The Indian caste system is a pertinent issue that has had major impacts to the development of the country. The caste system has been practiced in the country for many decades which precedes written history. The debate has generated much debate among various scholars and academicians across the globe. The persistence of this system of social stratification for three thousand years is puzzling because the country has changed in many aspects, for instance, politics but still maintains the system(Freitas 1).Social `stratification system’ refers to inequalities that are generated in social institutions where individuals are not given equal access to the available opportunities. Some individuals are allowed access to certain opportunities like educations whereas others are denied and are considered as outcasts. This essay analyzes the caste system in India which is a form of social stratification that has been practiced in the country for many decades.
The issue of social stratification in India is difficult to eliminate because it is entrenched in all the social institutions of the country. Social stratification in the country has become a normal way of life where some people are seen to be better than others in the society. Social stratification is a very pertinent issue and threatens the gains that India has made in regards to equal democratic rights. Many people have advocated for the abolition of the caste system in the country. Discrimination of people based on their class has been outlawed by the constitution of the country but the caste system is still evident in the rural villages of the country. Many leaders of the international community and other humanitarian organizations have raised concerns of the discriminatory nature of the system but little has been achieved. Several initiatives have been started to ensure that all Indians are treated fairly and respected without of their social status in their own country but the little gains that have been achieved are even being threatened by the spread of the issue in the rural villages of India.
The key components of suchsystems include; the institutional processes that define certain types of goods as valuable and desirable; the rules of allocation that distribute these goodsacross various positions in the division of labor and the mobilitymechanisms that link individuals to positions andthereby generate unequal control over valued resources. Those who have been classified to belong to the higher social class in society control everything whereas those who come from the law social classes do all the jobs that are considered to be demeaning. Inequality is produced by the social positions inthe Indian society whereby `reward packages’ ofunequal value, and members of society are then allocated to the positions so defined andrewarded (Macy, 14443).In India, social stratification is so common where people are divided into various classes that has characterized the country for many years. Children are born in a certain social class because they inherit the class of their parents. People are born in one social class and no one is allowed to move to the other social class unlike in the capitalism system where one can move from one social class to another through education. The system has had great impacts in the education and employment system of the country because of its negative consequences.The system has resulted to inequalities in employment and access to education opportunities because those of the lower social class find it hard to access good education unlike their counterparts in higher social classes. The unity of India is being threatened by the system because those of the lower social classes feel that they are being discriminated regardless of the supremacy of the constitution. The constitution stipulates that everyone has equal democratic rights whereas the caste system favors some people. It is proving hard to eliminate the system which has been entrenched in all the social institutions of India.
The caste system of India is considered closed because the social status of a person emanated from the class in which they are born. There are limits on interaction and behavior with people from another social status, for instance those of the higher social class cannot freely interact with the untouchables who are seen as outcasts (Deshpande 3). There is no written time frame of when the system was introduced into the country but it is estimated that it developed slowly for many decades. The system was developed by the Aryan nomads who moved into the continent many decades ago. The development of the system seems to have been gradual for many years before it being entrenched in all the social institutions of the country. Each caste had a clearly defined role, for instance, those of the high social classes were mostly priests and the Sundras were mostly servants. The beliefs were later put into the Hindu religion and thus religion allowed the classification of people into various classes.
The caste system consists of a fixed arrangement of strata from the wealthy to the least privileged, with a person’s position determined at birth which is common in the rural villages of India. The system is still widespread in the rural villages of India even after efforts have been put in place to ride out the discriminatory practice. In India, castes are ranked in different classes depending in the class in which someone is born. In the rural villages of the country, members of different classes know each other and how they can associate with different people. The ranking people are based on many things, for instance, on purity and pollution, those of the lower class are given duties which are considered to be dirt. Things that are associated with the head such as teaching, and learning are considered pure whereas other roles for instance pollution are seen to be impure. The Indian caste system recognizes four classes which are, Brahmins who are mainly Priests and scholars, Kshathriyas who are mainly rulers and soldiers, Vaishyas who are merchants and farmers and finally the Sudras who are servants (Majid, Abdul, and Saadat 8).Those things that involved waste, feet, and skins are considered polluting and impure and thus they cannot be associated with those of the higher social classes. Brahmins who are the top most class are seen as pure and holy and thus they are scholars and religious leaders in the society. India’s caste system is social structures that divide different groups into ranked categories based on their ascriptions in the society. Caste identities remain of great significance in the rural villages of India although the constitution of the country prohibits the discrimination of people based on their social class unlike before when it was allowed by the religion rules.
This is the top most class which is assigned the highest status of the four and they live by rules which are strict because of their standing in the society. Because of their status, they are expected to carry themselves out in a manner that is acceptable to the society. They seen to be next to their creator and protector and thus they are expected to conduct themselves in a manner that befits their status in the society. Members of the other castes see them as holy, next to their creator and protector and respect them because of their social status and duties that they are assigned in the society. They view them as powerful because they have certain powers that they use to control members of the other classes. In addition, members of this group are expected to observe some rules that have been put done failure to which they can be sanctioned. This class of people is trained to avoid contact with the sundras who are considered to be dirty and impure and not worthy sharing the same table with. They are not also expected to eat certain foods, for instance, certain types of meats that are considered to be dirty. This is based on the beliefs and teachings of the Indians that some foods are polluted and are not fit to be consumed by those who are considered pure.This group of people cannot perform many of the tasks because of the many and strict rules that they are supposed to observe and thus they must depend on people from other social groups for the execution of certain tasks like cleaning their houses. Without the other castes, there could be no Brahmans because they entirely depend on all the basic necessities that are vital for survival. This group of people is expected to study some scriptures during their tender age so that they can know what is expected of them in the society. A young Brahman is taken through several lessons so that he can know what differentiates him from boys from other social classes in the society. After ten or more years of study, a Brahman may become a priest and serve other people in the society by preaching to them. If there is no chance of becoming a priest or a teacher in the society, the young boy is encourage to take another occupation that are only fit for people of his social class. He must be careful not to break the rules of his social class during his work in the occupation that he has chosen because he is bound to associate with members of other classes if he chooses another occupation other than being a priest and a teacher. The Brahmins believe that associations with members of the lower castes would contaminate their souls and make them to be impure and thus their protector could not accept their sacrifices.
This is the second class which is composed of soldiers, generals, and kings. The role of members from this group is to defend the society from enemies who may want to invade the society. They are expected to study the ancient scriptures under the guidance of a member of the Brahmins who are mainly teachers who is supposed to guide them on what is right and wrong. The teacher who was from the Brahman social class is expected pass the knowledge that he knows on purity and impurity to members of this group.
They mainly practice agriculture and cattle keeping because they are mostly farmers and merchants. They are good business people and farmers because they are raised up believing that business and agriculture is their main work. They were expected to ensure that the society gets the required basic necessities through their activities which are of economic value.
Members of this group are taken as servants and thus they are supposed to serve members of the upper two groups. They are assigned so tasks that are aimed at generating income to the society such as agricultural labor, leather working, disposing of garbage, and other tasks that involve the use of much energy. Menial tasks have become the dharmaof the “out-casts” of society the untouchables, or harijansfor the reason that it is believed that they were meant to carry out such duties. The lowly value once allotted to a Sudra’s life is underscored by the fact that the punishment specified for killing a Sudra was, at one time, the same as that for killing a flamingo, a peacock, a crow, or a muskrat(Duleep 7).
This is another group of people who are considered to be outcasts because of the past conduct of their forefathers. They are seen as outcast because it is believed that they failed to observe some rules of intermarriage and thus they were cursed. They are referred to as untouchables because no member of the other group is supposed to neither come into contact with them nor even see them. It is believed that coming in contact with the untouchables can compromise the purity or members of the other groups and thus make their sacrifices not to be accepted. In the rural places of India, people from other social classes were not even allowed to see untouchables and thus they were supposed to be out of sight when other people were engaging in their daily activities. They were expected to carry out their work at night when other people were asleep and sleep during the day when people from other social classes were awake.
According to Ambedkar, who was born an “untouchable,” felt that the term untouchables was demeaning and thus he used the term scheduled castes in reference to the members of this group. He was one of the people who advocated for equality and respect among everybody regardless of the social class. Many people have advocated that the untouchables should withdraw from Hinduism if the authorities of the Hindu religion are not ready to recognize them as normal human beings who are entitled to fair treatment. There have been initiatives in India which have been geared towards eliminating the caste system which seems to be discriminatory to many people. Because of these programs, there have been improvements in the way scheduled castes are treated by other members of the society although they are still widespread in the country although not as bad as it was before enactment of the constitution. In the rural villages of India, where people are still uncivilized, discrimination based on the caste system continues, and the condition of the former “untouchables” is still a major social issue today. In the recent past untouchable men and womenand others of very low castes have come to be regarded as saints and have been venerated even by Brahmin priests (Rajan 6). The untouchables are still being treated with contempt in most of the rural villages of India which has raised the eyebrows of actors within humanitarian organizations across the globe.
Today India has rejected the caste system and is trying to shed it off because of the negative consequences that the system has had to the country and there is a reservation system in India for the lowestcaste that is much like affirmative action policies in the USwhich means a hopeful future (Rao 101). Caste is recognized as a salient basis for discrimination in the country that has seen some individuals being branded as outcasts(Bidner and Mukesh 2).
The issue of social stratification is a contentious issue in India which has been opposed by some Indians as discriminatory. Many human rights activities have staged protests to lobby for the illegalization of the issue. Though some democratic rights have been gained in the fight for equality in India, social stratification is still a threat to the gains that have been achieved. The entrenchment of social stratification in the social institutions of the country is a threat to the gains that have been made since the advent of the equality movement. The persistence of the practice in the rural villages of India has caused the country to lag behind in terms of social and economic development as compared to other countries in the region. Initiatives need to be put in place by various organizations around the globe to ensure that all Indians are given equal access to the resources of their country regardless of their social class
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Freitas, Kripa. “The Indian caste system as a means of contract enforcement.” Nortwestern University, unpublished manuscript (2006).
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