When ever I met someone during my stint abroad who had vaguely heard about India, there was one thing all of them would ask. It was not about India’s economy, yoga or our fight with Pakistan. It was not even about Modi.
I was constantly bombarded with questions about the draconian caste system. It seems that this age-old but still-very-much-alive system is what has permeated through to the world out there.
Yes, we did have, and we still do, a distasteful, shameful system of pinning medals on human beings from the onset of birth. What originally started off as a profession based distinction soon became a practice of contemptible discrimination.
But here is where today’s India stands in terms of the caste system. In most of rural India (65% of the 1.3 billion people) still relishes the caste system. The rudimentary, backward panchayats, or village councils, in most places tend to still regard the caste system. But even in the urban population, castes remain important.
Perhaps a huge reason for this remains caste, and not income based quotas in education and public institutions. As a result, the reservations are constantly hogged by rich, backward castes instead of passing on the benefits to the whole section of the society. Moreover, it keeps the distinction alive, whereas when the generation moves forward, that distinction among us is supposed to die. When I went to college, I did not know what castes constitute backward or forward castes, unless I see the admission details.
I think the present backward castes would do themselves and the nation a great favor by voluntarily giving up their reservations and supporting meritocracy.
This is pathetic on their part, as well as on the part of the political parties such as the Congress, TMC and Samajwadi Party that keep this divide and vote policy alive. Weak political will is not warranted.
Let us hope common sense prevails.