Caste System in India – UPSC GS1

How did post – independent India try to address discrimination based on caste which was more prevalent at that time. (200 Words)

The fight to undo the historic injustice inflicted upon the lower castes in India has continued for centuries. However, post-independence, many steps were taken to address the prevalent discrimination
  • Constitution provides Fundamental rights gives to right to equality, prohibition against discrimination, abolition of untouchability, etc. to individuals , while allowing the state to take affirmative action for social welfare and reform by reservation in govt. jobs and education . DPSP requires states to address the nutrition , health , education and employment concerns
  • Land reforms helped in land redistribution , among the lower castes , thus reducing forced labour and exploitation esp. in Kerala and WB
  • Introduction of Mandal commission recommendations gave the lower castes especially OBCs many education and employment opportunities and a new political assertive identity and many caste groups came to power esp. in North India
  • The Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 an Act of the Parliament of India enacted to prevent atrocities against scheduled castes and scheduled tribes
  • Implementation of Panchayati raj system has empowered the lower castes and increased their decision making power as well as participation in democracy
Though, a lot of actions has been taken , but cases of discrimination are still reported especially in rural areas . Thus , need of the hour is the strict implementation and awareness as well as education , health and skill development of these lower sections to achieve Gandhi’s dream of a casteless society.


The popular assumption that urban modernity will weaken the power of caste was apparently based on a narrow view of the many functions it serves. Caste continues to be a major social force governing matrimony, socialisation of children, social status, and, in many cases, occupation. Critically analyse. (200 Words)
Modernity has three aspects: Economic, Political and Social. In most developed countries, all these three aspects of modernity developed simultaneously. However, in developing countries, particularly the post-colonial, economic modernity has gained momentum, while political and social modernity still lag behind.
India’s urban modernity has largely been the economic and technical modernity with big industries, large number of offices, stock markets, huge economic opportunities pulling migrants, big residential areas etc. It has brought together diverse people together in work places, public transport, provided economic opportunities alike etc. However, this co-existence is economically driven. For example, an upper caste person will do business with a lower caste person, but may not dine with him. That is, at social level, the modernity of a similar scale is yet to be achieved. Economic modernity alone cannot end the social backwardness which is so deeply rooted in our culture.
At a personal level, the relationships are still driven by caste concerns. A technically modern person uses his ‘Smartphone’ to login into matrimonial website to search for a same caste partner. Residential Parks are, at times, restricted to upper caste people. This is particularly true in tenancy when the owner is concerned about the caste of the tenant. The hierarchical nature of caste system is deeply rooted in urban areas as well.
Occupationally, the lower castes and Dalits are associated largely with menial jobs like  sweeping and cleaning. Parents fill impressionable minds of children with caste prejudices and restrict their social circle to the same caste.
Hence, without social modernity, the so called urban modernity is skewed and partial. It needs to be complemented by social and political modernity to be truly called Modern. And like in the west, the social modernity has to come from within, rather than being imposed. Liberal Arts and its promotion have to play a major role here.


Do you think inequality on the basis of caste exists in Indian cities? If yes, With examples critically examine causes and consequences of such inequality. (200 Words)
The caste system, with its societal stratification and social restrictions, continues to have a major impact in the country. Belying popular perception, caste based inequality is prevalent in cities too along with villages in India.
The causes for caste -based inequalities in cities are numerous –
  • Same caste marriages or endogamy- Despite spread in education and awareness, marriages are still based on caste identities. This perpetuates the caste hierarchies.
  • Limited occupational mobility – Caste based occupations are being pursued generations after generations, which does not help in blurring the caste lines.
  • Limited social mobility – Ingrained attitude with orthodoxy does not help either. Class mobility (socio-economic status) and social mobility (caste based) do have little synergies and caste identities continue to sway social discourse.
  • Concentration of means of production and wealth- It has been observed that the wealth and job creation is still in hands of people from upper/dominant castes.
  • Positive discrimination/reservation – This system too has, in some way, strengthened caste system.
  • Lack of awareness among lower castes about their rights – little awareness about constitutional safeguards and legal provisions in the lower castes has resulted in the perpetual dis-empowerment of these sections.
Because of the same, many adverse consequences (of inequality) are visible in cities –
  • Inequality in terms of access to schooling/education and health leads to perpetual poverty and dis-empowerment of the disadvantaged sections.
  • Ghettoization /residential segregation specially of SCs/STs results in less social intercourse and thus, weakens social cohesion.
  • Unequal access to basic amenities (water, sanitation) gives way to substandard life.
  • Unequal income levels and wealth in longer term fuel social tension which if left unchecked, may threaten social and political stability of the country.
  • Caste based politics specially in U.P and Bihar is also a consequence.
Thus, we should strive towards unshackling the caste barriers by favorable social ,political, legal and economic actions so that we move towards a more inclusive society devoid of social cleavages based on caste and inequalities.


Do you think rapid urbanisation in India is blurring caste and religion distinctions among urban dwellers? Critically examine. (200 Words)
Urban areas despite contributing for the growth of the country is also bringing a feeling of oneness among the citizens
  • The younger generation are more acceptable towards working, studying, playing, cooperating, and employing people from other castes. The growth of services sector which is a social leveler has compelled people to depend on people from different castes and religion for services.
  • People travelling in public transport also help in fading away of caste-class lines.
  • Further increasing literacy rates also helps in reducing the impact of religion and caste in the unification of society.
  • Temples, mosques and church are side by side in urban areas and different religious people live at same place with harmony.
  • Personally as in terms of marriage or relations, caste plays a predominant role. Inter caste marriages are very rare even among urban societies. Newspaper ads have  classifieds segregated on the basis of caste. Inter-religion marriage is even rare.
  • In urban cities we could see hostels based on caste and students belonging to that caste have eligibility
  • The older generation are still reluctant to cross the caste and religion barrier. We still see apathy towards lower castes. Caste, for the older generation is an important criteria in employing people.
On the whole, it is a mixed picture. Urbanisation has not been the social leveler, it was expected to be. Discrimination is widely prevalent. But, education, political empowerment, economic compulsion and the desire of youngsters to go beyond caste and religion are the factors which will slowly and surely make India equal.


How casteism can be removed?
  • Emotional and intellectual appeal to economic determinism, as was advocated by Karl Marx. Thus could counter casteism amongst the poor people who live in villages, small towns and have aspirations of economic mobility for their children.
  • Awareness about Constitutional values, ethics, ill effects of castiesm etc. by debates, nukkad natak, puppetry, etc.
  • Promote and incentivise inter caste marriages as is already done for marrying a SC ST women in some parts of India.
  • Evaluate the existing customs, rituals etc. on the touchstone of Human Rights. Here judiciary can play a positive role but with due respect to religious feelings.
  • Awareness about steps and ideas already existing like Ambedakar’s annihikation of caste, Lohia’s Beti and Roti etc. This will also help in shaping mass opinion and
  • Implement laws and agreements like ICCPR, Protection of human rights, Prevention of atrocities against SC ST etc. with full letter and spirit.
  • Dalit capitalism, check on extra judicial bodies like Khaps etc.
  • Economic empowerment of Dalit through education and ownership of land and capital



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top