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(To Completely Remove the Caste System)

10 Main Disadvantages of Caste System in India

Caste system has several disadvantages which come in the way of social progress and development. It was the steel work of Hindus and thus it acted to curb individual freedom. Its disadvantages can be noted as under:

1. Caste system which was expected to raise man from savagery, acted to stop them half-way on the road to progress. It is probably a fact that the case in which the man was born pre-determined his vocation. He had no choice for his self-assertion and social security.

2. Caste is hierarchically graded, each caste being graded inferior to those above it and superior to those below it. The status of man is determined by the rank of that caste in the hierarchy. Once born in that case, his status stands pre-determined and immutable 
irrespective of any talent he may show or wealth he might accumulate.

3. Caste system acts as an obstacle to national unity. It demands foremost allegiance to itself. It comes in the way of national integration and nation-building.

4. Caste, as supported by ancient scriptures curbed individual initiative and thus made him fatalist. For example the doctrine of Karma theory holds that birth in a high caste or a low caste is the reward and punishment of man’s past birth and behaviour and which has to be accepted by each.
5. In the ancient time the caste system acted as a shield for justifying anti-social conduct of some persons. A Brahman despite committing a crime used to get a soft and favoured decision against a Sudra. Separate laws for each caste enabled high castes to indulge in anti-social activities. It also led to moral degradation of high castes.

6. Caste acted as an obstacle in the way of economic development of all sections of society. The rigid rules of caste system compelled everyone to follow his hereditary occupation and this acted as a big limitation on the economic progress of the individual and the society.

7. Caste system also became responsible for several immoral social practices and low standard of morality. As the population increased, people had to adopt underhand means and immoral practices for earning their livelihoods. Casteism acted as the major source of social inequality and injustice.

8. Caste system also led to inhuman practices like Sati, infanticide, prostitution and exploitation of man by other men. Lack of suitable bachelors or brides in one’s own caste led to some immoral practices and crimes.

9. Caste system gave birth to the inhuman and immoral practice of untouchability in the Hindu society. In the ancient period and even in the recent past, a mere touch of an untouchable used to regard as a sin. The so called untouchables remained barred from some social and religious activities and places.

Individual freedom remained crushed under the weight of the evil practice of untouchability. Our Constitution now prohibits this inhuman practice and holds it to be a criminal offence which entails strict punishment.

10. In the past Caste System caused grave injustice to women. It prescribed a double standard of morality, one for man and the other for woman. A man who indulged in any anti-social activity was only rebuked but a woman committing the same act used to face excommunication from her caste and even used to be punished.

Everyone now agrees that basically the caste system, particularly the one which has remained a feature of Indian society, has worked as an evil system of inequality, exploitation and injustice.

What is India's caste system?

India's caste system is among the world's oldest forms of surviving social stratification. The BBC explains its complexities.

The system which divides Hindus into rigid hierarchical groups based on their karma (work) and dharma (the Hindi word for religion, but here it means duty) is generally accepted to be more than 3,000 years old.

How did caste come about? 

Manusmriti, widely regarded to be the most important and authoritative book on Hindu law and dating back to at least 1,000 years before Christ was born, "acknowledges and justifies the caste system as the basis of order and regularity of society".

The caste system divides Hindus into four main categories - Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and the Shudras. Many believe that the groups originated from Brahma, the Hindu God of creation.

A priest sits in front of a Hindu temple
At the top of the hierarchy were the Brahmins who were mainly teachers and intellectuals and are believed to have come from Brahma's head. Then came the Kshatriyas, or the warriors and rulers, supposedly from his arms. The third slot went to the Vaishyas, or the traders, who were created from his thighs. At the bottom of the heap were the Shudras, who came from Brahma's feet and did all the menial jobs.

The main castes were further divided into about 3,000 castes and 25,000 sub-castes, each based on their specific occupation.

Outside of this Hindu caste system were the achhoots - the Dalits or the untouchables.

How does caste work?

For centuries, caste dictated almost every aspect of Hindu religious and social life, with each group occupying a specific place in this complex hierarchy.

Rural communities were long arranged on the basis of castes - the upper and lower castes almost always lived in segregated colonies, the water wells were not shared, Brahmins would not accept food or drink from the Shudras, and one could marry only within one's caste.

Devotees pour milk on to a shiva lingam
India's caste system is among the world's oldest forms of social stratification surviving to this day
Traditionally, the system bestowed many privileges on the upper castes while sanctioning repression of the lower castes by privileged groups.Often criticised for being unjust and regressive, it remained virtually unchanged for centuries, trapping people into fixed social orders from which it was impossible to escape. Despite the obstacles, however, some Dalits and other low-caste Indians, such as BR Ambedkar who authored the Indian constitution, and KR Narayanan who became the nation's first Dalit president, have risen to hold prestigious positions in the country.
Is the system legal?
Independent India's constitution banned discrimination on the basis of caste, and, in an attempt to correct historical injustices and provide a level playing field to the traditionally disadvantaged, the authorities announced quotas in government jobs and educational institutions for scheduled castes and tribes, the lowest in the caste hierarchy, in 1950.

An Indian garlands a statue of BR Ambedkar
BR Ambedkar, a Dalit, authored India's constitution
In 1989, quotas were extended to include a grouping called the OBCs (Other Backward Classes) which fall between the traditional upper castes and the lowest.
In recent decades, with the spread of secular education and growing urbanisation, the influence of caste has somewhat declined, especially in cities where different castes live side-by-side and inter-caste marriages are becoming more common.
In certain southern states and in the northern state of Bihar, many people began using just one name after social reform movements. Despite the changes though, caste identities remain strong, and last names are almost always indications of what caste a person belongs to.
What about job quotas?
In recent years, there have been demands from several communities to be recognised as OBCs - in 2016 there were violent protests by the Jat community in Haryana and the Patel community led huge protests in Gujarat in 2015 demanding access to caste quotas.

Jat protesters block the highway in the north Indian state of Haryana

At least 18 people have been killed in violent protests by the Jat community in Haryana
Both are prosperous and politically dominant communities, but they support their demand for caste quotas by saying large numbers in their communities are poor and suffering.
Some say the caste system would have disappeared by now if the fires were not regularly fanned by politicians.
At elections, many caste groups still vote as a block and are wooed by politicians looking for electoral gains.
As a result, what was originally meant to be a temporary affirmative action plan to improve the lot of the unprivileged groups has now become a vote-grabbing exercise for many politicians.