India is an extreme diverse country with vast differences in geography, climate, cultures, languages and ethnicity across its expanse. India is a union of twenty-eight states and seven union territories. India is also well known from its caste system. In order for me to fully understand the concept of the word caste, in my Webster dictionary it states that caste is a social group or class distinction. The word caste derives from the Portuguese casta, meaning breed, race or kind.
India has consisted since ancient times several thousand tribes, castes, or communities called Jati. The phrase the “Hindu Caste System” conflates two different concepts-the Varna (class/group), theoretical scheme based on ideal Brahminal traditions, and the Jati system prevalent throughout the Indian society since historical times (USA Today, May, 2006). I will show that this caste system is still a concern showing discrimination in education, and economic growth, as well as, prejudices of social rights.
Many castes are traditionally associated with an occupation, such as high-ranking Brahmans; middle-ranking famers and artisan groups, such as potters, barbers, and carpenters; and very low-ranking “untouchables”, such as, leather workers, butchers, launderers, and latrine cleaners. There is some correlation between ritual rank on the caste hierarchy and economic prosperity. The system which dates back more than 2000 years ago divides the population into higher castes, which includes priests and warriors, and lower casts, such as laborers.
At the bottom sit the “untouchables” known as the Dalits. Oppression of the 160 to 180 million Dalits, who are viewed as being too low to even be a part of the caste system, is one of the most repelling, but enduring, realities of the Indian countryside. Equally oppressive is the violence perpetrated against them, especially their woman. To be a Dalit today means having to live in subhuman, degraded, insecure fashion: Every hour, two Dalits are assaulted. Every day, three Dalit women are raped, and two killed.
In most parts of India, Dalits continue to be barred from entering Hindu temples or other holy places – although doing so is against the law. Their women are banned from wearing shoes in the presence of caste Hindus. Dalit children often suffer a form of apartheid at school by being made to sit at the back of the classroom (Bidwal, P India Together, Oct. 2002). In a recent article of India, nearly a dozen Dalit families left a village in Haryana due to violence last year that killed a 70- year old man and his handicapped daughter.
Dalit families feared another attack because the Jat community has been protesting those arrested for the crime in April of 2010, and this looms over Dalit families there despite repeated assurances from the state government and police (The Times of India, Feb. 2011). “Some events that have happened in Haryana during the last few years are a matter of concern fro the citizens, who want peace, justice, and development in the state. If our social and cultural fabric is allowed to remain under strain in this manner, this will certainly deal a lethal blow to the onward march of society,” says Dr.
Chaudry, member of Haryana’s administration reform commission. In education, another report was released that there was a parallel problem that needed to be investigated, namely discrimination against scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in India. The level of scheduled tribes and castes at undergraduate, post-graduate, register and consultant levels were very unequal (BMJ, vol. 305, Oct. 1992). Education in India has a 52% rate, meaning that over a half billion people were literate. The urban population rate is much higher than amongst villagers.
It is also higher in men than in women. The scheduled castes and scheduled tribes are much lower than the general population (Indiaevents. org Feb. 11, 2011). In economic growth, the prime minister who was elected in 2004, Manmohan Singh, promised to spread the fruits of economic wealth to the poor. He wanted to introduce job quotas for private companies as well as expand quotas for college admission. However, students worried that the higher quotas would make the limited stats even tougher to obtain (USA Today, May 8, 2006).
The uproar over quotas is, “the sharpest expression of the divide in society between the classes,” states human rights lawyer Colin Gonsalves. This quota has not helped with inflation, as inflation in India is at an 8. 4% increase. The soaring price of onions, a staple food has pushed India’s food price inflation at 17% (BBC News, Feb. 4, 2011). Poverty in India is a very real and complex issue. In the year 2000, it was estimated that 20 years and younger of the population was living below their national poverty line.
While this is an improvement for an overall figure of over 50% living in poverty, there are still well over 250 million people who know no other way of life in India. Children in particular are detrimentally affected by poverty. For those affected by poverty, such as malnutrition, child labor and high mortality rates are very real issues faced, India contains fewer than 20% of the world child population, and more than 40% of malnourished children are found there. Girls are more often negatively affected than males because gender inequality is also a very real fact of life in India.
Child labor is a significant problem in India where it is estimated that children under 14 years of age are working jobs that are often difficult and low-paying, in order to help provide food or shelter for their families. BY being required at such young ages, these children are often prevented from receiving an education and breaking out of the cycle of poverty (Current Issues in India, 2010 Anicca Inc. ). Blatant caste discrimination is on the wane in big cities, but persists in rural communities, where Dalits must live apart from others and take water from separate taps.
In extreme cases, Dalits who violate caste codes are beaten and their houses destroyed, and women are lowest on the totem pole. Reciently Women’s courts have been set up to mediate and adjudicate on behalf of women. But formal courts are often inaccessible, costly and unwilling to hear cases of intimidation or poverty. Many of the Women’s Court officers are barely literate but they have learned law, its implications and limitations. Their dockets are crowed with cases of woman of abuse and justice.
They hear, mediate and adjudicate cases of divorce, inheritance, domestic violence, rape, dowry extortion, mistreatment of widowed women and the elderly. The courts successes depend upon the respect of the parties and the parties to accept its authority (Times of India, Feb, 18, 2010). In conclusion, India is indeed a country of great contrast….. it has done well in the last decade or so, however, the gulf between the Dalit and Adivasis is a glaring and disturbing one. The rich and middle class are getting richer by the day while the “untouchables” are slipping rapidly down the poverty ladder with nothing to cling to.
Women and children are the most to suffer while the upper castes enjoy the fruits of their labor. Most government schemes meant for the poor are so corrupt that it never reaches those who need it the most. Somewhere down the line some system as to evolve where a collective effort could pull the underprivileged ones out of the rot, however, neither corruption nor wealthy disparity is the tragedy in India’s history, the greatest tragedy today is the total lack of EMPATHY for the poor among the middle class and the elites…and the continuing problem of caste discrimination