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State PCS

Mains Practice Questions

  • Q. Explain the concept of caste system in India and discuss its impact on the social and economic status of the various groups within the society. (250 words)

    02 Jan, 2023 GS Paper 1 Indian Society

    Approach

    • Start your answer by explaining caste system in India.
    • Discuss the impact of caste system on social and economic status of society
    • Conclude accordingly

    Introduction

    • The caste system in India is a complex social hierarchy that has traditionally determined the social and economic status of individuals within Indian society.
    • There are four main castes in the traditional Hindu caste system: the Brahmins (priests and scholars), the Kshatriyas (warriors and rulers), the Vaishyas (merchants and landowners), and the Sudras (artisans and laborers).

    Body

    • Impact of caste system on social and economic status of society:
      • Hinders Social Progress: Caste system poses a hindrance to social progress because it does not allow changes to be easily introduced into the society.
        • Under the caste system, the individual is not free as he needs to conform to the age-old customs of his caste. This rigidity of the system has hindered social progress in our society.
      • Stifles Economic Progress: As occupations are determined by status, the worker is denied his freedom to choose an occupation of his liking.
        • This leads to immobility and inefficiency of labour and thereby stifles economic progress.
      • Leads to Political Disunity: In the caste system, an individual is required to be more loyal to his caste than to any other group. Hence, it fosters casteism rather than nationalism among the people.
      • Perpetuates Social Inequalities: Caste system has served as an instrument in the hands of the upper castes to maintain their own privileged position in society.
        • It has led to the despotism of the upper castes and created permanent feelings of inferiority and insecurity in the minds of lower caste people.
      • Imposes Hardships on Women: In many cases, the caste system has proved to be exploitative for women. Under caste system, a caste wishing to raise its status in the caste hierarchy should follow certain customs like child marriage, prohibition of widow remarriages and seclusion of women, all of which lead to hardships for them and degradation of their status in society.
      • Creates Untouchability: This practice as it has developed historically in this country is a product of the Hindu caste system, according to which particular section amongst the Hindus had been looked down upon as untouchables by other sections of that society. Untouchability is now prohibited under article 17 of the Indian Constitution.
      • Against Democratic Ideals: The caste system ran contrary to the democratic spirit. Democratic ideals presuppose human equality, but the caste system believed in inequality. There was a fourfold hierarchical arrangement of castes where lower castes were exploited in every field by the higher castes.
      • Marriages: Most Indian marriages are arranged by parents. Several factors were considered by them for finding the ideal spouse. Out of which, one’s caste is a significant factor.
        • People do not want their son or their daughter to marry a person from another caste. Just like the word “untouchables” suggests, a Brahmin would never marry a person from an SC or ST caste.
      • Education: Public universities have caste-based reservations for students coming from underprivileged backgrounds. Therefore, a person from social backward community can secure a seat in a top tier college based on reservation.
      • Jobs: People from impoverished communities gets significant amount of public sector jobs as the jobs are allocated based on caste reservation.
    • Measures taken to Eliminate Caste based Discrimination:
      • Constitutional Provisions:
        • Prohibition of Discrimination:
          • Article 15 of the Constitution of India states that the State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.
        • Equality of Opportunity:
          • Article 16 of the Constitution of India states that:
            • There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters of employment under the State.
            • No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth or any of them, be ineligible for any office under the State.
        • Compulsory Education:
          • Article 21A of the Constitution of India states that:
            • The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine.
      • Other provisions:
        • Land Reforms:
          • Land Ceiling:
            • The laws set a limit on how much land an individual or corporation could hold, also known as a land 'ceiling', and allowed the government to reapportion surplus land to the landless.
        • Human Development:
          • Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY):
            • It aims to mobilise youth to take up skill training with the aim of increasing productivity and aligning the training and certification to the needs of the country.
          • SANKALP Scheme:
            • Skills Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood (SANKALP) is an outcome-oriented programme of the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (MSDE) with a special focus on decentralised planning and quality improvement.
          • Stand Up India Scheme:
            • It was launched in April 2016 to promote entrepreneurship at the grass-root level focusing on economic empowerment and job creation.
            • To leverage the institutional credit structure to reach out to the underserved sector of people such as SCs, STs and Women Entrepreneurs.
          • Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana:
            • It provides funding to the non-corporate small business sector through various last-mile financial institutions like Banks, Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs) and Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs).
            • Loans have been given to disadvantaged sections of society such as women entrepreneurs, SC/ST/OBC borrowers, Minority community borrowers, etc. The focus has also been on new entrepreneurs.

    Conclusion

    In recent years, there have been efforts to dismantle the caste system and promote greater social and economic equality, through measures such as affirmative action policies and education initiatives. However, the caste system remains a deeply entrenched aspect of Indian society, and addressing its negative impacts remains a major challenge.

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