"While caste in politics has done a lot of damage, caste in economics can be a vehicle for India's development".

Caste provides for a system of social differentiation in the society. Caste also forms a tool of identity in India. Caste in politics has done a lot of damage through:

  • Identity politics: Caste is a strong determinant of social identity in India. It has intertwined itself with politics often leading to communalism.
  • Castefication of Politics: Rather than ideology of development, caste is shaping Indian political scenario. This has led to misplaced priorities.
  • Fragmentation of Society: The Castefication of politics has led to fragmented society posing threat to unity and integrity of the country.
  • Domination: The numerical supremacy of the caste has become a deciding factor in shaping the politics of the region. Caste has become a deciding factor for people in casting the vote. Thus the integrity of the electoral process has been compromised.

But caste can help in the arena of economic development as follows:

  • The grassroots of the caste lies in the occupational structure of ancient India. Thus providing for specialisation of the occupation.
  • India’s strength in the trade is its diverse handicrafts. Hereditary occupation through caste system has led to the evolution of the handicrafts and providing specalisation.
  • Caste groups also provide the traditional occupational skills as part of the enculturation process. Thus aiding in skilling of population.
  • Castes being a Kinship groups boosts fraternal bonds. This has helped with the trickledown effect. Ex: Caste groups like Vokkaligara Sangha, Bantara Sangha are running free community hostels for children’s and providing support for their education. Thus empowering the community.
  • Castes being pressure groups often pursue governments to address various challenges of the caste groups through initiatives like development corporations, soft loan, skill development initiatives etc. Thus empowering the community.

Caste is a double edged sword. As a barriers in the society are breaking down caste as a factor in the economical factor is losing relevance. But caste as a tool of politics is gaining prominence. This has become an irony for India in 21st century.

Question for UPSC Mains:
While caste in politics has done a lot of damage, caste in economics can be a vehicle for India’s development”. Explain. (150 words, 10 Marks)

Published: April 11, 2018 | Modified:June 27, 2019

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