Caste system and its impact

The caste system in the present form is not what it actually meant to be, that is, a division of labour rather than the society on a whole (explained in the previous article Caste System: The Beginning) .

Now, let us see what are the consequences of this diversion from its original form. Mostly, the caste system in its present form has yielded more negative than positive results.

On the positive side,

  • It created a diverse as well as a tolerant culture in India.
  • It made India culturally diverse.
  • Such diversity of beliefs, practices, culture and arts is a pull factor for tourists which gives India an economic boost.
  • Co-existence with such diversity makes the Indian social structure unique and exemplary in the whole world.
  • Mahatma Gandhi supported the system so far as it remains in its ideal form. Thus, he supported division of labour for efficient work along with considerable harmony.

However, the negative consequences overshadow the positive ones. These are:

  • Social impact:
    • It divides the society into many factions, some of which are classified as upper while some as lower.
    • This draws a line between upper and lower which in turn gives rise to evils like untouchability, ostracization, trafficking of lower caste people(especially women) among others.
    • A strict stance against the inter-caste marriages creates a water-tight compartment system in which heterogeneity is discouraged. This impedes unity in India’s unique diversity.
    • This system does not treat humans as humans but as representatives of a particular caste.
    • Inter-caste conflicts arise frequently due to varied beliefs and practices.
    • It leads to blind beliefs which undermine rationalism.
  • Economic impact:
    • It divides the society into many factions each concerned much more with its own vested interests rather than of the society as a whole.
    • When divisive forces persist in a society, it creates a situation where nepotism and favoritism would prevail over meritocracy.
    • The forces would act against each other rather than in synergy.
    • This would ,in turn , affect the economic activity as well, thus reducing the economic output.
    • Even Dr. B.R Ambedkar agreed to the fact that the caste system due to its divisive nature would affect the economy negatively.
  • Political impact:
    • Caste has become a point of leverage for the politicians. Thus, it gave rise to caste based politics.
    • As it is well put by someone: “In India, you do not cast your vote, you vote your caste.” 
    • Vote bank politics where one caste represents a vote-bank.
    • Caste based development agenda and caste-based parties which in turn hinders the pan-Indian approach towards the process of development.
    • It leads to regionalism which in turn undermines nationalism.
    • Populist measures like caste-based reservation is one of the gravest impacts on our polity, economy and society.

So, overall the caste system seems to assert a negative impact on our country. If it is a problem, then there do exist solutions as well. We will discuss about the solutions in our next article.



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