CASTE INEQUALITIES IN INDIA
2023 NOV 15
Society > Features of Indian Society > Scheduled Caste/Tribe
The Bihar Caste Survey provides insights into the relationship between caste and economic status in India. The survey sheds light on the deep-rooted inequalities in Indian society, particularly in terms of economic status and opportunities across different castes.
CASTE-BASED INEQUALITIES IN INDIA
- Economic Disparities:
- According to the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), Dalits and Adivasis have lower average incomes compared to upper castes.
- A report by the World Bank highlighted that Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) have higher poverty rates and own fewer assets.
- Self-employed non-SC/ST workers earn a third more than their counterparts from SC or ST backgrounds. (Oxfam India)
- Educational Inequality: The ASER report indicated that only 25% of ST children in the age group 14-16 could read English sentences, compared to 44% of upper-caste children.
- Healthcare Access: The Lancet study revealed that children from lower castes have higher mortality rates and lower access to healthcare services. The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) has also shown disparities in healthcare access and outcomes across different caste groups.
- Political Representation: A 2019 study by the Trivedi Centre for Political Data showed that only about 9% of Members of Parliament belonged to the SC category, which is less than their proportion in the population.
- Social Discrimination: According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), in 2021 there was a 1.2% increase in the number of cases of atrocities against Scheduled Castes (SCs) compared to 2020, with 50,900 cases reported.
- Legal Framework: The conviction rate under SC,ST Prevention of Atrocities Act is only 3.44% despite a high number of registered cases.
- Urban-Rural Divide: The India Human Development Survey (IHDS) has shown that access to drinking water and sanitation facilities is significantly lower among SCs and STs in rural areas compared to urban settings.
- Women: The NFHS report showed that 56.8% of ST women were literate, compared to 73.2% of upper-caste women.
WHY CASTEISM PREVAILS IN INDIA
- Historical Legacy and Social Conditioning: The caste system has deep historical roots in Indian society. It originated as a form of social stratification based on occupation but became increasingly rigid and hereditary over time. This long-standing system has led to deeply ingrained social norms and attitudes that perpetuate casteism.
- Endogamy and Social Networks: Endogamy, or the practice of marrying within one's caste, reinforces caste identities and loyalties. These social networks often extend beyond marriage to include economic and political alliances, creating a cycle where caste loyalty is rewarded and perpetuated.
- Low Economic Mobility: OECD assessed the number of generations needed to move from the bottom 10% to the mean income level and in India, this transition takes about seven generations.
- Political Mobilization and Identity Politics: Political parties often mobilize support based on caste identities, and caste-based voting patterns are prevalent. This politicization of caste helps sustain casteism as political leaders and parties sometimes exploit caste loyalties for electoral gains.
- Resistance to Social Change: While there have been efforts to dismantle caste-based discrimination, there is also resistance to change, particularly from those who benefit from the existing system. This resistance can be subtle or overt, including the perpetuation of stereotypes and social practices that reinforce caste hierarchies.
- Lack of Effective Implementation of Anti-Casteism Laws: While India has laws and policies like (reservation) policies and the Prevention of Atrocities Act, the implementation of these laws is plagued by corruption, lack of awareness, and insufficient enforcement mechanisms.
- Educational and Cultural Factors: Education systems and cultural norms can either challenge or reinforce casteism. In some cases, education perpetuates caste-based stereotypes and prejudices, while in other instances, it becomes a tool for empowerment and social change.
- Urbanization and Migration Patterns: Urbanization and migration can both dilute and reinforce caste identities. While urban areas offer opportunities for breaking traditional caste bonds, migrants often seek out caste-based communities for support in new environments, inadvertently reinforcing caste identities.
- Globalization and Economic Changes: Globalization and economic changes have a complex relationship with casteism. On one hand, they can provide opportunities for breaking down traditional caste-based occupations; on the other hand, they can exacerbate inequalities and thus reinforce caste identities.
MEASURES TAKEN UP
- Effective Legal Enforcement: Emulating Kerala's model of rigorous enforcement of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, with specialized police training and community awareness, can lead to a decrease in caste-based crimes.
- Educational Reforms and Initiatives: Following the Right to Education Act's framework, which ensures free and compulsory education for all children, and initiatives like 'Teach For India', can provide quality education to underprivileged and lower caste children.
- Economic Empowerment Through Skill Development and Microfinance: Adopting models like the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) can empower economically disadvantaged castes, especially women, through skill development and microfinance.
- Social Awareness Campaigns: Campaigns similar to 'Jaago Re', which focus on social issues including caste discrimination, can effectively raise public awareness and initiate change.
- Promoting Caste Harmony through Community Initiatives: Initiatives like Madhya Pradesh's 'Samrasta Snan' can be replicated to encourage inter-caste interactions and foster social harmony.
- Inclusive Political Leadership: Following the footsteps of leaders like B.R. Ambedkar, who integrated policies for the upliftment of lower castes into the Indian constitution, can inspire contemporary political leadership to prioritize social equality.
- Active Civil Society Engagement: The Dalit Foundation’s approach of empowering Dalit communities through grassroots activism and advocacy provides a model for civil society organizations to create impactful social change.
- Ensuring Inclusive Public Discourse: Platforms like 'Dalit Camera', which offer a voice to marginalized communities, should be encouraged for broader representation in media and public discourse.
- International Collaborations for Reducing Inequalities: Aligning with global frameworks like the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 10 on reducing inequalities, can guide national efforts in combating caste-based disparities.
The eradication of casteism requires a transformative approach that intertwines social innovation with systemic change, fostering a society where equality and inclusivity are not just ideals, but lived realities.
Q: How effective is the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, in preventing and punishing discrimination and violence against vulnerable groups? Explain.(15marks, 250words)