income for Britishers in India. Settlement Policy differed from region to region depending upon the geography, history and customs. The British policy of land revenue extracted as exorbitant amounts as possible from the peasants, which compelled the cultivators to live at the mercy of landlords, for the fear of eviction.

There were broadly three types of land revenue policies in existence depending on the mode of payment of land revenue during the British rule in India –

  • The Zamindari System – It was introduced by Lord Cornwallis in 1793 –  the land revenue was collected from the farmers by intermediaries known as Zamindars. The system was most prevalent in West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, UP, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. The share of the government in the total land revenue collected by the zamindars was 89% and 11% was the share of Jamindaars.
  • Ryotwari System – It was introduced at the end of the 18th century by Sir Thomas Munro, the governor of Madras Presidency. Under the Ryotwari system, the land revenue was paid by the farmers directly to the state. The system was prevalent in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Berur, East Punjab, Coorg and Assam.
  • Mahalwari system – In 1822, Englishman Holt Mackenzie devised a new system known as the Mahalwari System in the North Western Provinces of the Bengal Presidency (most of this area is now in Uttar Pradesh).  Land revenue was collected from the farmers by the village headmen on behalf of the whole village (and not the zamindar). The system was popularised by Lord William Bentick in Agra and Awadh and was later extended to Madhya Pradesh and Punjab.

A major drawback of the new settlement policy was that it left a space for manipulations and corruption. It gave rise to a new class of Middleman, who often oppressed villagers. The farmers did not have the ownership of the lands they cultivated. Cultivators found the system oppressive and exploitative, due to rack-renting, high rates of interest and uneconomic cultivation. Marginal farmers were caught into the clutches of moneylenders. Money-lenders (Mahajans who granted loans to cultivators by mortgaging their land) exploited the cultivators and evicted them from their land in case of loan default. It forced many marginal farmers to become landless laborers.

Exploitative policies of rulersWhile laying down the foundation of democratic institutions of great scope in India, the rulers implemented their policies in such an oppressive way, that it drained the wealth and resources of India in a most systematic, shrewd and unjust way. The economic  exploitation, economic drain and repressive attitude submerged the masses in ignorance, enfeebled by diseases and oppressed by wants.. In short, the outcome of such policies, were :

  • Disparity widened between forward or lower castes.
  • Textile and handicrafts industries were destroyed.
  • Markets were flooded the market with machine made goods, which were much cheaper than hand-made products.
  • Indian farmers were forced to produce cotton plantation to fuel English factories.
  • It led to inter-caste/inter communal rivalries, inter group conflicts, which has done irreparable damage to India.

In 1880, WT. Thortan confessed that the annual tribute, tapped India’s very heart blood and dried up the mainspring of her industrial position.[ii] Sir William Hunter remarked, there remains forty million Indians, who go through life on insufficient food.[iii]

Exploitative way of implementation of policies were opposed strongly by national leaders, traditionalists, social reformers/cultural elites at that time. Unfortunately, the seeds of casteism and communism sown by colonial rulers, flourished in full in Independent India..

Casteism in Independent India

A large number of political leaders of Independent India understand it very well that, in the Indian society, caste opinion and caste loyalties have always remained a cohesive regulatory force and the easiest, quickest and the most powerful mode to communicate. Caste’ has become a bye-word for Indian politicians, even though caste has become quite liberal in social matters. Narrow loyalties of caste and religion are encouraged in political arena.

Caste becoming more liberal in social sphere – After independence, with the spread of literacy and growing awareness among masses, Castes system has become less restrictive in social arena. Castes no longer enjoy legal or religious sanctions. Expulsion from castes now means little. Earlier it meant complete social ostracism. Old style of authority and power exercised by caste-elders has already diminished except for a few castes in, rural areas especially in Haryana and Rajasthan.

Restrictions or interactions between different castes arising due to considerations for purity and pollution are fading away from public life even from rural areas. Traditional barriers on marriage, hereditary occupations and commonality are losing its importance. Many evil practices developed in Caste system, while under alien rule, are fading away steadily. Caste is now more liberal and less restrictive in social life of the people.

Still, critics of caste system consider it problematic. Why? What is now wrong with the caste system? Does fault lies somewhere else? Yes, problem lies in entry of caste into politics or politicization of caste system.

Why and how caste earned a bad name in Independent India – During pre-Independence days, indigenous social institution of caste entered into political arena for grabbing political power and administrative convenience. After independence, ossification of caste-system has been fallen into the hands of power brokers and vote guzzlers. Caste politics has given a new lease to ‘caste’ and transformed caste as a system to casteism. Why and how?

  • Caste h become an easiest and powerful weapon in the hands of politicians – For almost all  Political leaders, caste is the easiest and most powerful tool to sway public opinion in their own favour emotionally and to create a large vote bank for themselves. Politicians have no other option other than to use the channel of caste to propagate their ideas, to collect votes  and lure the electorate. No matter, what happens to the country, the politicians are happily riding the caste tiger!
  • Political identities
  • Political identities – Instead of linking the classification of society again on the basis of attitude, aptitude and occupation, the political leaders of Independent India have chosen blindly to follow the system  initiated by imperial rulers. In the most insensitive manner, they have also opted to divide the Indian population on the basis of caste and community. For all administrative and political purposes, and making plans and policies for future India, the government stratifies Indians into five unbridgeable groups –
    • Upper castes,  (unreserved category)
    • Scheduled Castes, (Reserved category)
    • Scheduled Tribes, (Reserved category)
    • Other Backward Class (Reserved category) and
    • Minorities (having special privileges)
  • With the result that each and every group is more interested in promoting its own sectional interests shamelessly rather than thinking and working for the development of the of nation as a  whole.
  • Casteism glamourized backwardness – There was a time, when people thought it a stigma to be called Backward.  Numerous caste groups clamored for higher caste status in census operations of 1901, 1911, and 1921 and supported their claims with different factors.  But the political acceptance of Reservation as a tool of social engineering has glamorized backwardness. In recent past, SCs and OBCs are more tenacious about their caste-identity than caste-Hindus. During post Mandal period, reversed trend is seen. Different groups vie with each other to be included, preferably in the SC list, failing which in the OBCs list. The number of people included in the beneficiaries list is increasing continuously. The percentage of enumerated OBC population in early 50’s was 18.9% and their estimated population was 31.8%.[i]  Kaka kalelkar Commission identified 2399 castes as backward in 1956. Mandal 3748 castes in 1980.  Still many more clamor for inclusion into either SCT lists or OBC list.  The trend indicates that after fifty years of the Independence, India generated more backwards than before.
  • Power of numerical strength– Casteism or caste-politics has taken firm roots in India because of the electoral politics. At present elections are nothing more than a game of numbers. They are based on on vote-bank politics. To increase their numerical strength different castes, sub-castes or sub-sub castes have joined hands to pursue specific sectional interests. These regional political parties play an important role as ‘King-maker’ at national level. Politicians can never ignore the backward groups. Under such circumstances, it is easy for the authorities to withdraw the facilities and opportunities from non-beneficiary castes and bestow it not on needy persons but on reserved category castes. Amongst them, most prominent are Scheduled castes and Other Backward Castes. Muslims are cashing their minority status.
  • Strange permutations and combinations – Post-Mandal era has witnessed emergence of many political parties (having different ideologies) and pressure groups to follow their own sectional interests. They come together, just  to  increase their vote bank and grab political power. Various permutations and combinations are being tried like AJGAR, MAJGAR, KHAM, MY, DS4, BHUREBAAL etc. have been formed in political arena for electoral purposes. They incite caste rivalries.
  • Paternalistic policies of Government – After Independence, special paternalistic policies and practices of government, (which are based on caste rather than on economic criteria) for bringing the submerged sections of the society into mainstream, have flared up casteism.
  • Earlier the demand for preferential treatment from the government  was confined to South India only and the fight was against Brahmins. But now after Mandal, this venom has engulfed the whole nation. Selection of the beneficiaries’ castes   is biased, It often depends on patronage networks of politically powerful, vocal or aggressive pressure groups.
  • So far, it has mostly benefitted the rural elite or creamy layer of the beneficiary castes. Anyone doubting the efficacy of Reservation Policy is labelled today as a part of Manuwadi Brahminical system, which is alleged for using religious scriptures, injunctions, propaganda and plain force to impose on the masses many deprivations. Beneficiary castes stick to their caste identity to protect their preferential status in matter of education, jobs and other facilities offered by the government from time to time.
  • Non-beneficiary Castes side-lined –At present, Non beneficiary castes are scattered. SCs/OBCs are politically united and well-organized. Honest and upright persons are sidelined irrespective of their caste or community. Pursuers of political power forget that in recent past, Reformists and intelligentsia had tried to ameliorate the condition of the disadvantaged sections of Indian society, be it women, untouchables or poor living in abject poverty, much before the rise of Naikars, Ambedkars or Periars in the Indian scene. They taught the people to leave the meaningless rituals and rigidities  Not a single reform or desired change could be brought about without active support and participation of the intelligentsia of the society. They throttle the voice of upright and honest citizens. Talented youth of non-beneficiary castes feel that they are being treated as second rate citizens in their own country by the State, because of no fault of theirs. intellectuals and reformists, mostly belonging to upper castes  , which had tended them to treat majority of people as lesser human beings. They advised to treat all humans humanly irrespective of caste or creed.
  • Post-Mandal era witnessed that the lower strata, which is supposed to be the victim of caste order, has been more adamant to preserve its caste-identity. Political parties, which hold caste system responsible or all discrimination and deprivation of lower strata of society and preach total eradication of caste-system, are glued firmly on caste-identity and assert their claims on the basis of caste itself.  Their vested interest don’t allow them to rise above Caste-ist and communal politics.
  • Massive shift in the power structure in favour of Dalits and OBCs – The advantage of numerical strength is always there with the backward castes.  Therefore, the politicians cannot ignore the backward groups. During Post Mandal period, there was a massive shift in the power structure in favour of Dalits and OBCs after the Mandal Commission recommendations were accepted by the government, when V P Singh was the Prime Minister. Different castes and sub-castes have come together under the banner of SCs or OBCs for political actions. But they have never forgotten their separate identities. Rather their unity of under the labels of SCs and OBCs is an illusion. Neither the term “Schedule Caste” nor  OBC nor Dalit make them a homogeneous class. In the opinion of MSS Pandian, an academic with Madras Institute of Development Studies, The current inter caste rivalries are part of series of periodic revolt, whose prime object is self- assertion.[ii]
  • Ambedkarization and Mandalization of politics – Post 90’s period has seen Ambedkar and Mandal being projected among the masses as second only to God. They have gained  popularity much more than it was there during their lifetime.The attempt to  Ambedkarize  and Mandalize the Indian politics has sharpened the caste-divide and added to tensions.
  • Disillusioned public – Politicians and their parties remain unmindful to take any lesson from the past experience.  The electorate has shown, again and again, its disgust against valueless caste-politics.  The electoral verdict, in the past, has shown that the public is more concerned about other issues. In 1967, the rising prices created an anti-Congress wave at provincial level, that wiped it out from almost all the provinces from Punjab to West Bengal. In 1971, the support to Mrs. Gandhi was on Remove poverty call. The year 1977 saw the downfall of Mrs. Gandhi due to excesses during emergency. In 1984, the sympathy wave gave victory to Rajiv Gandhi. In 1989, it was the call to end corruption. In 1991, the people showed their disgust against caste politics. Every time it was an anti-establishment verdict except for 1984. But the politicians remain unmindful of it.
  • Increased inter-caste and intra-caste rivalry – Inter-caste and intra-caste, inter-community and intra-community and inter-tribal and intra-tribal rivalries are continuously increasing in order to occupy more space caste-wise in the corridors of power. Animosity between different castes gives rise to politics of revenge, confuse the authorities and take  irrational decisions like reverse discrimination, which have not so far  helped the majority of really disadvantaged.[iii] 

No doubt, casteism has resulted in inter-caste/intra-caste conflicts, instability, in-decisiveness, rigidity and irrationality. Issues are not decided by rational thinking in politics, but by the demonstration of caste strength and vote-bank.  Mandal has conditioned the public and politician’s mind to look at every issue through distorting prism of caste. Elections are fought on the basis of caste.  Officers are recruited, posted or transferred on caste basis.  Caste is becoming increasingly more important in the governance of country.

Conclusion – Modernity has disassociated majority of Indians from their traditional way of living, classical roots and knowledge. With it faded Indian values, philosophies, systems and traditions. It made many Indians to lose their faith in social values and systems.

For people, caste opinion and caste loyalties always remains a cohesive regulatory force. They know it well that it is not the caste-system, but the bad politics and poor governance, which is responsible for all the mess-up.

For politicians, caste is the easiest, quickest and the most powerful mode to communicate with people. Their vested interest lies in enflaming Inter-caste and intra-caste, inter-community/intra-community and inter-tribal/intra-tribal conflicts. Caste-ist tendencies help them to secure more space in the corridors of power. They propagate that Caste is responsible for the miseries of submerged sections of society be it illiteracy, disparities in power, wealth and culture, discrimination and exploitation of weaker/unprivileged sections of society, or destitution on vast number of people. Such a propaganda by political parties has escalated violence, crimes or corruption in the country and is continuously pushing the nation towards disintegration.

Under-currents of caste politics pushing real issues into the background – Under-currents of caste politics have made the government incapable to solve the real issues like mass-scale illiteracy, poverty, unemployment, inflation, deteriorated law and order situation, increasing violence or general coarsening of moral fibre of the Indian society etc.

Disparity – Prosperity and poverty has grown simultaneously in Independent India. Modernity and technical developments have changed everything drastically, be it thinking, life-style or work culture of people. There is mal-distribution of wealth and power. The gap between rich and poor is increasing every-day. Rich are becoming richer. The population of India sharply divided into two – “haves” and “have-nots”.

Paternalistic policies – The most important factor responsible for wide disparity is vote-bank politics, irrational and corrupt ways of pursuing the paternal policies on caste basis. Various governments have failed, so far, to address real issues at either at central or provincial levels.

Encouragement to narrow loyalties of caste and religion – Narrow loyalties of caste and religion are encouraged in political arena. It has generated sub-cultures like caste-ism, favoritism, and lure for easy money, nepotism, parochialism, communalism, regionalism etc. Bigoted sentiments and irresponsible comments are spreading in-discipline in the society. The rising aspirations and demands of people, with the spread of education and awareness, has created added problem for the government.

Deteriorated condition of law and order – Maintaining law and order is becoming more and more difficult. The voice of upright and honest people belonging to middle class is being continuously throttled mercilessly. They are being punished for following sincerely family-planning norms, which has decreased their numbers. In present day vote-bank politics based on game of numbers, it is very easy to side-line them.

People for whom caste is important? The people for whom ladder of caste is important are politicians. for whom Caste is a recipe to create vote-banks. It is necessary for them to enflame casteist tendencies to survive in political world. Their interest lies in keeping the majority of people ignorant, insecure and out of mainstream.

Also creamy layer of Reserved category castes cling to their caste identity very strongly, as it is the base to enjoy special privileges/benefits of affirmative action programs initiated and implemented by the Government at central and provincial levels. Creamy layer of lower castes protects its turf under the banner of backward/underprivileged castes. And here lies the crux of present day’s caste-ist politics.

For a common man, caste is still a natural social institution.

Casteism giving rise to Sub-cultures – Unfortunately, instead creating a better future, caste policies have generated many complications and problems for the government. It has generated sub-cultures like caste-ism, favouritism, and lure for easy money, nepotism, parochialism, communalism, regionalism etc. Bigoted sentiments and irresponsible comments spread in-discipline and agitation in the society. With spread of education and awareness in public, aspirations and demands of different social groups are rising, which create added problems for the government.

Traditional Living like without an anchor – Traditional living has been like an anchor, keeping the boat in safe harbour. Now that the anchor has gone and the boat is at the mercy of wild waves on a stormy ocean. Caste system has not become weak or obsolete in social arena even today. It has given the Indian society a distinguished identity and a solid social structure with a system of thought, a way of life, and sense of direction. The roots of ‘Varna/jati-Pratha’, now known as caste system, are so deep that it is virtually impossible to think of India without caste system.

Present day challenges  – At present, the whole atmosphere is in a state of turmoil. Pandemic Karona-19 has added fuel in fire. Economy of the nation is in a critical condition. Technology has advanced to such an extent, that phones are wireless; cooking is fire-less; cars are key-less; food is fat-less; tyres are tubeless; and tools are cordless. But along with it, main organs of the Government  Political institutions are clueless and almost paralyzed because of corruption; leaders are shameless; masses are helpless; youth are jobless; relations are meaningless; feelings are heartless; education is valueless; attitude is careless, and children are manner-less. Modernity has ignited the desire for position, name and possession.  People are gradually losing faith in traditional values and systems. Even institution like family has lost its sheen. It is quite a tough job for India to cope with the new challenges.

It is not the caste system, but the circumstances, that have pushed millions of persons belonging to lower strata of society away from the mainstream. Suffering from centuries old enslavement, suppression and ostracism deteriorated severely the condition of lower strata of society, stopped growth of their personality and made them dependent on others for their livelihood.

Suggestions It is not the caste system, but the circumstances, that have pushed millions of persons belonging to lower strata of society away from the mainstream. Suffering from centuries old enslavement, suppression and ostracism deteriorated severely the condition of lower strata of society, stopped growth of their personality and made them dependent on others for their livelihood.

Venom against caste in some quarters does not lie in distant past, but only about 150 years back. It got escalated during British Imperial rule in India. The roots of present socio-political and economic ills and deprivation of masses on large scale lie not so much in caste system as mainly on the issues like poverty, illiteracy, population-explosion, or mass-unemployment etc.

  • Humanitarian obligation to empower the submerged sections of society – It is a humanitarian obligation of any civilized society to uplift and empower the submerged sections of society. Generally law follows social changes. After  Independence,  in their hurry and enthusiasm to end age-old imbalances and cumulative disparities of power, wealth and culture, political leadership of India has tried to foster social changes through law. Their aim was to bring the downtrodden sections of society into the mainstream. But, in the process knowingly or unknowingly, they have encouraged Caste-ism and communalism.
  • India is trying its best to prosper – After Independence, India not only picked up the previous backlog, it had faced during first to industrial revolutions, However Casteism has complicated the situation. Groupism and casteism in politics is slowly drifting the nation towards disintegration and disaster.  What have been put at stake are not the past, but the future of the country.
  • People feel that entry of caste in politics has complicated the situation. ‘Politicization of caste’ needs to be arrested at its earliest. They wish to make improvements in the tried and tested old system by removing deformities developed into it with time. A change is good for the growth of a society. But changes must be based on constant interpretation of past experiences and opinions, present requirements and existing ground realities of the place and future prospects.
  • Contribution of self-help groups – Recently, many self-help groups (NGOs) have emerged all-over India for development of society as a whole. They bypass the government mechanisms and go straight communities. Wherever and whenever harnessed properly, efforts of such self-help groups have yielded rich dividends. For example the Parsi and Christian communities, institutions run by Veerashaivya Mutts of Karnataka, Ramakrishan Mission, Radhaswami Satsang, Satya Sai Baba, Sadhu Vasvani and many others are practising community based approach for the development of humanity. They provide far better municipal, civic, educational, and medical services than the government.

Today the nation demands more than the yesteryears to subsume all the differences created on caste, religion, class, region, gender and language grounds under a wider imperative i.e. sustainable development of the nation in real sense.  India can advance only if all the Indians act as one, feel as one, and develop respect for each other.  If differences or diversities continue to act as defining factors, India can never progress.


 


[i]            Galenter,ibid, P168.

[ii]           Pandian MSS, Sunday PP. 12-13 8-14 June, 1997.

[iii]           BCCI, para VII and VIII, Note of Dissent.

[i]            Tarachand, History of Freedom Movement in India, Vol.I, pp283-84.

[ii]           Annie Besant, India – A Nation, pp98-99.

[iii]           Fisher FB, India’s Silent Revolution, pp37-38.

[iv]            Tarachand, History of Freedom Movement in India, Vol.I, pp283-84.

[V]           Annie Besant, India – A Nation, pp98-99.

[VI]           Fisher FB, India’s Silent Revolution, pp37-38.

[vii]       Das Veena and Kagal Ayesha, Through the Prism of Clerkdom, Times of India, dated September 16, 1990, p2.




August 13, 2021 Posted by | Caste as a system | | Leave a comment

Caste as a “System”

Traditional living had been an anchor, keeping our boat in safe harbour, Now that the anchor had gone and the boat is at the mercy of wild waves on a stormy ocean.

“If there is honesty in India today, any hospitality, any charity- any aversion to evil, any love to be good, it is due to whatever remains of the old faith and the old culture”. C. Rajgopalachari

“In modern understanding of ‘caste-system’, element of ‘caste’ has been highlighted and mis-interpreted;  and element of ‘system’ has been considerably suppressed.” Lata Sinha

“Through caste system, India has simultaneously accommodated “it to an almost endlessly varied system of semi-autonomous community and at the same time, it brings considerable unity, harmony and condition of peace.” And It “succeeded in wielding an enormously varied plurality of semi-autonomous communities arising at many times and in many places and adopting themselves to many different conditions into a single system of society…” Don Martindale

Introduction

Caste Very sensitive issue – Caste system has travelled a very long distance experiencing many ups and downs. It has been both defended and opposed over the course of Indian history up till the present day. Caste-system has always drawn the attention of politicians, intellectuals, activists or reformers from other faiths. It has been interpreted, praised, distorted or criticized many times in the manner, whatever suited to the purpose of that particular era.

Practices and values of caste system are regarded as problematic and complicated. Indian society is being portrayed as a ‘caste-ridden society’. Caste is being held responsible for all the miseries of submerged sections of society. It could vary from illiteracy to creating disparities of power, wealth and culture, escalation of violence, crimes and corruption leading the nation towards disintegration, discrimination and exploitation of weaker, unprivileged sections of society to forcing destitution on vast number of people.

Stratification of a society, a natural phenomenon – Individuals differ from each other in natural endowments, intelligence, aptitudes, attitudes, skills, personal needs and other innate characteristics. Such differences are apt to give rise to the formations of different social groups and systems. It is quite natural that in every society, anywhere in the world emerge different groups out of functional necessity. Each society devises its own principles for stratification, for coordinated functioning of all parts together, for keeping its whole system fit and functional as well as for taking care of the interests of its people as a whole.

Usually variables like occupation, education, qualities, income, wealth, ownership of land, property etc. form different social groups within the society What determines their hierarchy/status or degree of influence varies from one society to another, or from place to place. It may be on basis of class, caste, religion, region, language, race or occupation.

Class the basis in Western Societies – In Western world, usually anthropologists, historians and sociologists identify ‘class’, as universal basis of stratification of society. Usually, stratification on the basis of Class begins with individuals. Division of society along ‘Class’ lines  forms different groups on the basis their economic and cultural level.

In materialistic Western societies, possession of wealth determines hierarchical distinctions between individuals or groups within the society. Individuals of same economic and cultural level form one social group/class. More the wealth, more powerful and respected a person is. Social status of a person depends on material success and control over power/authority. Wealth is associated with power, authority and social status. Society is divided into two groups, powerful and powerless, which depends on wealth, one possesses. Wealthy class is always powerful and rules over poor classes. Other factors, which are considered important besides one’s wealth in determining class status, at least at higher levels, are costume and grooming, manners and cultural refinement, tastes and sensitivities etc. Social class with more power usually subordinate classes with less power.

Along with wealth, other factors like occupation, education and qualifications, income, bank-balance, ownership of land, property, grooming, manners and cultural refinement (tastes and sensitivities of different groups) decide the inter-personal relationship and ranking of different social groups.Political standing vis-à-vis church/temples/ mosques, government, and/or social clubs, as well as use of honorary titles, reputation of honor or disgrace, language, race determines degrees of influence on class standing.

Broadly, a society is usually divided into –

  • Upper class includes those persons with great influence, wealth and prestige.
  • Lower class/Working class includes poor, alienated and marginalized members of society. This class constitutes majority of people in any nation.
  • Middle Class – In between comes Middle Class.

Mystified Western World – Western world is mystified to a great extent by the amazing pluralities and unique social structure of India based on caste. It is difficult for it to understand the role of caste, both in the past or at present, in Indian society. Complete localization and unfamiliarity makes it difficult to understand and appreciate fully, caste as a system in its totality and to know the nuances, the nature, role and value of caste as a system. The confusion is because in the term ‘caste’, two indigenous systems of Varna and Jaati has been mixed up into one.

Caste-based Indian society – Stratification of Indian society is based on Principle of Varna, followed by Caste-system. Principle of Varna system has been conceptualized, originated and practiced exclusively in India. It has given a distinguished identity to Indian society. Principle of Varna separates wealth from status, power from authority, and knowledge from temptations of worldly comforts.

All individuals within a caste group – irrespective of one’s financial position – are equal having similar rank, rights and duties. Its constituent members are supposed to be independent, yet their roles complementary. Castes have its ethnic roots as denoted by Jati (extended family), and a ritualistic and symbolic significance in its Varna aspect. ‘Caste’. “Jaati”/caste is decided by “birth” and “Varna” by Karma/deeds.

Within society, status of a person or a caste is ranked on the basis of knowledge, discipline and moral standards, and not on the basis of material success, or control of power. Similarly, the greatness of a state is judged on the basis of the degree of righteousness and justice, with which its governance being done, not on the basis of the size of a state or its treasury.

Difference between Caste-system and CasteismThere is a difference between ‘caste’ as a ‘system’ and ‘caste-ism’. In the modern understanding of caste system, the element of caste is predominant and the element of system is less. First of all, everybody needs to understand that there is a big difference between ‘caste-system’ and ‘caste-ism’.

  • Caste as system – Caste is a well-organized social institution. This term is specifically used to refer the social structure of Hindu India. .
  • Caste-ism – Rigid attitude in observance of caste practices without having regard for reason or rhyme or using it for vested interests by powerful lobbies leads to casteism. It has generated many abnormalities and distortions in the system. Caste is a social institution.  Bringing caste into politics had led to Casteism. Using it for political gains is the biggest disservice one can do to the nation.

Has caste system become obsolete? Now the question comes, has caste-system become obsolete? No. All over the world, many systems, institutions, structures, principles, and cultures have been developed from time to time, which created a wave sweeping the entire world with it for some time. But soon, they became obsolete and were replaced by anti-waves which replaced them and wiped off the previous influence.

Caste system, on which Indian social structure is based, has proved to be an exception. After each assault, it re-emerged with greater force. Even today, caste-system has not become obsolete despite all the weaknesses developed into the system during aliens rule in India and all the attacks on it from time to time. It has survived the vicissitudes of time and saved itself so far by erosion from within or assault from outside. Otherwise, it would have given place to other systems. It still presents one of the oldest social institution and a continuous and uninterrupted living culture still existing in the whole world.

Caste-system (mixture of Varna and jaati pratha) is inseparably related to Hinduism by traditional customs, values and systems. The roots of Varna system and Jaati-Pratha are so deep,  that it is virtually impossible to think of India without it. It has been one of the dominant features still running through the entire social fabric of India. Caste has its ethnic roots as denoted by Jati, and a ritualistic and symbolic significance in its Varna aspect. It has both religious and social sanction behind it.

Common men in India are reluctant to abandon caste-system – an institution of proven value on trial and error basis. They are not sure about the effectiveness of any other system to be created by the critics of caste system. Therefore, elimination of caste still remains a distant dream. People understandably wish to make improvements in the tried and tested old system by removing deformities developed into it with time. A change is good for the growth of a society. But changes must be based on constant interpretation of past experiences and opinions, present requirements and existing ground realities of the place and future prospects.

Meaning of the terms Caste, Varṇa (वर्णः) and Jaati – The term “caste” was unknown in ancient and medieval India. The term ‘Caste’ has been in use ever since British and other European countries came to India. Anyway, so-called caste system of modern times is a very old and indigenous system, conceptualized, developed and practiced exclusively in India. The Sanskrit name for caste is varna + Jati, color, the different castes having been at first marked by differences of complexion and according to occupation.. At some point, with the growth in population, Varna became the basis of Jati-pratha, which gave birth to the system of belonging to “one of the hereditary social groups of India,”

  • Term Caste unfamiliar to India – Caste not an Indigenous term. The root of the word “caste” is the Latin “castus”, which means “cut off” or ” separated.” The word arrived in English through the Portuguese “casta”, which means “race” or “lineage,” or “breed”. Portuguese employed Casta in the modern sense when they applied it to hereditary Indian social groups called as Jati. Caste can be defined as hereditary endagamous group, having a common name, common traditional occupation, common culture, relatively rigid in matter of mobility, distinctiveness of status and forming a single homogeneous community. The term caste was first used in the 1613/1700s in reference to Hinduism’s system of rigid social stratification. The use of the word was based on the perception of the Europeans, including the British, of the society in India as they saw it at the time, and perhaps on what the locals told them.
  • Varna – In Indian Vernacular, uptill medieval period, the words used for caste are Varna + Jati. to identify different social groups and sub-groups. The entire system of Varna and Jati is now called as caste system. Every social group has its ethnic roots as denoted by Jati, and a ritualistic and symbolic significance in its Varna aspect. The term “Varna” is a Sanskrit word. which in Rigveda means type, order, colour, complexion or outward experience. Membership of ‘Varna’ is based on the attitude aptitude, occupation and deeds of a person. Four basic Varnas are defined under it, Brahmins (priests, teachers, researchers and intellectuals), Kshatriyas (warriors, kings, administrators), Vaishyas (agriculturists, traders,, farmers etc) and Shudra (workers, labours, artisans). Varna system did not classify people as high or low or superior or inferior. It was just classification in the order of society based on skills of people. According to Bhagwat Gita, Varna is not hereditary or by birth, but based on quality, skills and deeds (Karma)
  • Jaati – ‘Jati’ is also a Sanskrit word  Jata’ meaning born or brought into existence.. whereas by birth, everyone belongs to a Jaati. ‘Jaāti’ refers to thousands of endogamous social groups, sub-groups and sub-sub- groups coming under each Varna, living across the subcontinent. A jati may be divided into exogamous groups based on the same gotras. (Dumont, Louis, 1980, Homo hierarchicus: the caste system and its implications, University of Chicago Press, pp. 66–67). The root word for jati is ‘Jana’. It is concerned by birth. Jati of an individual deals with his/her identity, beliefs, traditions, geographical location etc. The term Jaati appears in almost all Indian languages and is related to the idea of lineage or kinship group. A jaati is usually organized into a biradari (a brotherhood), Elders of Biradari whch carries out the business and oversees the its working. There are thousands of castes, sub-castes and sub-sub-castes. There are regional variation mostly based on linguistic and life-style differences. Each jaati has some unique job, but not everyone in jaati performs it. There may be variations in the placement of different castes due to economic, political and educational status of various social groups.
  • Difference between Varna and Jati or caste
    • Varna is concerned with occupation.
    • Varna has always been four.
    • It is an All-India phenomenon
    • In Varna system concept of purity and pollution is the basis of division of society.
    • Varnas are relatively more flexible as compared with jaati/caste. With the acquisition of of talents and virtues one can improve his status.
    • Varna system is free from socio economic and political disabilities or restrictions.

How the term caste came into existence? The term caste has originated from Portuguese ‘casta’, meaning race, breed, ancestry. Portuguese first used the terms ‘casta’ meaning “breed, race, caste and ‘casta-raça’ meaning ‘unmixed race’. Portuguese observers described that Hindu society in western and south-western India has divided itself through caste system into different socially ranked occupational groups. In an effort to maintain vertical social distance, these social groups practiced mutual exclusion in matters relating to eating and, presumably, marrying.

In Latin word castus means “chaste” or purity of breed. Application to Hindu social groups ‘Varna’ and ‘Jaati’ was picked up by English in India 1610s from Portuguese casta. British have merged both the terms ‘Varna’ and ‘caste’ into one word ‘cast’ or ‘caste’. Subsequently ‘caste’ has become the established word for the combination of ‘Varna’ and’’jaati’.

Later on, major European languages (notably Dutch and French) adopted the term ‘caste’ in the same specific sense. It has become established term and was recorded officially in 1840 for the first time by European colonizers, to mean persons belonging to the same hereditary social group. Instead of using ‘Varna or Jati’ separately, they Since then, the whole scenario about caste was messed up. The meaning and understanding about caste system has been changed drastically. 

‘Caste’ as a system in India –  Varna/Jaati or‘Caste’ system is one of the oldest social institutions in the world. It has given Indian society a distinguished identity and a solid social structure with a system of thought, way of life, and sense of direction.

Principles of ‘Varna’, ‘Dharma and ‘Karma, Foundation pillars of caste system – All the strength of caste system comes from its foundation pillars, which are based on principle of Varna (which later on gave birth to caste system), accompanied by principles of Dharma, and Karma. Principle of ‘Varna’ gave Indian Society a stable, sustainable and a solid social structure with a system of thought, a way of life and sense of direction. These principles together have ensured the continuity despite numerous foreign invasions, migrations and assimilation of various groups.

Principle of Varna has guided the division of the society. It has engineered a system for social stratification placing people into different groups according to aptitudes, occupation, and location. Principle of Dharma taught Indians to place one’s duties above rights and principle of Karma imbibed in them tolerance and belief in concepts like ‘live and let others live’ as well as ‘Vasudhev Kutumbkam’ (meaning whole world is a family). The multi-centricity of present society has given it a synergetic character, a pluralistic tradition and an absorptive nature of internalizing alien influences.

The principle of Varna was based on the assumption, that all persons were not identical and differed from one another on the grounds of natural endowments and aptitudes. Therefore, it gave rise to the fourfold division of society and assigned duties according to natural instincts and qualities of its people –

  • BrahmanMeaning of the word Brahman is all-pervading and consciousness. Persons, who could keep themselves away from ignorance, illusions and lust, and have a flair for learning were put in this category of Brahmans. They possessed intellectual and spiritual qualities. They were debarred from indulging in the pleasures of material world. They were assigned the duties like learning, pursuit of knowledge and setting norms for common man, so that whole society could benefit from their knowledge.
  • Kshatriya – People having warrior skills and men of action were put in this group. Their duty was to protect the people from internal disorders and external aggressions.
  • Vaishyas People having business acumen were included in this category. They were engaged in production, business, trade and commerce.
  • Shudras – People advised to do menial jobs and work under the guidance of any of the above three Varnas. They were either the people unable to do the above three tasks or the conquered ones. Mostly people belonging to this category were supposed to be incapable of maintaining self-discipline and contributing to the society directly without any guidance.

Greek philosophers’ Dream of an Ideal society comes true in India – Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle of ancient times were greatly influenced by the idea of what was actually realized in real life through Varna system of India. They dreamt of an ‘Ideal Society’ dreamt, which was divided into  following four groups according to aptitude, assigned jobs accordingly and did ranking in following order –

  •  “Philosopher Kings” – (Intellectuals).
  • “Army men” – (Warriors).
  • “Business Community”.
  • “Slaves” – People unable to do the above mentioned jobs or conquered people to do menial works.

In their ideal state, all people were supposed to belong to one group or the other, not on basis of birth, but on basis of their capabilities and aptitudes.

Most scientific social system – Many intellectuals and social reformers regard Varna system, in its purest form, as one of the most scientific social systems ever evolved anywhere in the world. Don Martindale says, Hinduism was the ideological and emotional buttress of caste. Caste was the system of social life, in which Hinduism was expressed. …… Caste and Hinduism succeeded in doing in India, what no state, no conqueror and no economy was able to do – the establishment of a single unified system of society throughout the whole of India, a system of society, which was able to comprise a greater range of local differences in a single system than any society has previously accomplished. Through caste system, India has simultaneously accommodated itself to an almost endlessly varied system of semi-autonomous community and at the same time bring considerable unity, harmony and condition of peace. It succeeded in wielding an enormously varied plurality of semi-autonomous communities arising at many times and in many places and adopting themselves to many different conditions into a single system of society…”(Don Martindale, India since 1947, p 39).

Salient features of Varna/Jati, now known as caste systemAll the strength of caste system comes from its foundation pillars, i.e. the principle of Varna followed by Caste system. Its principles have ensured the continuity despite numerous foreign invasions, migrations and assimilation of various groups. It has survived for such a long period and is still alive because –  

  • Given a distinguished identity to Indian society – Varna/jati-pratha has given Indian society a distinguished identity and a stable, sustainable solid social structure with a system of thought, a way of life, and sense of direction. It is one of the dominant features running through its entire social fabric.
  • Survived the vicissitudes of Time – Varna-Jaati system has survived the vicissitudes of time, saved itself by erosion from within and assault from outside only because of the adaptability. It has taken different shades and meaning with changing times and places. Its character during Indus Valley Civilization was altogether different from what exists today. It is still in a transient phase.
  • Principles of a good organization – Almost all the essentials of good organization are found in caste system. Division of different functions required in a society is the first requisite of any good institution. For an efficient and smooth functioning, Varna system has wisely organized all activities of a society. Vedic principles have divided wisely all the functions needed for the maintenance and growth of the Hindu society. Each basic Varna has been assigned a distinct function to perform – Brahmins Varna includes in itself priests, teachers, intellectuals and researchers etc.; Kshatriyas warriors, rulers, and administrators etc ; Vaishyas, agriculturists, traders, and farmers etc and; Shudras, workers, labours, artsans etc.
  • No confusion – There is no confusion or frustration in matter of work, because every body had his traditional occupation.  Each caste serves the community and feels that it, too, is contributing something to the society. Git boosts their confidence and it lives with dignity and honour. All functions and activities have been grouped as to avoid confusion. In its pure form, It has wisely organized all activities of society. Activities of similar nature or having same objectives have assigned to specific social group.
  • Strong structure – Caste system has provided a strong structure with well-defined functions. The structure is simple and easy to understand. It ensures continuous growth and, therefore, should not be rigid.
  • Balance of activities – Varna system has given proper weightage to different activities, in proportion to their contribution to organization as a whole, is necessary. No activity should either be over-valued or under-valued. Functions are assigned to different social groups on the basis qualifications, skills, attitude and aptitude of its employees.
  • Team spirit – Relationship between various groups within an organization should be based on the principle of “mutual help, mutual respect and mutual trust”. It facilitates better coordination of diverse activities performed by different sections. Smooth relations amongst its constituent’s leads to optimal utilization of resources and to satisfaction of all its constituent members.
  • Specialization – Cate system has prepared an atmosphere for high level of intelligence and specialization. Concentration of a social group on the performance of a single task, leads to greater efficiency and more specialization.
  • Creative thinking – The system has encouraged initiative and creative thinking. It firmly believes in lofty principles like “Vasudhaiv Kutumbkam” (the whole world is one family), “Live and let others live” and “to each according to his needs and from each according to his capacity” etc.
  • Satisfaction – It keeps its members comfortable and satisfied by fulfilling the biological as well as psychological needs of all the people, individually as well as at group-level.
  • Adaptability of new technologies and development – An organization helps adopts new improved means of doing things, permits prompt adoption and optimum use of technological advancements. It must avoid nepotism, favoritism and must give an upper hand to merit and talent.
  • Automatic System of checks and balances – Decentralized self-regulated systems managed various activities in social, intellectual, political, and economic life and controlled its malfunctioning or dis-functioning. There was hardly any question of all India tyranny of any caste group. There was not a single group identifiable as very strong-dominating all the others, or as an enemy to defeat. Laws remained unmodified and flexible with the capacity to adapt to local customs and situations. People in power and position cared for the lower castes in order to acquire and retain local followers. The system made upper castes generous in matters of food, drinks and loans, when required. The plurality of society provided automatic checks and balances and controlled the arbitrariness or unbalanced growth of power of any group. Indian peasantry in UP, Bihar and MP were armed. In fact, non-Kshatriya peasant provided leadership of most armed bands, which were numerically predominant and economically and politically strong at the village level. The monopoly of powerful peasant was a reality of the rural life of Medieval India. The Brahmin strongholds were the centres of learning. The floating population, consisting groups like Gujjars, Bhattis, Rajput rangers, who remained outside caste system, were so strong, that they terrorized settled agriculturists for centuries. Forests, which competed with arable land in size and importance, till the 18th century, gave shelter and food to large sections of society and served as havens for those in search of escape from society. Thus, from time to time, and place to place, different castes rose and fell in their social order, some died out and new ones were formed. Clearly defined rights and duties of each role – The system assigns clearly duties to different sections of society according to their natural instincts and qualities. The system clearly specifies duties, privileges and restrictions of each role separately and managed relationship with others. It encourages self-discipline, self-control and self-direction. Sprees on one’s responsibilities/duties rather than on rights, combined with principle of inter- dependence provides its own system of checks and balances over arbitrary use of one’s authority and leads to automatic decentralization of authority.
  • Based on the vision of an organic society – Caste-system is based on the “vision” of an organic society. Society as an organic body needs services of all its constituents equally. Each part has been assigned a particular function. All the parts are equally important and indispensable, need equal attention for its growth and care for balanced growth of the whole system. Coordinated functioning of all parts together keeps whole system fit and alive.
  • Inter-dependence – Local character and semi-autonomous nature of caste system made close interaction and cooperation between different castes a reality. Inter-dependence in social life and self-reliance in personal life were the intrinsic features of caste system making each local area self-sufficient and capable to fulfill all the needs of its people. People living in a local area shared moments of joy and sorrow with each other. All castes were assigned important social duties.
  • Segmental-ranking – Varna system was so conceived by the genius sages that there was hardly any room for any Varna to consider itself, as being placed in greater or lesser disadvantageous position with reference to another. No caste took an all India character. There was no nationwide hierarchy of castes. However, in a local area, the relative standing of castes was more or less fixed. Ranking of different caste groups within a local area, was done according to nature and social relevance of their work, contribution of their work for social subsistence, and efforts required to perform their duties, and amount of self-restraint/self-discipline, they exercise, their relative purity, morality, knowledge and spiritual standards. Considerations of self-discipline, hygiene and cleanliness on the basis of climatic conditions of the region were also given importance, while ranking different castes.
  • Set-rules – Considerations of self-discipline, self-restraint, hygiene and cleanliness (concept of purity and impurity) on the basis of climatic conditions of the region were also given importance, standard of morality, knowledge and spirituality were given importance, while ranking different castes. Every caste was advised to lead a self-restraint and self-disciplined life in all respect, be it in the matter of daily routine, occupation or inter caste relationship. The higher the caste within a Varna, the purer it was considered, and greater was the self-restrictions on its behavior through rituals. The system of each caste having a specific position in the society and a specific work to do with its rights and duties boosted the morale of the people and promoted social equilibrium and solidarity.
  • Team-work – Local character and semi-autonomous nature of caste system made close interaction and cooperation between different castes a reality. Inter-dependence in social life and self-reliance in personal life were the intrinsic features of caste system making each local area self-sufficient and capable to fulfill all the needs of its people.
  • Inter-dependence – All the activities of urban or rural areas were confined within a small area. People living, whether in a village or city, were bound together by economic and social ties and had a strong bond of mutual dependence.  They had very little links with the outside world because of slower means of transport. Only merchants visited different distant places. The local societies used to be self-sufficient. Different local castes, whether high or low, were interdependent in taking care of basic needs of the society. They were inter-dependent and cared and supported each other in taking care of different kinds of basic needs of their society.  Rituals required the participation of all castes. People living in a local area shared moments of joy and sorrow with each other. All castes including untouchables were assigned important social duties. Harijan women helped all castes at time of child-birth. Harijan males beat drums in front of Hindu’s houses or in front of a procession on important occasions/ceremonies. Village barber spread news, arranged marriages and served food during celebrations. Occasionally non-Brahmins or Harijans served as priests of temples of goddesses like Sita or Kali, where all castes made offerings. The key, to understand the caste system, was not in seeing it as a framework of hierarchical layers of social order, each fitting neatly below the other, but as a series of vertical parallels. Each caste was an independent entity, with its own hierarchy, based either on a tribal identity or an occupational identity. All the castes were independent, yet their roles complementary.
  • Flexibility and adaptability – Caste system has taken different shades and meaning with the changing times and places. Once changed, it never returned to its original form. Its adaptability and absorptive nature has pronged its life. The system evolved its structures and systems leisurely and kept on coping with the slow changes, time brought in. Its character during Indus Valley Civilization was altogether different from what exists today. It is still in a transient phase. It is different in context of village, locality, region or religion.
  • Assimilation without conversion- Caste system is a natural response of mixing up of numerous social multi-ethnic groups with indigenous groups of the land into a single cultural system. Beauty of caste system lies in the way; it assimilated numerous social groups coming from different parts of the world at different points of time in waves.– immigrants, locals, tribal, professionals or others – into its mainstream. Unlike Islam or Christianity, it has brought them under one umbrella without any conversion.
  • Caste used as a mechanism for inclusion of other groups – Caste system assigned each incoming new group a separate caste identity. Society remained stable, while offering a place to a new community. The system neither disturbed its existing internal social order nor prevented any new group to develop itself. Without any conversion, caste system made new groups its integral part. It never tried to annihilate their faith, originality, internal order, customs, culture or language. Instead, it gave them freedom to prosper/make changes into their systems according to their internal rhythm.
  • Employment, dignity and honor for all – The unique feature of caste system was that it provided work and employment to everyone. There was no dearth of employment opportunities for persons willing to work or wanting to become soldiers. Caste system inspired people to do their jobs well, as all worldly honor and spiritual happiness were vested there. It assured the people that proper performance of one’s work, whether high or humble, whether of a priest, warrior, Shudra or yogi were equally important for the society and were, therefore, right, respectable and worth pursuing. It provided the whole society a quality of life.
  • Not much disparity – There was not much disparity between different castes or between urban and rural people. The concepts of forward castes or backward castes, disparities between different sections of society and exploitation of the weak were almost non-existent earlier. The tropical climate of the country compelled the people to the distribution of surplus, as it was difficult to store anything for long. The system has placed all the individuals, within a caste grou, rich or poor, on the same footing. All members of a caste had similar rights and duties, similar thinking process, similar customs, language, food habits, domestic routine, and style of dress. Elders took care of maintaining discipline within the caste and helped the members, who were weak and helpless. The tropical climate of the country compelled the people to the distribution of surplus, as it was difficult to store anything for long.
  • Acted as a shield – During medieval India, caste system was a major force for failure of Islam, Christianity and other religions to make headway even after mass conversion. Though many evil practices developed in the system during this period, but it acted as a shield for Hindus to retain their cultural identity, while living under alien rule, whether it was of Mughals, Portuguese or British.

Caste-system worked so well and efficiently in ancient India that when the world was passing through Dark Age, India was full of light. The first few centuries are recognized as the golden period of Indian history. During this period, arts, commerce, crafts, philosophy and knowledge flourished magnificently. Its people reached a high level of intelligence having specialization in different areas. Many travelers visiting India, from alien lands at different points of time, confirmed that India possessed huge wealth, knowledge, and quality of life. It was a cheerful land.

Varna-system giving way to Caste-SystemAs the population increased and more and more indigenous and foreign groups were merged into the Hindu-fold, Vedic Varna system gave rise to caste system. Numerous castes and sub-castes emerged within each Varna. ‘Varnas’ were never more or less than four and always remained the same.

  • The first faint trace of caste is to be found in the careful cataloguing of traders and professions in later Vedic literature. Many traders were organized into guilds around 5th century AD, in which some authorities have seen the origin of commercial castes. These can be seen as the castes in making. Even up to 7th century AD, people showed no clear knowledge of the existence of castes. Huan Tsang, in the Seventh century was well aware of the existence of Varna, but not of castes. Later on, instead of Varna, caste became a dominant factor, a natural unit of Hindu society, running through the entire fabric of its social structure.
  • Each caste found its place under a Varna on the basis of their nature of work, its being ritually clean or unclean and amount of self-discipline, they exercised. Castes had its ethnic roots as denoted by Jati and a ritualistic and symbolic significance in its Varna aspect. For over 2000 years, their order in precedence remained the same. As far as castes were concerned, they rose and fell in their social order, some died out and new ones were formed from time to time.
  • People, who fell outside caste-system were anti-social elements, Adivasis and foreigners, because they did not subscribe to rules and values of the Varna system. Groups of lower-caste individuals could seek to elevate the status of their caste by attempting to emulate the practices of higher castes.
  • Fair skinned Aryans, being the conquerors, kept themselves on the top. People, who were conquered and admitted into the fold of Aryan society, were looked upon as the lowest of the four classes. Conquered Kols and Dravid tribes formed the fourth class of Dasas or Shudras. However Aryan princes did not regard Dasa princes as inferior, for they made alliances with them.

Special features of Varna/Caste-system –  Caste system is one of the oldest social institutions in the world. Caste-system gives Indian society a distinguished identity and a solid social structure with a system of thought, way of life, and sense of direction.

  • The origin of Caste-system can-not be found in one single authoritative text, nor can it be attributed to one single founder. It evolved in a natural way over thousands of years. The experiences and deep thinking of many learned sages and intellectuals belonging to different communities at different points of time have contributed to evolve this system. It is a very old and indigenous system, conceptualized, developed and practiced exclusively in India.
  • Natural response – As Basham has pointed out, Caste system may well be called a natural response of many small and primitive groups of people, who were forced to come to terms, with a more advanced economic and social system. It provided a mechanism, by which numerous discrete tribes, all sorts of groups and associations arising for political, sectarian or other reasons could be internalized and preserved within the whole.
  • Development of thousands of years – Caste is the development of thousands of years of the association of many racial and other groups in a single cultural system. The arrival of Aryans hereditary kinship and tribal groups in India in waves, from different parts of the world and their mixing up with the indigenous people (popularly known as Hindus) gave birth Varna-system of Vedic culture. 
  • Different shades and meaning of caste system with changing times – Caste system i.e. Jaati-pratha has survived the vicissitudes of time, and saved itself by erosion from within and assault from outside. Credit of its prolonged life goes to its adaptability, flexibility and absorptive nature, which has internalized even the alien influences. It has taken different shades and meaning with the changing times and places. Once changed, it never returned to its original form. Such flexibility is not seen in the West. When Christianity broke away from Judaism, it departed totally from the common cultural traditions. 
  • Gave coherence, stability, continuity to Indian society – The system of Varna/caste has given Indian society coherence, stability, continuity and led to its all-round growth. It has prepared an atmosphere of co-existence for co-existence of for numerous castes and communities having diverse languages and practices. Generation after generations, they could survive despite numerous foreign invasions, centuries of foreign rule, migrations and assimilation of various social groups into it. Credit of it goes to culture of India, which binds together all people of Indian peninsula from one end to the other, thus making unity in diversity a reality.
  • Covers entire social fabric of India – It covers almost the entire social fabric of India. Not only in the past, but at present also, caste system commands respect and attention of all Indians. common man in India as a natural, valid and inevitable unit of society. It is popular not only amongst Hindus, but amongst other sects as well living in India, whether foreign or indigenous.  Muslims or Christians, Sikhs or Buddhist could not remain immune from its caste system for long. They also have been influenced and absorbed many of the systems and practices of caste-system.
  • A natural social institution – An individual is a natural member of a family, which is the unit of an extended family, extended family of Kula (clan), Kula of a tribe (Vish) and a tribe of a Jana or Jati (Caste). Caste is second only to the family and is a natural, valid, useful and inevitable unit of Indian society. Family, extended family, Kula, and Caste are fundamental social institutions. Caste is nothing but a large extended family bonded by same language, customs, thinking and way of living and occupation. Rules of endogamy, ritual purity, interdependence, specialization and hierarchical order of social units were its important traits.
  • Wonderful process of assimilation – As Basham has pointed out, Caste system may well be called a natural response of many small and primitive groups of people, who were forced to come to terms, with a more advanced economic and social system. Caste system provided a mechanism, by which numerous discrete tribes, all sorts of groups and associations arising for political, sectarian or other reasons could be internalized and preserved within the whole. Wonderful process of assimilation and fusion of different social groups has been a continuous process of the Hindu civilization. It contributed to the cultural richness of Bharat.  All the sects present in India, whether foreign or indigenous, have been influenced greatly by Hindu thinking, caste system, its practices and systems.
  • Closer relations – A person’s relations with members of his caste are closer than with those, belonging to other castes. Caste values, beliefs, prejudices, injunctions as well as distortions of reality are the indivisible part of a person’s psyche and conscience. Internalized caste norms define an individual role in the society. It makes one feel good and loved, when he lives up to these norms, and anxious and guilty, when he transgresses them. In a way, caste is still second only to the family in widening a person’s social radius and in getting importance in his/her private and occupational life.
  • Indian culture and caste inseparable – Indian culture and caste are inseparably related each other by traditional customs. It is virtually impossible to think of one without another. Being a very old and indigenous system, conceptualized, developed and practiced exclusively in India, it is difficult for Westerners and non-Indians to understand what ‘caste system’ is and what caste means to a common man. 
  • Indian culture and caste inseparable – Indian culture and caste are inseparably related each other by traditional customs. It is virtually impossible to think of one without another. Being a very old and indigenous system, conceptualized, developed and practiced exclusively in India, it is difficult for Westerners and non-Indians to understand what ‘caste system’ is and what caste means to a common man. 

Caste system has travelled a very long distance since then. Many changes have taken place in the system especially during centuries of foreign rule in the country. In order to save their identity, many deformities have developed into the practices of caste system under centuries of alien rule.

System of Caste under British rule

British rulers vehemently criticized caste system. British rulers drew the attention of Indians towards its weaknesses and carefully avoided telling its strong points. They developed a complex in Indian minds about efficacy of caste system. According to them –

  • Caste system being highly stratified – According to rulers caste system had divided the population into vast number of groups having distinct and diverse thinking and life styles. However, the British thinkers could not appreciate the role of caste system in integrating different tribes, groups and communities together under one system for centuries. Instead of adopting the policy to convert the new groups in Hindu religion and thrusting on them its own values, thoughts, processes, superstructures and practices Hindu religion, through caste system, presented an unique example in the world history. All the incoming groups were welcomed and accommodated in Hinduism on their own terms. It legitimized their beliefs, behaviour patterns and life styles with freedom to evolve and change according to their internal rhythm.
  • It is discriminatory system It is an anomaly that British, who themselves played discriminatory practices by keeping their railway compartments, waiting rooms, parks, clubs, hotels, places of other entertainment and residences segregated, criticized caste system as being discriminatory. It was not very difficult for the British to present the examples showing the prejudice, high handedness or rude behaviour of some of bigoted caste Hindus towards the lower strata of society.
  • Disregard for menial work – According to British rulers, giving lower status to menial workers, i.e. Shudra shows that caste system disregards menial work. They suppressed the reality. In fact,  It was not the caste system, but the industrial revolution, which taught humanity to hate or escape from menial work. The creation of new white collared jobs by British developed the attitude to discredit manual work. The more a person withdrew from physical labour, the more civilized and qualified he was regarded by modern society. Such an attitude lured all the sections of society to leave their traditional occupations and join white collared jobs in organized sectors, irrespective of their background, aptitude, skill and knowledge.
  • Employment, dignity and honour for all – The unique feature of caste system was that it provided work and employment to everyone. There was no dearth of employment opportunities for persons willing to work or wanting to become soldiers. Caste system inspired people to do their jobs well, as all worldly honour and spiritual happiness were vested there. It assured the people that proper performance of one’s work, whether high or humble, whether of a priest, warrior, Shudra or yogi were equally important for the society and were, therefore, right, respectable and worth pursuing. It provided the whole society a quality of life.

Nature of Caste After IndependenceIndependent India is committed to democratic, secular and egalitarian principles as enshrined in the Constitution of India. Preamble of the Indian Constitution promises to secure to all its citizens: JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation. Article 15 of the Constitution prohibits any kind of discrimination on grounds of caste, race, religion, gender or place of birth; Article 16 gives equality of opportunity in matter of public employment, Article 338 creates National commission for Scheduled Castes to safeguard their interests etc.

Caste now more liberal in social sphere – With the spread of literacy and growing awareness among masses, Castes system has become less restrictive in social arena. Castes no longer enjoy legal or religious sanctions. Expulsion from castes now means little. Earlier it meant complete social ostracism. Old style of authority and power exercised by caste-elders has already diminished except for a few castes in, rural areas especially in Haryana and Rajasthan. Restrictions or interactions between different castes arising due to considerations for purity and pollution are fading away from public life even from rural areas.

Entry of caste into politics of the nation – The nature of caste system has been changed after the process of modernization, industrialization, urbanization, globalization. technological advancement began. It has lessened the rigidities of caste system in social arena. But entry of caste into politics of independent India has done a great damage. The seeds of ‘divide and rule’ sown by British imperial rulers have blossomed in full. Casteism, corruption, criminalization, favouritism, in-discipline, violence, and chase of materialism based on ruthless competition etc. are some of the direct consequences of political expediency and opportunism. They have weakened the social fabric beyond repair. Present-day politics encourages sectional forces, which are vocal and demand enough space for themselves in job-market and higher education aggressively. There is no respite from casteism.

Weakening of caste system in social arena and its growing politicization has made life difficult for all sections of society. Aversion of people from traditional and moral values has created confusion in the atmosphere. Their total concentration is on pursuit of money and materialistic pleasures by hook or crook. Erosion of basic moral and human values has turned life of men, “nasty, brutish and short”. Scientific progress has endowed man with tremendous power both to preserve and destroy, but at slightest provocation, he does not hesitate to unleash destructive powers accessible to him. There are alarming disparities of power, wealth and culture amongst different sections of society.

Centralization of control systems in the hands of a few Individuals or groups – There is complete centralization of control systems in the hands of a few Individuals and groups with political, money or muscle power, who control destiny of millions and have say in almost every walk of national life. Attempts for social changes make a virtue of narrow loyalties of caste and religion, generating sub-cultures like favoritism, lure for easy money, nepotism and, in-discipline in the society. Caste and communal conflicts are increasing. There are sectarian and regional imbalances generating social and psychological tensions. The work culture has been degenerated. Under-currents of caste politics have made the task of governance difficult, making the governance of the nation difficult and ineffective. The administration has become incompetent to solve the burning national issues. It has turned the vision of national development into an empty dream.

Conclusion

Empowerment of masses depends on inculcation of knowledge and awareness through ‘education for all’. Usually Power rests with those having either knowledge or physical strength or wealth. Knowledge brings in both force and wealth. Instead of putting blame on caste-system, it would be more desirable to make arrangements for sound system of education for empowering the submerged sections of society.

Despite all the undesirable developments taken place in the system, caste system is still quite popular amongst Indian masses. Not only Hindus, but other sects living in India, with all their egalitarian faith, whether foreign or indigenous, like Muslims and Christians, Sikhs or Buddhist, have not remained immune from its caste system. They have also absorbed many of its practices and systems.

Change one must. Past should not be idolized. Any system, which in light of modern times appears to be ineffective or inefficient should be replaced by a better one. But it will be suicidal to sacrifice something to an increasing passion for change. Changes must be based on constant interpretation of past experiences and opinions.

Vivekanand said, “It is we, who are responsible for our degradation.” … “Each nation like each individual has a theme in this life, which is its centre, the principle note, around which every other notes, comes to form the harmony. If any nation attempts to throw off its national vitality or the direction, which has become its own through the transmission of centuries, it dies.”… “The main reason of our economic and spiritual degeneration is that we have not correctly followed the “Varna System”. This is the main reason of poverty and unemployment and one of the main reasons that there is un-touchability”. He suggested that for the growth of a self-contained and self-regulated society, it was necessary to encourage education amongst the masses, all the occupations be given equal importance, people no be forced to adopt their hereditary occupations and difference of income derived from various occupations be narrowed down to the minimum.

June 30, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Origin of Caste System

“Through caste system, India has simultaneously accommodated “it to an almost endlessly varied system of semi-autonomous community and at the same time, it brings considerable unity, harmony and condition of peace.” …. And it “succeeded in wielding an enormously varied plurality of semi-autonomous communities arising at many times and in many places and adopting themselves to many different conditions into a single system of society…” (Don Martindale, India since 1947, p 39)

“In present understanding of caste system, element of caste is dominant and element of system has been considerably suppressed.” Lata Sinha

Introduction – It will be interesting to know as to when and how caste system originated. caste system is a very old and indigenous system, conceptualized, developed and practiced exclusively in India. Since then, has travelled a very long distance experiencing many ups and downs. Many changes have taken place in the system as time passed on.

The origin of Caste-system can not be found in one single authoritative text, nor can it be attributed to one single founder. It evolved in a natural way over thousands of years. The experiences and deep thinking of many learned sages and intellectuals belonging to different communities at different points of time have contributed to evolve this system.

Caste is social institution. Caste-system is inseparably related to Hinduism by traditional customs, values and systems. It has both religious and social sanction behind it.

Foreign origin of the term ‘caste’,  – The term “caste” was unknown in ancient India. The terms ‘Varna and jaati’ were used in ancient and medieval India to identify different social groups and sub-groups. The term ‘Caste’ has been in use ever since British came to rule India.

The term caste has originated from Portuguese ‘casta’, meaning race, breed, ancestry. Portuguese first used the terms ‘casta’ meaning “breed, race, caste and ‘casta-raça’ meaning ‘unmixed race’. The Latin word for it is castus, meaning “chaste” or purity of breed.

Application to Hindu social groups ‘Varna’ and ‘Jaati’ was picked up by English in India 1610s from Portuguese casta. Subsequently, British have merged both the terms ‘Varna’ and ‘caste’ into one word ‘cast’ or ‘caste’. Subsequently ‘caste’ has become the established word for the combination of ‘Varna’ and’’jaati’. Later on, major European languages (notably Dutch and French) also, ‘caste’ in the same specific sense.  has become established term

The term Caste was recorded officially in 1840 for the first time by European colonizers, to mean persons belonging to the same hereditary social group. Instead of using ‘Varna or Jati’ separately, they Since then, the whole scenario about caste was messed up. The meaning and understanding about caste system has been changed drastically. 

Caste-system is inseparably related to Hinduism by traditional customs, values and systems. The roots of Varna system and Jaati-Pratha are so deep,  that it is virtually impossible to think of India without it. It has been one of the dominant features still running through the entire social fabric of India. Caste has its ethnic roots as denoted by Jati, and a ritualistic and symbolic significance in its Varna aspect.

Meaning of the indigenous terms Varṇa (वर्णः) and Jaati – ‘Caste’ has its ethnic roots as denoted by Jati, and a ritualistic and symbolic significance in its Varna aspect. The term “Varna” is a Sanskrit word, which means type, order, colour or class. ‘Jati’ is also a Sanskrit word  meaning ‘Jana’. Membership of ‘Varna’ is based on the attitude aptitude and deeds of a person, whereas by birth, everyone belongs to a Jaati. ‘Jaāti’ refers to thousands of endogamous social groups, sub-groups and sub-sub- groups coming under each Varna, living across the subcontinent. A jati may be divided into exogamous groups based on the same gotras. (Dumont, Louis, 1980, Homo hierarchicus: the caste system and its implications, University of Chicago Press, pp. 66–67)

Origin of Varna and Jaati Pratha (Caste system) in India – The origin of ‘Varna or Jaati’ can-not be found in one single authoritative text like Christian’s “Bible” or Islam’s “Kuran”, nor can it be attributed to one single founder, like Jesus Christ for Christianity or Mohammad Sahib for Islam. It is the development of thousands of years. to develop with the association of numerous social groups into it at different point of time. It started with the arrival of Aryans hereditary kinship and tribal groups in India in waves, from different parts of the world.

Different shades and meaning of caste system with changing times – Caste system i.e. Jaati-pratha has survived the vicissitudes of time, and saved itself by erosion from within and assault from outside. Credit of its prolonged life goes to its adaptability, flexibility and absorptive nature, which has internalized even the alien influences. It has taken different shades and meaning with the changing times and places. Once changed, it never returned to its original form. Such flexibility is not seen in the West. When Christianity broke away from Judaism, it departed totally from the common cultural traditions. 

Wonderful process of assimilation – Wonderful process of assimilation and fusion of different social groups has been a continuous process of the Hindu civilization. It contributed to the cultural richness of Bharat.  All the sects present in India, whether foreign or indigenous, have been influenced greatly by Hindu thinking, caste system, its practices and systems.

Different stages of making and evolution of Varna/caste – As Basham has pointed out, Caste system may well be called a natural response of many small and primitive groups of people, who were forced to come to terms, with a more advanced economic and social system. Caste system provided a mechanism, by which numerous discrete tribes, all sorts of groups and associations arising for political, sectarian or other reasons could be internalized and preserved within the whole.  Following are the different stages of the evolution of Varna/caste – 

  • Caste during Ancient period 
  • Tribal Society of Pre-Vedic period – The making of caste system can be traced from the times of pastoral tribal society. Roughly ten millennia ago, people lived  in small migratory groups, living the life-style of wandering “nomadic herdsmen”. These small groups mostly lived in hilly areas, not far from rivers. Tribal communities were nomadic or semi nomadic and egalitarian. They depended on nature for its subsistence.
  • Settled agricultural society – Then came the period of making of the agricultural societies. People started  cultivating land and settled down Gradually pastoral tribal society transformed into a settled agricultural society, confining its activities and life within a small area or territory. Clans and tribes settled permanently in different parts of the country. As reflected in ‘Rigveda’, during early stages of Vedic Age people ceased to be a wandering people, started a settled life.
  • Entry of Aryans – Aryans entered into India in waves from land-side at different points of time. Aryans, after entering into India first conquered its original inhabitants of Northern part of India, colonized and established kingdoms, then Deccan and then south. During the period, it was possible to have high ranks, but not high social classes.
  • Development of structures and systems – Socio-political structures and systems were evolved leisurely over about 2000 years (roughly between 2000 BC to about 600 BC) and kept on coping with the changes slowly, time had brought in. In the beginning people hardly possessed more than what was needed for their subsistence/survival. The practice of cultivation, rise of crafts and iron tools transformed the egalitarian society into fully agricultural and stratified society sometime during 6th century BC.
  • Nobility and ordinary tribes-men – Initially a simple division was seen in the social structure, i.e. nobility and the ordinary tribesmen. Slowly, possession of land, slaves and hired laborers started. People started producing and possessing more than they needed. The kings collected their surplus yields. The power of kings gradually increased. For regular collection, administrative and religious methods were devised.
  • Varnas and Jaatis (Caste) during Vedic Period – Vedic society is considered as the most advanced civilization in every respect be its social structure or its culture. This was the time when the social structure was taking shape under “Varna System”.
  • Historical time of the the start of Vedic Period – Historical time of the origin and slow but steady evolution of Varna system is estimated around 3300–1300 BCE; mature period 2600–1900 BCE. It was the period of beginning of Indus Valley Civilization. 
  • Varna system originated and flourished in northern parts of India (on the Indo-Gangetic Plains of the Indian subcontinent) and later on spread throughout India during 1500 BC and 500 BC. Society was relatively egalitarian one. There was no distinct hierarchy of socio-economic classes or castes.
  • Emergence of “Jaatis” after assimilation of migrating social groups – Numerous racial, tribal, occupational and other groups entered in waves into India via land routes from different parts of the world. The assimilation of all migrating social groups from different parts into the  main-stream of Hinduism was done through jaati pratha.
  • New Jati/caste name for each migrating group – Each incoming new group was assigned a separate Jaati (caste) name.
  • Numerous Jaatis emerged within each Varna – This way, numerous Jaatis emerged within each Varna. Jaati pratha had not only accommodated and bound migrating social groups into a single cultural system, but gave them full freedom to continue their own culture and way of living and flourish.
  • Categorization based on deeds – Initially assignment of Varna was based on the deeds of a person, like learned persons were given Brahmin name, warriors were called Kshatriyas, business men Vaishyas and manual workers Shudras.
  • Not much disparity – There was not much disparity between different Varnas. There was not much disparity between different forward or lower castes.  There was hardly any question of all India tyranny of any caste group.  Not a single group was identifiable as very strong-dominating all the others, or as an enemy to defeat. 
  • Defined Rights and Duties for all- To discipline the society, society had clearly defined rights and duties.
  • Neither repulsed, nor allowed others to sweep its indigenous culture – Along with the freedom to flourish within its own soil, the Hindu society had imposed some restrictions as well like rules of endogamy, ritual purity, inter-dependence and hierarchical order of its social units. This way, Hinduism has neither repulsed any trend vehemently, nor allowed others to sweep its established culture off the roots.
  • Castes during Medieval Period – Many changes took place, during medieval period in the caste system.
  • Turks, Afghans and Mughals continuously invaded India. Invasion of Ghazni (998-1030 AD), and others, the establishment of Slave Dynasty (1206-1290), Khilji Dynasty (1290-1320), Tuglak Dynasty (1320-1412 AD) Sayyed Dynasty (1414-51) Lodi Dynasty (1451-1526) and Mughal Empire (1526 to 1757) continuously pressurized Hindu Social system.
  • Earlier they drained out the wealth of the nation to foreign lands.  But afterwards, they conquered and made India their homeland.
  • Downfall of Hindu Raj along with decline of traditional Hindu values, imposition of Zaziya on Hindus and intolerance of alien rulers towards their Hindu subjects made it difficult for Hindus to preserve their identity and indigenous culture.
  • Hindu society turned inwards to save their identity. Excesses by rulers resulted in conscious efforts by Hindus to save their identity, values and honour by making caste rules and rituals stricter and more rigidly applied than before[i].
  • It gave birth to many social evils like Sati Pratha; Dowry, Purdah system or superstitions. Feudalistic attitude, extravagance and luxurious life style of rulers and those at the helm of authority had increased the disparity between the rulers and the ruled.
  • Despite of all these socio-economic and political changes, the institution of caste was independent of the government’s intervention till medieval period.   It made the Hindu society stable but not static.
  • Traditional decentralized self-regulated systems were the mode for keeping checks and balances in the social life of the country. The influence of caste system was immense on public minds.
  • The cultural endowments formed the basis of social status of different Varnas.
  • The ranking of different Varna was not based on wealth or material gains, but on intellectual and spiritual attainments and on self-discipline.
  • Position of Caste system before the Colonial rule – As late as the eighteenth century, no all-India hierarchical order of different Varna has taken an all-India character. Generally the position of Brahmins was considered at the top and that of Shudras at the bottom.
  • The Brahmin strongholds were the centres of learning. But in between the two, there was an ambiguity about the status of all the castes, which was acceptable to all concerned in any local area. 
  • This, itself, has given a large element of fluidity to caste system.
  • Upward mobility was possible for different groups by improving their attitude and mannerism.
  • There was a close association of caste with occupation. As leading sociologists pointed out, in addition to their hereditary occupation, agriculture and army were open and had accommodated all social groups of society – indigenous or alien. The basic qualification for doing any work was mainly having the qualifications needed for that specific job.
    • There was no dearth of employment for aspiring workers.  A substantial labour market existed in agricultural sector. Immense influence  of powerful peasant was a reality of the rural life of Medieval India. Indian peasantry in UP, Bihar and MP were armed.  In fact, non-Kshatriya peasant provided leadership of most armed bands. They were numerically predominant and economically and politically strong at the village level. 
    • Military service was also accessible to anybody, from any strata of society including the lowest in the ritual terms.  There was no discrimination in recruitment and treatment of soldiers of any kind on the basis of caste.  Rajput status was given to soldiers. [Jain Girilal – The Hindu Phenomenon p9, 1994.]
  • Members of any caste group did not exercise monopoly over a profession. It is an established fact of Indian History that Brahmin or even Shudras sometimes became the kings. Khatriyas and Shudra were accepted and revered as philosophers or spiritual teachers.  In order to increase their strength, there were times, when inter caste marriages took place in the past. ]
  • Alternative ideologies and styles of life were available in India. The floating population, consisting groups like Gujjars, Bhattis, Rajput rangers, who remained outside caste system, were so strong, that they terrorized settled agriculturists for centuries. Forests, which competed with arable land in size and importance, till the 18th century, gave shelter and food to large sections of society and served as havens for those in search of escape from society.
  • People of different social-groups enjoyed a large measure of freedom in respect of their internal customs, rituals and life styles. All activities were confined within a small local area, having very little links with the outside world due slower means of transport.  Only merchants visited different distant places.
  • The plurality of society provided automatic checks and balances and controlled the arbitrariness or unbalanced growth of power of any group. Upward mobility was possible for different groups. Sometimes inter-caste marriages were also permitted. [ii]
  • The local character of societies – Local character of society made close interaction and cooperation between different castes, a reality. used to be self-sufficient mutually `supporting and caring for each other. They were bound together by economic and social ties and had a strong bond of mutual dependence. Traditions and rituals required the participation of all social groups (castes). Even untouchables were assigned important social duties. Harijan women helped all castes at the time of child birth, sweepers beat drums in front of Hindu’s houses or in front of a procession at the time of an important ceremony, village barber spread news, arranged marriages and served food during celebrations.  Occasionally non-Brahmins or Harijans served as priests of temples of goddesses like Sita or Kali, where all castes made offerings.
  • Laws remained unmodified and flexible with the capacity to adapt to local customs and situations.  People in power and position cared for the lower castes in order to acquire and retain local followers. The system made upper castes generous in matters of food, drinks and loans, when required. The tropical climate of the country compelled the people to the distribution of surplus, as it was difficult to store anything for long. [Sriniwas MN,  Times of India, Dated September 9, 1990, p 6.]
  • Teachings of Bhakti and Sufi saints like Sur, Tulsidas, Chaitnya Mahaprabhu, Nanak, Kabir etc. gave some breathing space to the rigidity of caste system, which suffocated the society during medieval India.

Pr. Rajni Kothari also accepts that till medieval times: –

  • There was a hierarchical social order, through which infinite ambiguities had been accepted, tolerated and regulated.
  • A multi-cultural framework of governance existed, which had restrained hegemonical and majority’s dominating tendencies.
  • A highly flexible ethics code was there, through which constant and continuing distortions, clash of personalities, major paradoxes in elite behaviours and instances of humiliation, acrimony and hypocritical behaviours in the conduct of public affairs were managed.[Times of India, dated July 28, 1997,  p13.]
  • Caste system during Modern Period – Caste system has always been a centre of attention for Westerners, politicians, intellectuals, activists or reformers from other faiths. It has been both defended and opposed vehemently in the political circles of modern India.

During Seventeenth century, many Dutch, Portuguese, French, British and Spanish companies came to India in search of market. Weakening of Islamic power, internal fights among various group leaders and communal unrest gave East India Company success not only in ousting other European companies from India, but also in establishing its rule in India and monopolizing its trade. Once firmly established, the authority was transferred from the Company to the Crown, through the Act of 1858.

Caste during British rule -Through Modern education system, British succeeded in disassociating many individuals from their traditional way of living, classical roots and knowledge. With it faded Indian values, philosophies, systems and traditions.

After establishing their rule in India, British rulers adopted the policy of “divide and rule”. To keep their power intact, they played off one part against other, Prince  against Princes, Hindus against Muslims, province against provinces and caste against caste.

They launched an ideological attack on Hindu practices and caste-system. To them, caste system was “discriminatory,” “iniquitous,” “exploitative,” “oppressive” “barbarous,” “uncivilized” and “highly stratified”. It was responsible for all evil social practices, feudalistic attitude, backward thinking, belief in dogmas and superstitions sustained by a unique set of rituals, and whimsical concept of purity and pollution. It made many Indians to lose their faith in social values and systems.

Many leaders like Mahatma Phule, Ambedkar or Gopal Ganesh instilled in the minds of millions of unlettered Hindus, venom against caste-system and the Brahmin community. They also held Caste system responsible for treating lower strata of society as lesser human beings; engaging them in forced labour, unsavoury jobs imposing many restrictions on them; preventing them from joining the mainstream of the society; and the subjugation of lower castes with the help of religion. They regarded untouchability as an inevitable concomitant of caste system.

There was another group of national leaders and reformers, who got alarmed at the erosion of Indian Culture, divisible policies of the rulers, economic loot, political subjugation, racial discrimination, assertion of lordly superiority over the subject on the ground of race, assumption of  haughty exclusiveness, persistent insulting and supercilious behaviour towards all Indians, exclusion of Indians from all places of authority and responsibility and denial of their capacity for self-governance united Indians against British rule. It gave birth to National movement.

Reformers also organized meetings to make ignorant masses aware of the social evils/real issues like superstitions or irrationality in observing rituals blindly. They advised people to stop treating low caste Hindus inhumanly. They advised to give underprivileged sections of society their rightful place in society. The intellectual ferment was strongest in West Bengal, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

In 1928, Raja Ram Mohan Roy founded Brahma Samaj in Bengal. He inspired the people of Bengal, UP, Punjab, Madras and other provinces, to form similar organizations and interpret religion rationally. Prarthana Samaj in Maharashtra (1867), Arya Samaj in Northern India, Rama Krishna Mission, Theosophical Society of India (1879), Dev Samaj in Lahore and Servants of India Society took up the job to awaken the masses. They talked about the greatness of Hindu Vedic culture and about Vedas as the source of all knowledge and truth. Swami Vivekanand founded the Rama Krishna Mission tried to reveal to the world Indian Philosophy and culture. Some reform institutes like Vivekanand’s or Rama Krishna Mission or Theosophical Society of India tried to familiarize the Western World, too, to the charm and graciousness of Indian Culture. All of them advised people not to be swayed away by Western culture. First they should know their own heritage and try to revive what is good in it.

Swami Vivekanand gave a call to “Return to Vedas”. He said, “Each nation like each individual has a theme in this life, which is its centre, the principle note, around which every other note comes to form the harmony. If any nation attempts to throw off its national vitality the direction which has become its own through the transmission of centuries the nation dies.”

Caste system after the Independence – Seventy four years after the Independence, Indians have lost the excuse of blaming the British for anything going wrong. Since 15th August 1947, Independent India is committed to democratic, secular and egalitarian principles as enshrined in the Constitution of India. Preamble of the Indian Constitution promises to secure to all its citizens: JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation. Article 15 of the Constitution prohibits any kind of discrimination on grounds of caste, race, religion, gender or place of birth; Article 16 gives equality of opportunity in matter of public employment, Article 338 creates National commission for Scheduled Castes to safeguard their interests etc.

In the eyes of common-man, Caste a social Institution – General public in India still considers as one of the fundamental social institution – a natural, inevitable unit of society. Family, which is a natural unit of an extended family; Extended family of Kula; Kula of a tribe (Vish); and a tribe of a Jana of Jati (Caste). In a way, all are fundamental social institutions. To them, Caste is a large extended family bonded by same language, customs, thinking and way of living and occupation. It is second only to the family in widening a person’s social radius and in getting importance in his/her private and occupational life.

A person’s relation with members of his caste is closer than with those, belonging to other castes. Caste values, beliefs, prejudices, injunctions as well as distortions of reality are the indivisible part of a person’s psyche and conscience. It makes one feel good and loved, when he lives up to the norms, and anxious and guilty, when he transgresses them. It still provides an individual with social security. To foreigners, Varna/caste system represent the ancient culture in its eternity.

Amendments and legislations to protect people from the rigidities of Caste System – Since Independence, the government has passed a number of amendments in the Constitution and legislations to remove the unreasonable practices developed into the system. Like untouchability is declared a crime. Bonded labour is abolished by law. Civil Rights Act, 1955, aims to eliminate injustice against weaker sections. Amendment to Prevention of Atrocities Act (SCT) 1989 provides for stern punishments for offenses committed against SCT by Upper Castes. Special Courts, under SCT Act, have been established for punishing officials, who are found guilty.

Caste now more liberal in social sphere – With the spread of literacy and growing awareness among masses, Castes system has become less restrictive in social arena. Castes no longer enjoy legal or religious sanctions. Expulsion from castes now means little. Earlier it meant complete social ostracism. Old style of authority and power exercised by caste-elders has already diminished except for a few castes in, rural areas especially in Haryana and Rajasthan. Restrictions or interactions between different castes arising due to considerations for purity and pollution are fading away from public life even from rural areas.

Winding up – At present, the whole atmosphere in India is in a state of turmoil. Economy of the nation is in a critical condition. Technology has advanced to such an extent, that phones are wireless; cooking is fire-less; cars are key-less; food is fat-less; tyres are tubeless; and tools are cordless. But along with it, main organs of the Government  political institutions are clueless. They have almost paralyzed because of corruption. Political leaders are shameless. Masses are helpless; youth are jobless; relations are meaningless; feelings are heartless; education is valueless; attitude is careless, and children are manner-less.

Modernity has ignited the desire for position, name and possession. People are gradually losing faith in traditional values and systems. Even institution like family has lost its sheen. It is quite a tough job for India to cope with the new challenges. Traditional living has been like an anchor, keeping the boat in safe harbour. Now that the anchor has gone and the boat is at the mercy of wild waves on a stormy ocean.

People like C. Rajagopalachari think that If there is honesty in India today, any hospitality, any charity…. any aversion to evil, any love to be good, it is due to whatever remains of the old faith and the old culture.

Today, when people are getting away from their roots, Hinduism can make their feet firmly grounded on earth and  instill right values in them. Its values and traditions give to the people, a purpose to live for and ideals to be achieved. Only after raising oneself from ignorance, a person could be able to understand the greatness of the Indian value system. Like a jeweler, one should spot out gems from among worthless pebbles.  A knowledgeable person could pick up knowledge and leave the undesired obsolete elements developed in it with passage of time. 

Modern India is desperate to pick up the lost threads of its true culture, and beliefs. It has to create an atmosphere, where different identities can once again live together in harmony and people can say proudly “we belong to a nation known as India.”.

June 25, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

India’s Dream for Inclusive Growth

“Vasudeva Kodambakkam”      (The world is one family)

“National solidarity in a democratic set up demands Government to recognize only two ends – the individual at one end and the nation as a whole at the other. Nothing should be encouraged to organize itself in between these two ends to the detriment of the freedom of the individual and solidarity of the nation”.                                           (First Backward class Commission’s Report, Chairman Kaka Kalelkar)

One of the primary objective of present Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to work sincerely to make India an inclusive society, where people of all sections of Indian society get full opportunities to grow and prosper according to their capacity and without any bias.

Equal opportunities to all – An inclusive society does not mean  uniform growth of all, but to create a society, which provides and enables all its members,  equality of opportunity. It means a society that over-rides differences of race, gender, class, generation, and geography, and facilitates inclusion of all sections of society under one umbrella. Inclusive growth demands to control social interaction in such a way, that basic needs and aspirations of all the people are handled for the nation as a whole, not only of one or few specific sections of the society.

India as a developing nation – India is a developing country, aiming at “Inclusive growth” of the whole of nation.  India’s dream for “Inclusive growth” of the nation as a whole still remains a distant dream even now after 74 years of its Independence. India has been ranked 130 in the year 2018 by UNDP’s index on development.

India is a large country. It accounts for 2.4% of the world surface area of 135.79 million sq. km. and sustain about 6.7% of the world population. There is a large number of religious and ethnic groups having  diversity in faith, way of living, customs and traditions.

Diversities in India are based on ethnic, regional, occupational, religious, caste, linguistic and cultural factors. A great diversity can be seen in each one’s faith, way of living, customs and traditions. There are many linguistic identities as well. India has more than 350 languages, more than 1600 dialects, nearly 650 different tribes. One can see a different dialect and food habit every few kilo metres. There is irksome diversity between the worlds of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’, a continuous struggle between those having plenty and masses below poverty line living in the world of scarcity.

Diversity makes divide easy – There have been periods of discord because of these diversities. They have generated regional and sectional imbalances, which have been a source of great social and psychological tensions. Fruits of  development cannot be shared equally among different  sections of society, living in different regions.

A tough job to keep India united – Working for inclusive growth of all and still maintain proper balance and harmony between different sections of society with so many diversities/identities is a delicate and a difficult task.  Way back on December 9, 1946, Mr. V.N. Narayan had said, “At best of times, India is ungovernable country of diversities, conflicts and problems”.[i]

Unity in diversity – Despite everything,  India has been able to maintain unity in diversity. A large number of  diverse identities have lived together for centuries and presented a mosaic culture. Indian culture binds all the diverse groups in India together under one umbrella from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and Bengal to Gujrat.

Diversity makes divide easy –However sometimes, there have been periods of discord as well. Diversities in India are based on ethnic, regional, occupational, religious, caste, linguistic and cultural factors. A great diversity can be seen in each one’s faith, way of living, customs and traditions. There are many linguistic identities as well. India has more than 350 languages, more than 1600 dialects, nearly 650 different tribes. One can see a different dialect and food habit every few kilometres. There is irksome diversity between the worlds of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’, a continuous struggle between those having plenty and masses below poverty line living in the world of scarcity.

These diversities have generated regional and sectional imbalances, which have been a source of great social and psychological tensions. Fruits of  development cannot be shared equally among different  sections of society, living in different regions.

Unbalanced population growth – Unbalanced population growth section-wise or region-wise creates a gulf between different sections of society. It gives rise to many sectional forces (caste, communal, occupational and  regional) and pressures groups. Rising expectations, political ambitions and economic interests have aroused the militancy among the discontented sections of society all over the nation, which has divided the Indians into innumerable unbridgeable groups.

Each group pursues its own sectional interests. Some of them are quite vocal and aggressive/militant in attitude. They demand their rights, but ignore their duties. Casteism, corruption, criminalization etc. are some of the direct consequences.

Unbalanced growth gives rise to new equations in power echelons. The wider the gulf, larger the problem for the Government. The welfare and developmental schemes for such a large population puts an extra burden on government. To maintain proper balance and harmony between different sections of society with so many diversities/identities is a delicate and a difficult task.

Reasons for unbalanced growth – Following are the reasons:
  • Population explosion – At present, India is the second most populous nation in the world. China being on the top. Superstitions, illiteracy, lack of awareness, desire of male child and high mortality rate among children have led to unchecked population growth. Agrarian community and poor people refuse to regard children as burden. For them they were an asset and insurance for old age. Unchecked population explosion has aggravated many problems such as poverty, low per capita income, food availability, pressure on land, burden on education, medical care, housing, unemployment, underemployment, rapid depletion of natural resources, etc. It has neutralized all the efforts made, so far, for all-round economic and social development of the whole of nation. Population explosion and its unbalanced growth is one of the major causes of iniquitous growth and rise of regional and sectional imbalances. It puts a severe strain on the already over loaded system. Population growth in absolute numbers has aggravated many problems such as poverty, low per capita income, food availability, pressure on land, burden on education, medical care, housing, unemployment, underemployment, rapid depletion of natural resources, etc.
  • Limited resources – Inclusive growth of all sections of society depends,  to a large extent, on demand and supply factor. When demand is more and supply is limited, because of the lack of resources, how one can dream of ‘inclusive growth’, equity or equal development of all the sections of the society?
  • Poverty in India – Massive poverty and under-development of different sections has been a basic feature of Indian economy since long.  As early as Dec.10, 1919, Gandhiji wrote in Young India,  “The immediate problem before us is not how to run the government of the country, but how to feed and clothe ourselves.”  In 1964, Late Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri, while taking charge as PM, in 1964, has said, “Of all the problems facing us, none is more distressing than that of the dire poverty, in which tens of millions of our countrymen continue to live.” Though poverty has decreased in percentage terms, it has increased enormously in absolute terms. India has not counted its poor since 2011. But the  United Nations estimated the number of poor in the country to be 364 million in 2019, or 28 per cent of the population.(07-Apr-2021, Mass poverty is back in India by Richard Mahapatra,https://www.downtoearth.org.in).
  • Materialistic attitude – Materialistic attitude of people has made a virtue of narrow loyalties of caste and religion.  The result is rise in sub-cultures like favouritism, lure for easy money, nepotism, parochialism, communalism, regionalism, bigoted sentiments and irresponsible comments, spreading in-discipline in the society. The work culture has been degenerated.
  • Richer becoming richer and poor poorer – There is virtually no control over political corruption. A few persons and Political Parties, while in office, are becoming richer, and common-man poorer. Such a trend poses a danger to the integrity and stability of the whole society as well as unity of the nation.
  • Fractured mandate –  Voters have become smarter and more aware with the spread of education.. It has created an atmosphere of fractured mandate, because gradually it is becoming more difficult for politicians to  purchase their votes by making false promises and offering freebies. In turn, fractured mandate has led to political instability.
  • Anti-incumbency cult – Fractured mandate has led to the trend of anti-incumbency cult both in North and south. In order to grab political power, before elections, leaders of different political parties make alliances with minor parties just enlarge their vote-banks and win elections. And Since mid-1980’s, at the centre and from 1960’s onwards at provincial level after elections horse-trading starts. Political defections have become frequent. MLAs and MPs are approached to join rival parties to help them to form governments. People see it as political corruption.
  • Entry of ‘caste’ into politics – Entry of ‘caste’ into politics has given rise to casteism. At present, caste is the single most important factor in Indian politics. Reservation policy and electoral politics, based on caste, has given boost to casteism. Under-currents of caste politics have made the government incapable to solve the burning national issues. It has made the efforts done made so far ineffective. ‘Caste-politics’ needs to be arrested at its earliest.
  • Irresponsible Media ignite regional differences –  Quite often, the picture on some critical issues are presented by national and international media is based on half-truths. Misinformation or half information given to the public by national and international media on critical issues polarise the public opinion. To a great extent, recently media has escalated regional divide further.
  • Regional disparities – All these factors are responsible for delaying the process of uniform growth of all the regions. There is a wide gap between region to region/province to province. In matter of growth and prosperity, There is a wide gap between the prosperous and backward states. There are pockets of poverty amidst plenty within each region,  province/state. Dry and hilly areas as well as those with tribal populations are still far below the national average.

All these factors poses danger to unity, integrity and stability of the Indian society and the nation. as a whole. It is becoming more and more difficult to reconcile sectional or regional interests with national interests, Most glaring example of disparity can be seen recently between Northern states and Southern states.

Disparities in North and South and their unbalanced growth , Southern states have progressed and prospered more after Independence, especially due to economic reforms of post-liberalization era. Progress in misgoverned Northern states, especially in BIMARU states  (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand), has been very slow.

A group of some intellectuals,  politicians, political parties and national and international media make these disparities more glaring by passing on comments like –     

  • Superior genes of people in south have led them to prosperity. They are more intelligent, aware, and enterprising and forward looking than North Indians.
  • “The crucial factor behind the prosperity of South  is” … “the collapse of caste system over last half century.” A new business class rises in ashes of South India’s caste system, whereas North still gives importance to caste-consciousness and caste-feelings. Caste is still a crucial factor in social, political and economic arena.  (Lydia Polgreen, “The New York Times” Dt. 11th Sept, 2010).
  • In South, the breakdown of caste hierarchy has broken the traditional links between caste and profession and released enormous entrepreneurial energies” (Ashutosh Varshney, a Professor at Brown University). In North, it has led to unemployment.
  • Lower castes in South are more prosperous and well-educated than North. New business class rises in ashes of South India’s caste system. (Lydia Polgreen, “The New York Times” dated 11th September, 2010.
  • South is more concerned about economic development.
  • South considers education as a route to prosperity. Whereas in North, the chief aim of political parties is to grab political power by enflaming the caste and communal feelings and enjoy the spoils.
  • South is more concerned about economic development than North.

One must not pass-on comments on national issues without rationally analyzing the whole scenario. Such irresponsible comments are based on half-truths or misinformation. They widen the North-South divide and give rise to new tensions, social, economic and political. They create confusion, misunderstandings and a feeling of alienation in the masses of Southern and Northern provinces. Realities are much deeper than what is seen on the surface. They intentionally or unintentionally forget to inform the people, that –

Caste “is no longer a barrier” Almost all-over India, Caste is no longer a barrier. Caste system is now more liberal and less restrictive in social arena. It allows its members a greater degree of freedom in all walks of life throughout India, whether it is South or North, East or West.Traditional caste barriers are breaking – Traditional caste barriers and evil practices developed into the system started breaking slowly but steadily after the Independence It does not affect much the social or economic life of people. With the efforts of reformers of nineteenth and twentieth centuries and constitution-framers, spread of education, process of modernization, industrialization and growth of awareness among people.

Unbalanced population growth – Unbalanced growth of different sections of society has resulted in the increase of caste and communal conflicts.

Lower castes more tenacious about caste-identity – ‘Caste’ has become single most important factor in Indian electoral politics The politics of vote-banks and advantages of reservation policy have made lower castes more tenacious on the subject of their caste than the higher/upper castes.

Caste-Hindus more  consciousness about their Caste – It is not wholly correct to say that in North, caste feelings are strong amongst upper castes or they are more caste-conscious than the lower castes. On the contrary, lower castes  (SC/ST/OBC) cling to their caste identity more, because of the preferential treatment and advantages, Reservation Policy gives to them. The reality of modern India is at present is that lower castes  have become more vocal and assertive. Even politicians in power fear to annoy them and concede to all their demands openly or discreetly.

More Freedom in the choice of occupation – Connections between caste and profession have been broken long ago with the industrialization and released enormous entrepreneurial energies and opportunities not only in south, but everywhere in India.

Entry of Caste into politics giving new lease of life to caste – With the entry of caste in politics, caste found a new lease of life and led to the growth of caste-ism. There is a difference between ‘caste-system’ and ‘caste-ism’.

Centralization of control systems –Centralization of control systems in the hands of a few Individuals, families and groups having money and muscle power has escalated caste-tension. Under the garb of caste, or escalating caste tensions, many politicians try to create their vote-bank and grab political power, to control destiny of millions. Some of them even seek support of the criminals and in return provide them protection.

Some political parties both from North and South desired inclusion of caste in India’s census for 2011. The demand for caste-based census had been raised systematically by political parties from all parts of country including Dravidian Munnetra Kazhakam [DMK] and Pattali Makkal Katchi [PMK].

Under-currents of caste politics have made the government incapable to create an inclusive society. It makes all the efforts of government ineffective. ‘Caste-politics’ needs to be arrested at its earliest.

Education  in South and North – To say that people in south are more aware than north about the advantages of education is a myth. As far as education is concerned, all over India whether east or west, south or north, people have always given importance to education and training. They know the value of education and knowledge and its role in leading to prosperity and to accomplish dignity and self-reliance.

Many travellers, among whom most famous are Magasthenes (a Greek ambassador arrived at Patliputra in 302 BC), Fa-hien, Hiuen Tsang and I-Tsang threw much light on education system of ancient India. Holy places like ‘Taxila’, ‘Ayodhya’, ‘Banaras’, ‘Amaravati’, ‘Mathura’, ’Nasik’ in Maharashtra or ‘Kanchi’ in South, ‘Valabhi’ in Gujarat, ‘Vikramshila’ in Bihar and capitals of kingdoms like ‘Patilputra’, ‘Valabhi’, ‘Ujjayani’ and ‘Padmavati’ were famous centres of education. In South India centres of learning were known as ‘Ghatikas’. Many centres of learning were the monastic colleges mostly founded by ‘Budhists’.

One of the earliest observations about the importance, Hindus gave to education and training, was made by Megasthenese, (an ancient Greek historian, diplomat and Indian ethnographer and explorer in the Hellenistic period.  350 BCE) wrote about the method of teaching and writing of India. He commented, whatever was left he still found it in practice. “No people, perhaps, on earth have adhered as much to their ancient usage and customs as the Indians”. While teaching people three r’s, indigenous education also familiarized the people with the nation’s epics, religion, literature and other religious books which were available in their own language. (An Austrian European traveller Fra Paolino Da Bartolomeo, who spent fourteen years in India (1776-1789), recalls)

Universities in ancient India – Few of most important universities of ancient India were ‘Taxila’ (being the first university of world established in Seventh century B.C.) Taxila University as a center of knowledge continued under the Maurya Empire and Greek rule (Indo-Greeks) in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE. The destruction of Toramana in the 5th century CE seem to have put an end to the activities of the University.

’Vikramshila’ University and ‘Nalanda’ University (built in 4 A.D). Huan Tsang in his records mentioned the university of ‘Taxila’ to be at par with ‘Nalanda’ and ‘Vikramshila’ Universities. In the North, Nalanda University continued its glorious existence for a thousand years till it was destroyed by Bakhtiyar Khilji, who invaded Bihar in 1197 AD.

Education during Medieval Period – Many European travellers and administrators bear testimony about the importance, India gave to education and training. But it did not suit the British rulers and missionaries.

Brigadier-General Alexander Walker, who served in India between 1780 and 1810, had said that “no people probably appreciate more justly the importance of instruction than the Hindus”. According to him, “they sacrifice all the feelings of wealth, family pride and caste that their children may have the advantage of good education”. He also found that this love of learning was no exclusive characteristic of the Brahmins but “this desire is strongly impressed on the minds of all the Hindus.” But these observations did not suit the British rulers, administrators and missionaries.

Even data of Adam’s Report (1835) did not suit the rulers. It says that It was during the British rule, that illiteracy increased and indigenous education was decayed. Before the introduction of modern education system, there was widespread private coaching besides the system of public education.

According to Sir Thomas Munro, Governor of Madras Presidency, the number of pupils taught privately at home was considered to be “above five times greater than that taught in the schools”. Adam’s Report also reveals a different story and destroys completely the popular notion that education in India was monopolized by the Brahmins. The idea was purposely floated by the rulers and missionaries, which was picked up by colonized intelligentsia later on.

Education during British rule – Education, being an important Institution, had attracted the vigilant attention of British rulers, after they consolidated their power. The Raj conducted many Surveys in the Bombay Presidency (1820-1830), Madras Presidency (1823-1826) and later on in Bengal and Punjab before introducing its own Modern education in 1834.

Advantageous position of South –   While talking about the prosperity of South, many self-proclaimed intellectuals avoid to tell that as compared to Northern states, Southern states have always been in a better position historically, geographically, economically and administratively. South has enjoyed certain advantages as compared to North, like:

Advantage of Geographical position –South has always remained in an advantageous position because of its geographical position.  Its geographical position spared South from many violent disturbances and gave an undisturbed peaceful atmosphere to plan and progress. From seventh century onwards, after the downfall of Hindu Raj, Northern-Western parts of India had continuously remained  under the pressure of repeated attacks, invasions and continued onslaughts from across the north-west frontier. These parts of India had continuously seen bloodshed and destruction of its places of worship and learning.

Turks, Afghans and Mughals continuously invaded India, Ghajini and others (998-1030 AD), the establishment of Slave Dynasty (1206-1290), Khilji Dynasty (1290-1320), Tughluk Dynasty (1320-1412 AD) Sayyed Dynasty (1414-51) Lodi Dynasty (1451-1526) and Mughal Empire (1526 to 1757). Earlier, they drained out the wealth of the nation to foreign lands. But later on, they conquered and made India their homeland.

Perpetrators of violence could never cross Vindhya’s ranges and reach up-to the South. That is how, South was spared, remained untouched/ protected and enjoyed a peaceful atmosphere throughout to prosper. It got enough time and tension free atmosphere to plan, concentrate on developmental activities, and manage more stable governments and better infrastructure, education-system, health-care services and economic prosperity.

Even after Independence in 1947, the people from North faced the blood-shed during the partition of the country, faced communal tensions from time to time, confronted three wars (1962, 1965 and 1971) on its land, tolerated disturbances due to the swelling streams of refugees from Tibet, Bangladesh and other places and suffered due to periodical famines and floods. At present also, people of North are suffering due the violent activities of terrorists, which has slowed down developmental its activities.

Spared of economic loot, communal tensions etc. before Independence – Again south was spared of economic loot, communal tensions and the ministrations of Cornwallis. Right from the outset, Southern states had more equitable land tenure system. During national movement for Independence, South did not suffer much. Mostly, it remained either or more in favour of continuance of the Imperial rule in India.

Advantage of English as medium of instruction/education – Madras Presidency was one of the first British settlements in India. Modern education with English medium started much earlier in South, during the second-half of nineteenth century giving it leverage over North.

In 1844, through a Declaration knowledge of English was made compulsory for Government employment.. In the near absence of industrial, commercial or social service activity, the educated Indians depended on Government jobs entirely.

Missionaries opened many English medium schools in Madras. Missionary schools  attracted poor people by giving them free English-medium education, jobs in government and to improve their social status. Their primary aim was to convert them in Christianity.

There were some government schools as well, where the means of school education were vernacular languages. British government gave funds to indigenous schools in need of help and dictated its own terms. Slowly more and more schools got government’s aid there. Higher education was granted in English only.

In 1855, Education departments were created in the provinces of Madras, Bombay and Bengal. In 1857 Universities were established in Madras, Bombay and Calcutta. All these developments gave leverage to all people in South India. English became just like their mother tongue for educated people in Madras long ago, whether belonging to Brahmin community or non-Brahmin communities.

In the North, in the name of the principles of “secularism” and ‘religious neutrality’, British Government introduced Urdu as the medium of instruction over a large territory of North India. Urdu which was foreign to the masses did not help them in getting formal education for a long time. Urdu medium has “practically excluded from primary instruction” the whole Hindu priestly class, the artisans and the agricultural classes in the North, according to the testimony of the Brahmo Samaj. It was meant only to prepare the educated people for ‘Munshi’s’ jobs. It pushed north a step behind South in competing with them in opportunities of advancement, which demanded knowledge of English.

Caste demography of South and North – The caste demography of the South is quite different from the North. North India exhibits with far more clarity, the dynamics of caste-system. All four groups are socially active and occupy an important position in society.

Benefit of modern opportunities was availed by diverse groups, like Kayasthas, Banias, elite section of Muslims etc. and educated Bengalis occupied many jobs and other opportunities in Northern India. Brahmins constitute a heterogeneous pack, ranging from dominant elite to middle class peasantry and poor living below poverty line. Influence of Hindu ideology has been mingled with elements of everyday life.

South Indian Brahmins are stricter and more rigid in observance of rituals than their counterparts in the North. Also South Indian untouchables are more debased than their counterparts in North. In South and West, Shudras are divided into two groups, touchable and Untouchables. Untouchables form “Pancham Varna”, and are not the part of Varna order. In North, Shudras and untouchables have never been considered outside by Hindu’s Varna system. They are very much the integral part of Hindu social order. The cultural impact of Brahminical superiority and rituals has been accepted by lower castes in North without much protest.

Political formations in North cannot afford to ignore upper castes in the North, which form over 20% of the population. It was almost after a century, that backward castes and Dalits in the North have raised their voice not against only Brahmins, but against whole of upper castes. The success in south in the recent past has encouraged backward and Dalit groups in North to follow the South. Liberalizations of economy in India (1990) and trend of globalization have resulted in brain drain and has pushed the youth of upper castes to Western countries.

South is also well-known for its “Authoritarian leadership, big corruption and endless freebies for the masses.” (Swaminathan Anklesaria Aiyar, TOI, 11 Dec. 2016, p24).

Up till the end of 20thcentury, lower castes in the North were poor, divided and less aware of their political rights, but economically less dependent on caste Hindus. In South, Non Brahmins are more conscious of their legitimate rights.

South Better prepared to take advantage of Globalization – It would be an exaggeration to say that South is more concerned about economic development. When India’s economy liberalized in the 1990s, South was “better prepared to take advantage of globalization” (Samual Paul, public Affairs centre) or it has established closer connections with the global economy. It is also a fact that In fact, one of major reasons behind prosperity of South during the last few decades, has been a steep increase in remittances from gulf migrants and non-resident Indians living in other parts of the world.

Liberalizations of economy in India (1990), reverse discriminatory Reservation policy (49.5% quota fixing for  SCs, STs and OBCs) and trend of globalization gave opportunity to a large number of talented youth from North to migrate to Advanced Western countries.

The above mentioned comments based on half-truths have developed an anathema in some people against Hindi language, Northern value systems, festivals and way of living.

  • Anathema against North – Some South Indian political leaders and people feel that North  overshadows them in political arena. North remains in prominence in the politics of the nation. They feel neglected for not getting enough attention of the in Government at Centre.
  • Anathema to Aryan-Sanskrit – The reaction to this fear is anathema to Aryan-Sanskrit, their culture, their language, and their social structure based on Varna (caste) system. Though Varna came comparatively late in South, the succeeding centuries saw the gradual hardening of caste-rules.

The aggressive attitude of non-Brahmins had succeeded in driving out many Tamil Brahmin families, basically non-militants by nature, to other parts of the country during the whole of twentieth century.

Resentment against Brahmins/upper castes Hindus –  Resentment among ‘Non-Brahmins’ against Brahmins started in South, because only 3% Brahmins occupied most of places in educational institutions and the modern callings. The resentment of 97% non-Brahmin caste gave rise to Non Brahman Movement/Dravidian movement.  Initially it was started by those non- Brahman castes that had acquired access to education, wealth and influence. The movement was directed against the authority of the Brahmins during the second- half of the nineteenth century.

Dravidian movement and its ideology – Dravidian ideology and Dravidian movement has offered an a Alternative model of hegemony. The Dravidian movement in British India started with the formation of the Justice Party. Dravidian movement was  based on three ideologies:

  • Dismantling of Brahmin hegemony –
  • Revitalization of the Dravidian Languages (that include Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Tamil) and
  • Social reform by abolition of existing caste systems, religious practices and recasting women’s equal position in society.

Dravidian ideology claims that the Brahmins were originally Aryan migrants from the north.  They imposed their language, Sanskrit, religion and heritage on the people of South.

It regards non-Brahmins as descendants of original natives of India, who believed in egalitarian pattern of society. Aryans conquered them and through caste system, Brahmins established their superiority over them. Therefore, they regarded Brahmins as their worst enemies. The opportunities and recognition came to Dravidians with formation of Justice Party and start of Non-Brahmins movement.

Anti-Brahmins politics travelled from South to Western part of India – Anti-Brahmin currents moved first to western part of India and afterward almost a century later to the North. In Maharashtra, Phule and Ambedkar challenged the influence of Brahmins and Marathas. They united numerous endogamous jatis into region wise alliances, increased in size and emerged as powerful pressure groups in different regions.

Roots of disparities in North and South The roots of North-South divide do not lie not in distant past. Socio-political and economic turmoil in North and South happened only about 200-300 years back. That was the time when just to perpetuate their rule in India, British rulers had started the policy of ‘divide and rule’.

Initially, from 1858 to 1905, after consolidating its power, British Government tried its best to prevent all Indians to have a common feeling. Existent diversities of Indian society gave it an opportunity to play one against another, Princes against Princes, Princes against people; Hindu against Muslims; caste against castes; and provinces against provinces.

Ideological attack on social structure of India by British – During the domination of aliens rule for centuries, many deformities had been developed into the social practices in India. It gave an opportunity  to British rulers, missionaries, philosophers and writers, jointly to launch an ideological attack on Indian social structure and its value system. They held Indian social structure responsible for feudalistic attitude, backward thinking, belief in dogmas and superstitions. It is based on Varna/caste system, practices of which are “discriminatory,” “iniquitous,” “exploitative,” “oppressive” “barbarous,” “uncivilized” and “highly stratified”. British held Indian social structure They held caste-system and its social practices responsible for large-scale of illiteracy, communal problems, escalating violence, crimes and corruption, disparities of power, wealth and culture.

Ideological attack on Indian social structure developed a doubt about efficacy of its social values and systems, in the minds of educated Indians, and intellectuals. Along with it, British propagated theories of racial superiority and thereby, justified the domination of white races over dark races of the globe.

The instrument British Imperial rule used to divide Indian people – While laying down the foundations of democratic institutions in India, British rulers enflamed the caste-ist and communal feelings through –

  1. ‘Quota system based on castes and community’
  2. Electoral Politics’. and
  3. Census operations’ at the dawn of twentieth century

British rulers did the divide in 3 stages:

  1. First they appeased the Hindus,
  2. Then was the turn of Muslims,
  3. Lastly, they devoted their attention to backward castes.
  • Appeasement of Hindus – Initially, the British, who annexed authority from the Muslim rulers, looked favourably towards Hindu community. For the British, It was too costly and not even possible, to import enough Englishmen to man the large and increasing number of in administration.  They were compelled to think about educating Indians in such a way, that they, “… get Anglicized in terms of both cultural and intellectual attainments.

In 1835, Lord Macaulay introduced modern education with the intention, To form a class, who may be interpreters between us and millions of whom, we govern, a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinion, in morals and in intellect.[i] In the near absence of industrial, commercial or social service activity, the educated Indians depended on Government jobs entirely.  This led to a keen competition between different sections of Indian society. The British took advantage of this situation and created rift in the Indian society.

Appalling poverty of Indians after the decline in the financial status of their patrons, Princes and Zamindars, compelled them to opt for modern education, and make use of new type of employment opportunities. They devoted their scarce resources and energies to get Western Education, which was very costly. Modern education provided them opportunities to earn their living respectfully. Their long tradition and undisputed role in the field of knowledge and learning, their intelligence, sincerity and hard work helped them to secure an important place in the modern society.

Amongst all sections of Hindu society, Brahmins, being natural learners and pursuers of knowledge moved ahead of other communities. Preponderance of Brahmins at all levels of freedom movement, activities of National Congress and reformist alarmed the rulers. Innumerable C.I.D. Reports of that period confirmed the active role played by Brahmins in National movement. Growing influence of Brahmins in other areas, too, including their hold over the Hindu Community made the British to believe that Brahmin Community was a threat to imperial rule.

  • Appeasement of Muslims – British authorities considered it necessary to stop the dominance of Brahmins or few groups by raising a strong force against them. For keeping a balance of power, they prepared and encouraged other sections of society.

They turned their attention to Muslims, who had a grudge over the loss of their dominant position in the past. They developed a fear of being dominated by majority Hindu Community, if at any point of time India became Independent. Muslims found themselves handicapped in competing with Hindus, in modern callings and opportunities.

In a very shrewd and planned manner, British drifted Muslims from Hindus. During 1850s, Mohammedan Anglo Oriental College was established at Aligarh. Its English principles like Archibald, Theodore Beck or Morrison played an important role in keeping Muslims away from mainstream and inculcating in them a feeling of separation.

The seeds of communalism were sown during Lord Lytton’s Vice-royalty (1876-80). Sir W.H. Gregory, while appreciating the Resolution of Government of India on Muslim education wrote to Dufferin in Feb. 1886, I am confident, that it will bear good fruits, indeed, it seems to have done so already by the complete abstention of the Mohammedan from Brahmins and Baboo agitation.  It will be a great matter to sweeten our relations with this portion of the Indian population, the bravest and at one time, the most dangerous. [ii]

A deputation of Muslims led by His Highness Sir Agha Khan demanded on Oct. 1, 1896 separate electorate. On Dec. 30, 1906 a separate party, Muslim League, was launched to pursue and safeguard Muslim interests. Their demands were accepted through Minto-Morley Reforms known as Government of India Act of 1909.  This Act devised a novel method to distribute and balance the power.  It introduced separate electorates on the basis of religion. Lord Minto came to be known as Father of Communal Electorate in India. The Act came as the first effective dose of communalization of Indian politics.

  • Appeasement of Non-Brahmin communities – After gaining the loyalty of Muslims, British rulers felt the need to divide Hindu population and secure their confidence also. On September 2, 1897, George Francis Hamilton, the then Secretary of State for India, wrote to Viceroy Curzon, “I think the real danger to our rule in India, not now but say 50 years hence, is the gradual adoption and extension of Western ideas of agitation and organization. If we could break the educated Hindu into two sections, holding widely different views, we should by such division, strengthen our position against the subtle and continuous attack, which the spread of education must make upon our system of Government”.[iii]

Educated and prosperous non-Brahmins castes like Chettyars, Reddys or Nairs in South India resented the domination of 3% Brahmins in educational institutions and the modern callings. They found themselves unable to compete in modern callings with  Brahmins on equal terms. The movement against the authority of the Brahmins started during the second- half of the nineteenth century.

Initially, British rulers opened special schools for backward people also. They were provided free education in missionary English medium schools. Along with it, other benefits were bestowed like special scholarships, loans, hostel facilities, concessions in school fees and quota in government jobs. In 1885, the education department proposed to reserve 50% of free scholarships for backwards and Muslims, as scholarships purely on merit grounds would perpetuate Brahmin’s monopoly. Both Non-Brahmins and Muslims  welcomed all the Preferential treatment  given to them by the colonial rulers. They were grateful to British rulers for all the opportunities and other privileges, they bestowed upon them. They wished for the continuance of British rule in India.

The spread of education led them to organize their own fellows and to form associations. British Government allowed them to set up organizations on caste and community basis and to pursue their sectarian interests. It resulted in emergence of many pressure groups, a new divisive force in the political arena. These pressure groups based themselves on cultural, casteist and other variations existent in the country.

Communal division between Brahmins and non-Brahmins began in the presidency during the. late-19th and early-20th century, mainly due to caste prejudices and disproportionate Brahminical representation in government. 

Anti-Brahminism became organized and got recognition after the formation of the Justice Party in late 1916 in Tamil Nadu on 20 November 1916 in Victoria Memorial Hall in Madras. Initially Justice party was composed of non-Brahmins persons like C. Natesa Mudaliar along with T. M. Nair and P. Theagaraya Chetty, who were typically feudal castes, land-owning agricultural castes and merchant castes. It was committed to enhancing the opportunities for non-Brahmins. They held a series of non-Brahmin conferences and meetings in the presidency. Anti -Brahmin movement started with the formation of Justice Party. It gained momentum under the leadership of Periyar E V Ramaswamy in Tamil Nadu. It turned people against Aryan Brahminical order easily.

Backward castes and untouchables emerged as a powerful political force by early 20th century especially after the introducing  the elective principle to membership in the imperial and local legislative councils in India by Indian Councils Act of 1909, also called MorleyMinto Reforms, enacted by the British Parliament. The granting of an electorate for Muslims…. Brought the idea of communal electorates…. to the forefront in the minds of all communities, which feared their submersion in the Government run by the dominant caste of Hindu community.[iv]In 1919, he Government of India Act accorded special representation by granting a few nominated seats, in the Legislative Assembly for depressed classes.

So far, untouchable activities were combined with the non-Brahmin movement. By 1928, untouchables separated themselves from the intermediate caste. They established their independent identity at national level, with the Communal Award of 1932. Reservations for untouchables were so far combined with backward castes and was confined to Provincial and local levels. Communal representation ignited the aspirations of other groups as well.

Dr. Rajendra Prasad said, The principle of dividing population into communal groups, which had been adopted in the Minto Morley Reforms, had been considerably extended, even beyond what had been done by Montagu Chelmsford Reforms”…. “The electorate in 1919 was broken up into ten parts, now (1932 by Simon Commission) it is fragmented into seventeen unequal bits… Giving separate representations to Schedule Castes further weakened Hindu community.  Division on the basis of religion, occupation and service were made.  The British introduced every possible cross-division.[v]

All over India, numerous caste organizations emerged into larger collectiveness by keeping contacts and alliances with their counterparts at other places; formed associations and federations at local and regional levels. They demanded with insistence, government’s intervention for giving preferential treatment to non-Brahmins and other weaker sections of Indian society in electoral politics and government jobs.

Almost after a century, some castes including untouchables raised their voice violently in North. They were not against Brahmins only, but against the whole of upper castes. The success in south in the past has encouraged backward and other backward castes in the North to follow the example of South. Acceptance of Mandal Commission Report in 90’s have led to Brain-drain. Mandal Commission Report, has made caste a single most important factor in Indian politics. Quota system and electoral politics has given boost to caste-ism.

Brain-drain – Acceptance of Mandal Commission’s recommendations has blocked 49.5% of employment opportunities for meritorious students. Liberalizations of economy in India (1990) and trend of globalization has given opportunity to a large number of hard-working talented youth from upper castes to migrate to advanced Western countries.

Ultimately, it is the nation, which has to suffer due to less tax revenue from losing income tax, decline in competitiveness. It loses potential entrepreneurs. Brain-drain can lead to a shortage of key skilled workers. Lower growth reduces confidence in the economy of the nation. Brilliant people aspire to leave rather than stay.

Brain drain has caused India to lose the ability to progress. Talented people are born, raised, and educated in their country, and when it comes time to work and give back what they were provided, they leave and seek employment elsewhere.

Winding up

Recently, North has lagged behind the South in matter of education, population control and Prosperity. There was a time, when North was a great cradle of statecraft, knowledge and culture. There is no reason why it should not move forward. It is still blessed with natural resources and hard-working people in abundance.

South has enjoyed certain advantages as compared to North such as

  • Its geographical position spared, which has saved South from many violent  disturbances and given to it an undisturbed peaceful atmosphere to plan and progress.
  • Modern education with English medium started much earlier in South, during the second-half of nineteenth century giving it leverage over North. Knowledge of English for government jobs had made missionary schools very popular both amongst Brahmins and non-Brahmins during second half of the 19th century.
  • Missionaries along with British government both paid more attention to non-brahmin castes during the second half of the nineteenth century. Missionaries did so with an aim to convert them into Christianity and government to raise a force against Brahmins.
  • Spread of education amongst masses inspired them to contain their population growth.
  • It is not the upper castes but the backward castes which need not be so tenacious on the subject of their caste. They have become so vocal and assertive, that even politicians in power fear to annoy them and concede to all their demands openly or discreetly.
  • The colonial rulers succeeded in creating two unbridgeable compartments of Brahmins and Non-Brahmins in the South. Spread of education amongst Non-Brahmins/ lower and intermediate castes encouraged them to raise their voice against Caste-Hindus and get enough space in power echelons. Ultimately with the backing of the government they succeeded to secure 49.5% quotas for themselves after Independence.

What is needs to be done to create an inclusive society ?

  • Under-currents of caste politics have made the government incapable to create an inclusive society. It makes all the efforts of government ineffective. ‘Caste-politics’ needs to be arrested at its earliest.
  • Concentrate on building up its infra structure.
  • Pay more attention to ‘educate all’.
  • Population explosion needs to be controlled in the North on priority basis. It has put severe strain on already over loaded system.
  • South India needs to overcome its anathema against Hindi language, North Indian people, their festivals and its culture. There has always been and still is resentment in the heart of south Indian people and politicians against North for its always remaining in prominence in national politics.
  • It is not the upper castes but the backward castes which need not be so tenacious on the subject of their caste.
  • All the Indians – whether living in South or North – must give-up caste-politics at its earliest and learn the lessons of self-reliance.
  • People must learn to prosper without the crutches of ‘Quota-system’.

[i]  Vipin Chandra,  Modern Indian, p 121.

[ii]   Tara Chand, ibid. p 515.

[iii] Tara Chand, ibid. p 516.

[iv] Zelhot Eleanor, Dr. Ambedkar and the Mahar Movement, p 141.

[v]  Prasad Rajendra, India Divided, p 136, and Mehta and Patwardhan,

    The Communal Triangle, p 72.

June 23, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Education in India – ‘Ancient’ and ‘Modern’

‘Neti’ ’Neti’ …. “learning is a never-ending process and the sources of knowledge are countless.”

“A little knowledge that acts is worth more than much knowledge that is inactive. … Knowledge, the object of knowledge and application of the knowledge – all the three are equally important for motivating to take a wise action.” Khalil Gibran

 In India, illiteracy of a large number of people has turned the visions of ‘Education for All’ into empty dreams. Especially, population explosion has put a heavy pressure on its available infra-structure. According to 2011 census, literacy-rate has gone only up to 74% from 65%. For males it has risen to 82% from 75%, for females to 65% from 54%. About 20% of its population is still illiterate. In absolute number, the figure of illiterates is alarming. No nation can afford to have a large number of its population to remain illiterate, ignorant and unskilled.

Education and the masses – In ancient India, education was confined within a very small section of Indian society. It was not so much because of discrimination that a large number of common people were debarred or denied access to education, as it was due to the following reasons –

• Method to educate – In the past, because of the method of education, education remained confined within a very small section of the society. In absence of any written material, priestly schools in India had devised a most remarkable and effective system of transferring knowledge to succeeding generations in form of hymns. They restricted it only to those, who possessed brilliant feats of memory and capability to keep its extreme sanctity.

•Use of Symbolic language – Symbolic language was in use to express thoughts, customs and institutions. The purpose was perhaps to make it easier for human mind to remember. It gave everything in the society a sacrament, religious and sacrosanct, but not in a narrow sense. Shiva–Shakti stood for Divine masculine-feminine union, four elements of nature –”Om” stood for the sound of creation, “Trishul” for trinity, “Lotus” for balance, “Venus star” for creativity, “Sacrifice” for an offering to gods, “Purush and prakriti” for ideal man-woman relationship, “Som ras” as a symbol of divine bliss etc. In ‘Upnishads’, Hindu epics and ‘Geeta’, there are many examples of the use of symbolic language.

Modern Indian society has lost the mindset to understand the true meaning of this symbolic language. Some educated persons gave in their self interest gave its lessons an imaginative, mysterious, mystic or divine shape. Such as it is being criticized vehemently by some sections of society saying of ‘Purush-Sukta’ of ‘Veda’ that four parts of ‘Chaturvrna’ have been born from the body of Creative Deity, from his head, arms, thighs and feet. These are symbolic expressions. It expresses a divine reality. Its sense is that ‘Brahmans’ were men of knowledge, ‘Kshatriyas’ the men of power, ‘Vaishyas’ the producer and ‘Shudras’ the service persons supporting the other three.

•Neti-Neti – There was infinite scope of development. Nothing was supposed to be final. Neti-Neti was the principle foe quest of knowledge.

Why masses remained away from formal education – Reason of poverty of large number of people was not discrimination. Primarily, because ‘Vedas’, ‘Smritis’, ’Sutras’, and ‘Upnishads’, are in Sanskrit. Secondly masses were busy in their hereditary/traditional occupations. Skills were learnt more on job under the training and guidance of people already on the job/occupation. For attaining more skills or furthering their future prospects masses did not depend on formal education, certificates/degrees/diplomas or on formal centres of education and training i.e. schools/colleges.

•The manner, in which hereditary occupational knowledge and skills were transferred, was through practice and experience; not through formal classroom lectures, which often kills originality and verve of people.

The system led society to have more production, economic efficiency and specialization in various areas of activities like spinning, weaving, pottery making, bead making, seal making, terra-cotta, handicrafts, brick-laying, metal work etc.

•Still, illiterate masses got the benefit of the knowledge of learned Sages and ‘Munies’. On the basis of their scholarly researches and experiences, the sages prescribed certain guidelines in the form of rituals to be followed by common men.

Education in Ancient India Education a private concern – Education in ancient India was a private concern. Occasional grants was given from state, private charitable institutions and pupils. The tutor supplemented his income by performing professional duties of the priest. 

Educational institutions of repute – Many travellers, among whom most famous are Magasthenes (a Greek ambassador arrived at Patliputra in 302 BC), Fa-hien, Hiuen Tsang and I-Tsang threw much light on Indian values and systems. Holy places like ‘Taxila’, ‘Ayodhya’, ‘Banaras’, ‘Amaravati’, ‘Mathura’,’Nasik’ or ‘Kanchi’ and capitals of kingdoms like ‘Patilputra’, ‘Valabhi’, ‘Ujjayani’ and ‘Padmavati’ were famous centers of education. ‘Valabhi’ in Gujarat and ‘Vikramshila’ in Bihar were famous centers of learning. In south India centers of learning were known as ‘Ghatikas’. Most famous centers of learning were the monastic colleges mostly founded by ‘Budhists’. Students flocked from far off places. 

Universities in ancient India – Few of most important universities of ancient India were ‘Taxila’ (being the first university of world established in Seventh century B.C.),’Vikramshila’ University and ‘Nalanda’ University (built in 4 A.D). Huan Tsang in his records mentioned the university of ‘Taxila’ to be at par with ‘Nalanda’ and ‘Vikramshila’ Universities. These institutions were considered to be the best Universities of its times in the subcontinent and an honor to ancient Indian educational system. 

Takshila’ University – ‘Takshila’ University was famous for medical studies. ‘Varanasi’ was famous for religious teachings. In the South, ‘Kanchi’ was famous for its studies while the ‘Vallabhi’ University was no less. There was a galaxy of eminent teachers like ‘Panini’ – a well known Guru of grammer, ‘Kautilya’ – the minister of Chandragupta Maurya and ‘Charaka’ – a medical teacher of repute. 

Nalanda university – Nalanda was the epitome of such centers. It attracted students not just from India, but also from the entire South Asia. It was an international University. Scholars of different castes, creeds, and races hailing from India, China, Japan, Korea, Java, Sumatra, Tibet, Mongolia and Bokhara came here for higher/advanced studies. The teachers often attracted students from far and wide. It had eight colleges, one of it having four storied building and around 10,000 students and teachers on its roll cards. It was one of the earliest examples of residential cum learning complex. It is a matter of pride for India that Nalanda University reopens nearly 800 years after this premier ancient education institution was destroyed. It has started its first academic session now in September 2014. 

Technical education – Technical education was usually imparted in the family itself, as most of the professions were hereditary. Sometimes artisans took students as apprentices. 

Steps to pass on knowledge – Knowledge was passed on orally from one generation to another in ancient India. Education involved three basic processes, one, which included ‘Sravana’ (stage of acquiring knowledge of ‘Shrutis’ by listening). Two, ‘Manana’ (meaning pupils to think, analyze themselves about what they heard, assimilate the lessons taught by their teacher and make their own inferences,) and three ‘Nidhyasana (meaning comprehension of truth and and apply/use it into real life).

Method – Students were taught particular texts at home of teacher. It was learnt by rote, enunciation and pronunciation were particularly taken care of. Students were supposed to lead a strictly regulated life. Aims of learning were faith, retention of knowledge, progeny, wealth, longevity and immortality.

Besides gurukuls (domestic schools) there were specialized agencies, discussions or conferences arranged by the kings. Women freely participated in these conferences. There were ‘Parishads’ for advanced studies. There were wandering scholars, Charrakas, who spread education in the country.

Education and women – Women enjoyed freedom, respect and honour. According to Manu “where women are honoured, the gods rejoice, where they are not respected, all actions become futile.” In ancient India women were given equal right to education and teaching. Women seers like ‘Gayetri’ or ‘Maitreyi’ were prominent participants in educational debates and proceedings of ‘Parishads’ (Assemblies).

It was mostly the Brahmins followed by Kshatriyas that received education at the gurukuls, while boys from the lower castes learnt their family trade from their fathers.

No bar on Individuals from humblest origin – There was no bar on any one to get education. Individuals from humblest origin were highly educated and were respected in Indian society as great achievers. Vashishtha, the principal of conservative school of Brahmanism, was the son of Uravshi, a prostitute. Vishwamitra, the quintessence of Vedic Brahmanism and maker of Gayatri Mantra, was a Kshatriya. Aitreya, after whom sacramental part of Rig-Veda is named as Aitreya Brahamana, was the son from a non-Aryan wife of a Brahman sage. Vyasa of Mahabharata fame was the son of a fish-woman. Balmiki, an untouchable according to present standards and the original author of Ramayana, is highly respected all over India.

“An ocean of knowledge in a jar” – Ancient Indian philosophy and Vedic literature contained “an ocean of knowledge in a jar.” It was supposed to be a magnificent example of scientific division and orderly arrangement of rules, in a few words, in different branches of human knowledge, covering almost all the aspects of life, be it phonetics, arts, literature, medicine, polity, metrics, law, philosophy, astrology or astronomy. It spoke of everything- on staying healthy, social evils, improving concentration and tenets of behavior, which are relevant even today.

‘Rituals’ – The substance of the knowledge, learning and research work of Rishis-Munies (sages and saints) was put in the form of rituals for the benefit of common-men. Certain practices/guidelines were shaped in the form of rituals by intellectuals and prescribed for the benefit of commom- men. These rituals and guidelines inspired people to lead a harmonious and healthy life.

Spot out Gems – With a rational mind, raising it from ignorance, one can understand the greatness of Vedic literature. A knowledgeable person can spot gems from this ocean of knowledge; pick them up and leave like worthless pebbles the undesired, obsolete elements developed into the system with passage of time.

Revival of ancient knowledge – During second half of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century, Swami Vivekanand, Rama Krishna Mission and Theosophical Society of India tried to familiarize the Western World, too, to the charm and graciousness of the ancient gold mine of knowledge, which had inspired not only Indians, but foreigners as well. Intellectuals from various countries have translated it in their own languages and reinterpreted it for a rational mind.

Education during medieval times – As India progressed from ancient to medieval, its education system deteriorated. Medieval age began with Rajput culture and ended with Indo-Muslim contacts. Society was marked as conventional society. The grip of conventionalism weakened the society and led to darkness, corruption, anarchy and failure. Various factors were responsible for the degradation of such an efficient and most ancient education system of the world.

Modern education system before Independence – Modern education system was implanted by British rulers. Before the advent of British in India, education system was private one. In 1835, Lord Macauley introduced modern education in India. It was the introduction of Wood’s dispatch of 1854, known as Magna Carta of Indian education that laid the foundation of present system of education and changed the scenario. The main purpose of it was to prepare Indian Clerks for running local administration. Under it the means of school educations were vernacular languages, while the higher education was granted in English only.

British government started giving funds to indigenous schools in need of help and slowly some of the schools became government aided.

Reasons for introducing modern education – Finding it too costly and perhaps practically impossible to import enough Englishmen to man the large and increasing number of subordinate or lower posts in administration, British rulers planned of educating Indians in such a way that they “should through western education get Anglicized in terms of both cultural and intellectual attainments”. Lord Macauley clearly said that, “we must at present do our best to form a class, who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indians in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect.”

Welcoming modern education – The atmosphere was completely ready for Lord Macauley to lay the foundation of modern education in India by 1835. Missionaries and their supporters as well as National leaders, intellectuals and Reformers not only welcomed but exerted pressure on the company to encourage and promote western education in India. Missionaries believed that modern education would lead the people to adopt Christianity. Humanitarians, intellectuals and nationalist leaders considered modern education “the key to the treasures of scientific and democratic thought of the modern West” and the best remedy for social, political and economic ills of the country.

Outcome of modern education – In 1844 through an Declaration knowledge of English was made compulsory for Government employment. The traditional Indian system of education gradually withered away for the lack of official support. The government made English medium schools very popular. English as Official language alienated the masses from the educated Indians.

Modern education created new employment opportunities. Many traditional occupations became obsolete. In near absence of industrial, commercial or social service activity, people in India were forced to depend on modern education and Government jobs for their respectful earning.

Modernization of occupations and industrialization processes increased role of formal education and training for furthering future prospects of people.

The universities at Calcutta, Bombay and Madras were started in 1837 and higher education spread rapidly thereafter. For scientific and technical education, only three Medical Colleges one each at Calcutta, Bombay and Madras was established by 1857. There was only one good engineering college at Roorkee.

Modern education produced National leaders, intellectuals and reformers – Modern education not only produced persons to fill the lower levels of administration, as desired by the rulers, but also produced national leaders, intellectuals and reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Dadabhai Naoroji, Ferozeshah Mehta, Gokhale, Gandhi, Jinnah, Ambedkar, Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, Moti Lal Nehru, Jawahar Lal Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose, Patel and many more. They took upon themselves the responsibility to build a modern, open, plural, culturally rich, prosperous and powerful India out of a fragmented, poverty stricken, superstitious, weak, indifferent, backward and inward looking society. In short , they believed that –

•Western literature and philosophy would give Indians the understanding of liberal, scientific, democratic and humanitarian ideas thought of Western World.

•It would make Indians aware of the real issues hampering the progress of Indian society.

•Modern education would improve the life of common men and conquer ignorance, hunger, poverty and disease.

•It would open the key to the treasures of Scientific and Democratic thought of Western World.

•Principles of Democracy would spread rapidly across the nation and finish imperialism and tyranny.

•It would remedy many social, political and economic ills of the nation.

Brahmins ahead of others – Initially, it was an impoverished group of Brahmin and caste Hindus in search of livelihood, who desired to live with dignity and honor opted for modern education. The reason of poverty of Brahmin community was gradual displacement from their source of income after decline in financial status of their patrons – Princes and Zamindars, appalling poverty of Brahmins compelled them to opt for modern education.

Sir Alfred Croft, Director of Public Instruction in Bengal wrote to Rev. J. Johnston in 1881, “We know well that any considerable increase in the fees paid by college students would compel many to withdraw. It seems not to be fully understood… how poor the middle classes that flock to our colleges really are. Half the students live from hand to mouth…. And yet though, far behind in point of wealth, they correspond to, and are in fact the only representative of our professional classes at home, and the pressure on them for the means of subsistence is so great, that they must either be educated or go to wall.”

Their poverty gets confirmed by a study done to examine the annual income of the guarantors of 1271 Brahmin Students enrolled at Ferguson College, Pune from 1885 to 1895. According to it, 76% of the Chitpavan Brahmins guarantors belonged to the low or medium income groups. Similarly of the 277 Deshastha Brahmin guarantors, 70% came from low or medium groups.

Brahmins being natural learners and pursuers of knowledge utilized new type of employment opportunities created with introduction of modern education in 1835. They were quick and far ahead of other communities to grasp almost all the opportunities in these spheres. Their long tradition and undisputed role in the field of knowledge and learning, their intelligence, sincerity and hard work helped them even after independence to secure important places in the modern society.

Why masses deprived of modern education – Except for a few, masses could not avail the advantage of formal modern education. Relentless effort of missionaries and reformers could educate a very small number of people. Reasons being:

•Modern education was very costly and, therefore, unaffordable by the masses.

•Masses did not see any immediate use of education. It was more important for them to work and arrange two square meals day.

•The emphasis was on English medium education system.

Introduction of modern education, served double purpose for British rulers – Introduction of modern education had served double purpose for the British rulers. They got the credit for the amelioration of the Indian society. And at the same time, through it, they devised a unique method of distribution of power. They kept balance of power and prolonged their rule in India by keeping the natives busy in their in-fights.

Impact of modern education – The second half of the nineteenth century saw the impact of modern education on the minds of Indians as under: –

1.Christian missionaries brainwashed many people especially the poor by preaching and educating them and developed in their minds a complex about the primitiveness of Indian society, influenced them towards the alien culture and then converted them into Christianity. With the help of British rulers, Christian missionaries and religious minded Westerners like William Webberforce or Charles Grant, they succeeded in converting many persons into Christianity.

2.National leaders, social reformers, educated people and intellectuals welcomed rationality and other good features of Modern English education. They also got alarmed at divisive policies of the rulers. It led them to lead the national movement. They understood the real issues hampering the progress of Indian society.

3. Emergence of organizations aiming at social reforms – Organizations aiming at social reforms had purely an economic and social thrust. They fought against social evils caused by ignorance, superstitions or irrationality like untouchability and inhuman treatment to women, Sati, Polygamy, child marriage, and many others prevalent at that time. Emphasis was laid on education and science. They criticized the mumbo-jumbo of rituals and superstitions created by some selfish people to entangle the ignorant and poor masses.

4.Reformers got alarmed at the erosion of Indian Culture. Organizations (like Brahma Samaj founded by Raja Ram Mohan Roy (1828) in Bengal, Prarthana Samaj in Maharashtra (1867), Arya Samaj (1875) founded by Swami Dayanand in Northern India, Rama Krishna Mission, Theosophical Society of India (1879), Dev Samaj in Lahore and Servants of India society) interpreted religion rationally and advised people to remain firmly rooted to the Indian Culture and not get swayed away by the glamor and materialism of alien culture.

5.‘Back to Vedas’-Therefore, they organized people, held conferences, published articles and undertook internal reform efforts through Sanskritization. They gave a call for “Back to Vedas” and advised people to set free Hinduism from all degenerate features.

It was not the Hindu principles, but the practices, which went wrong. Swami Vivekanand, who founded the Rama Krishna Mission, had said ,’It is we, who are responsible for our degeneration.’ …. “Each nation like each individual has a theme in this life, which is its center, the principle note, around which every other note comes to form the harmony. If any nation attempts to throw off its national vitality, the direction, which has become its own through the transmission of centuries, nation dies.”

Divisible policies of the rulers – The destructive character of repressive policies of British rulers lit the fire and gave birth to national movement. Many national leaders and intellectuals got alarmed at the divisible policies of the rulers. They realized the impact of British racial discrimination in the areas of education and jobs and their repressive policies elsewhere. They realized the impact of British racial discrimination. Economic loot, political subjugation, assertion of lordly superiority over the subject on the ground of race, assumption of a haughty exclusiveness, persistent insulting and supercilious behavior towards all Indians, exclusion of Indians from all places of authority and responsibility and denial of their capacity for self-governance united Indians against British rule.

After Independence – After independence, even relentless effort of reformers, government and NGO’S only a small could educate a very small number of people especially from amongst backwards. Masses could not avail the benefit of modern/formal education. It is not so much because of resistance from caste Hindus, as for other reasons.

Reasons for not succeeding in ‘educating all’ – It is falsely accused and propagated by some intellectuals, leaders, reformers with vested interests and supporters of Reservation/Affirmative Action Policy that privileged upper castes have taken advantage of modern education to establish or reinforce its traditional dominance. They prevented lower castes from getting educated or promoting their status in modern society.

However, as modern history points out, on the contrary, it was mainly impoverished group amongst Brahmin and caste Hindus opting for modern education, who were in search of livelihood. They looked upon modern education as means to earn their living respectfully. Therefore, when modern education was introduced, they, opted for costly Western Education and devoted their scarce resources on it. Costly nature of modern education prevented general masses to avail the benefit of modern education.

Reasons for illiteracy of a large number of people are many.

  1. Costly nature of modern education – Quality education is still very costly for common men and, therefore, unaffordable for masses. Costly nature has tended to make it a monopoly of the richer classes and city dwellers.
  2. Population explosion – Population explosion has put a heavy pressure on available. There has been insufficient infrastructure.
  3. There is lack of quality education and training systems in government or government aided institutions.
  4. Masses do not see any immediate use of education. It still is more important for the poor people to work and arrange two square meals a day.
  5. Standard of education depending on medium of education

Importance of English language in modern world – The language of majority of people is Hindi. However, stress on English medium education and English language is more than it was before independence. After Hindi, English language is being spoken especially by educated Indians, mostly belonging to upper echelons of the society. Increasing importance of English has alienated further the masses from educated ones.

With the changed scenario due to globalization, liberalization and revolution in Information Technology, English has been accepted internationally as a means of communication. Therefore, learning English language has become necessary to get a space in international world. Education through foreign medium is a difficult task. Earlier English medium had already put undue strain upon the nerves of the Indian students.

Short-comings of present education system – There are some deficiencies in the present Education system, some of which have been inherited from the British. There are many internal as well as external many pressures on the system, because of which quality of education suffers. External pressures – Externally, recent social changes and larger political turmoil have affected adversely the whole atmosphere. Some changes took place in the recent past in the character, role and inter-relationship of the six main constituent of the national elites – the political executive, the legislators, the businessmen, the organized workers, the surplus farmers and the bureaucrats.

Narrow loyalties, sectional interests and sub-cultures Narrow loyalties, sectional interests and sub-cultures like favoritism, nepotism and corruption have fast become an accepted way of life. Result is that communal, regional and caste conflicts and unhealthy competition between different sections for power and pelf are increasing every day.

Powerful lobbies desire to have exclusive hold on scarce resources of the nation. Few persons and groups, who have the power in their hands and who control almost every walk of national life are working to deny justice to common men. The reflection of all these social evils is found in the educational system as well.

External pressures on system of education – Externally, recent social changes and larger political turmoil have affected adversely the whole atmosphere like –

  1. Some changes took place in the recent past in the character, role and inter-relationship of the six main constituent of the national elites – the political executive, the legislators, the businessmen, the organized workers, the surplus farmers and the bureaucrats.
  2. Narrow loyalties, sectional interests and sub-cultures like – favoritism, nepotism and corruption have fast become an accepted way of life. Result is that communal, regional and caste conflicts and unhealthy competition between different sections for power and pelf are increasing every day.
  3. Powerful lobbies desire to have exclusive hold on scarce resources of the nation. Few persons and groups, who have the power in their hands and who control almost every walk of national life are working to deny justice to common men. The reflection of all these social evils is found in the educational system as well. 

Internal pressures – Based on colonized British Grammar School type education has made Indian students crammer, imitators and unfit them for original work and thought. It has not taught them to have pride in their surroundings. The more they get modern education, the farther they are moved away from their surroundings and at the end of their educational career, they become estranged from their surroundings. They are loosing their natural character, because they are getting away from their traditional aspirations and values in preference to the western materialism. Alienation of modern generations from their roots and culture alarmed Gandhiji and he said, “My real education began after I had forgotten all that I had learned at School”.

Erosion of Indian culture – Modern education has disassociating Indian people from their traditional way of learning, classical roots and knowledge. With it have faded Indian values, philosophies and traditions, which had taught Indians the spirit of tolerance and firm belief in the principle, ‘Live and let live’ has always been the part of Indian ethos. Indians believe in ‘Vasudhaiva Kutambkam’ – the whole world is one family. C. Rajgopalachari had said, “If there is honesty in India today, any hospitality, any charity— any aversion to evil, any love to be good, it is due to whatever remains of the old faith and the old culture”. Tolerance, truth, Ahimsa, peace and non-aggression are the hallmark of Indian culture.

What should be the limit of tolerance – The people in India endure injustice and unfairness until they are pushed right up to the wall. Many times in the past, Indians had accepted oppression and exploitation without much protest, while such situations would have led to bloody revolutions elsewhere in the world. Even today, the people are tolerating the corruption, scams, scandals and criminal activities developed in political sphere, as well as inefficiency seeped deeply in administration without much protest. People needs to be taught not to tolerate injustice and raise their voice against it peacefully.

Influence of West Present education system has given rise to a group of Indian intelligentsia, who follow in a big way social, political, economic norms of western world and their way of living. They vehemently denounce culture, character and social value system of India. They regards the culture of the land as indefensible, responsible for creating many discriminatory social values. The number of such people is increasing. The more its number of such persons grows, especially amongst Indian intelligentsia, the more intolerant, people would become.

Influence on modern youth – A drastic change is visible in the values, behavior and etiquette of a new educated neo- rich youth of elitist class, which has emerged especially in Metros. Their life style and value system are being gradually replaced by the Western ones. They want to enjoy pleasures of modern life at any cost without any restriction. They are more conscious of their rights and want to enjoy life fully in any possible way without any bondage. They do not like any restriction/comment on their behavior or way of life. Loosening grip of social bondage and observances have made many of them selfish, self-willed and arrogant.

Some of them have become so intolerant and aggressive, that they out-rightly discard all social norms and etiquette. Their thinking and value systems are quite different from the older ones. Most of them generally regard Indian value system as rubbish and its epics as irrelevant. They set their own rules. Their yardstick of smartness is interest in stock exchanges, glamor, pubs, parties, discos or late night culture, which gives rise to many kinds of social problems. With growing cult of materialism and consumerism, finer values of life are disappearing fast. Lust for material gains, comforts, craze for luxurious and glamorous life style has made them so insensitive that they hardly feel anything about the hardships and agonies of the ‘have-nots’. Friendship/relationship prospers only if these cost-effective. Otherwise people do not hesitate in showing their helplessness due to lack of time or energy.

The persons, who readily help people in need are considered fools in modern society. Objective of education? Gaining mere knowledge is not the purpose of learning. As Khalil Gibran has said, a little knowledge that acts is worth more than much knowledge that is inactive. Also, one whose knowledge is confined to books can not use his knowledge wealth when the need for them arises.

Conclusion – Knowledge, the object of knowledge and application of the knowledge, all the three are equally important for motivating to take a wise action. Pursuit of material success is important and is super-most objective in the minds of young students. But it should not make them selfish and intolerant to others. They should not drift rudderless without sense of direction. Academic background, career and good earning is important in life for happiness and satisfaction. But they forget that more important is living a quality of life, humanity, compassion and self discipline for enjoying life fully.

Once more, India needs to be made a hub of knowledge creation. It will be a big blunder, if it fails to do it now. India’s massive human resource needs to be cultivated through sound system of education and training to get out of the rut of mediocrity. The system of education and learning should be such that it could the faculties of human beings ‘in proper manner towards proper objectives, channelize the desires and energies of Indian people towards proper objectives and right activities. Discipline and productivity are necessary for education.

Amalgamate Indian Culture with western Mechanism – Eastern part of the world surpasses the West by no small measure on issues of culture-starting from Egypt and moving eastward through Mesopotamia, Indian sub-continent, China and south east Asia. Indian culture has been kept, alive even after thousands of years, despite of being hit continuously by outsiders. When it comes to advancement in knowledge and science, it is the West that has led the world. Looking at the mechanism of expansionism and spreading out, the west has always had the upper hand. Otherwise how could a nation of a handful travel the world over and thrust its imperialism on it. A segment of this group, by sheer hard work and patience, threw the imperial mechanism overboard and built up a nation, living in which is a dream of every young person.

In short – The above discussion throws up following important issues –

In short, the above discussion throws up following important issues –

  1. Importance of knowledge in education can not be denied. Purpose of education has unfortunately been misunderstood to mean acquiring as much academic knowledge as possible, leading towards award of degrees. But equally important is inculcating skills in all the vocations according to aptitude of different individuals through practical training for overall development of nation. Training in different vocations should be given when minds of individuals are still in formative stage. Training, along with sound education system becomes necessary for applying knowledge in real life.
  2. There is no doubt that modern education has given to India the key to the treasures of scientific and modern democratic thought. It is the West that has led the world in advancement in technology and science. It opened up the doors for liberal and rational thinking. It widened the mental horizons of Indian intelligentsia during nineteenth century. However, somewhere it got derailed and now the system of education at all the stages, from preliminary through secondary right up-to the college stage makes mind just a store-house of knowledge and discourages creative thinking.
  3. India surpasses the west by no small measure in matter culture. It is one of the oldest living culture in the whole world, despite hit after hit on it in the past during alien rule.
  4. For building an ideal structure for education, an amalgamation of eastern culture and western methods, liberal thinking and advancement in science and technology of the West would be the best for future generations. would be the best.
  5. The world is now a global village. Thanks to revolution in areas of information, communications technology and travel apparatus. It will be good if the forces of both – culture and systems – could be combined and a charter of an ideal education blueprint could be evolved for future generations. Why not we combine the forces of both these, Culture and Mechanics, and evolve a charter of an ideal education blueprint for our future generations. Technology advances have brought us to a stage where every concept is an option! Why not cash upon it.

June 14, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Wisdom, empowerment and Enlightenment

Wisdom, empowerment and Enlightenment

“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating” Kofi Annan

“Knowing others, is intelligence, knowing yourself is true wisdom”.
And
“Mastering others is strength, mastering yourself is true power.” Lao Tzu

Introduction – Everybody desires to be empowered enough to lead a happy, peaceful and comfortable life-style. But very few understand, how to manage it? More than empowerment, enlightenment is more necessary, because it is quite difficult to move on towards the right path. Wisdom keeps human mind away from confusion and always guides what to do, when to do and how to do.

One should be empowered enough to enjoy material success and fulfil all worldly desires. If  desires are suppressed, one day it may erupt like a volcano and create troubles. But simultaneously, it is also necessary to keep a balance between desires and righteousness and then move forward to achieve the desired dreams in a positive way. It is wisdom, discipline and self-restraint, that keeps an individual away from  negative forces. Knowledge is necessary for giving deeds or actions its due meaning, direction and value. Ignorance is considered to be leading to futile efforts destroying sense of direction.

Enlightenment – Hindu philosophy believes that the whole world of activities is a result of complex intermixing of three basic qualities of human nature – goodness (Satwa), Passion (Rajas) and dullness (Tamas). `Goodness is associated with purity, peace and knowledge; `Passion with comfort and action; and `Tamas with ignorance, sloth, sleep and carelessness. These qualities determine the tendencies, potentialities, limitations, traits and character of individuals and gave them direction for action. `Adharma (immoral behavior), Alasya (laziness) and Agyan (ignorance) are responsible for negative behavior like becoming victims of evils, unhappiness and miseries.

Hinduism shows a high regard for knowledge, wisdom, virtues, characters and will power. According to Hindu philosophy, senses are superior to body, mind is superior to senses and knowledge/wisdom/intellect is superior to mind. Bhagwat Gita’ suggests that human action/deed needs to be combined with wisdom/intellect for enlightenment and empowerment.

Empowerment – Meaning of empowerment and approach to be empowered differ from person to person and place to place. As Toffler says, there are three main sources of power – ‘knowledge, wealth, and muscle’. In a way, ‘empowerment is an inter-play of all these variables. During ancient times in agricultural societies, power was mainly based on force. After Industrial Revolution, wealth has become the source of power and in present times, due to revolutionary developments in information technology, empowerment basically needs knowledge.

Power achieved through money or force is short-lived. It can never lead to sustainable development of the poor and needy people. In agricultural society, power was based on force, in industrial societies on wealth and now in present information -technology period, it is based on knowledge. long long ago, even Chanakya also believed that knowledge is wealth. Knowledge was his greatest weapon, strength, asset and power through which he created emperors like Chandragupta Maurya and Ashoka.

It is difficult for a person of weak mind to resist temptations. Materialism influences weak minds easily and they become its victims. The desire to enjoy sensual pleasures and be happy in an easier way,  pushes people towards materialistic world. The desire to build  their comfort-zone without much efforts incites them to hold enough economic and political power in their hands, so that they can do what they want.

Positive and negative energies – There are choices before human beings to follow the path of positive thinking or opt for negative mindset. Developing positive attitude/thinking is not an easy task. For attaining it, one needs tremendous perseverance, hard work, and dedication and determination/will power.

Style of thinking and working of people with positive or negative attitude differs very much from each other. People having positive attitude are empowered in its true sense. Positive energies develops the mind, enlarges the vision, enlightens and guides a person to take wise actions with using one’s intellect.or wisdom. Wisdom/intellect needs to be developed to make mind and deeds rational. A mind governed by wisdom makes a person calm and content. 

Negative mindset – Negative mindset makes mind weak. Actions taken with weak mind is bridled with suspicion, lust and desires – mainly depending on emotions, impulses, hatred, greed and selfishness. It, quite often leads to agitation/aggression and discontentment.

Role of wisdom in empowerment – It is a reality that it is wisdom that empowers a human being and enlightens his/her path. Wisdom can be achieved:

  1. Through reflection, which is the noblest;
  2. Through imitation, which is easiest and
  3. By experiencing, which is the bitterest.”

Role of empowerment – ‘Empowerment’ or sharing of power has become a keyword of the modern political world. In politics, everything revolves around the world ’empowerment’.

Problems created by over-emphasizing ‘empowerment – Following are some of the problems –

  • Split in society – Recently, focus on empowerment has created split in society. The attention of the people on empowerment has given rise to the pursuance of sectional interests.
  • Encouragement to sectional interests over national interests – In the name of ‘empowerment’, various pressure groups are encouraged by the authorities to pursue their own sectional interests. Almost all the political parties make different kinds of promises to ‘empower’ the upcoming or deprived groups. They do not even hesitate to adopt such populist/paternalistic policies, which are against the national interest in a long run.
  • Means to grab the political power – Present day politicians care for knowledge only up-to the extent, so far as it enhances their chances of entering into the corridors of ‘power’ and control the levers of authority.
  • Rat race – Attitude to be ‘one up’ does not encourage healthy competition. Rather it pushes individuals/groups towards ‘rat-race’, pulls others down and care only for ‘I, my and me”.
  • Increasing corruption and manipulation – With this sole mission in their mind, most of the upcoming politicians concentrate on amassing more and more wealth/empires to buy muscle-power and conscience of common man. They concentrate their efforts/energies to acquire as much money as they can by hook or crook. There is no limit to their greed. The only mission is to hold so much economic and political power in their hands, so that they could lead a luxurious life-style on tax-payers money and whenever they or their supporters are caught doing something wrong, they can get away easily.
  • The word ‘empowerment’ exclusive not inclusive in nature – Empowerment, by nature is ‘exclusive’, which separates individuals/different sections of society starts a cut-throat competition amongst different individuals/sections of society/nations. The word ‘Empowerment’ generates excessive desire in individuals to establish their superiority/authority over others, so that they can control the destiny of others.

True Knowledge necessary for enlightenment – For enlightenment, acquisition of true knowledge is necessary. It is knowledge, which inculcates in a person, qualities like self-confidence, self-reliance, self-discipline, self-control and self-respect.

Sound education necessary for enlightenment as well as empowerment – True knowledge inculcates positive attitude, which ultimately leads towards happiness and prosperity. Wisdom depends on knowledge. Sound education is necessary to make people knowledgeable.

 Negative mindset – People with negative mind-set care about knowledge only up-to the extent, that enhances their chances of entering into the corridors of ‘power’, get control over levers of authority and over the destiny of masses. They concentrate on amassing wealth/empires to buy muscle-power and conscience of poor people.

Role of enlightenment in a democracy – It is said that democracy must be built through open  societies that share information. When there is information, there is enlightenment. When there is debate, there are solutions. When there is no sharing of right information, public remains ignorant and unresponsive. Then there is no accountability and abuse of power and corruption grows.

In many developing and underdeveloped democratic countries, politicians and political parties are generally not much interested in giving right information to the public or in maintaining law and order intact in the country. They are more interested in propaganda, creation of vote banks and grabbing power, to become PM (Prime Minister), CM (Chief Minister), DM  (District Magistrates) and GM (General Manager) by hook or crook and thus accessing more  space  in the corridor of power. It facilitates politicians to hold the reigns of state authority, to get control over the treasury of the nation, as well as over the destiny of masses/common men.

Many superficial measures have been taken by the government or other organizations (governmental or NGOs) to help and empower poor and underprivileged sections of society. So far, it has not yielded desired results. Why, because superficial measure or action can never empower a person or section of society.

The enforced measures of empowerment leads to conflicts. It is just like ‘Rob the Peter and give it to Paul’. The efforts for empowerment should be from within – be it an individual, a group within a society, a society or a nation. One’s own efforts and intellect can empower a person in its true sense and guide him how to apply his knowledge gainfully. Lack of intellect leads a person to vices like egoism, superiority/inferiority complex etc.. In addition, it creates many more problems. Only intellect can control human mind and lead it towards Enlightenment. When intellect becomes weak, negative thinking and irrationality take over..

How to become empowered – Lao Tzu says “Mastering others is strength, mastering yourself is true power.” True empowerment can be achieved not through holding political power or access/entry/influence in the corridors of authority/power, but through ‘Enlightenment’/true wisdom’.

Emphasis only on empowerment leads to rat race – Present day’s scenario more emphasis is given to “Empowerment” without understanding what ‘empowerment’ really means and how to make people really empowered. Such an approach has led to a rat race between different sections of society for being one-up by hook or crook.

Too much emphasis on the word ‘empowerment’ incites/agitates the minds of people and generates negative energy in them. It has done irreparable loss to the society and given rise to different kinds of problems.

‘Empowerment’ of ‘Haves-nots – Almost all the societies are divided into two sections – ‘haves’ and ‘haves-not’. There is unrest in the minds of ‘Haves-not’. They also desire and naturally so, to lead a peaceful and comfortable life-style. Modern politicians allure poor by talking too much about ‘empowerment’. They are not concerned so much about the advancement of poor section of society, as about creating vote-banks necessary for holding the reigns of state authority/power.

False promises to allure poor masses – In the modern materialistic and consumerist world, everyday many new gadgets are coming in the market every-day, which makes the life more comfortable. But for majority of people, it is difficult to afford it. Many a times, it becomes difficult for the poor people or persons with weak minds to resist the temptations. False promises of present day politicians attract such persons easily.

Enlightenment ‘inclusive’ by nature – Enlightenment develops respect for positive attitude, right knowledge and respect for truth and ethical values. It teaches people ‘United we stand, divided we fall’. It inculcates in people an attitude to work for common good, to support each other and move forward together. It guides people to keep their ‘ego’ under control. The only way to control it lies within each human being.

Acceptance for others – Enlightenment tells people to be respectful to others knowledge. Access to knowledge through sound system of education is the basic right of every human being. As Jyotirao Phule has said “Lack of ‘Education’ leads to lack of ‘Wisdom’; which leads to lack of ‘Morals’; which leads to lack of ‘Progress’; which leads to lack of ‘Money’; ‘which leads to ‘Oppression’ of vulnerable classes.”

Conclusion – ‘Enlightenment, not empowerment, is the real source of power’. ‘Enlightenment’ through self-introspect can only lead to sustainable development and true ‘empowerment’, not through extraneous/artificially/superficially imposed measures. Focus on ‘empowerment’ by superficial means quite often leads to negative attitude. ‘Enlightenment’ through right kind of knowledge makes people intelligent, generates positive energies in them and leads to their sustainable development.

Resist temptations? – For making mind strong enough to resist temptations, one has to raise the level of consciousness. Human mind has three dimensions – conscious, sub-conscious and super-conscious mind. Once the conscious mind is regulated, sub-conscious and super-conscious state of mind automatically gets controlled.
Conscience is always guided by intellect. Intellect automatically develops the inherent potential of individuals and keeps them away from lust and greed. Only ‘intellect’, knowledge, education and positive attitude of enlightened persons can make them so powerful that they can contribute to make a difference for betterment and not to indulge themselves in sinful activities for their self-interest. It would ultimately bring in prosperity and transform the whole society.

June 9, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Discrimination, caste system and Reservation Policy of Modern India

         “There can be no reason or rhyme/justification for irrational acts by irrational people.”

Introduction

National policies and plans can not be formulated on the basis of irrational acts by a few irrational people. Also it would not be right to blame the whole system or a society for their irresponsible acts. It is not desirable to pass on comments based on half cooked information, half a truth, partial or incomplete knowledge, which could be harmful for the whole society. Many a times, irresponsible acts of some irrational and cynic persons create misunderstandings.

Issue

Quite often, caste system has been criticized as being highly discriminatory. The British rulers had condemned the Caste system strongly before the Independence. Now many political parties, many intellectuals Dalit activists and their leaders have joined them. They are born, educated and brought-up in an atmosphere, which is deeply influenced by rhymes and reasons of western societies.

Needs an analysis

Blaming caste system for all discriminatory practices or suggesting bringing to an end a well established and accepted system in the name of discrimination, needs to be given a second thought. For understanding the problem, answer of the following questions with an impartial, rational, sensitive and perceptive mindset is required – 

  • Are really the practices and values of caste-system problematic and complicated? 
  • Is it the caste-system, which is responsible for discrimination and exploitation of weaker/ unprivileged sections of society?
  • What is the position of different castes as it exists presently in ground realities?

Reality is much deeper than what is seen on the surface. One should not form an opinion or take a decision without analyzing rationally the whole scenario. Many misconceptions have been spread around about caste-system of India and its nature by vested interests of certain people during the last few centuries.  

Discrimination everywhere

Discrimination in one form or other exists in all the social, political and economic systems/institutions, whether it is big or small allover the world in some form or the other. It exists even within as small an institution as a family. Vulnerable individuals or weaker sections of society have always become an easy prey for discrimination. Within a family, vulnerable family members like children, old or widowed parents, poor relatives or unemployed youth become an easy prey of discrimination. And in a society, poor, illiterate and ignorant people usually become victims of exploitation.

Intolerance reason behind discrimination

Usually, in every society, differences in behavior, character, education, language, way of life, culture, social background create a distance between two individuals or groups. Resistance to tolerate, adapt or appreciate each other widens the distance. Some become so aggressive that they openly abuse or oppress others. In order to be one up, either they let down others or try to control their destiny by adopting discriminatory practices. And in this rat-race, stronger always wins and weaker suffers.

Grounds for discrimination

In every society and a nation there exists numerous identities based on factors like race, class, caste, religion, gender, language or region. Craving for more power – muscle, money or political – of some individuals or groups tends people to adopt discriminatory practices. Discriminatory practices work on whims and fancies/likes and dislikes of strong persons. Controlling the destiny of others satisfies their ego and serves their interests.

Racism and Western World

Racism is a much more serious problem than caste in matter of discrimination, as it is based on the color of the skin, which can not be hidden. Societies in Western World are divided sharply into four water-tight compartments. “Whites” at the top of social hierarchy, then comes Yellows (Japanese, Chinese or Philippines) followed by “Browns” (Indians, Pakistanis and people from other South-Eastern nations and at the bottom “Blacks”. The western world is witnessing a rise in white supremacist movements. Last two categories have always been humiliated. They have to struggle to get suitable jobs according to their qualifications. They are forced to work for less money, accused for snatching jobs from “whites” and having slavish mentality.

Treatment to Indian students in western nations

Every year, on an average 430,000 odd Indian students go to Western nations for further studies. Recently in Australia, Indians, Pakistanis along with Vietnamese students of middle-class background are being targeted, racially abused, insulted, ridiculed and assaulted physically now and then by Whites. They take bank loans, borrow money and pass through many difficulties to get a degree from foreign university. Life is not easy for them in any way. They have to work very hard to fund their education there.

Despite everything the exodus of students from upper castes continues because due to reverse discrimination policies, they are being treated as second rate citizens in their own country. It is an anomaly that Western society, where discrimination on racial grounds has always been a part of life (only it is being highlighted by media now), wants to reform India.

Caste system and British rulers

In the past, British rulers in India, while laying foundation of democratic institutions of India, started many discriminatory practices. In order to keep balance of power and counter Brahmins hold on Indian society passed some discriminatory Acts like Act of 1919 (Minto Morely Reforms)or Communal Award of 1932.Till 1947, they kept their railway compartments, waiting rooms, parks, clubs, hotels, places of other entertainment and residences segregated.

Two aspects of caste system have amazed the British rulers in the past –

  • influence of Caste system on Indian society; 
  • Reluctance of its people to convert into other religions, on the ground that all religions are valid.  

Dalit Activists and caste system

Dalit Activists criticize caste system vehemently and hold it responsible for keeping 750 million Hindus – dalits, tribals and other backward classes – poor, “subjugated, discriminated against and humiliated.” “Technologies for human survival …. were all developed by lower castes”, but “upper castes took away the fruits of their labour and invention.” “In the hearts of the oppressed castes, there is anger and hatred.” ‘Social-justice’ demands their emancipation by ending all kind of discrimination.

There are two options: “either complete equality to Dalit Bahujan communities or their conversion into other religions.” Such comments of Dalit Activists and political leaders arouse emotional sentiments of poor masses, generate venom in their heart and create a feeling of ‘otherness’.

According to Pr. Kancha Ilaiah, an activist, complete equality means –

  • Embracing all lower castes,
  • Eating with them,
  • Treating them as their equal, and
  • An end to the allegation that they are merit-deficient.

Inspite of all such comments, it is the lower segment of society, which is sticking strongly to its caste-identities. 

India and ‘Caste’ as a ‘System’

Caste is a very old and indigenous system, conceptualized, developed and practiced exclusively in India. It is difficult for the western world to understand its role – past or present – in Indian society or because of its complete localization and unfamiliarity to see it in its totality.

Strong features of ‘caste-system’

The strength of caste system has been proved by the following facts:

  • Despite centuries of foreign rule over 75% of Indian population remains Hindu and have strong feelings for caste-system.
  • Had caste system become obsolete, it would have given place to other system.
  • Caste system has influenced all other communities living in India.

Following are the strong features of ‘caste’ as a system –

  • Assimilation of different social groups without conversion– In the past, caste assimilated numerous social groups – immigrants, locals, tribal, professionals or others into its mainstream without any conversion. It assigned each incoming new group a separate caste identity and made them its integral part in due course of time.
  • This way, neither it disturbed its existing internal social order nor prevented new groups to join the mainstream. It did not annihilate their faith, way of living, internal order, customs, culture or language. Instead, it gave them freedom to prosper according to their internal rhythm.
  • Caste regarded as a natural institution by Hindus – Indian society regards family, extended family, Kula, Caste and religion as fundamental social institutions. An individual is a natural member of a family, which is a unit of an extended family, extended family of Kula, Kula of a tribe (Vish) – and a tribe of a Jana of Jati (Caste). Caste is second only to the family in widening a person’s social radius and in getting importance in his/her private and occupational life.
  • Equal status to all within a caste – All the members within a caste enjoy equal social status vise-a-vise other castes. Caste values, beliefs, prejudices, injunctions as well as distortions of reality become an indivisible part of a person’s psyche and conscience. They share moments of joy and sorrow.
  • It is a common sense that a person’s relation with his own caste-members is closer than with those belonging to other castes. Internalized caste norms define an individual role in the society. A person feels good and loved, when he lives up to these norms, and anxious and guilty, when he transgresses them.
  • Caste, providing social security and stability – Earlier, instead of government, elders of each caste (having sense of belonging, not a desire to exercise authority) used to take care of maintaining discipline within the caste and helped its destitute/helpless members. Caste provided to all its members social security and stability. Even as today, it does so in rural areas. Each caste still maintains its own rules, regulations, customs, and way of life and controls the conduct of its members. It encourages self-discipline, conscious, self-control, and self-direction.
  • Castes as a series of vertical parallels – The key, to understand the caste system, is not in seeing it as a framework of hierarchical layers of social order, each fitting neatly below the other, as pointed out by census operations done during imperial rule, but as a series of vertical parallels. Each caste is an independent entity, with its own hierarchy, based either on a tribal identity or an occupational identity.
  • Inter-dependence an integral part of caste system – In ancient and medieval India, all people living in a village or city were bound together by economic and social ties. All castes living in a local area, whether high or low, had a strong bond of mutual dependence, caring, sharing and supporting each other in fulfilling different kind of needs. There was hardly any room for any section of society to consider itself, as being placed in greater or lesser disadvantageous position with reference to another. Concept of forwards or backwards or feeling of exploitation of lower strata by upper castes was almost non-existent at that time. Industrialization and modernization have changed the scene.

Critics on caste system 

Some people blame Caste system for its being ‘discriminatory’ in nature. They say, it serves the interests of “haves “and enhances the agonies of “have-nots”. But it is an anomaly, that still it is only the ‘have-nots’, who cling more tightly to their caste identities today.

Caste system has been criticized for –

  • Giving importance to birth -_Caste system has been alleged for giving rise to disparities in the society, because it gives importance to birth in determining social status of a person. But same is the position in Western world also, where wealth determines social status. Wealth is also acquired through birth. There also exists a sharp distinction between the Aristocratic/elite society and common man.

Critics claim that for centuries in the past and even at present, people born in lower castes have been suppressed or oppressed by people belonging to upper castes. Upper castes are accountable and punishable for the miseries of lower caste. They should make reparations for the sins/historical wrong done by their ancestors.

How far this allegation and its remedy is correct? Justice ‘Social, economic and political’ never allows punishing somebody else for the crimes committed by others.

  • No access to education – It is alleged that upper castes has kept its monopoly on education to reinforce its traditional dominance and prevented lower castes from getting educated. When British rulers allowed legally admission to all irrespective of caste or creed in government schools, higher castes opposed admission of the children belonging to lower strata.

It is only a half truth. British rulers did not bother much about mass education. It was not so much because of discrimination, that backward castes were debarred or denied access to education, as for –

Modern education system was very costly and therefore, unaffordable by masses. The costly nature of education tended to make it a monopoly of the richer classes and city dwellers. 

  • The medium of instruction was a foreign language – English.
  • Lower-castes did see any immediate use of education. It was more important for them to work and arrange two square meals day rather than spending on education.

However, an impoverished group caste Hindus in search of livelihood looked upon modern education as means to earn their living respectfully and devoted their scarce resources on it.

The relentless effort of missionaries and the reformers could educate a very small number of people from lower-castes.

  • Ranking

In the past, ranking of different social groups was done on some principles. Self-discipline, hygiene, cleanliness, morality, knowledge, spirituality of different social groups i.e. castes and usefulness of their work to the society as a whole were the considerations, which determined the social, economic or political status of a group in society vise-a vise others. Higher a caste, purer it was considered, and greater were the self-restrictions on its behavior through rituals.

  • Mobility 

Mobility of individuals from one caste to another was restricted in the past. But upward mobility of a group in the social scale was though difficult, but not impossible. Ancient India had allowed upward mobility of a caste through good deeds – by adopting more orthodox practices, cleaner habits, self-discipline and observance of rituals or the position of a caste could be improved. This way, lower-castes were encouraged to follow discipline in life.

Now different castes prefer to be called backwards. They are racing to get a tag of backward castes, so that they can avail the benefits of quota fixed for backward castes in jobs an.

  • Wealth – Doors for honor or wealth were always open to deserving individuals/groups of any caste. History is the proof that even the lowest rank attained even sovereignty in India such as Maratha Kings, who fought their way up-to the throne against Mohammedan and commanded respect of all Indians. From fourteenth to the eighteenth century, soldiers came from all strata of society including the lowest in the ritual term. There was no discrimination in the recruitment and treatment of soldiers on caste basis. Rajput status was given to soldiers.
  • Occupation

Critics of Caste system allege that there was no freedom/choice to individuals in matter of occupation in the past. They were forced people to employ themselves in hereditary occupations. This allegation is not wholly truth.

In ancient Europe and Asia also, occupations were not only hereditary, but also limited it to be followed by specific classes only. It was considered natural and convenient for a person to do a job, which he knew, the knowledge of which, he acquired in a natural way.

  • Changes brought in by Industrial revolution

It was the industrial revolution, which had changed the trend. Now total aversion of modern youth from their traditional occupation has rendered millions unemployed or underemployed or confused about what they want to do. They waste their time, energy and efforts in search of white collared jobs rather than pursuing jobs, which suits to their knowledge, aptitude and qualifications. There is more job-satisfaction, happiness, success or contentment in doing a job, one knows well rather than in stepping on someone else’s toes.

Sir John Shore, who was Governor General of India during 1793-1798, observed that there was considerable latitude in matter of work in India. Among many castes, it was constantly found that one brother pursuing hereditary vocation and another entering army. HT Colebrooke also confirms it, “It may be received as a general maxim that occupation appointed for each tribe is entitled merely to a preference. Every profession, with few exceptions, was open to every description of persons and the discouragement arising from religious prejudices is not greater than what exists in Great Britain from the effects of Municipal and Corporate laws.”

  • Alternative ideologies to provide breathing space

In the past, whenever rigidities and discriminatory practices of society in the name of caste system suffocated Indian society, there arose alternative ideologies or styles of life, which gave people breathing space. Rise of Buddhism in Ancient India, Sufi tradition of Islam and Bhakti movement of Hindus in medieval India (around 10th century), and reform movements of 19th and 20th centuries taught sympathetic attitude towards lesser human beings, brotherly love for each other and fellowship, love and respect all human beings irrespective of caste or creed and rejected practice of elaborate rituals and caste pretensions.

Modern India

Most of the allegations against caste system, which were there in the past, can not be justified now in modern India. Process of modernization, industrialization, spread of education and growing awareness among masses have already brought to an end slowly but steadily many of the discriminatory practices of Caste system. It has become more liberal and less restrictive in all walks of life. Castes no longer enjoy legal or religious sanctions. Expulsion from castes means little, while earlier it meant complete social ostracism. Old style of authority and power exercised by caste-elders has already diminished. Restrictions or interactions between different castes arising due to considerations for purity and pollution are fading away from public life even from rural areas. Traditional barriers on marriage, hereditary occupations and commonality are loosing its importance.

Constitution of India

Preamble of the Indian Constitution promises to secure to all its citizens: JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation. Article 15 of the Constitution prohibits any kind of discrimination on grounds of caste, race, religion, gender or place of birth; Article 16 gives equality of opportunity in matter of public employment, Article 338 creates National commission for Scheduled Castes to safeguard their interests etc.

Legislations for equal opportunities

A number of amendments in the Constitution and legislation have been passed to remove the disabilities of backward people. Untouchability has been declared a crime. Bonded labor is abolished by law. Civil Rights Act, 1955, aims to eliminate injustice against weaker sections. Amendment to Prevention of Atrocities Act (SCT) 1989 provides for stern punishments for offenses committed against SCT by Upper Castes. Special Courts, under SCT Act, have been established for punishing officials, if found guilty. Still, there is no respite from discriminatory practices. Why?

Reasons for the miseries of downtrodden

There are many reasons, why people do not get respite from discriminatory practices. There is no denial of the fact that with the passage of time, and for a long time, living under alien rule, caste system had developed many deformities. The system became too rigid to keep its identity continuing. Still it is not so much because of the caste-system, but because of bad politics and poor governance, that millions of people have still to suffer discrimination and exploitation in modern India. Some of the causes are as following –

  • Emergence of Political Identities

During their imperial rule, the British had divided the Indian society into five major groups, giving each one an independent political identity based on the political power and the amount of wealth, they hold. The water-tight compartmentalization of Indian society had been done by Censuses during British rule into Minorities, Scheduled Castes, now popularly known as Dalits or SCs, Scheduled Tribes (STs), Other Backward castes (OBCs) and Higher Castes.

  • Political compartmentalization of Indian society

Modern Indian society has been polarized on caste and communal basis into following unbridgeable sections – Upper castes, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled tribes, Other Backward Class and Minorities. Stratification of Indian society has been done in most insensitive manner for the purpose of balancing the power. It has become a bye-word for Indian politicians.

  • Poor execution of rules and regulations

Indian society is sharply divided into two broad divisions- “haves” and “have-nots”. The most important factors responsible for disparities are present-day-politics, irrational and corrupt ways of pursuing the paternal policies of the government at cetral and State levels and government’s failure to address real issues.

  • Use of ‘Caste’ as the most powerful tool to create vote-banks

 ‘Caste’ has become for the present-day political leaders as the easiest and most powerful tool to sway public emotionally and to create a larger vote bank. It may be called ossification of caste-system fallen into the hands of power brokers and vote guzzlers.

  • Priority to abstract issues in order to divert public attention

Day in and day out, public attention is being diverted from real issues and public sentiments are aroused by floating in political world abstract issues like discrimination, social justice, affirmative action/reservations, secularism. Sectional interests are being promoted on caste basis. Real issues like mass-scale illiteracy, poverty, unemployment, inflation, deteriorated law and order situation, increasing violence or general coarsening of moral fiber of the Indian society are pushed into the background.

  • Centralization of control systems

There is complete centralization of control systems in the hands of a few individuals, families and groups irrespective of castes or creed. They have enough money, muscle and political power plus and the support of criminals.  They are flourishing day by day and control almost all the national resources. They enjoy life at cost of tax-payers. This very small section of society virtually controls the destiny of millions. They have a say in almost every walk of national life.

  • Corruption

Corruption has become a major/perennial impediment to implement various developmental schemes. Ignorance and pessimist attitude of masses makes corrupt persons bold. Once the public raises its voice against arbitrary behavior/actions of powerful lobby, all discrimination and malpractices would get automatically controlled.

  • Aversion form human, moral or traditional values

Aversion of people from human, moral or traditional values has aggravated the problem. The total concentration of educated people is on pursuit of money and materialistic pleasures by hook or crook. Favoritism, in-discipline, violence, corruption, and chase of materialism based on ruthless competition have given sharp rise to disparities and discrimination. It leads to cut-throat competition and creates rift amongst different groups. Political expediency and opportunism has made sectional forces more assertive/aggressive in attitude and vocal about their rights but ignores duties.

  • Reconcile the claims of growth with the claims of equity

It is one of the big challenges for the government to reconcile the claims of growth with the claims of equity. Compassion, sensitivity, equality or fraternity can not be imposed or enforced by any outside agency or authority. Such a step may prove to be a cause of social unrest. It has to be in-built in the social economic and political system of a country through education and awareness – education, which is the source of knowledge and power; and awareness, which comes from availability of information.

  • Narrow loyalties of caste and religion

Narrow loyalties of caste and religion are encouraged generating sub-cultures like caste-ism, favoritism, and lure for easy money, nepotism, parochialism, communalism, regionalism, bigoted sentiments and irresponsible comments, spreading in-discipline in the society. The rising aspirations and demands of people, with the spread of education and awareness, has created added problem for the government.

  • Discriminatory measures taken by the Government

In Independent India, Governments at centre and the provinces are continuously thrusting upon the public many discriminatory/lofty/populist rules, regulations and policies in the name of helping “poor masses”. Common men especially belonging to upper castes feel threatened, helpless and suffer from discriminatory policies of the government. Protective policies and laws can neither convert an iniquitous Society into an equitable one, nor does it help in any way the vulnerable, oppressed and submerged masses.

Most of measures taken by the Governmental authorities touch the problems superficially at its periphery only. Most of the solutions pursued by the government are totally unrelated to day to day problems of common man in real life. Instead of benefiting or helping the poor, on one hand such developmental programs increase corruption, and on the other it encourages lethargy, agitation and attitude to depend on authorities for each and everything.

Reservation policy’ as a tool to end discrimination

Successive governments both at the centre and provinces are trying to tackle problem of discrimination and disparity by openly favouring policies of ‘reverse discrimination’, which give more importance to distribute power on pro-rata basis by fixing quota. The sustainable development of submerged sections can be achieved by providing quality of education to everybody and making people aware of different opportunities available to them.

Reservation policy can hardly be able to bring in desired transformation in the society. In a democratic country, discrimination anywhere or in any form – be it positive or negative – is the most objectionable thing. The problem of discrimination or disparities can not be tackled by fixing up quotas or by adopting the path of reverse discrimination or treating a few sections of society more than equals by entitling them for preferential treatment by the governmental agencies in different spheres of life.

Political leaders of various political parties desire to fix up quotas in all governmental institutions for different sections of society on pro-rata basis. Such a demand is based on negative exhortations. The government’s policy of Reservation in jobs and education has resulted in a tough competition amongst various castes to demand a lower status, so that they can also avail more concessions and facilities.

Under-currents of caste politics have made the government incapable to solve the burning national issues. It has made to maintain law and order difficult. Inter-caste and intra-caste, inter-community and intra-community and inter-tribal and intra-tribal conflicts are increasing day by day in order to get more space in the corridors of power.

Meaning of ‘No Discrimination’

‘No discrimination’ does not mean sharing power equally. Everybody can not be accommodated in power echelons especially in India having a population of more than thousand million people. It means a harmonious partnership between people belonging to different sections of society and the authorities responsible for governance. Governance should be done on the basis of mutual help, mutual respect and mutual trust. Governance is a continuing process, through which conflicting interests and diverse needs of all the people are looked-after and a cooperative action is taken.

Pathetic condition of upper castes belonging to poor and middle class

Middle class has always been the backbone of society. Now the voice of upright and honest people belonging to middle class is being continuously throttled mercilessly. They are being punished for following sincerely family-planning norms, which has decreased their numbers. In present day vote-bank politics based on game of numbers, it is very easy now for the pursuers of political power to sideline them.

Lower castes more tenacious about their caste-identity

Today lower castes, which are more tenacious about their caste than the higher, could be easily swayed emotionally in the name of caste-based reservations. Reservations Policy has given the ‘backwards’ an identity as a composite and powerful political pressure group. They have grouped together and increased their numerical strength. It has helped them to emerge as a powerful and assertive pressure group and unite, organize and fight vigorously for the seats of power.

A large number of educated people of so-called ‘Backward-castes’ have already entered into the corridors of power and are occupying important places, exercising authority. Dalits and Muslims are being wooed with vigor by all major national political parties. Even Naxalite groups find in Dalits an allies, as most of their action squads are formed of Harijans. No political party could dare to annoy them. All concede to their demands openly or discreetly.

The transformation of untouchables into Harijans, Depressed class and now Dalits is a classic example, where a fraction of society is increasingly distancing itself from the mainstream and establishing firmly its separate identity. The organized intolerance of some groups due to over-consciousness about their separate identity has grown out of proportions now, perpetuating agitation and violence. They desire a complete hold on political power plus protection of those laws and policies indefinitely, which were started sixty years ago for enabling them to join the mainstream. They want to have a cake and eat it too, but without much effort or blending their ways. 

Conclusion

It is a matter of shame that after giving so much constitutional and government protection to weaker sections, incidents of discrimination keep on increasing. Instead of over-looking the interests of the whole society or whole of the nation, it is desirable that law-implementing machinery should get tough on perpetrators of injustice. Discriminatory practices or oppression of weaker sections of society is unacceptable to the whole of humanity.

Instead of blaming an invisible institution (caste-system) for discrimination, deep wisdom and honesty of purpose is needed to find out right methods and courage to strive for it sincerely.

So-called ‘Backward castes’ need to understand the spirit of Indian Constitution and try to adapt thinking, culture and life-style of the mainstream of the nation. Otherwise, there will always be cultural rifts, both in their lives and minds, threatening the unity of the nation from time to time.

Today, when the whole world is reeling between economic depression and and terrorism, people expect from the government to bring in change in economic situation and in fight against terrorism. Hate, jealousy, anxiety or fear leads to violence and give rise to wars, riots, antagonisms and class or caste conflicts.

After-effects of the great economic depression of 2008 has brought many social and economic changes and aggravated the problems for present government. The GDP growth has fallen there, business investment has dipped alarmingly. Unemployment has risen.

Therefore, Government needs to be very careful, while planning for measures – developmental or punitive – to be taken. The needs and aspirations of the people as a whole should be taken care of by the government, not of any specific section of the society.

Present atmosphere demands to resolve sensibly the differences and clashes of interests peacefully with rational thinking and understanding for each other. For a change, India needs collective nation building efforts of both the authorities and the public with a sense of justice, commitment to the nation, understanding for each other and consciousness about duties along with rights.

Winding up

Following steps could to be taken to bring to an end discrimination of any kind –

  • First of all, government should find out root causes of discrimination and deprivation,
  • Government should identify without bias vulnerable groups, which are discriminated against by the present modern society. It should not be on the basis of caste.
  • Identify the special needs or problems of each group separately,
  • Accordingly plan about the measures to be taken to protect the interests of vulnerable individuals.
  • Well meaning judicious laws, which could directly improve day today life of common men, should be carefully legislated.
  • Such laws should not remain only on papers but have to be executed/implemented in real life for dealing with social injustice effectively.
  • To give relief to ‘Have-nots’, the way out is to tackle effectively local crimes against common man whether in rural or urban areas and improve law and order position.
  • The money meant for the development purposes should actually be spent for which it is intended i.e. the betterment of submerged sections of society.
  • Power generally rests with physical strength, wealth and knowledge. Knowledge brings in both physical strength and wealth. Therefore, stress on knowledge through ‘education for all’ should be the top priority for the government for empowerment of weaker sections, which are victims of discrimination.
  • Widespread human rights violations should be stopped by punishing the culprits.
  • It is necessary to put honest and right persons at crucial positions. There are very few people, who have the knowledge/understanding what to do, how to do and when to do;

A strong political will and courage is needed to bring to an end caste-ism and with it all kinds of discriminatory attitudes, repressive laws and practices. For the prosperity of the nation and tension-free/stress-free life of common man, as suggested by First Backward class Commission’s Chairman Kaka Kalelkar in mid fifties, “National solidarity in a democratic set up demands Government to recognize only two ends – the individual at one end and the nation as a whole at the other. Nothing should be encouraged to organize itself in between these two ends to the detriment of the freedom of the individual and solidarity of the nation. All communal and denominational organizations and groupings of lesser and narrower units have to be watched carefully, so that they do not jeopardize the national solidarity and do not weaken the efforts of the nation to serve the various elements in the body politic with equity. Mutual help, mutual respect and mutual trust are the touchstone, on which all communal and denominational activities will be tested.”

May 29, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Policy of Reservations in government jobs

         

“Authority without wisdom is like a heavy axe without an edge”

Ann

“Work is worship. There is no substitute for hard-work”

INTRODUCTION ­

Biggest experiment of Twentieth century – Policy of Reservations in government jobs is one of the biggest experiments in the history of Twentieth Century. It is a very sensitive issue. It was started to uplift the submerged sections of Indian society, to protect their rights and to overcome the cumulative disparities of power, wealth and culture existed among various sections of society. From its very nature, the policy is discriminatory and exclusive. It empowers state authorities to give preference to one or more groups in the society to exclusion of others and encroach on domain of right to ‘equality to all’. Of late, it has become a source of considerable controversy, as it also involves emotional feelings of right-conscious people.

“Reservation in Government services” – Reservations in government services involves two contradictory principles – one, the principle of “Efficiency in administration” and the other the principle of “Social justice”. Reservation Policy aims at improving the lot of backward sections of society and empowering them for a better future. For a successful administration the keynote is efficiency, which means right people on right positions at right time.

An efficient administration can provide convenience to the public at large, and attain the developmental and welfare goals of the nation within time and cost parameters. It could secure maximum results with minimum labour and resources. However, Reservation policy suggests, as understood by Indian authorities, to appoint less- qualified persons on the crucial positions of power structure by relaxing the standards and fixing up a separate quota for each of its weaker sections.

Issues

The question arises, is it possible to find out a way, which can keep a balance between the two contradictory principles? Is it not desirable to make weaker sections strong and eligible first and then facilitate their entry into such services of the nation? How can a capable and confident team from amongst vast majority of backward people be prepared to shoulder responsibilities of administration judiciously?

What is Reservation Policy

Dictionary meaning of Reservations – According to the “New Webster Dictionary”, reservation means “Keeping aside something for some specific purpose.” In the Indian context, Reservation Policy refers to a situation, wherein to uplift the sub-merged section of society, some jobs and other facilities are especially reserved in various institutions/organizations, so that they could be brought back into the national main-stream.

Historical background

Social systems and values in India – Hindu society was classified in four functional groups known as “Varna” – the Brahmins to preach, the Kshatriyas to rule and defend the community, the Vaishyas to carryon the business and the Shudras to do the menial jobs for the society as a whole. Ancient Indian society was dominated by Hindu community. It had produced an excellent culture. Though there existed no political entity as an Independent Nation-State except for a brief period, but its culture had bound the people of this peninsula for ages from one end to the other. The system worked well for a long time. So much and so, that India was known as ‘Sone ki Chiriya’ ( A Bird of Gold)

Developed deformity with passage of time – In ancient India, numerous social groups came to India in waves at different points of time and desired to join the mainstream. All of them were assimilated into it without any conversion by giving each one a different caste name. It gave rise to the caste-system.

Then Turks, Afghans and Mughals continuously invaded India. Earlier, they drained out the wealth of the nation to foreign lands. But afterwards, they conquered and made India their homeland. There had been alien rule in the country for centuries, first of Mughals rule and then of British. As time passed, there developed many distortions. The society got divided into innumerable castes and sub-castes within each of four Varnas. Disparity and inequality grew amongst them with the passage of time.

Pathetic condition of Shudras and untouchables – By the beginning of twentieth century, the most pathetic condition was that of Shudras. They were illiterate and economically deprived. There was discrimination against the Shudras in every sphere of life, from living to work to social status. Worst of all was the position of “Untouchability”.

Reformative movements of nineteenth and twentieth centuries – From time to time, nationalist leaders and social reformers tried to remove the inequality and injustice prevalent in the society. At times, the lower caste people themselves rebelled against prejudices. Efforts to uplift them and eliminate all forms of exploitation started with the emergence of Reformative movements during the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century like Arya Samaj initiated by Swami Dayanand, or “Achutodhar” by Gandhiji.

Intelligentsia of that period gave serious thought to the problem and conveyed the message that the inequality in the society should be finished. It was also impressed upon the masses that “Abhava” (Scarcity), “Agyan” (Ignorance), “Annyaya” (Injustice), and “Alasya” (Laziness) were the sources of all the evils prevalent in the society.

Concurrently, the British government in India chose to help the weaker section of the society by opening up the doors of education for all and bestowing upon them some special concessions and preferences through the policy of fixing up Quotas (former form of  ‘Reservation policy’) for different communities in the later half of the Nineteenth century.

Start of ‘Quota system’ in India

Deprivation no longer acceptable in modern world – Various revolutions like the French revolution, Bolshevik revolution, Industrial revolution and other contemporary developments during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries made the people alert and aware of their rights. Misery, ignorance and economic deprivation, which were ear liar accepted as one’s lot, were no longer acceptable.

Masses desired to get benefitted from the resources of the nation – Masses started wishing that they themselves should be benefited, as much as possible, from the resources of their nation. Millions of people started demanding with persisting insistence better facilities in life – they demanded protection from five major evils of an underdeveloped or developing society – want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness.

Desire to establish a new economic order – The public desired to go forward quickly and to establish a new economic order, in which common man and weaker section of society could have better deal. It forced the national governments to take upon themselves the responsibility of protecting and nurturing them in such a manner that they got enough opportunities to grow, to their fullest stature.

Scene after World-War II – After World War II, “Laissezfaire” theory of government’s function gave way to the concepts of “Welfare State”, and “Development Administration”. These concepts aimed at bringing about “Social, political and economic justice” and “Betterment to the lot of the submerged sections of the society” by building up a rapidly expanding and technologically progressive economy, in which the downtrodden could have a better deal.

With the general acceptance of these concepts all-over the world, the national governments gradually assumed the responsibility of welfare of all its citizens from “Womb to tomb”. Specific concessions, protections and assistance were given to the weaker sections of society in one form or the other all-over the world. In India, one of such protections adopted has been “Reservation Policy”.

Many Provincial Governments, especially those in the South, had fixed up quotas for different castes and minorities in educational institutions and government jobs. It was done much before Dr. Ambedkar demanded Reservations in Government jobs and separate electorate for the backward castes – a demand conceded by the British Governments in 1932.

Interestingly enough the Government of India Act, 1935, did not contain any specific provision for reservation. It, however, contained a few Sections (Section 275 and 298) which indirectly dealt with the subject through “Negative Protection” to those suffering from disability by reasons of race, religion, place of birth, descent, colour or any of them. The reservations in the Central services started since 1943, whereas the ST’s became eligible for reservations since 1950.

Scene after Independence

There has been a perplexing diversity in geography, culture, caste, religion and language in India. Along with it, there has been a great disparity between different sections of society – socially and economically. The attention of national leaders was drawn towards illiteracy, ignorance, superstitions, and taboos on food, drink and marriages, social segregation, lack of communication, living in inaccessible areas, unhealthy loyalties, continuing discrimination and lack of security­ economic, social and legal.

To give underprivileged a fair start – National leaders desired that in the free nation, every individual should be given fair start, equal opportunity and square deal in the struggle for survival, To give these downtrodden a fair start, the Constitution framers allowed the central and state governments to make provisions for reservations for ten years and empowered the Parliament to extend the period, if required. The aim was purely to uplift and absorb lower strata of society into the echelons of power.

Primary Goals – After independence, India, being a democratic country pursued the principles of ‘Welfare State’ and ‘Social Justice’ after the Independence.The primary goals, set by the Constitution framers, for the independent India were:

  • To build a self-reliant nation through optimal utilisation of its resources.
  • To establish an egalitarian and tolerant society based on the principles of justice, social economic and political, and
  • To ensure to everyone equality of status and opportunity.

Views of some of the members of Constituent Assembly

  • BR Ambedkar – According to Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the founder of reservation policy in India, ‘Principle of Varna’ is responsible for start of reservation as a government policy. ‘Varna system’ has divided Hindu society into four groups – Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas (Savarna Hindus) (Savarna Hindus) (Savarna Hindus) (Savarna Hindus) and Shudras (Avarna Hindus), which included Low Castes, Primitive Tribes, Untouchables and Criminals. It was the pathetic condition of Avarna Hindus, who were far away from the mainstream and progressive influences. Till now, Avarna Hindus were given neither fair start nor equal opportunity nor square deal.

According to Ambedkar, lower castes did not have the courage to demand reasonable wages for their labour. They did not hold property (Land or cash) – they were born to work or starve. They were there only to wait, serve and submit. They were there to do or die.

  • Giani Gurumukh Singh Musafir – Giani Gurumukh Singh Musafir, a member of the Constituent Assembly felt that we had made the Harijans live in very poor condition for hundreds of years. He, therefore, observed during the Constituent Assembly Debate on November 29, 1947: “Now when India has become free, it becomes the first and foremost duty of Central and Provincial Governments and of every Indian to see that these crores of downtrodden men are uplifted.”…. “They should be provided water, housing and education.”…. “So long as these depressed classes have this idea amongst themselves that they belong to this particular sect, so long as they think that they have this label affixed to them, it is difficult for them to progress. The very names give them this complex that he belongs to a depressed class.”
  • Shri Subhash Lal Saxena – Shri Subhash Lal Saxena, another member of the Constituent Assembly, said during the Constituent Assembly Debate on same day as Giani Gurumukh Singh Musafir i.e. November 27, 1947: “If capable Harijans are available, they should be recruited to superior posts. Besides the ordinary posts, the Harijan should be given all such jobs for which they are eligible. Harijans should be recruited in the Police. They should be given the post of Patwaries, School masters and Head masters etc. These posts would remove the inferiority complex, which is prevailing among them.”

Special clauses in the Constitution to uplift downtrodden

There is a perplexing diversity in geography, culture, caste, religion and language. Along with it, there has been a great disparity between different sections of society, socially and economically. The attention of national leaders was drawn towards illiteracy, ignorance, superstitions, and taboos on food, drink and marriages, social segregation, lack of communication, living in inaccessible areas, unhealthy loyalties, continuing discrimination and lack of security­ economic, social and legal.

Clauses to take special care – For the emancipation of the ‘Submerged people’ of India, the National leaders thought if  independent India made the weak to stand and compete with the strong on equal footing, it would be throwing the dice in favour of the strong. Therefore, they authorised the State to take special care of the downtrodden for their advancement through Article 15(4) primarily relating to educational opportunities and Article 16 (4) to job opportunities. Directive principles, through Articles 38, 39, 41, 43, 45, 46 etc. gave some guidelines to the future Government.

In order to bring millions of under-fed, under-read and under-clothed people of free India into the mainstream of national life, Article. 17 of Constitution of India abolished “Untouchability” and made its practice a cognizable offence the most heinous aspect of the Indian society by. Article 15 guarantees equality of opportunity for all citizens irrespective of religion, race, caste, descent, place of birth or any other reason.

Reservations for downtrodden – As the things came up, 15% Reservations are given to SCs, 7.5% to ST, 3% to disabled and 1.5% to ex-army-men in the following areas –

  1. Political institutions consisting of the elected representatives of the people.
  2. Admission in educational institutions.
  3. Reservations in jobs.
  4. 4.     Reservations in promotions.

Reservations in Government jobs – After implementation of the Constitution,15% reservations are being given to SCs, 7.5% to STs (initially from 1950 onwards 5%, but now) and 27% to OBCs (after 1992) in jobs under central government. Reservations in the Central services started since 1943, whereas the ST’s became eligible for reservations since 1950. All state Governments had their own plans for job-reservations in their respective states and list of beneficiary castes. At provincial level, different state-governments fixed up their own quotas for different castes and communities.

Also, candidates, belonging to reserve quota, if succeed to get jobs on their merit, are not counted in the quota list. That means the number could even be more than mentioned above in a year. Besides if the candidates with required qualifications are not found in a particular year, the unfilled vacancies are carried over and added in the next years. These can not be filled with other qualified persons.

Started as a temporary measure – Reservation was accepted by the constitution framers as a temporary measure. Article 330 provided for reservation in Legislature for ten years, unless at the end of this period the reservation is continued by an amendment of the Constitution. However, the Constitution was amended again and again in 1961, 1971, 1981, 1991 and 2001 to extend this period for another ten years at each instance.

Constitution on De-reservation – Before Independence, there was a provision of reservation in government services for Anglo-Indians. Article 336 of the Constitution provided that for the first two years after its start, reservations (in favour of the Anglo-Indians – a minority community) should continue on the basis as before; then during every succeeding period of two years, this reservation is to be progressively reduced by at-least ten percent, so that by the end of ten years all such reservation might cease.

Reservations for OBC’s – In 1955, Kaka Kalelkar Commission on Backward Classes and in 1980, MandaI Commission, were appointed to suggest ways to improve the condition of poor people in India. On August, 1990, V.P. Singh’s Government accepted to implement, partially, the suggestions made by MandaI Commission viz. reserving 27% jobs for “Other Backward Castes” in all Central Government institutions or institutions aided by the Central Government. It received a great deal of resistance from the people and at the moment the case for reserving 27% seats in jobs for OBC’s is under litigation in the Supreme Court of India.

Condition of Constitution for Reservations

While the Constitution framers were dealing with the topic, special provisions relating to certain classes specifically mentions that as far as the government services are concerned “The claims of the members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes shall be taken into consideration, consistent with the maintenance of efficiency of Administration, in the making of the appointments to services and to posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a State”.

Other Measures taken to uplift submerged sections – Under Article 340 of the Constitution, a Commission is to be appointed by the President to investigate the condition of socially and educationally backward citizens, the difficulties under which they labour, make recommendations for removal of those difficulties and other ameliorative measures needed to be taken.

In 1978, a Commission for SC/ST was setup within the Ministry of Horne Affairs to monitor the comprehensive programme and to ensure their all- round development. The financial allocations for the welfare of downtrodden have been increased tremendously after independence. The sincere effort towards their development began with Five Year Plans, which aimed at reducing the imbalances and disparities.

The First Five Year Plan identified the problem areas needed to be tackled viz absence of communication, paucity of drinking water, supply and irrigation, education and health facilities and universal poverty etc. Accordingly, many Integrated Development Plans and Sub–Plans were initiated besides reservations.

Views of pro-reservationists

Policy of reservation has been hailed by it supporters as a “Historic step” the advocates of reservation. To them policy of reservation has been adopted to break the shackles of caste and to improve the lot of the poor masses. Arguments in favour reservation policy –

  • Under-represented in power echelons – Backward castes constitute about 80% of total population (15% Scheduled Caste, 8% Scheduled Tribes and 52% Other Backward classes), but their representation in the Central Group ‘A’ posts is a paltry 4.69%. Therefore, supporters of reservation policy demand that employment in government services should be on pro-rata basis.
  • ‘Due share’ to lower strata in power echelons – Founder of Bahujan Samaj Party, Kanshi Ram said, “The reservation for SC/ST began with only 2% in 1935. Now it is 22.5%. Gradually all reservations would be according to proportion of different castes in the population. My aim is to give reservation (to the upper caste minorities), not to demand it. V.P. Singh has made my job easier.” Ex Prime Minister, V.P. Singh, Prime Minister from Janata Dal, while implementing the MandaI Commission recommendations in August, 1990 said in his independence-day speech, “We want to effectively give to the depressed, downtrodden and backward people their share in the power structure and in decision-making to run country and improve things.”
    • Suppression of downtrodden for centuries – Lower castes had been treated unequally in the past, now they should be given a more than equal status to make empower them. Competition could be just and valid only among equals. Since upper castes had suppressed lower castes on basis of their birth, present generation has to correct age-old imbalances and make reparations by giving downtrodden advantage through reservations. It is a noble and just cause in return for centuries of oppression.
    • Why merit could be diluted? – Forward castes are better educated and settled because of the environment, in which they are brought up. But deprived castes, in absence of proper environment and economic constraints are unable to compete on equal terms with upper castes for jobs in the government, public or private sectors. Besides educational capabilities and economic status, socio-political dominance of upper caste is a powerful factor influencing selection process. Witnessing all these aspects social justice demands that jobs should be shared with backward even at cost of little dilution of meritocracy.
    • ‘No’ to economic criteria – On economic criteria for reservations, V.P and his associates oppose the idea, saying that it was introduced in Tamil Nadu in the past, but did not worked there (Times of India news item on September 4, 1990).
    • Foundations of Reservations social, not economic – “All foundations for government’s reservation policy were social, not economic” says Ram Vilas Paswan “Each caste is standing with one foot on the forehead of the one below it in the social hierarchy…” Shri Ram Avdhesh Singh, a M.P. of Lok Dal says, “Even the rich backwards are not given the social status, which poor forwards enjoy. That is why we need representation in the government on caste basis, where wealth and respect go hand in hand. These reservations are not for the economic good, but to link backwards with the State.” (India Today, September 30, 1990)
    • To whitewash a bitter historical reality – Swami Agni vesh of Bandhua Mukti Morcha had said, “We have created our fractures and schisms – it was not the Mughals, it was not the British, it was the Vedas that consolidated the casteism in Indian culture. We can describe the reservation policy today as palliatives, an attempt to whitewash a bitter historical reality, sitting on a handful of armchair sociologists and pretending the rest of backward India doesn’t exist. That we need is radical social change.”
    • Empowers backwards as a composite pressure group – “Reservations, on the basis of caste, give the backwards an identity as a composite pressure group. This is a concrete achievement, which will help them to unite and fight for equality. Besides, caste is still a dominant factor in Indian social-structure; its existence should be accepted for recognising the under-privilege groups.” (News item in Times of India, September 15, 1990)
    • Merit not a prerogative of upper castes only – Merit is not found in upper castes only. There are many meritorious and talented boys and girls amongst the SC/ST/OBC. They only need proper atmosphere and opportunities for education and employment in order to shine to their full capacity. In old Madras Presidency, there were 100% reservation/job quotas, both for “Forward” and Backward” castes. Today about 68% seats are reserved for SC/ST/OBC in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, and they are far ahead of other provinces in matter of prosperity and good governance, where there is upper caste domination in administration.
    • Norm of ‘pull’ and ‘push’ – Ram Vilas Paswan, ex-minister says, “There is no such thing as merit in India today, there is only “pull” and “Influence”…. “Merit” is only a term used for the purpose of disruption by agitators.” Shri Paswan asks why forward class does not look towards merit in candidates admitted in institutions of higher learning because of capitation fee or selected for influential posts because of their family background.
    • ‘Bearer best knows where shoe pinches’ – V.P. Singh told the nation that society would be served best by filling the civil services by downtrodden as they were the bearers who knew where the shoe pinched. They had the qualities of heart, which the administration of the country needed more than the quality of head. They are committed to the uplift of their brethrens. Syed Shabuddin of the “Insaf party” had said, “In a democracy every social group is entitled to share the fruits of development and keep a hand on the levers of power…. Both intra and inter group disparities must be reduced by Legislative policies. If the backward classes come into administrative posts, they may be able to increase efficiency, as they will be having grass-root knowledge of actual problems.” (News item in the Times of India, September 15, 1990)

In short, supporters of reservation consider necessary to empower the downtrodden, to reduce economic inequalities, to give them social respectability, to reduce imbalances created due to upper class influence and to break the psychological barrier, to give downtrodden their due share in power structure

Views of Anti-reservationists

Anti-reservationists doubt the efficacy of Reservation Policy. Reservation has been a source of turmoil in society many a time. They have shown their resentment every-time Parliament had extended the period for reservations. In seventies and eighties, the agitation against reservation policy took a major turn by taking a shape of national movement affecting many parts of the country. The agitation against reservation sparked violently in Gujarat in 1983 and spread to other places when a meritorious physically handicapped student of upper caste was denied admission in MD course and the quota student with much less marks was admitted. Such cases definitely arouse public sentiments and they criticise the government for following the policy blindly.

Somehow the authorities were able to suppress it. But scars were left.

  • Contrary to principles of equality – Reservations are contrary to principles of equality, fraternity and social justice. There is something fundamentally wrong with Reservation Policy. In the name of social justice, fundamental rights of many deserving people are curtailed or negated. It benefits and increases the number of those, who are desirous to find an easier way-out.
    • Genesis of Reservation Policy in “Divide and Rule” dictum – Reservations were first introduced by the British rulers to “Divide” the Indian population and “rule” the nation as long as possible. The British government divided Indians on the basis of caste and community. British rulers, who got alarmed about the increasingly power and influence of Brahmins, purposely propagated myth of tyranny of  the “Forward Castes”, especially of Brahmins over rest of the society. Therefore, British rulers pinpointed Brahmins as oppressors and tyrants, who wilfully kept others down. They encouraged anti-Brahmin formations in the South. They started the practice of fixing-up quotas in various educational-institutions and government jobs on one side and separate electorate for religious groups on the other.
    • Destroys unity of nation – Reservations were started in other parts of the country as well for backward communities. Now many politicians and their parties want to increase the percentage and extend its time-frame in order to create vote banks. Like Britishers, politicians and supporters of pro-reservation want to divide the nation, on the basis of caste, community or gender. Like British-rulers, they want grab and hold political power as long as possible. Already, there is a perplexing diversity in India along geography, culture, caste, religion and language lines. They are spreading venom in the heart of each identity against other. If not checked on time, communalism and casteism are bound to destroy the unity of the nation and narrow down the aspiration of people.
    • Administration requires services of most talented – The task of administration is one of the most difficult. It is so complex that it requires services of most talented, sincere, hardworking and honest people. A preference to a person with inferior talent over a person with superior talent is not only unjust but against national interests. Reservations in employment contemplates putting those on responsible positions in the government, “Who are not qualified for the job” – (Arun Shourie). And in the process, power passes from meritocracy to mediocracy (Nani Palkiwala). It also means that sub-standard services would be rendered to the general public.
    • Common-men suffer more – The policy of reservation affects adversely the efficiency of administration as a whole. Deteriorating standards of government institutions have already done irreparable damage to the development of SC/ST and OBC communities. The larger objective of eradicating the poverty and bringing the downtrodden in the main-stream could never be achieved by lowering the standards of education or governance. Does reserving a very few places for SC, ST & OBC satisfy the basic needs of millions of underfed, under-clothed and under-read people of India ?
    • Contributions of upper class – Kaka Kalelkar had said in,  ‘Note of Dissent of First Backward caste Commission It would be well, if representatives of the Backward-classes remembered that whatever good they find in the Constitution and the liberal policy of the Government, is the result of the awakened conscience of the upper classes themselves. Whatever Government is doing by way of atonement is readily accepted and acclaimed by the nation as a whole. The upper classes have contributed their share in formulating the policies of the Government. Removal of untouchability, establishment of equality and social justice, special consideration for backward classes, all these elements found place in the Constitution without a single voice of dissent from the upper classes.

Upper castes are still contributing their share through taxes (the money collected from taxes is supposed to be spent on developmental plans.) Somewhere, they are supporting, elsewhere actively participating in formulating developmental policies of the government.

  • Quantity of reservation quota – So long as “only a few places” were kept aside for those severely disadvantaged – Harijans and Girijans, the people tolerated the policy as functioning of institutions did not stand much risk of being vitiated and consideration of caste and community were placed under control. But, when V.P. Singh announced to implement 27% for reservation in jobs for OBCs, in addition to 22.5% reservation for SC/STs in government jobs, heart burning and stir against Reservation Policy passed all the limits. The whole nation was in for caste wars.
  • Ignores merit – Reservation policy as it ignores merit. In 1947, when the Constitution framers were dealing with the reservation policy, they showed clearly their concern for efficiency. Art. 335 directs that ‘reservations for SC/ST should be consistent with the maintenance of efficiency of administration.’

In today’s situation when economy is in shambles, inflation has touched 13%, coffers are empty, and common man is suffering due to inefficiency and mal-functioning of the government, the nation can not afford to ignore merit and efficiency. In Private Sector, survival and prosperity depends on merit. It picks up the best talent available in the country from the educational institutions itself by conducting “Campus interviews” and does not allow sub-­standard working.

  • Discourages development of skills – Reservation has discouraged development of skills, resources and attitudes in SC/STs needed to succeed without the crutches of reservation and has encouraged backwardness, inefficiency and lack of competitive merit amongst the castes enjoying reservation.
  • Making people lazy and increases mal-practices – People of lower castes have taken these concessions for granted and expect it to last for ever. It has made even competent persons amongst them lazy and complacent. Guarantee of share in power structure without much effort develops an attitude never value the dignity of labour and work hard. The reservation policy is adding fuel to this attitude. Obtaining false certification about caste is increasing in order to get the advantage of the limited spoils. It has raised the expectation of others as well.
  • Short time measure – In many provinces, scheduled castes were enjoying the benefit of reservation in proportion to their population since 1935. SCs were far away from the mainstream on account of “Untouchability” and STs because of “Social isolation due geographical reasons”. Therefore, Constitution extended State patronage to SC/ST for ten years i.e. till 1960, unless at the end of this period the concession is continued by an amendment of the Constitution, which was not very likely. It was hoped that underprivileged would be at least in a position to stand on their feet by 1960.Since then, everything has been changed.
  • Times have already changed – Successive governments have ignored the sweeping changes that have occurred throughout the country over the last 60 years. Through various measures, including Reservation Policy, people of all castes have progressed. Anti Brahmin movements in former Estates of Madras and Bombay had effectively eliminated Brahmins as a dominant political force. Lower strata of society had organized themselves, consolidated their economic and acquired political power. Through reservations they have succeeded in occupying position of power.
  • Shift of power in favour of Backwards – Political power has already shifted in favour of backwards, almost completely in the South and in massive strides in Bihar and UP, where they constitute nearly 40% of the Legislative strength. At State and local levels, especially in more populous rural areas their influence is continuously growing. Untouchables have made concerted efforts to mobilize themselves and to secure their upward mobility as may be seen in the case of Izhavas of Kerala, Mehars of Maharashtra, Chamars of UP, Meenas of Rajasthan, etc. Radical movement such as that launched by the militants Dalit Panther in Maharashtra have made the emerging strength of the lowest caste felt with increasing effectiveness.
  • Rigidity of caste wearing out – Rigidity of caste has been gradually wearing out. Introduction of railways, opening of hotels and restaurants, radio, TV and cinema houses have contributed to the relaxation of caste prejudices and rigidities. Besides education and training, land reforms, industrialisation etc have brought awareness amongst backward castes. The end of many practices, which created distances between different castes in the past, is a hopeful sign and guarantee for the future well being of every Indian citizen.
  • New lease of life to caste – There has been one sphere of Indian life, where caste has not only held its ground but began to strengthen its hold. It has acquired a new lease of life in politics. Politics is the most important sphere of Indian life, where caste has not only held its ground, but began to strengthen its hold. Politicians of Independent India are making its increasing use in politics.
  • Time for gradual de-legitimization of caste – Yogendra Singh, Dean of Political Science in the Jawahar Lal Nehru University says, “Forty years have seen enormous differentiation in class and caste division. Caste should not be the central element in dispensing social justice. In fact, there should be a process of gradual de-legitimization of caste by finding scientific methods for the exit of SCs and STs from the reserved quota.” (India Today, September 30, 1990)
  • ‘Past is past’ – Vasant Sathe of Congress (I) says “Reservation is no solution for a crime so many centuries old. Nor it is ethical to punish our present society for the sins of our fore fathers.” It is a law of jungle to hold responsible the present generation for the follies of its previous generations. According to Rule of law the present generation can not be punished for what their forefathers did.
  • Undermines ‘Principle of Equality’ – Anti-reservationists argue that there was a case to end the quota business in 1960 itself. Yet it has been allowed to continue till today. The Indian Constitution is committed to two different principles both of which relate to equality: ‘principle of equal opportunities’ and “principle of redress’.

Now it is over due that ‘principle of equality’ be enforced in its true spirit without any favour. Since policy of reservation undermines the principle of equality, it should be gradually discontinued as had been done in the case of Anglo Indians in accordance with the Article 336 of the Constitution.

  • Inter and intra caste wars – Reservation policy does not consider all individuals equal. Instead caste becomes the basis to get this privilege. It leads to inter-caste rivalryAnti-reservationists accuse the pro-preservationists for inciting the caste war by provoking public feelings. Brahmins and upper castes has been pinpointed as an enemy of downtrodden, who have always exploited the downtrodden mercilessly.
  • Distortion of historical facts – Political adventurers, dictators and fundamental fanatics have distorted the history in the past and used it as a ploy to serve their own selfish or partisan interests. It does not even matter to them, whether their own version of history is real or based on fantasy. When Hitler walked into Sudetanland, he claimed historical authority. When Mussolini attacked Ethopia in 30’s, he quoted history. When Zionists claimed Jeruselem, they tried to justify their act by citing history. When Saddam Hussain walked into Kuwait on August2, 1990, He staked his claim on the basis of raking up old history.

And so had happened on August 15, 1990, when V.P. Singh announced 27% reservation for OBCs, it was hailed by his supporters as “A historic decision which will go a long way in giving the rightful share to socially and economically backward castes in the power structure of the country, of which they were denied under the pressure from the vested interests.”

  • Reasons of backwardness other than caste – At present, submerged section of society does not suffer so much due to discrimination on the basis of caste as for other reasons. Kaka Kalelkar, first Chairman of First Backward class Commission had said, ““If the backward communities have neglected education it is because they had no use for it (in the past). Now that they have discovered their mistakes, it is for them to make the necessary efforts for making the leeway…As far as the assistance in the matter of education for the backward classes, I am convinced that introduction of basic education in all the states with help the backward communities to cultivate self-confidence. They will also have a better chance of succeeding in life and have the advantage of mixing with other people.”
  • Glamorization of Backwardness –Earlier, backwardness was considered as stigma. People of lower castes attempted to improve mannerism in order to climb up in the ladder of social status. These days, many castes claim for a lower status and want to be included in the list of SC/ST, so that they may taste the fruits of reservation as well. No more any caste is ashamed of being called untouchable or backward. Reservations have created vested interests in the “Backwardness.” Now backwardness is a status symbol, because it eases the position, while one is in search of jobs. Therefore, more and more communities are clamouring for the “Backward class” tag.

Those in power find it politically expedient to oblige them. The list of castes wishing for reservations has become very long. Witnessing all this it stands to logic that the beneficiary group should be kept under constant review, so that who have over the years reached a stage where they could survive with dignity without any crutches, could be delisted.

  • Creamy layer of lower castes at advantage – Benefits of Reservations are confined within the creamy layer of lower strata, while, it was supposed to benefit ‘poorest of the poor’. How can all the 80% downtrodden be accommodated in power echelons by reserving only 49.552% jobs out of 1% of total government jobs available in the country? Naturally, only few people are benefited, others are given only false assurances during the times of elections.
  • Economic criteria as a basis – Anti-reservationists argue that consideration of caste instead of economic backwardness is not just. Reservations, if it is necessary should be given on the basis of ‘economic criteria’ to all the poor regard less of their caste identity. There should also be an income ceiling for SC/ST and others with the entitlement of their children for reservations in job and admission to educational institutions. Then only really deserving people could be benefited.
  • Led to Bain drain – Reservation has shaken the confidence of the youth of so called forward class. About 50% reservations in government jobs have left many deserving and intelligent youths unemployed or underemployed. Some of them choose the path of crime or violence. Unemployment has been one of the reasons behind Punjab and Kashmir problems. Many intelligent and hard working youth are losing their interest, rapidly, in government jobs. They prefer to go abroad in search of greener pastures, where they get good return for their talents and hard-work. In addition, they get job satisfaction because of tension free atmosphere at work-place. Reservations have, thus, led to brain drain. It has already squeezed out many meritorious by leading the country to massive brain drain.
  • Cry for social-Justice? – The attempt to establish a socialistic government does not carry much weight. The USSR a super power of pre-1990 days collapsed like a house of cards, despite having Socialistic government for last 70 years. With all its State control and public support, it could not provide expected relief to its masses. How could socialistic ideals provide relief to the masses in India, where there exists so much corruption and inefficiency in administration?
  • Feeling of alienation – Creation and perpetuation quotas in educational institutions and jobs has made backward classes alienated from the main stream. It is adversely affecting national solidarity. It is sowing the seeds of hatred among the people and put hindrances on the way of mutual help, mutual respect and mutual trust necessary for the development of the nation as a whole. Along with it, efficiency or excellence, probity, integrity of institutions and trust, which are required for overall well-being are adversely affected.
  • Reservations in Government jobs not a political program – Reservation in government jobs need not be made a political programme, which must be done according to the electoral mathematics. It was envisaged to uplift the submerged sections of society and make their future better. Governance is one of the most difficult and specialized tasks. Government employees are supposed to have sufficient professional knowledge and expertise in various disciplines – functional, technical, specialist as well as managerial and generalist – so that they could properly aid and advise the elected representatives of the people and dig for them the expert knowledge from the raw material, give it a shape with a sense of commitment. For attaining that expertise, they have to be equipped with knowledge in various educational institutions. Therefore, the government should be very careful while recruiting people in government jobs.
  • If reservations politicians are so keen to give lower castes a share in the power structure of the nation, why not quotas are fixed by law that by rotation, President, Prime Minister, Vice President, Cabinet Ministers, Ambassadors, Governors, Chief minister of every state be selected turn by turn from different castes. In these positions, the representatives of the people are elected or selected and entrusted the power to make decisions for a fix period. If their performance is not satisfactory, they may be removed or changed. But government employees get job-security. Therefore, standard of functioning should not be allowed to fall.

Wanchoo Commission Report, 1968, and Railway Reforms Committee Report, 1983, on the working of Railways observed that reservations in jobs and promotions adversely affects the enthusiasm, incentive for hard work and devotion to duty and in-turn the efficiency and the morale of the civil servants. Sikri Commission on Railways, 1968, linked accidents with reservations. These three reports are just about one government department and that too when reservation is only 22.5% for SC/ST. What is going to happen, now when it is 50%? Who would be the ultimate sufferer. It is the innocent public only.

Double standard – The government itself has exempted certain services and posts from reservation in order to maintain efficiency, discipline and loyalty to the nation intact such as all the Defence Services, Scientific and technical posts in the Department of Space, Atomic Energy, Electronics, posts of pilots and top technical persons in Air India and Indian Airlines, all scientific posts of Indian Institute of Science, Banglore, teaching posts in IITs and IIMs, private secretary to the PM and other Ministers, Planning Commission Members etc. (A Handbook on reservation for SC/ST compiled by Sharma and Purohit). It proves that the government maintains double standards.

Reservations for women – If any class in India needs reservation on the grounds of social discrimination or under-representation in power echelons, it is only the women in India. How about reserving 50% seats for them in all educational institutions and government jobs? That would be their just share and will not divide the society along the caste lines either. If it cannot be done, then at least 50% of the reserved quota could always be kept aside for women ofrespective castes. Are the politicians prepared to make such provision for women too?

In short, Anti-reservationists think that there is something fundamentally wrong with the Reservation Policy. It has been criticized for creating many conflicting identities like – majority and minority, backward and forwards, urban and rural, north and south and man and woman etc. It is being extended again and again with an aim to create “Vote-bank” in the garb of helping the needy.

In the name of social justice, fundamental rights of many deserving people are being curtailed or negated. It is a farce in the name of social justice, a slap on the face of education and merit, a vote catching measure and misuse of power by political parties.

Views of prominent persons on Reservation Policy

At this stage, it would be appropriate to know the views of some eminent persons on reservation. These are as follows:

  • Mahatma Gandhi – In his book titled “India of my dreams” Mahatma Gandhi wrote: “So far as the reservations in the government departments is concerned, I think, it will be fatal to a good government, if we introduce there the communal spirit for administration to be efficient, it must be always in the hands of the fittest. There should be certainly no favouritism.”… “Distribution of posts should never be according to the proportion of members of each community. “… “Those who aspire to occupy responsible posts in the government of the country can only do if they pass the required test.”
  • Pundit Jawahar Lal Nehru – In a letter dated June 27, 1961, addressed to Chief Ministers of various States, Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru, Ex-Prime Minister of India wrote, “I have referred above to efficiency and to our getting out of the traditional rut. This necessitates our getting out of the old habit of reservations and particular privilege being given to this caste or that group. It is true that we are tied up with certain rules and conventions about helping the SC/STs. That deserve help, but even so I dislike any kind of reservation, more particularly in services. I react strongly against anything which leads to inefficiency and second rate standards. I want my country to be a first class country in everything. The moment we encourage the second rate, we are lost.” “This way, lies not only folly but disaster.”
  • Kaka Kalelkar– As Chairman of the Backward Class Commission, Kaka Kalelkar expressed his views on reservation in education (Backward Class Commission Report, 1956, Vol. I, page X). He wrote: “As far as the assistance in the matter of education for the backward classes, I am convinced that introduction of basic education in all the States will help the backward communities to cultivate self-confidence. They will also have a better chance of succeeding in open competition and having the special advantage of mixing with people and serving them, they will prove themselves better administrators and leaders of society.”

On page VIII of the same report, he has expressed his views on reservation in government services too, as under: “I am definitely against reservations in government services for any community for the simple reason that the services are not meant for the servants but they are meant for the service of the society as a whole. Administration must have the services of the best men available in the land and these may be found in all the communities. Reservation of posts for certain backward communities would be as strange as reservation of patients for a particular doctor. The patients are not meant to supply adequate or proportionate clientele to all the doctors what ever their qualifications.”

  • Chowdhary Charan Singh – Chowdhary Charan Singh, the founder of Lok Dal and charismatic leader of  Backward castes and class, wrote: “It must be conceded that reservation on the basis of caste is a vicious principle and creates many problems. More than reservation in recruitment, it is reservation in promotions that has led to great heart burning and great inefficiency in our services. Such reservation whether in favour of Scheduled or Backward castes, was, in my opinion beyond intentions of the founding fathers. Boys belonging to poor families, particularly those, where large section of our people are considered socially inferior for centuries past, are entitled to consideration rather than concessions at the hands of the government of independent India.”
  • Chowdhary Charan Singhwas also against extending reservation to SC/ST beyond 10 years “The intelligent and hard working youth are losing their interest, rapidly, in government jobs. They prefer to go abroad in search of greener pastures, where they get return for their talents and hard-work. In addition, they get job satisfaction because of tension free atmosphere at work-place. … “The Union Government, however, has for political reasons, been extending the period of reservations decades after decades. There should be bars on children of those who have benefited from reservation and those who are income tax payers, so that other less fortunates could be helped.” (A letter, February 12,1982 to Banarasi Dass, the then Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh)
  • Professor Andre BeteilIe– Professor Beteille said: “Once the uneven distribution of caste in public institutions comes to be perceived as a problem of distributive justice institutional well-being takes the back seat.” “Job reservations in public institutions are required to protect the interest of SC/ST, backward classes and minorities – If this argument is believed to be right and acted upon then our institutions can not function as they ought to, their well-being will be irreparably damaged.” … “The best course would be to expand the pool of qualified candidates at the lower level but this would call for patience which no government in India has so far shown.” “A quicker course, whose effects would show immediately in official statistics, would be to alter the proportions directly, through reservation of jobs.” (6th T. T. Krishnamachari Memorial lecture on “Distributive Justice & Institutional well-being”, November 11, 1990, the Institute of Economic Growth)
  • Shri H.M. Seervai – Shri Seervai wrote: “Reservations affect five parties adversely:
    • The State – to whose service persons are recruited by open competition in examinations held by independent Public Service Commissions.
    • The public – As the very phrase “Public servant” shows.
    • The persons – Who are discriminated against, by reservations in favour of members of SC/ST.
    • Members of SC/ST – In whose favour discrimination is being made by fixing reservation quota; and
    • The service – That is each service considered as a whole. (“Is an efficient public service irrelevant in India”, Indian Express,  September, 1990)

A service which lacks spirit-de-corps, that is, consciousness of and pride in belonging to a particular service, lacks an element essential to an efficient an harmonious administration. The position further deteriorates in a service in which in matters of promotion, people with superior qualifications are subordinate to people with admittedly inferior qualifications.

  •  Nani A Palkiwala– Shri palkiwala opined that Reservation policy suffers from five fatal flaws:
    • The sub-standard replaces the standard, and the reins of power are to pass from meritocracy to mediocracy.
    • It ignores the reality that there are no backward castes but backward individuals.
    • Reservations in promotion are disastrous enough for the civil administration.
    • It divides the country on caste lines and is against social harmony and social intermingling of various castes.
    • Equality is the very heart of free republic, the foundation stone of true republic, the source of inspiration, the criteria for its citizenship and the hope for its welfare. The bedrock of reservation is discrimination in-reverse: it is discrimination against merit and calibre. (“Unity and security of State at stake”, Indian Express, September 14, 1990)
  • Arun Shourie – Arun Shourie, in an Article titled “This way lies not only folly but disaster” appearing in the Indian Express on August 22, 1990, writes: “A job should be something one has to work to get, something which one has to do one’s utmost to retain and advance in. It should not be, advancement in it must not be anyone’s by right”. But reservation definitely develops the ethos that the job, the promotion is mine by right and that too because of by my birth, not work. How can a modern society survive, let alone grow with this as its ethos?
  • Shri V.P. Singh– In his independence-day speech on August 15th, 1990, Shri V.P. Singh, ex-Prime Minister of India said: “Bureaucracy is an important organ of the power structure and it has a decisive role in the decision-making exercise. We want to effectively give to the depressed, downtrodden and backward people their share in the power structure and in decision making to run this country and improve things. “
  • Ram Vilas paswan – The Dalit Sena president and Janata Party leader, Mr. Ram Vilas Paswan, in his speech at Benipatti, Madhubani, on December 12, 1987 demanded for amendment to the Constitution to end the prevalent reservation system for Harijans and other backward classes in the Government services and replacing it by right to work for every body…. Reservation system had failed to achieve its purpose and had created social tension in the country. Mr. paswan said that despite Constitutional provisions and related laws, the government at the Centre and State had failed to protect the interest of Harijans.

Later on, Paswan became the champion of reservation policy. He advocated reservations in jobs and educational institutions on permanent basis. It should continue till the caste system persists in India. Since caste system can not be put to an end, therefore, there is no justification for finishing the reservation for the downtrodden.

  • B.D. Sharma  Shri Sharma, the Commissioner for SC/ST has pointed out in his 29th Report, tabled in Parliament on August 31st, 1990, as under: “The policy of reservation in government jobs has not improved the lot of the bulk of SC/ST in the country. In fact, in many cases, their condition has further deteriorated. “It is quite clear that even if the policy of positive discrimination were to succeed fully, it could benefit only a small section of these communities. On the other hand, if inequality continues to increase in our country or continues even at the present level, the maximum damage will” befall on the members of these communities themselves, because their condition is already the worst as in the case of the SC or because they are facing the most severe backlash of development as in the case of the S.T……” ” The policy of reservation is ironical, as it demands a share for the weaker section” in the gains of iniquitous system, which in the ultimate analysis cannot be anything, but the proceeds of exploitation of other poor belonging to the same group who remain at the bottom.”

An analysis of the issue

There are certain basic truths, which needs to be accepted and pay attention to, before taking policy-decisions. Such as:

Society as an organic body – Society behaves and develops like an organic body. Each organ does a particular function and coordinated working of all organs together keeps the whole body fit and alive. Like other organic bodies, each and every section of society is an indispensable part of the society, which needs equal attention and proper care for the balanced growth of the society as a whole.

Just like in an organic body, weaker parts need special care, but not at the cost of others. So is in the society. Each and every section of the society needs to be assigned a specific function. Each one should perform its respective job. Society needs the services of all sections of the society. The work of any section is neither inferior nor superior to other. Each and every section of society needs to be aware of its indispensability to the whole. A society can move and prosper to its fullest, when each and every section of society does its functions well and lives in harmony; and when there is mutual help, respect and trust amongst the various sections of the society.

Society as an organisation – For an efficient and smooth functioning, like an organization, society also needs –

  • Division of labour – Nobody can do all the work by himself. Division of different functions required in a society is the first requisite.
  • Grouping of activities – All functions and activities should be so grouped as to avoid confusion. Activities of similar nature or having same objectives are grouped under one section.
  • Structure – An organization needs a structure with well defined functions. The structure must be simple and easy to understand. It should also ensure continuous growth and, therefore, should not be rigid.
  • Balance of activities – Proper weight-age to different activities, in proportion to their contribution to organization as a whole, is necessary. No activity should either be over-valued or under-valued.
  • Team spirit – Relationship between various groups within an organization should be based on the principle of “mutual help, mutual respect and mutual trust”. It facilitates better coordination of diverse activities performed by different sections. Smooth relations amongst its constituent’s leads to optimal utilisation of resources and to satisfaction of all its constituent members.
  • Specialisation – Concentration of a section on the performance of a single task, leads to greater efficiency and more specialisation. Functions need to be assigned on the basis qualifications, skills, attitude and aptitude of its employees.
  • Creative thinking – A good organisation encourages initiative and creative thinking.
  • Satisfaction – Organization must be able to satisfy the biological as well as psychological needs of its employees as an individual as well as a group.
  • Adoption of new technologies and development – An organization helps adopts new improved means of doing things, permits prompt adoption and optimum use of technological advancements. It must avoid nepotism, favouritism and must give an upper hand to merit and talent.

Indian society contains all the essentials of a good organisation.

Truth about “Varna-system” – “Varna system” along with its castes and sub­-castes is not as bad as has been portrayed earlier by British rulers, now by some leaders and the pro­-reservationists. It is based on principles ‘mutual respect, trust and tolerance for each other’, ‘There is enough for everybody’s need, but not enough for anyone’s greed’ or ‘To each according to his needs and from each according to his capacity’. ‘Division of work’ was based on attitude and aptitude of an individual. It has given to India a solid social-structure, which is simple to understand. Above all, it has provided unity of culture which has been able to bind the people of Indian peninsula from one end to the other.

Mahatma Gandhi said “The main reason of our economic and spiritual degeneration is that we have not correctly followed the “Varna System”. This is the main reason of poverty and unemployment and one of the main reasons that there is untouchability”. He suggested to encourage education amongst the masses for the growth a self-contained and self-regulated society; all occupations to be given equal respect; people to be encouraged, not to be forced to adopt their hereditary occupations; and difference of income derived from various occupations should be narrowed down to the minimum.

“Policy of reservation” lost its validity – “Policy of reservation” adopted by the independent India has lost its value and justification now. Reformatory movements of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, attempts of constitution-framers spread of education and awareness amongst general public. Many changes have come about in the whole atmosphere, in thinking, attitude and aspirations of common-men. Recent technological advancements have made the life of common-men easier and created enormous opportunities to earn more. The experiences of recent past reveal that Policy of reservation has lost its value and justification now because –

SC/STs and OBCs emerged as powerful pressure groups – After the green revolution of sixties, the economic and political status of people engaged in agriculture India has improved tremendously. India being an agricultural country, 75% of its population (mostly belonging to SC and OBC categories) is engaged in agricultural sector only. Reforms gave them permanent rights as owners or otherwise. New agricultural technologies, backed by administrative and financial support by governmental agencies, helped them the chance to get out of the trap of poverty. They have organized themselves and emerged as a very powerful pressure group both in the fields of economics and politics. Still, if many SC/STs and OBCs have not been able utilise this opportunity fully, fault lies somewhere else and not in caste system. In their under-nourished faces are written the failures of the successive Governments and their policies that have ignored their actual needs.

Caste is no longer a barrier in the matter of jobs – Doors of education have been opened for all. Many scholarships, loans, hostel facilities, and admission in select institutes of the country (Where the whole expenditure is borne by the government) are being made available to them. Many Integrated Development Programmes and Sub Plans have been initiated to improve their position – socially and economically.

Immense choices in matter of occupation – Earlier people were forced to earn their living only by doing their hereditary jobs. But the Constitution of India gave everybody freedom and equal opportunity to select one’s source of earning. Society has accepted the change-over to any profession a person wishes to pursue and for that he has to prove his suitability in the job market. Educational facilities have been provided to them. Many scholarships, loans, hostel facilities, and admission in select institutes of the country (Where the whole expenditure is borne by the government) are being made available to them. Many Integrated Development Programmes and Sub Plans have been initiated to improve their position – socially and economically. However, sub-merged people of SC/ST community have not so far been able to utilise this opportunity fully. Benefits are benefitting the creamy layer amongst them.

Label of Brahmin or Shudra meaningless today – Today, the label of Brahmin or of Shudra does not matter much in choosing a profession. There is no dearth of employment opportunities. From all sections of society, people are acquiring necessary qualifications and are entering into areas of their choice. Experience shows that all are doing well in almost all spheres.

Increasing opportunities in service sector – A vacuum has been created in the service sector, when many traditional jobs became obsolete. Jobs in service sector could also fetch a handsome amount of money. Recently some people engaged in this field such as tailors, carpenters, dyers and drycleaners, owners of hotels and restaurants, owners of video libraries, scooter and taxi drivers even Paanwalas are doing much better than ever before. The key to their success appears to be the very same as elsewhere – hard-work, excellence, maintenance of standard or quality and entrepreneurial skill. Today, in the lure of safe and secure job, easy and quick money, government jobs in local, state or central levels are becoming very popular.

That day appears not to be far off when in complex technological society, the white-collared jobs would loose their present attraction and the service sector would get a prominent place. An excellent plumber then may become more admirable than an incompetent scientist. Therefore, instead of disturbing the efficiency and working of the organized sector, the government could concentrate on enormous opportunities of self­ employment available in this sector, and thus helping the downtrodden to establish well themselves in the society.

Creamy layer amongst beneficiary groups – On the one hand, it has been experienced that Benefit of reservations is confined within a few dominant and prosperous SC/ST and OBC castes. They have now acquired economic, political and above all muscle power. Many of them make vote banks for the politicians, capture booths during elections and could ask their unfortunate brethren to shut their mouths or to meet the consequences. In certain regions, they themselves have become the exploiters of their unfortunate brethren – suppressing the agricultural labours and are heaping atrocities on Harijans.

Efficiency in administration – A service which lacks spirit-de-corps, that is, consciousness of and pride in belonging to a particular service, lacks an element essential to an efficient an harmonious administration. The position further deteriorates in a service in which in matters of promotion, people with superior qualifications are subordinate to people with admittedly inferior qualifications.

It is feared that relaxation in matter of recruitment standard, as reservation policy suggests, adversely affects efficiency of administration. It creates a distance between quota officers and non-quota officers, adversely affects integrity and coordinated efforts of services for development of the nation as a whole. Merit oriented approach in matter of filling crucial and important posts, in principle, opposes reservation of any kind, which gives preferences to a person over a more talented person. It is a humanitarian obligation of a civilized society to uplift and empower the weaker sections of its society. But it should not be done at the cost of efficiency in administration. Mal-administration or ineffective and inefficient administration makes the life of common people more miserable.

False assurances – Politicians and political parties with vested interests are luring the poor masses by promising them to give government jobs through reservations. Government jobs still fascinate the masses as with it are attached the attraction of fix salary, prestige, power, influence, security of employment and scope to distribute patronage. If without acquiring the needed qualifications and without much effort one can get all these things, no body minds it.

Vast reservoir of talents amongst the lower strata of society – There is a vast reservoir of potential/talent amongst backwards as well, only they need opportunities to grow. Their hidden qualifications and capabilities Sound education and training would make aware them aware of their hidden qualifications and their capabilities. Their confidence can be restored, only when they are brought to the level of forward castes people so that they could compete for jobs and promotions on equal terms.

Hurt feelings of poor belonging to upper castes – The deprived and poor people, belonging to so called “Forward caste”, feel betrayed by their own Government. They are being victimised because of no fault of their own. ‘Economic criteria’ offers a general formula to help to all extremely poor and underprivileged individuals irrespective of their caste or creed. Many dynamic and talented youths have lost their faith in the government and interest in government jobs. Upright officers do not get a proper atmosphere in the office or reward for their merit, intelligence, hard work and honesty. On the contrary, due to politicization, growing disregard for the work-culture and overstaffing, upright officers are sidetracked. Fixed salary is just sufficient to keep them from hand to mouth. They have to struggle all through their lives – after paying the taxes, meeting their children’s school fees and coping with ever increasing prices of essential items to maintain a decent life style.

Backwardness of some, not unique in India only – Backwardness of some sections of society having such massive demographic entities is not peculiar to the Indian conditions only. It is universal phenomena. Every nation has it and adopts its own ways to uplift the sub-merged people. The Chinese approach, in this regard is through education and not through unmeritorious reservation of jobs, as there is no need to create vote banks there. Grooming of downtrodden in India could also be done by providing sound education to them. Already there are many institutes and some more may be opened especially for lower strata of society, where they could study the same syllabi and to go through the same courses as other students from a good background. The students from poor background may take more time to go through the same courses and reach up-to the same standard as others. The process may be slow but is steady. The quality of education should not be allowed to deteriorate at any cost as is being done.

Times when Governmental intervention needed – When individuals are proved to be working under special handicap or are not allowed to function freely as citizens, then only the government may intervene irrespective of caste or creed so that deserving persons from all sections of the society may get the needed help. It should punish the culprits strictly and make special provision for advancement of under privileged or handicapped persons. It need not necessarily be in the form of reservations. Reservations have been proved to be disruptive to the peace of the society and unpractical.

Conclusion and suggestions

The past experiences have made it clear that the remedies suggested through reservation proved worse than evils, the leaders were out to combat. To some, this discrimination is positive and to others, negative and contrary to principles of equality, fraternity and social justice.

Deserving people get lost amidst the gore and gusto – The faces of poor people, really deserving support from the government,  have been lost amidst the gore and gusto of pro and anti-reservationist movements. ‘Shudras’ have been the life and blood of the Indian society for centuries in the past and led the nation to the ‘Golden Era’. They still provide essential services to the whole community in different disciplines. But in exchange, today, they get very little – not even enough to satisfy their basic minimum needs. Reservation made no difference in their lives.

There is no denial to the fact that for centuries, Shudras have been the life and blood of the Indian society. They have been performing certain traditional standardised services for the whole community. In exchange, as usual, even today they get very little – not enough even to satisfy their basic minimum needs. Reservation made no difference in their lives.

Side effects of Reservation policy – Reservations have developed many side affects. Instead of becoming a viable instrument for the upliftment of the submerged section of the society, it has created vested interests of the powerful lobbies of society. It is serving the interest of those people who do not need it any more and making the administrative machinery sick. Giving additional weapon in weak hands is no remedy. First the hands need to be made strong enough to hold and use the weapon properly through awareness of the surroundings, sound education and-training. Then they themselves without any help from an outside agency will pick up the weapon in their hands and protect themselves and others in the society with it. Education alone can make them more knowledgeable in the fields of their works, more laborious and more confident, so that they could earn enough to live with honour and dignity.

Plans needs to be based on real issues – Witnessing the various views and past experience, it becomes clear that instead of reservation, other development measures should be tried after identifying the real issues and actual needs of these people. Downtrodden must be made capable to stand upon their feet and make their due place in the society. Policy of generating confidence and inculcating skills, knowledge, attitude and habits through sound education should be pursued, so that they could be brought to the required intellectual level, do justice to the jobs assigned to them, hold their positions without any complex and live in the society with honour.

Only two ends in Governance, ‘nation, and ‘individual’ – The unity and solidarity of the nation demands that its population should not be divided along the lines of different identities i.e. caste, region, language, religion or base – rural or urban – by giving preference or over- protection to one section or group over the other. As Kaka Kalelkar had suggested, while framing policies, government should recognise only two ends – the individual on the one hand and the nation as a whole on the other. No sectional or communal grouping should be encouraged to flourish itself in between the two, which could undermine the equality, liberty and freedom of the individuals and the solidarity of the nation.

Result-oriented action programmes needed – Issues should be identified rationally and    result-oriented action programmes needs to be implemented sincerely as suggested by the Planning Commission, various government departments and voluntary organisations. The backwardness of most of the people is due to poverty, illiteracy and many evils that go with it such as ignorance, superstitions, mal-nutrition, lack of access to shelter, clothing, health, hygiene etc. These problems can never be solved by making policy of reservation as a major remedial measure. Other remedial measures are required for the development, which could produce desired results within time and cost parameters. More stress should now be given to fair distribution of surplus land and other anti poverty programmes, which could benefit a large number of poor people everywhere if honestly pursued.

Reservations as “Disastrous”, “Fatal” and even a “Vicious principle” – Witnessing the various views and past experience, it becomes clear that instead of reservation, some other measures should be tried after identifying the real issues and actual needs of these people. It was not only the first Prime Minister Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru, but Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the nation, and Chowdhary Charan Singh, the charismatic leader of backward caste, considered reservations as “Disastrous”, “Fatal” and even a “Vicious principle”.

Positive steps needed to be taken – More than Reservations is needed to the inculcation of concentrate on skills, knowledge, attitude and habits through sound education. It would make weaker sections to stand upon their own feet and to survive without the crutches of Reservations. It would bring backwards to the required intellectual level, make them capable do justice to the jobs and fulfil their responsibility without any complex. It would ultimately generate confidence in them and live in the society with dignity and honour.

Vision of Nehru – The vision of Nehru suggested putting emphasis on education – “The real way to help a backward group is to give opportunities of good education; this includes technical education, which is becoming more and more important. Everything else is provision of some kind of crutches which don’t add to the strength or health of the body. We have recently made two decisions: one is universal free elementary education that is the base and the second is scholarships on a very wide scale at every grade of education to the bright boys and girls and this applies not merely to literary education but much more so, to technical, scientific and medical training. I lay stress on the bright and able boys and girls, because it is only they who will raise our standards.” …. “But if we go in for reservation on communal or caste basis we swamp the bright and able people and remain second rate or third rate.” (Chief Ministers Conference, June 27, 1961,)

Authorities like Shri B.D. Sharma, Commissioner for SC/ST, and many others have also opined that policy of reservations in government jobs has not improved the position of the bulk of SC/ST and CECs. Instead it had further developed many problems.

Winding up

  • If India wants to emerge as a strong nation in the world, it should give preference to efficiency, motivation, discipline, tenacity of purpose and will to achieve the desired goals.
  • It is not the policy of reservation which is required but a policy of generating confidence in backward caste.
  • Stress should be given to basic education.
  • No sectional or religious group be allowed grow between the government and the individual.
  • Really-deserving individuals needing special attention must be identified by assessing their economic condition without any bias.
  • All help, such as free and extra tuition, subsidised and extra nourishment, residential accommodation etc., to overcome their disabilities and to acquire requisite abilities should be provided
  • Abilities to shoulder responsibilities at entry point and performance throughout the career should always be given importance.
  • In postings and promotions, Standard set should apply equally to all and strictly to all.
  • At no time and at no level, the standard should be allowed to deteriorate.
  • The method of assessment should be continually honed, so that more meritorious persons could be selected.
  • Wages should be enough to enable them to work honestly and live in the society with dignity without clamouring for dishonest money.

In the words of Shri C. Rajgopalachari, which he said long ago that for any system “To be good and efficient as a whole we want right type of men. The quality of men placed in position is more important than laying down rules and methods of operation. The caste consciousness is a hard reality. It unites and divides in a very real manner today whatever be our goal and today is most important in matter of administration. Short sighted favouritism and concessions to produce contentment among classes and castes will be very short-lived and will deteriorate into a constant pondering to intrigues and factions, if we do not look to the real efficiency.”

May 29, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Role of education in Modern Times

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” Nelson Mandela

“Destroying any nation does not require the use of atomic bombs or the use of long range missiles. … It only requires lowering the quality of education and allowing cheating in the examinations by students.” … Patients die at the hands of such doctors; buildings collapse at the hands of such engineers. Money is lost at the hands such economists and accountants. Humanity dies at the hands of such religious scholars. Justice is lost at the hands of such judges. The collapse of education is the collapse of the nation.  (At the entrance gate of the University of South Africa).

‘Education is not the learning, but the training of mind to think’. Albert Einstein

“The illiterate of twenty-first century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” Toffler

Introduction

Nelson Mandela has stated “Education is the great engine of personal development” …. “It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.” Through Education a person acquires knowledge, experience, skill and sound attitude. It makes an individual civilized, refined, cultured and educated. Not only individuals, through education the whole society  can become civilized.

Education is a key to success in life. It facilitates learning. It helps people to understand the world around them. It develops power of reasoning, and judgement. It is meant to inculcate positive thinking, ethical values and shape attitude, and builds confidence. It trains people to work in a better way.

Difference between Education and Knowledge – There is not much difference between them. Knowledge is a process of acquiring facts, information and skills through one’s own experiences or learnings whereas education is a process of learning in a systematic manner from a formal institution such as schools, colleges or universities. Education gives knowledge of the world around us and changes it into something better. It develops in us a perspective of looking at life. It helps us build opinions and have points of view on things in life. (18-Aug-2013, https://blog.library.tc.columbia.edu ›)

According knowledge can be categorized into four types:

(1) Factual knowledge,

(2) Conceptual knowledge,

(3) Procedural knowledge, and

(4)Metacognitive knowledge. 01-Marhttps://learningstrategist.org

Knowledge and wisdom Knowledge is information of which someone is aware. It is means confident understanding of a subject, potentially with the ability to use it for a specific purpose. Wisdom is the ability to make correct judgments and decisions. It is an intangible quality gained through our experiences in life.

Historical background of Education

Ancient Times – System of Education started in the Middle East about 3000 BCE. In the beginning until the decline of Roman Empire, Greek philosophy since its inception, together with some influences from the ancient Near-East had influenced much of Western thinking. In ancient Greece, philosophers contemplated and theorized about many different ideas such as human nature, ethics, and moral dilemmas. They dealt with a wide variety of subjects, including astronomy, epistemology, mathematics, political philosophy, ethics, metaphysics, ontology, logic, biology, rhetoric and aesthetics. Romans preserved, imitated, and spread ancient Greek culture over Europe.

Greek philosophers were quite advanced for their times, bringing along revolutionary philosophical contributions to politics, science and ethics.  Socrates of Athens (l. c. 470/469-399 BCE) is the superstar teacher of the ancient world. He is among the most famous figures in world history for his contributions to the development of ancient Greek philosophy which provided the foundation for all of Western Philosophy. He is, in fact, known as the “Father of Western Philosophy” for this reason. (02-Sep-2009, https://www.ancient.eu › Socrates)

Though Socrates was sentenced to death more than 2,400 years ago for “impiety” and “corrupting” the minds of the youth of Athens, his ideas helped form the foundation of Western philosophy and the scientific method of inquiry. And his question-and-dialogue-based teaching style lives on in many classrooms as the Socratic method.

Socrates didn’t write anything down. And details of his life remain largely unknown. Many of his ideas, and much of his life as a teacher and philosopher, are known largely through the writings of his best student, Plato, in his Dialogues. Plato, the disciple of Socrates, introduced the idea of an ideal political system In his work the “Republic”. Plato’s disciple, Aristotle  had combined logic with observation to make general, causal claims.

In ancient times, knowledge and education in humanities and practical subjects like law, science, astrology, medicine, mathematics and geometry were mostly preserved by Priests/a powerful intellectual elite. Priests taught in formal schools like Gurukuls in India. There were two types of formal schools one for privileged youth and another for priest trainees. Rigid method and strict discipline were followed. Vocational skills in the spheres of architecture, engineering and sculpture were generally were generally taught in camps outside the jurisdiction of formal schooling.

Medieval Times (Known as Dark Period) – As the world entered  the medieval period, the knowledge base of ancient times had destroyed. That is why this period is known as the Dark Ages. Period. Demographic, cultural, and economic deterioration occurred in Western Europe following the decline of the Roman Empire. Rejection of reason was the main cause of decline. Church outlawed reason as the means to knowledge, and replaced it by revelation, over which they have the monopoly on.

Church and monasteries took charge of educating both the common people like farmers or workers and the nobility. They became influential during middle ages. Christianity  and religious institutors dominated the scene. They got the patronage of State governments. (03-Mar-2021. https://libguides.stalbanssc.vic.edu.au).

Period of Renaissance – From 14th century onwards, started the revival of surviving fragments of classical ancient culture and systems. Renaissance movement (from 14th to 17 centuries), can be said to be the beginning of modernization, Industrialization, and technological innovations.

During this period, unparalleled intellectual curiosity in European nations brought transition of western world from the medieval to the modern age. It was rebirth of everything in economic, political, cultural spheres. Europe witnessed the end of the old and reactionary medieval spirit and the beginning of the new spirit of science, reason and experimentation. It was the hard work and sincere efforts knowledge seekers, intellectuals and scientists that process of Modernization, Industrialization and technological innovations could again be started. 

With the beginning of Industrialization, Education system was designed to teach workers to be ‘punctual, docile and sober’ and do what their employers/managers told them. As industrialization changed the way of working, the need for universal schooling was felt. (29-June-2018, https://qz.com › universal-education.)

Purpose of education

Generally the meaning of education is misunderstood. Education neither means the knowledge of three ‘R’s, (reading, writing and ‘rithmatics), nor does it teaches to depend on academic or theoretical studies leading towards award of degrees or certificates from formal educational institutes. Nor is its purpose to increase knowledge-base by collecting available information/data/bookish knowledge. is also not the purpose of education.In present job market, these degrees and certificates are shown to the prospective employers as a proof of one’s knowledge. The main purpose of education is to provide for the fullest possible development of each learner for living morally, creatively, and productively in a democratic society.” (ASCD Committee on Platform of Beliefs, Educational Leadership, January 1957)

Since ancient times, one of the continuing objective of education has been to make people realize, what it is to be a human being. Along with it, other purposes of education have been to develop the intellect, to serve social needs, to contribute to the economy, to create an effective work force, to prepare students for a job or career, to promote a particular social or political system. (Arthur W. Foshay, “The Curriculum Matrix: Transcen- dence and Mathematics,” Journal of Curriculum and Supervision, 1991)

Margaret Ammons, Associate Secretary of ASCD, has said while talking about Educational Leadership in Oct. 1964, “The purpose of education] has changed from that of producing a literate society to that of producing a learning society.”

What is education? – The aim of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Education embraces in itself reading, observation and thought. It enables people to understand their surroundings in a better way. Education is a process of facilitating learning and increasing knowledge and improving understanding and attitudes of people. Besides acquisition of knowledge, education develops mental, moral and spiritual values, morals, beliefs and habits of individuals. It gives skill training as well. It refines their actions, language and behaviour, mannerism of individuals andmakes them more cultured. In short, proper education system blossoms the overall personality of a person.

Combination of education and training – Education can be effective, when it is combined with proper training-systems. Training helps people to acquire skills, and prepares them to apply their knowledge in their work life. It enables them to get better adjusted in real life. It improves individuals for certain line of action, which are delineated by technology and urgently needed by their occupations. The main purpose training is cultural conservation (control over cultural deviation), vocational training, moral and character training, and inculcation of qualities like self-restraint, cooperative work, and moderation.

Education along with training hones skills and attitude, trains people to think positively, rationally and act responsibly. Together, education and training prepares people to get gainfully employed in job market. At present, certificates and degrees from educational/professional institutes are considered necessary for entering into job-market.

A well-planned and sound system of education and training inspires human beings to control their senses, mind and intellect, so that they could be adjusted better in real life’s environment. It guides people to achieve their goals within time and cost parameters and to channelize their efforts towards desired direction. In short, a sound education system imparts knowledge, shapes attitudes, cultivates skills and builds work habits of the people. It enables people to face the challenges of present mechanized world, liberalization and Globalization in present context.

Academicians and planners should always remember that education and training system that focuses only on efficiency and intelligence is not enough. Group of persons gifted with reason but no morals, may prove to be a menace to society. Intelligence plus character, that is the goal of true education.” (Martin Luther King Jr., speech at Morehouse College, 1948).

Method of education – Method of learning may be formal or informal. For formal education, one has to join educational or skill training institutes like schools or colleges or vocational training institutes Present societies attach more importance to formal institutionalized education, which is time-bound and leads to award degrees and certificates than to guide the children to become good, responsible and confident citizens of society. Informal learning happens by doing and observing the real-life situations.

Formal education in schools at primary level. It has a vital impact on the personality building, outlook and maturity of the people. It should be comprehensive in scope and sound in nature, so that it  could provide firm foundation for the continuing education of the citizens. It equips a person with understanding of political, social and economic/occupational infra-structure of the country. Training during formative years of a person familiarizes him/her with the atmosphere and requirements of the sphere, in which (s)he wants to work. Informal learning takes over the tasks initiated by formal education and training systems and fills the gaps between theory and practice. Indirectly it helps to improve the performance.

Education and Training during formative years of a person familiarizes him/her with the atmosphere and requirements of the sphere in which (s)he has to work. Informal learning takes over the tasks initiated by formal education and training systems and fills the gaps between theory and practice. Indirectly it helps to improve the performance.

Learning never-ends – Learning and training oneself for its application in real life situations continues throughout one’s life. it is a never ending continuous process. The process of learning is also not confined to schools/colleges. Informal education and training continues at each stage and step of life starting from birth till end. Hindu Epics say about education -“Neti Neti” (No end to learning). J Krishnamurty has also commented, “There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.”

Key to success – Rabindra Nath Tagore says,”… education is not about what we learn: it is about what we make ourselves through what we learn.” The main purpose of education is to free individuals from ignorance, to gain knowledge and enlightenment. Knowledge is necessary to become a better person. It is a key to success in life. Only educated persons, with positive attitude, can contribute to building up a society with love, justice, equality and peace. Education brings transformation not only in individuals, but in a society or a nation as a whole.

Distinction between action, forbidden action, and in-action – Sound education system considered essential for the purpose of giving activities, their due meaning and value. According to Hindu philosophy even a wise man may get puzzled without knowledge about do’s and don’ts. It is only after the acquisition of knowledge, that a person understands the real nature of work and could distinguish correctly between action, forbidden action and in-action.

Sphere of knowledge – The sphere of knowledge is quite vast and is developing at a fast speed. The process of gaining knowledge is quite difficult. It is beyond human capability to cope with it completely. Even a genius like, Newton used to say that he was ‘like a child, who is picking pebbles at sea-shore while the great ocean of knowledge lies before me’. For learning or acquisition of knowledge, even one life is not enough. To think that one can acquire enough knowledge within a short time or fixed time, is not correct. It is a continuous and never ending process for complete upbringing of the individual right from his birth to death. Continuous learning at each and every stage of life develops knowledge-base, understanding and attitudes of a person.

Knowledge, the object of knowledge and application of the knowledge” – Khalil Gibran has said “Knowledge, the object of knowledge and application of the knowledge, all the three are equally important for motivating to take a wise action.”

  • Objective of education – The main objective of education is to inspire human beings to control their senses, mind and intellect, so that they could be adjusted better in real life’s environment. It should guide people to achieve their goals within time and cost parameters. People should learn to channelize their efforts towards desired direction. In short, a sound education system imparts knowledge, shapes attitudes, cultivates skills and builds work habits of the people and enables them to face the challenges of present mechanized world, liberalization and Globalization in present context.
  • Gaining Knowledge – Thanks to the revolution in information technology. After technological advancements, during post 1970’s and then at the dawn of 21st century, access to information/knowledge on any subject is available easily to anyone, on any subject and anywhere in the world. Internet has done the wonders. Within seconds Google can tell about anything happening anywhere in the world.
  • But the catch is that a focused mind and sincere efforts are required to get detailed relevant information on subject of one’s choice. One should be sure what exactly does he want to know. Otherwise, entering into world of internet is like going into a dense forest. One gets lost. Standard educational institutions use innovative methods of learning like theme-based discussions and theme-based activities etc.
  • More important is application of knowledge – The real object of education is also to prepare individuals for application of their knowledge. One of the important element of education is to develop the career skills of students. So that they can apply their knowledge and skills in real life, It requires lots of efforts and will power. Sound education and training system prepares individuals to apply knowledge in real life.

A little knowledge that acts is more useful than inactive knowledge. The wealth of knowledge confined only to books, cannot be used properly in real life-situations.at right time. Rote learning also does not work effectively, as it confined to text-books only.

  • Upgrading knowledge – Equally important to upgrade knowledge continuously. As Alvin Toffler, renowned writer has said, “The illiterate of twenty-first century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”

All the three are equally important for motivating to take a wise action.

Close connection between Knowledge and hard work – There is a growing awareness that for acquiring knowledge, training mind in a scientific manner and concentrating energies of mind, one had to struggle, work hard, make sincere efforts and face many challenges in life.

A majority of youth of present days  do not have courage to struggle or belief in “work hard”. Only a few students keep the fire of learning and acquiring knowledge burning all the time. Without hard-work, search for knowledge remains incomplete and superficial.

Role of a teacher – Teaching has always been an important and a rewarding profession. It leads to intellectual growth of self as well as others. It gives to teachers a real satisfaction of contributing something worthwhile to the society. 

In modern times, the role of a Teacher is just not only of an instructor, but he is supposed to be a facilitator, a true friend of learners, a philosopher and a role model for his students. It is his prime duty to inculcate in the minds of his students/children both, the qualities of head and heart.

Awareness about the importance of education in modern times –  It is encouraging to see that recently there is a growing realization all over the world that ‘Education and Training for all’ is necessary for imparting knowledge, shaping attitudes, cultivating skills and building work-habits, for making people capable of meeting the challenges of modern times. Awareness about the importance of education is not something new for India. India always had great regards for education. Even during ancient India, great importance was given to development of sound systems in the sphere of education and training.

India and its Education system

Very few nations in the world had to start with greater initial difficulties as India had to, after its Independence had to. Illiteracy was one of the major handicaps for slowing down the process of modernization, industrialization, technological advancements and higher productivity. It requires to make people work hard and be aware of their rights and duties. Desire to improve the quality of life demands the nation to adopt goal-oriented approach. So far, the dream to achieve desired results has remained unfulfilled.

It has often been felt that at present education system is becoming unrelated to national needs and aspirations. Most of the times, it is insufficient, wasteful and dysfunctional.  There is education received prior to joining the work-force is degree-oriented and not job-oriented. There is a wide gap between learning and practice. Being so, how can it be expected that present education system will deliver the desired results? Situation was not always like that in India.

Importance of education and training in ancient India Ancient  India has always given a high place to learning/pursuit of knowledge, wisdom, virtues, characters and will power. According to Indian philosophy, ‘Wealth of knowledge is supreme among all forms of wealth’. (Vidya dhanam sarvadhana pradhanam). India has always realized that human being is human because he has the organic capacity to think and seek knowledge.

From the time of Rigveda onwards, ancient education system was evolved over the period. Focus of education was on holistic development of an individual by taking care of both the inner and outer self. The system was focused on moral, physical spiritual and intellectual aspects of life. Ancient Indian Education was dominated by strict moral codes of conduct. Stress was on ‘Self-respect, self- discipline and self-knowledge. The ancient education taught to the students ethics like humility, truthfulness, discipline, self-reliance, and respecting all creations. (https://www.intechopen.com )

During the ancient period, two systems of education were developed, Vedic, and Buddhist. The medium of language during the Vedic system was Sanskrit, while those in the Buddhist system were pali. Education was imparted from Vedas, Brahmanas, Upanishads and Dharmasutras. The writings of Aryabhata, Panini, Katyayana and Patanjali and the medical treatises of Charaka and Sushruta were also some of the rich sources of learning. (https://byjus.com)

Gurukul system Gurukul was actually the home of teacher or Acharya and was the centre of learning where pupils resided till their education got complete. All were considered equal at the Gurukul and guru (teacher) as well as shisya (student) resided in the same house or lived near to each other.

In ancient India some centres of learning like Taxila or Nalanda etc. were so famous that knowledge-seekers, from distant places from different parts of the country as well as from neighbouring countries, walked to these centres for learning.

Salient features of ancient education system

Values and systems were developed in such a way that even a powerful Emperor, like Ashoka the great, thought it his duty, to bow before the learned persons as a mark of his respect for their learning, wisdom and sacrifice. It shows what matters in life, is not a person’s status or position, but his virtues and wisdom. Only when one raises oneself up from ignorance, can he recognize the greatness of a few in a sea of humanity.

  • More importance to knowledge than wealth – Traditional culture of India is not so materialistic, as Western countries are. Indian values and systems have separated pursuit and achievement in knowledge from temptations of worldly comforts, wealth or power-politics. According to Indian philosophy, when a person runs blindly after money and forgets about the real purpose of knowledge, both wealth and knowledge vanishes from their lives. The only judicious way to generate wealth and gain power goes via the path of acquiring true knowledge. West gives more importance to creation of wealth.
    Wealth is the ultimate aim of the people, yardstick of success and a status symbol.
  • Knowledge as the base of ranking – In ancient and medieval Indian society, the greatness of a person, institution or a nation was judged on the basis of the degree of righteousness and justice. Greatness of Princely states was judged with which its administration governed lives of the common men or their character. It was not on the basis of the size of a state, its military power or its treasury/bank-balance. Similarly, in the society, a person or a caste was ranked on the basis of knowledge, discipline and moral standards, and not on the basis of material success, muscle or money power or of having controlling power over the destiny of common man.
  • Respect for knowledgeable persons – In India, not only Brahmins, but others were also commanded the respect of society for their knowledge/learning capabilities, character, spirituality and ability. The system was quite liberal in this matter. It provided opportunities to all irrespective caste, creed or community, to get to the top from the humblest origin and earn the respect of the whole society. For example, Vashishtha, the principal of the conservative school of Brahmanism, was the son of Uravshi, a prostitute. Vishwamitra, the maker of the very Gayatri Mantra, the quintessence of the Vedic Brahmanism, was a Kshatriya. Aitreya, after whom the sacramental part of Rig-Veda is named as Aitreya Brahamana, was the son from a non-Aryan wife of a Brahman sage. Vyasa of Mahabharata fame was the son of a fish-woman (belonging to Mahr community – Dalit according to present standards and to which Dr Ambedkar, the messiah of Dalits belonged).  Balmiki, an untouchable according to present standards, the original author of Ramayana, is highly respected all over India. None of them were not ashamed of their origin. They still hold a very high position in general public minds.

System of education and training in modern India

Modern education – Originally, Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay has brought in India the modern Grammar School education system in the 1830s. Medium of instruction was English. Education is primarily a State responsibility. It is Government and communities, as well as public and private organizations of all kinds, that establish schools and colleges, develop curricula, and determine requirements for enrolment and graduation.

‘Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act or Right to Education Act (RTE)’ was enacted by Parliament of India on 4 August 2009, which describes the modalities of the importance of free and compulsory education for children between the age of 6 to 14 years in India under Article 21A of the Constitution.

Indian Education system is good but it needs little bit improvement. At present, India is facing a rapid deterioration in standards of teaching. It is not technically strong enough in educating, when compared to the well developed countries. Earlier, though education was thinly spread, even government schools were maintaining a good standard. In an attempt to do quantitative expansion of education, quality of education suffered a lot.

It is a matter of great concern that even seventy four years after independence and self-rule, literacy-rate has gone up to 74% from 65. For males it has risen to 82% from 75%, for females to 65% from 54.  In absolute number, the figure is alarming. No nation can afford to have a large number of its population to remain illiterate, ignorant and unskilled.

All is not well in education system in India – From time to time, it has been noted by distinguished academicians, policy-makers, political leaders, other eminent persons, commissions and committees that all is not well in the present education system of India. Now and then, failures have been pointed out in one or another area of education. They have noticed that education and training system has become increasingly unrelated to national needs and aspirations, insufficient, wasteful and dysfunctional.

External and internal constraints on Education system –  There exists many internal and external constraints on the education system, such as –

External Constraints

  • Socio-economic and political pressures have indirectly affected adversely the education system violated its quality and autonomy.
  • Unholy alliance with vested interests between elites of Indian society – Some changes have taken place in the recent past in the character, role and inter-relationship of seven  main constituent of the national elites – Political Executives, Legislators, Businessmen, Media persons, Organized Workers, powerful lobby of Farmers and Bureaucrats. Their vested interests have  brought into forefront some undesirable social changes and political turmoil, which has affected adversely indirectly the whole atmosphere in the field of education as well.
  • Population explosion – Population explosion has put a heavy pressure on present education system and its available infrastructure. Narrow loyalties, sectional interests and sub-cultures like – favouritism, nepotism and corruption have fast become an accepted way of life. Result is that communal, regional and caste conflicts and unhealthy competition between different powerful lobbies are increasing every day to have their exclusive hold on scarce resources available in the field of education or for power and pelf. Lobbies of a few powerful persons and ruling elites interfere and control every stage of the educational process.
  • Modern life style – Modern life style of stay up late due to reasons like working parents coming home late, socializing/going out for entertainment late in nights and health hazards due to undisciplined way of sleeping and getting up late adds fuel into fire. In long run, sleep-disorder may increase health problems like risk to heart attack, high blood-pressure, stroke, diabetes, drowsiness, depression, headaches obesity, loss of memory and poor performance at school.  

The reflection of all these evils is found in the educational system as well.

Internal Constraints – Internally the system has been fractured along the lines of discipline deteriorating standard of education in general and student sub-culture. Slowly but steadily, the education system lost its capacity to equip the younger generation with relevant knowledge and skills for enabling them to get gainfully employed and to perform their jobs with a sense of responsibility. It has failed to produce much-needed dynamism in youth as well. Now people have started questioning the legitimacy of a modern education system itself.

  • Past legacy – Some defects in modern education based on colonized British Grammar School type education. After Independence, many more  problems, paradoxes and constraints have cropped up. 
  • Grammar school education system is mainly based upon foreign culture and uprooted the indigenous culture of India.
  • English instead of mother tongue as the medium of instruction puts extra strain upon the nerves of students. Result is that the system is producing mostly the youth, who are unable to express clearly in any language, including in their own.
  • Acquisition of quality education is not possible through a foreign language.
  • It adversely affects the competence and confidence of students.
  • Masses remains deprived.
  • Present education system gives more importance to subjects like science and mathematics and ignores the culture of heart and hand. It has confined itself simply to head.
  • Present system increases the gap between ‘haves and have-nots’ – Instead of being an instrument of social integration, modern education system divides society into two groups, ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’. Usually children of poor families go to government or government aided schools. Poor people cannot bear the expenditure of sending their children to Private schools. Only well-to-do families can afford to send their children to Private schools, which try their best to maintain good standard of education.
  • Unfit for original work – Education system in India makes learners crammers, imitators and unfit for original work and thought. Whereas, Education system in Western  countries makes student a lively, inquisitive and original thinking person. There, it has been able to develop certain special qualities like regards for laws of the nation, awareness, contempt for hypocrisy, sympathy for underdog and courage to resist cruelty or misuse of power and authority. An educated youth in India generally fails to develop such an attitude and conscience.
  • Store-house of information – No doubt, access to information provides the basis of all the thinking and increases knowledge. But over-emphasis on information at all stages of education, from preliminary through secondary right up-to the college stage makes mind a store-house of information/knowledge and discourages original thinking. It lays emphasis on giving students ready-made knowledge, systematically and neatly organized in the form of lessons, units and text book. R W Emerson comments on modern education, “We are students of words: we are shut up in schools and colleges and recitation-rooms, for ten or fifteen years and come out at last with a bag of wind, a memory of words and do not know a thing.”
  • Degree-oriented system led to rush in educational institutes of higher learning : The whole system of education, training and employment is degree oriented. The result of such a narrow mind-set is –
  • Requirement university degrees/certificates as a Passport for getting white collard jobs and giving final from manual work has made a mockery of higher education. It has encouraged mass entry into the institutions of higher learning
  • Present education system does not pay enough attention on Primary education. Early childhood learning plays a vital in improving the quality and quantity of learning and for developing lifelong qualities in children. Latest brain researches tell that first 2000 days are the most important in a child’s life, when children develop learning strategies, learn how to think and develop problem-solving ability. At primary level of education, it is necessary to have more interaction between parents, teachers, and children.
  • Higher secondary, the weakest link in Indian education system – Higher secondary education is not up to the mark. It is the weakest link in Indian education system. In western countries, the higher secondary education system enables talented students to join courses of their choice. Sincere efforts are required to be done to improve the academic standards, curricula and methods of teaching at higher secondary level in India.
  • Neck to neck competition in schools and colleges – Attitude, aptitude or personal choice does not matter in learning what you want. It depends only on availability of seats for admission. There is cut-throat competition for getting admission in the courses of their choices. It puts lots of pressure on the minds of candidates. High expectations of parents, forces teenagers to join extra-classes/tutorial classes after school, which cuts down on their free, leisure time or time to spend on extra-curricular activities. Non-availability to get admissions in the courses of their choices affects adversely their interest in learning and giving their best to the society.
  • Degree-oriented culture encourages the mass-entry into universities and colleges. There is over-crowding in the institutions of higher learning. A large number of new substandard and superfluous colleges and universities are being created every day to meet the increasing demand. The stress on quantitative increase has subverted all the attempts to improve the quality of teaching and learning. It has led to continuous fall in the academic standards and students’ discipline, regional imbalances in the growth of educational institutions and politics in the temples of learning.
  • Politicization of the institutions of higher learning – There is a rush of students, who want degree as a passport. Some join institutions of higher studies just as a time-pass till they get employed. They  seize every opportunity to spoil the academic atmosphere and create disturbances. They get affiliated to youth wing of different political parties. And do not hesitate to take support of different political parties to create disturbances from time to time within the campus.
  • Indiscipline in institutes of higher learning –Instead of inspiring the modern youth to control their senses, mind and intellect, so that they can channelise their energy and efforts towards desired direction, the present education making them over-conscious of their rights. They desire to be absolutely free from all kinds of moral compulsions.  Discipline, morality and observance of rules seems to them to be unnecessary and irrational. They do not have much respect even respect for their elders, teachers or authority. Not learning, but enjoying the life and material gains is  their aim. Knowledge without discipline may lead to chaos and violence.
  • Pre employment (primary and secondary) education and training – Work in human life is very important.  Work towards one’s goals and dreams gives purpose to human life. Living each day with purpose provides a sense of fulfilment. One of the major aims of education is to make youth employable. For streamlining the performance of people at work after employment, most essential and fundamental requirement is that the character and scope of primary and secondary education and training, (before joining the work force) should be  comprehensive in scope and sound in nature for making youth acceptable in job-market. Pre-entry education system needs to be redesigned in such a way, that it could continuously provide men and women of vitality, vigour, initiative and imagination with intellectual accomplishments, qualifications and soundness of character. It should impart knowledge, shapes attitude, cultivate skills and build work habits according to their specific area  of their interest, so that  they get better  adjusted to their working environment. Education should be more project based or practical based education, so thatcandidates get not only theoretical knowledge, but also practical knowledge as well.

Immediately after joining the work force, pre-entry education received prior to joining the work-force needs to be supplemented by well-planned foundation training. Foundation training facilitates the candidates to know the fundamentals of their specific jobs and inculcates in them relevant skills and attitude to do their jobs well. Without proper foundation training, effectiveness, efficiency and quality of work suffers.

  • Unrealistic Manpower Assessment – Assessment of manpower requirement for economic growth is not done rationally according to national needs. After Independence, the need for technical people was felt and in recent past for management experts. The creation of a large number of  institutions in these areas without assessing the needs of the nation resulted in educated unemployment and brain-drain. A large number of trained scientists, doctors, engineer’s technicians and management graduates go abroad in search of suitable jobs.
  • Faulty system of evaluation/examination – One of the reason of deterioration of the quality of education is that examination and evaluation system is faulty. It tests only a narrow range of skills, especially those of memory.
  • Addiction to electronic gadgets and poor life-style – Right from the beginning, children and teenagers are addicted to electronic gadgets. Any information on any subject, is easily available on Google. So there is no need to put any strain on mind for actual learning. Young children are addicted to electronic gadgets very much. It further cuts into their free time. Modern life style of stay up late due to reasons like working parents coming home late, socializing/going out for entertainment late in nights and health hazards due to undisciplined way of sleeping and getting up late adds fuel into fire. In long run, sleep-disorder may increase health problems like risk to heart attack, high blood-pressure, stroke, diabetes, drowsiness, depression, headaches obesity, loss of memory and poor performance at school.

Where the fault lies? – For the present weaknesses in the present education system, parents blame teachers and teachers the parents, students blame teachers and teachers the students. They together blame educationists and they in turn attack the social system. Blaming game can’t solve the problem. It is better to analyse the issues  and find out solutions.

All the weaknesses of present system of education cannot be removed overnight. Instead of offering excuses or blaming each other for the failures and dissatisfaction, all the three partners involved – students, teachers and the society should together make concentrated efforts to improve the education system and create a larger base of educated, trained and skilled manpower. Together they should do rational thinking after understanding the basics, fundamentals, aims and the problem of present education and training.

Problem areas in present education system – It is generally felt that present education system is not on the right track, because –

  • Education does not mean only the knowledge of three ‘R’s.
  • Present system focusses more on theoretical knowledge than its practical application in real life situations. Increasing knowledge-base through available information/bookish knowledge is also not the purpose of education.
  • Not adequate attention on the quality of education. Emphasis is more on increase quantity.
  • It also does not mean collecting degrees and certificates through formal education.
  • The process of learning is not confined to schools/colleges. It is a never-ending process.
  • Over-exposure of information,
  • Continuous deterioration of moral and cultural values in today’ materialistic world. Henry Kravis has commented, “If you don’t have integrity, You have nothing. You cannot buy it. You can have all the money in the world, but if you are not a moral and ethical person, you really have nothing.”
  • Absence of parental guidance, when it is needed the most.,
  • Too much emphasis on academic excellence has over-burdened the minds of children and youth. Parental pressure and peer-pressure is putting extra burden on students. Many children commit suicide or go under mental pressure.

Present education system does  a majority of individuals really educated with mature outlook. Such persons are mostly incapable to meet the adverse situations or challenges of real-life. The result is that –

  • Employers find it difficult to select, recruit and retain suitable persons for different disciplines and at different levels at job market.
  • When persons with immature mind-set enter into real life and join the workforce, they become restless, intolerant, more demanding or  impulsive.
  • Pre-entry education is such that after employment, even  the basics of their specific jobs are to be told to them. It requires a much more massive effort in order to make employees do their jobs well.

Planning for creating system of education and training – For planning a sound system of education and training, having a larger base of more skilled and expert manpower, and streamlining the performance of people at work after employment, it is necessary to

  • Educators and elders need to understand the psychology of youth/learners.
  • Awareness about changes happening every day in today’s world.
  • Enough arrangements to learn about the latest developments, and to upgrade and refresh knowledge continuously in their respective areas of work, after joining the workforce.
  • Commitment on the part of teachers to share their knowledge with students without bias.
  • Encouraging the students to express their thoughts and views freely and frankly.
  • Quality is more important than quantity in the sphere of education. Quality of education need not be compromised in any way for students, who cannot learn and understand at the same pace as other batch-mates. Educational institutions should make arrangements for special coaching for them, instead of lowering the standard of education.

Suggestions – To improve the quality of education and create a larger base of skilled and trained manpower, rational planning  needs to be done. First step is to diagnose the real problems. Then try to find out  the role of education in modern life after understanding its basics, fundamentals and aims correctly. Some areas which need special attention of all are –

  • Family, the first learning place for a child –  Family is called a child’s first school, where prior to joining school, a person learns manners and knowledge. Under the loving care of parents, a child learns to understand the world around him. It includes health-care, physical, emotional and behavioural development as well as logic and reasoning power. There a child learns as how to speak and communicate with others.  Therefore, role of parents and family becomes crucial for inculcating and developing lifelong qualities in children. For it, requires proper parental guidance is necessary. Parents should understand the psychology of their children. They should find out enough time to have more interaction with their children. At present, parents are so busy in meeting the two ends that they cannot devote enough time  and try to pass on this responsibility to schools teachers and day-care instructors etc. And it is practically very difficult for teachers or child-minders to pay individual attention to each and every child because of the large number of children under their charge.    
  • ‘Education for all’ – In present world of fast-paced life-style, ‘Education for all’ can instil in people,  the courage to avoid out-dated traditions and dogmatic ways of doing things. Educated persons can face  the challenges of life with confidence. Sound system of Education along with proper training system can inculcate in people qualities like self-reliance, rational, positive and creative thinking, problem solving attitude, planning properly about their future and career according to their attitude and aptitude, taking right decisions at right time, doing their duties responsibly, act judiciously and facing the challenges in life.
  • Improvement in the character and scope of primary and secondary level educational system is the most essential and fundamental requirement is to improve. It should be redesigned in such a way, that it could continuously provide men and women of vitality, vigour, initiative and imagination with intellectual accomplishments, qualifications and soundness of character needed in different disciplines and at different levels at job market.
  • Requirement of University Degree not necessary – The requirement of a university degree as a Passport for starting nice and respectable career (white collard jobs) has made a mockery of higher education. Such an attitude has by-passed the need to “educate all”, resulted in negligence of primary and higher secondary education and in over-crowding the institutions of learning. The stress on quantitative increase has subverted all the attempts to improve the quality of teaching and learning. It has led to continuous fall in the academic standards and students’ discipline, regional imbalances in the growth of educational institutions and politics in the temples of learning.
  • Relationship between students and teachers – Relationship between students and teachers should be such that faculty members should encourage students to share and express their views and thoughts freely and frankly. Finding committed teachers is not an easy task, but is urgently required for keeping standards of education high.
  • Spirit of healthy competition needs to be inculcated – In the present atmosphere of neck to neck competition and to be one up,  it is better to upgrade one’s own knowledge, courage to meet the challenges of real life bravely, get control over emotions and impulses as far as possible, develop problem-solving attitude and skill to take right decision at right time.

April 24, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: