Question – Despite the weakening of the social character of the caste system in India, its importance in politics remains the same. Discuss with relevant examples. – 26 August 2021
Answer – Caste system in India
Caste system in India is a social institution in which people are ranked in a status hierarchy, which shapes people’s identity and experience, relationships with others, as well as their access to resources and opportunities. After independence many developmental initiatives have reduced the importance of caste based on power and position in Indian society. These also include positive policies and actions of the state, which have weakened the rigidity of the social character of the caste.Like –
- Effective implementation of laws to eliminate caste discrimination has weakened the concept of purity and impurity.
- The rapid increase in urbanization has discouraged the concept of caste. Ignorance regarding the identity of a person in the city makes it difficult to implement the concepts of purity and impurity in the public sphere.
- There has been a lot of difference in the food and drink of the castes, at present people of different castes eats together in social functions like marriage, whereas in the past it was taboo. Along with this, the trend of inter-caste marriage has also increased. Modern means of transport and communication have increased communication and interaction between members of different caste groups. There has been a fundamental change in the nature of economic relations, which has reduced the importance of caste associations in the modern market based economy. The hereditary nature of business has also lost its relevance. Furthermore, positive discrimination by the state has led to an increase in upward economic mobility among the lower castes, which directly affects their social status.
Despite the weakening of the caste system in the social sphere, it has retained its political importance which can be explained as follows-
- Caste plays a very important role in elections and voting. It is often seen that political parties select their candidates on the basis of caste structure in the constituency. Voting in the election and political support at each level is conducted on the basis of caste.
- Caste has significantly influenced the policy-making process of the government. For example, the implementation of the policy of reservation in favor of certain castes. Indian politics underwent a dramatic change after the Mandal Commission report, and it was followed by the rise of ‘specific caste-based’ political parties.
- Caste also acts as a pressure group in politics. Political bargaining is also done on the basis of caste. Some caste based organizations have also been formed to organize the members of the caste and strike a collective bargain with each other.
Despite caste retaining its political importance in India, some progressive tendencies have emerged. People have started giving importance to aspects other than caste identity. The socio-economic development, education and criminal background of the candidate in the election are also considered by the people while voting. Furthermore, efforts to build a caste-less society have shifted towards ending caste-based discrimination.