If there is one thing that is a characteristic of an Indian, irrespective of his region, his language and even his religion, then it is his or her caste. India has a long history of a society divided in different castes and Jaats, that goes beyond 2500 years. There are mentions of a society based on varnas ( class) that are decided by the occupation or interests of a person, in the Vedas, that are the oldest written books of Hindu religion.
Over a period of time, these classes better known as castes, became a hereditary phenomenon, making castes permanent. The caste system are not restricted to Hindus only, as there are different castes among Muslims and also at some places in India, among Christians. But the most rigid, prevalent and universal caste system exist among Hindus that constitute 80 percent of the population.
To understand caste system, it is important to understand its history and evolution in Indian context. Initially, the society was divided among 4 major castes or classes, that were Brahmans, Kshatriyas ,Vaisyas and Shudras. The caste of a person was decided by his or her occupation. People who were knowledgeable, had intellectual bent of mind and were either a scholar, a teacher or a learned man were the Brahmans. Kshatriyas were the people in the occupation of warfare, kings and other warriors. Vaisyas were the businessman, shopkeepers, and traders etc. And the last caste were the group of people who performed daily day-to-day life duties, like cleaner, gardener, laborer etc.
But with time this system has deteriorated to a large extent. Today there are more than 2500 different castes and sub-castes in India. It is decided by the birth of the person and not by his interests, that to which caste will he belong. And also the castes are hierarchical in order. The Brahmans are the upper class and the Shudras , the lower class. From more than 1000 years, Shudras, are seen with disrespect, with no dignity of labor, and are even humiliated for the caste they belong to. Some of the lower castes are also termed as Untouchables, making them an outcast among the general public.
Today, caste system is one of the biggest impediments in the path of India’s success as a country. This system makes the power and resources of country divided. Also, the existence of hierarchical caste system causes disharmony and gives rise to hatred among common people.
Political leaders have actually deteriorated the condition by playing their dirty games of making the caste an issue of elections. It is an open secret that in many places across the country, the votes are cast , keeping in mind the caste of the candidate, rather than his or her work in the direction of development. The intermingling of caste and politics has played a havoc with the progress of the nation.
Another major consequence of the disease called caste system is Reservations. The backward castes, which are SC(Scheduled castes), ST(Scheduled Tribes) and the OBC( other backward castes), are provided reservations in all government schools, colleges and in public sector jobs of 22.5 percent for SC, ST and 27 percent for OBC, apart from many other benefits like education concessions and financial assistance etc. This in my opinion, is disastrous and in reality, just a way to woo the votes of these castes. As these reservations, lead to a set of students and employees who are selected not on the basis of their merit, but on the basis of their caste. This is nothing less than a caste system with the reversed hierarchical order and not actually a solution to it. Also this reduces the overall quality of employees and future engineers, doctors etc and render many meritorious students jobless. I believe reservation, if provided, should be on economical basis. As the current reservations are more of a political stunt then an actual step in the direction of doing away with Caste system.
The problem lies in the mindset of the country on the whole and hence require more humanitarian steps rather than political gimmicks of caste-games and reservations. It requires a genuine youth-oriented government aided drive across the nation by the help of electronic and print media apart from a personal awareness campaign to make people understand the principle of equality. There can be no drastic change such as the abolition of caste system, but at least its retrogressions can be removed slowly. There must be dignity of labor to streamline these classes into the general public.
These and many other such initiations can one bright day bring together the different classes of people and give them a general name, a name that should and must be the only caste they belong to, that is INDIAN!!
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