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Inclusive growth and disparities in India

“Vasudeva Kutumbakkam” (The world is one famiy)

Introduction

As President Obama of USA has said during his recent visit to India, “We are making a lot of history in a very short time” (TOI, 28.1.2015, p.1)

India as a nation

There are a large number of religious and ethnic groups, and a great diversity in faith, way of living, customs and traditions, caste groups having more than 350 languages, more than 1600 dialects, nearly 650 different tribes. One can see a different dialect and food habit every few kilometer. There is irksome diversity between the worlds of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’, a continuous struggle between those having plenty and masses below poverty line living in the world of scarcity. Yet India is one country.

Indian culture as a uniting force

Unity in diversity is almost an impossible task. Making it a reality is a tough job. There is a shloka in Sanskrit, meaning: “When one wants to do something wrong, there are no obstacles. But when one wants to do something right, there are a lot of challenges. Overcoming those obstacles increases the significance of that work.”

At national level, one can try to unite its people through sports, economics, intellectual debate and culture. Culture/set of values in India is one of the major factor that binds all the diverse groups in India together under one umbrella from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and Bengal to Gujrat.

India is a developing nation aiming at “Inclusive growth” of the whole of nation. Yet it remains a distant dream even now after 67 years of its Independence. It is a question of “Demand and supply”. Inclusive growth depends to a large extent on demand and supply factor. When demand is more and supply is limited because of the lack of resources, how one can dream of ‘inclusive growth’, equity or equal development of all the sections of the society?

Existing Disparities

Various kinds of disparities in India generated regional and sectional imbalances, which have been a source of great social and psychological tensions. Fruits of economic development could not be shared equally amongst all the sections of society living in different regions.

Northern and southern states of India

Compared with Northern states, Southern states have always been in a better position geographically, economically and performance of government services, but along with it is known for its “Authoritarian leadership, big corruption and endless freebies for the masses.” (Swaminathans Anklesaria Aiyar, TOI, 11 Dec. 2016, p24) In southern states, during post-liberalization era, economic reforms facilitated record growth bringing in higher revenues there and led to fast GDP growth. In Northern misgoverned, BIMARU states  (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Odissa, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand) though chief ministers tried to improve infrastructure, but the progress was very slow, there was no control over corruption. Parties-in-power extorted huge sums,while in office.

 These developments led to the trend of anti-incumbency both in North and South. Voters are also more aware and smart enough to be purchased despite freebies offered to them by different regional parties.  Voters voted out incumbents for corruption and mis-governance. Political instability made politics a business. Leaders of strong regional parties make alliances with minor parties only to create for themselves a larger vote-banks and win elections.

Obstacles

Population explosion and its unbalanced growth – Population explosion and its unbalanced growth is one of the major causes of iniquitous growth and rise of Regional and sectional imbalances. It has neutralized all the efforts made, so far, for all-round economic and social development of the whole of nation. Also population explosion puts a severe strain on the already over loaded system. It has aggravated many problems such as poverty, low per capita income, food availability, pressure on land, burden on education, medical care, housing, unemployment, underemployment, rapid depletion of natural resources, etc.

Also it has given rise to new tensions social, economic and political. It poses a danger to the integrity and stability of the whole society as well as unity of the nation. It has been a challenge before the successive governments of India to take-up lead in reconciling regional interests with national unity.

Regional Disparities
There is a wide gap between region to region/province to province. There are pockets of poverty amidst plenty within each province/state. Dry and hilly areas as well as those with tribal populations are still far below the national average. It has widened the gap between the prosperous and backward states and created a wide gap between the rich and poor within a region.

North-South divide due to Inter-state differences

  • Prosperity in some states – One of the most disturbing situation is due to regional imbalances. Some states like Punjab, Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Southern parts of India have moved ahead of North in matter of birth control, literacy and prosperity during last few decades. These states are marching ahead rapidly under the stimulus of the plan schemes, while others are far lagging behind and are unable to find adequate resources to implement the development Plans.
  • Sick (BIMARU) States – In four most populous and large states known as BIMARU states (Bihar, MP, Rajasthan and UP), Caste politics and politician-criminal nexus are at its peak these days, which are dragging the BIMARU states backwards.

Role of Media in widening the differences –  Quite often, the picture on some critical issues are presented by national and international media is based on half-truths, such as –

  • Lower castes in South are more prosperous and well-educated than North. (Lydia Polgreen, New business class rises in ashes of South India’s caste system, “The New York Times” dated 11th September, 2010.) Whereas in North caste feelings are strong amongst upper castes.
  • “The crucial factor (behind the prosperity of South) is” … “the collapse of caste system over last half century.” (Lydia Polgreen, New business class rises in ashes of South India’s caste system, “The New York Times” Dt. 11th Sept, 2010). Whereas in North now-a days, caste is crucial in social and political arena.
  • South is more concerned about economic development and considers education as a route to prosperity. Whereas in North, the chief aim of caste and communal based political groups is to grab political power and enjoy its spoils.
  • In South, the breakdown of caste hierarchy has broken the traditional links between caste and profession and released enormous entrepreneurial energies” (Ashutosh Varshney, a Professor at Brown University). In North, it has led to unemployment.
  • Some political parties of states of Northern part of India had demanded the inclusion of caste in India’s census for 2011. The demand for caste-based census had been raised systematically by political parties from all parts of country including Dravidian Munnetra Kazhakam [DMK] and Pattali Makkal Katchi [PMK]. National parties Congress and BJP succumbed to their pressure.
  • It is not wholly correct to say that at present upper castes are more caste-conscious than the lower castes. On the contrary lower castes (SC/ST/OBC) cling to their caste identity because of the preferential treatment and advantages, Reservation Policy gives to them.
  • It would be an exaggeration to say that when India’s economy liberalized in the 1990s, South was “better prepared to take advantage of globalization” (Samual Paul, public Affairs center) or it has established closer connections with the global economy. In fact, one of major reasons behind prosperity of South during the last few decades, has been a steep increase in remittances from gulf migrants and non-resident Indians living in other parts of the world.

Issue

Comments not based on full facts create confusion, misunderstandings and a feeling of alienation in masses. One must not pass-on comments on national issues without analyzing rationally the whole scenario. Realities are much deeper than what is seen on the surface.

Many people of the prosperous states think that their superior genes have led them to prosperity. They are more intelligent, aware, and enterprising and forward looking than North Indians. With it, they have developed an anathema against Hindi language, Northern value systems, festivals and way of living, especially amongst some people from South, who have settled abroad.

Historical background of Sectional imbalances leading to divide

The roots of all the present socio-political and economic turmoil lie not in distant past, but only about 150 years back, when British rulers adopted the policy of ‘divide and rule’ to perpetuate their rule in India.

  • Initially, from 1858 to 1905, the British Government adopted a racist attitude under the garb of the policy of apparent association. Initially, the hands of East India Company were full with the problems of military conquest and revenue system. After consolidating power, it did, what it could, to prevent all Indian people on the basis of existent diversities of Indian society having a common feeling. It played one against another – princes against people; Hindu against Muslims; caste against castes; and provinces against provinces.
  • Ideological attack on social structure of India by British – To serve their vested interests, British rulers, missionaries, philosophers and writers jointly launched an ideological attack on Indian social structure and its value system. It developed a complex in the minds of Indians including its educated intellectuals about efficacy of Indian social values and systems.
  • Attack on Indian social-structure – British described purposely Indian social structure as “discriminatory,” “iniquitous,” “exploitative,” “oppressive” “barbarous,” “uncivilized” and “highly stratified”. Along with it, they propagated theories of racial superiority and thereby, justified the domination of white races over dark races of the globe.
  • British held Indian social structure responsible for feudalistic attitude, backward thinking, belief in dogmas and superstitions. It is the one of the causes for its large-scale illiteracy, communal problems, escalating violence, crimes and corruption, disparities of power, wealth and culture and evil social practices.

The instrument British Imperial rule used to divide Indians – While laying down the foundations of democratic institutions in India, British rulers used to enflame the casteist and communal feelings –

  • ‘Quota system based on castes and community’
  • Electoral Politics’ and
  • Census operations’ at the dawn of twentieth century

British rulers divided Indians in 3 stages:

◦First they appeased the Hindus,
◦Then was the turn of Muslims,
◦Lastly they devoted their attention to backward castes.

Favour to Hindus – Initially, the British, who annexed authority from the Muslim rulers, looked favorably towards Hindu community. The appalling poverty of Hindus after the decline in the financial status of their patrons – Princes and Zamindars compelled them towards modern education, which provided them opportunities to earn their living respectfully. Amongst them, Brahmins, being natural learners and pursuers of knowledge moved ahead of other communities.

Preponderance of Brahmins at all levels of freedom movement, activities of National Congress and reformist alarmed the rulers. Innumerable C.I.D. Reports of that period confirmed the active role played by Brahmins in National movement. Growing influence of Brahmins in other areas, too, including their hold over the Hindu Community made the British to believe that Brahmin Community was a threat to imperial rule.

Attention towards Muslims -British authorities considered it necessary to counter the hold of Brahmins by raising a strong force against them. They turned their attention to Muslims, who had a grudge over the loss of their dominant position in the past. They developed a fear of being dominated by majority Hindu Community, if at any point of time India became Independent. Muslims found themselves handicapped in competing with Hindus, in modern callings and opportunities.

Dividing Hindus into two unbridgeable groups ‘Brahmins’ and ‘Non-Brahmins’ – British rulers felt the need to divide Hindu population also. On September 2, 1897, George Francis Hamilton, the then Secretary of State for India, wrote to Viceroy Curzon, “I think the real danger to our rule in India, not now but say 50 years hence, is the gradual adoption and extension of Western ideas of agitation and organization. If we could break the educated Hindu into two sections, holding widely different views, we should by such division, strengthen our position against the subtle and continuous attack, which the spread of education must make upon our system of Government”.

Brahmin- Non-Brahmin Rift

British Government turned their attention to non-Brahmins in South India, who found themselves unable to compete in modern callings on equal terms with Brahmins. Because of their learning background, only 3% of Brahmins were quick enough to occupy most of the places in administration, to move up in society, got involved in National movement and were well known as Reformers and intellectuals. In a very shrewd and planned manner, British drifted Brahmins from non-Brahmins during the second- half of the nineteenth century.

Thus, British got success in initiating the movement against Brahmins with ferocity in the South. It created two unbridgeable compartments in the South– Brahmins and Non-Brahmins.

How did British rulers divide the Indian society? – Initially British rulers opened special schools for the Muslims and backward people. They provided to them special scholarship, loans, hostel facilities, concessions in school fees and quota in government jobs. Both these groups welcomed opening up of missionary/English medium schools and felt grateful to British rulers for all the opportunities and other privileges, they bestowed upon them. Many people educated in missionary schools wished for the continuance of British rule in India. The spread of education amongst these sections of society led them to organize their own fellows and to form associations.

The British allowed them to set up organizations on caste and community basis and to pursue their sectarian interests. It resulted in emergence of many new divisive forces in the political arena, which based themselves on cultural, casteist and other variations of the country.

How southern states took a lead over North in recent past?

  • Geographical position – South always remained in very cozy/advantageous position because of its geographical position. After the downfall of Hindu Raj, there had been continuously a pressure of repeated attacks and continued onslaughts on the North-west parts of India from across the north-west frontier. Whereas North suffered due to continuous invasions.
  • Continuous invasions in Northern part of India – From seventh century onwards, Turks, Afghans and Mughals continuously invaded India, Ghazni and others (998-1030 AD), the establishment of Slave Dynasty (1206-1290), Khilji Dynasty (1290-1320), Tuglak Dynasty (1320-1412 AD) Sayyed Dynasty (1414-51) Lodi Dynasty (1451-1526) and Mughal Empire (1526 to 1757). Earlier, they drained out the wealth of the nation to foreign lands. But afterwards, they conquered and made India their homeland. It was these parts of India, which had seen bloodshed and destruction of its places of worship and learning.
  • Spared of economic loot, communal tensions etc. before Independence – Again south was spared of economic loot, communal tensions and the ministrations of Cornwallis. Right from the outset, Southern states had more equitable land tenure system. During national movement for Independence, South did not suffer much. Mostly, it remained either passive or more in favor of continuance of the Imperial rule in India.
  • Northern Parts bore the brunt of attacks – Before and even after Independence due to terrorists attacks till now, invaders could not cross Vindhyas ranges and reach up-to the South. That is how, South was spared, remained untouched/ protected and enjoyed a peaceful atmosphere throughout. It got enough time and tension free atmosphere to plan, concentrate on developmental activities, and manage “more stable governments and better infrastructure, education-system, health-care services and economic prosperity.
  • After Independence – After Independence in 1947, the people from North faced the blood-shed during the partition of the country, faced communal tensions from time to time, confronted three wars (1962, 1965 and 1971) on its land, tolerated disturbances due to the swelling streams of refugees from Tibet, Bangla Desh and other places and suffered due to periodical famines and floods. At present also, people of North are suffering due the violent activities of terrorists, which has slowed down developmental its activities.

Caste demography of South and North

  • The caste demography of the South is quite different from the North. Its people have been more conscious of their legitimate rights. Knowledge of Dravidian ideology and their Dravidian origin offered an alternative model of hegemony. Rise of Dravidian Movement under the leadership of Periyar in Tamil Nadu turned people against Aryan Brahmincal order easily. The opportunities and recognition came to them with the start of Non-Brahmins movement.
  • Dravidian ideology regarded non-Brahmins as descendants of original natives of India, who believed in egalitarian pattern of society. Aryans conquered them and through caste system, Brahmins established their superiority over them. Therefore, they regarded Brahmins as their worst enemies.
  • Northern India exhibited with far more clarity the dynamics of caste-system. All four groups are socially active and occupy an important position in society. Brahmins constitute a heterogeneous pack, ranging from dominant elite to middle class peasantry and poor living below poverty line. Influence of Hindu ideology has been mingled with elements of every day life.
  • The distribution of different castes is also different. There are large areas in the North, where upper castes are dominant, as against scattered upper castes in the South. The cultural impact of Brahmincal superiority and rituals has been accepted by lower castes in North without much protest, because Shudras and untouchables have never been considered outside Hinduism by the society. They are very much the integral part of Hindu social orderTill very recent past, Lower castes in the North were poor, divided and less aware of their political rights, but economically less dependent on caste Hindus.

There were large areas in North, where upper castes were dominant, as against scattered upper castes in South. In South and West, untouchables were supposed to belong to “Pancham Varna”, which kept them out of Hindu order.

Anathema against North

There has always been resentment amongst South Indian people and politicians for North being always in prominence in national politics. During the initial period of British rule, when it were busy in consolidating their power in the North, Southerners felt neglected as if they were not getting enough attention of the Colonial masters. They developed a fear that if by any chance India got independence, North would overshadow them. The reaction to this was their anathema to Aryan-Sanskrit, Brahmins, and northern culture.

Anathema against Brahmins in South

Why resentment against Brahmins in South? – Though Varna came comparatively late in South, the succeeding centuries saw the gradual hardening of class, until South Indian Brahmins became stricter than their counterparts in the North, in their ritual observances. South Indian untouchables became more debased than their counterparts in North.(iii) In the South and West, untouchables were supposed to belong to “Pancham Varna”, which kept them out of the Hindu order. People in south India are still more rigid than their counterparts in North in observance of rituals.

Resentment amongst ‘Non-Brahmins’ against ‘Brahmins’ in South resulted in anathema of South Indians to Aryan-Sanskrit, Brahmins, their language and culture and social structure based on caste-system. The aggressive attitude of non-Brahmins had succeeded in driving out many Tamil Brahmin families, basically non-militants by nature, to other parts of the country during the whole of twentieth century.

Anti-Brahmin currents remained mild could not gain momentum in the politics of North almost for a century. The modern sector was not the monopoly of Brahmins only, as it was in the South, only 3% Brahmins occupying most of the modern opportunities. It was shared in the North with diverse groups like Kayasthas, Banias and elite section of Muslims. Educated Bengalis also occupied many jobs and higher education opportunities in Northern India.

Therefore, the feeling against Brahmins domination in education and jobs was much more resented in the South than the North.

Demography in North – Political formations in North could not afford to ignore upper castes in the North, which form over 20% of the population. It was almost after a century, that backward castes and Dalits in the North have raised their voice not against only Brahmins, but against whole of upper castes. The success in south in the recent past has encouraged backward and Dalit groups to follow the South. Liberalizations of economy in India (1990) and trend of globalization have resulted in brain drain and has pushed the youth of upper castes to Western countries.

Education in South and North in Ancient India

To say that people in south are more aware than north about the advantages of education is a myth. Allover India whether east or west, south or north, people always gave importance to education, dignity and self reliance. They knew the value of education and knowledge and its role in leading to prosperity and in accomplish dignity.

European travelers and administrators bear testimony about the importance, Hindus gave to education and training. One of the earliest observations made on the subject of indigenous education was by Fra Paolino Da Bartolomeo, an Austrian, who spent fourteen years in India (1776-1789) – recalling what Megasthenese wrote about the method of teaching and writing of India two hundred years before Christ, he commented whatever was left he still found it in practice. “No people, perhaps, on earth have adhered as much to their ancient usage and customs as the Indians”. While teaching people three r’s, indigenous education also familiarized the people with the nation’s epics, religion, literature and other religious books which were available in their own language. But it did not suit the British rulers and missionaries.

Brigadier-General Alexander Walker, who served in India between 1780 and 1810, says that “no people probably appreciate more justly the importance of instruction than the Hindus”. According to him, “they sacrifice all the feelings of wealth, family pride and caste that their children may have the advantage of good education”. He also found that this love of learning was no exclusive characteristic of the Brahmins but “this desire is strongly impressed on the minds of all the Hindus.”

In the North, Nalanda University continued its glorious existence for a thousand years till it was destroyed by the Muslims. Bakhtiyar Khilji invaded Bihar in 1197 AD and found that at Odantapuri (present-day Bihar-Sharif in Patna District) “most of inhabitants were Brahmins with shaven heads. They were put to death. Large number of books were found there, and, when the Muhammadans saw them, they called for some persons to explain their contents, but all the men had been killed. It was discovered that the whole fort and city was a place of study.(Elliot and Dowson, The History of India, Vol.11, p.306).

Education in South and North before the introduction of ‘Modern education’

Education, being an important Institution, had attracted the vigilant attention of British rulers, after they consolidated their power. The Raj conducted many Surveys in the Bombay Presidency (1820-1830), Madras Presidency (1823-1826) and later on in Bengal and Punjab before introducing its own Modern education in 1834. The most prominent being the Report of W. Adam, an excommunicated Baptist missionary, who made the most comprehensive and thorough study of the prevailing indigenous educational system.

Adam’s Report (1835) – Data of Adam’s Report (1835) reveals a different story and destroys completely the popular notion that education in India was monopolized by the Brahmins. The idea was purposely floated by the rulers and missionaries, which was picked up by colonized intelligentsia later on. The data of the Reports reveals that –
•It was during the British rule, that illiteracy increased and indigenous education was decayed.
•Before the introduction of modern education system, there was widespread private coaching besides the system of public education.
•In Madras, the number of pupils taught privately at home was considered to be “above five times greater than that taught in the schools”, according to Sir Thomas Munro, Governor of Madras Presidency.
•There were 12,498 public schools containing 188,650 scholars in Madras. There were 16 schools of higher learning in Ahmednagar; and in Poona. There was as many 164 such schools out of a total of 222 educational institutions of all description.
•It was a myth that there was preponderance of Brahmins in the field of education. According to reports caste-wise division of all, in all the schools of 20 districts in Madras Presidency, the number or the percentage of Brahmins male school students was low. In Seringapatam, Brahmin boys were only 7.83% in Madura, 8.67% in North Arcot, and 9.57%, while the Shudras and “other castes” were 84.46%.
•Only in the Vedas and Theology did the Brahmins have a near-monopoly. The share of the Brahmins in certain areas was indeed very low.
•Shudras and the “other castes” had in other branches of advanced learning like Astronomy and Medical Science. In Astronomy, out of a total of 806 scholars, Brahmins were only 78, Vaishyas 23, Shudras 195, and other lower castes 510. In Medical Science, the share of the Brahmin scholars was only 31 out of a total of 190. The rest belonged to the Shudras and “other castes”.
•Even in higher learning in Malabar, out of 1,588 scholars of Theology, Law, Astronomy, Metaphysics, Ethics and Medical Science, only 639 were Brahmins, 23 Vaishyas, 254 Shudras and 672 “other castes”.
•In many places like in Seringapatam, it was only 7.83% in Madura 8.67%; in North Arcot, Brahmin boys were 9.57%, while the Shudras and “other castes” were 84.46%.
•In Bombay, Brahmins constituted only 30% of the total scholars in that province.
•Adam tells the same story about Bengal and Bihar. In the five districts he investigated, the total number of Hindu students was 22,957. Out of these 5,744 were Brahmins, or about 25%. Kayasthas were about 12%. Students belonging to 95 castes find representation in his Report. It includes 66 ChanDals, 20 Muchis, 84 Doms, 102 Kahars, and 615 Kurmis.
•The Collector of Malabar district narrates the pathetic story of this ancient institution, first destroyed by the Muslims in 966, and later on ruined by being denied its revenues by the British.
•Female education was though neglected, but was not altogether absent.
•In the Punjab, according to Leitner, “female education is to be met in all parts”. According to him, the Punjabi woman had not only educated herself, but were also an educator of others. Even before the annexation of the Punjab, six public schools for girls in Delhi were kept by Punjabi women.
•In some regions of Malabar and Joypoor in Vizagapatam, Shudras did better in the matter of female education than the upper class Hindus including the Brahmins like Malabar and Joypoor in Visakhapatnam.
•In spite of the claims of the missionaries, they did not pay much attention to Hindus of low-castes in North. They paid more attention to port cities like Madras, Bengal and Bombay, where they preferred to settle down due to their accessibility for navigational purposes. According to Adam’s findings, Burdwan had 13 missionary schools, yet they had only 1 ChanDal student while the native schools had 60. The former had only 3 Doms and no Muchis while the latter had 58 and 16 respectively. Of the 760 pupils belonging to the lowest 16 castes, “only 86 were found in the missionary schools and the remaining number in native schools”.
•As teachers, the Brahmins were even less represented. Out of a total of 2,261 teachers in these districts, Brahmins were only 208, or about 11%. In this region Kayasthas were the teachers par excellence. They were 1,019 in number, or a little less than half the total. Other teachers belonged to other 32 castes. ChanDals had six, Goalas had five, Telis had eleven; while Rajputs had only two, and Chhatri and Kshatriya taken together had only three.

Advantage of English as medium of instruction/education

Madras Presidency was one of the first British settlements in India. Missionaries opened many English medium schools in Madras. They concentrated on educating the lower strata there. There were some government schools as well, where the means of school education were vernacular languages. British government gave funds to indigenous schools in need of help and dictated its own terms. Slowly more and more schools got government’s aid there. Higher education was granted in English only.

Knowledge of English compulsory for government’s job – In the near absence of industrial, commercial or social service activity, the educated Indians depended on Government jobs entirely. When in 1844, through a Declaration knowledge of English was made compulsory for Government employment, missionary schools became very popular amongst the lower strata also, as it gave them opportunities to get free modern English-medium education, jobs in government and to improve their social status.

In 1855, Education departments were created in the provinces of Madras, Bombay and Bengal. In 1857 Universities were established in Madras, Bombay and Calcutta. All these developments gave leverage to all people in South India. English became just like their mother tongue for educated people in Madras long ago, whether belonging to Brahmin community or non-Brahmin communities.

However in the North, in the name of the principles of “secularism” and ‘religious neutrality’, British Government introduced Urdu as the medium of instruction over a large territory of North India. Urdu which was foreign to the masses did not help them in getting formal education for a long time. Urdu medium has “practically excluded from primary instruction” the whole Hindu priestly class, the artisans and the agricultural classes in the North, according to the testimony of the Brahmo Samaj. It was meant only to prepare the educated people for ‘Munshi’s’ jobs. It pushed north a step behind South in competing with them in opportunities of advancement, which demanded knowledge of English.

‘Quotas’ ignited caste-ism in politics

With the spread of education and the feeling that only 3% of Brahmins were ahead of them in education, jobs and other places in modern callings generated amongst Non-Brahmins a desire to occupy enough space in power echelons. With the backing of the rulers and missionaries, the leaders of lower and intermediate castes raised their voice against Brahmins. They declared Brahmins as the real enemy.

Backward politics in Southern and Western part of India – From South anti-Brahmin currents moved first to western part of India and afterward almost a century later to the North. In Maharashtra, Phule and Ambedkar challenged the influence of Brahmins and Marathas. They united numerous endogamous jatis into region wise alliances, increased in size and emerged as powerful pressure groups in different regions.

Justice Party (1917) in Bombay and South Indian Liberation Federation (1916) in Madras united lower and intermediate castes. By 1920’s, numerous caste organizations, specially in the South and West, emerged into larger collectiveness by keeping contacts and alliances with their counterparts at other places; formed associations and federations at local and regional levels.

Backward castes and untouchables emerged as a powerful political force by early 20th century especially after the introduction of electoral politics. They demanded forcefully the government’s intervention for giving preferential treatment to the backwards in electoral politics and government jobs and thus uplift them. The Government of India Act, 1919, accorded special representation by granting a few nominated seats, in the Legislative Assembly for depressed classes. So far, untouchable activities were combined with the non-Brahmin movement. By 1928, untouchables separated themselves from the intermediate caste. They established their independent identity at national level, with the Communal Award of 1932. Reservations for untouchables were so far combined with backward castes and was confined to Provincial and local levels.

Caste “is no longer a barrier” – Almost all-over India, caste “is no longer a barrier”… “It has no impact on life today.” No doubt, many deformities had been developed into caste-system during the domination of aliens rule for centuries in India. But with the efforts of reformers of nineteenth and tentieth centuries and constitution-framers, spread of education, process of modernization, industrialization and growth of awareness among people, traditional caste barriers and evil practices developed into the system started breaking slowly but steadily after the Independence.

Caste system has become more liberal and less restrictive in social arena. It now allows its members a greater degree of freedom in all walks of life throughout India, whether it is South or North, East or West. Connections between caste and profession have been broken long ago with the industrialization and released enormous entrepreneurial energies and opportunities not only in south, but everywhere in India.

Entry of ‘caste’ in politics

However, everywhere in India, caste has found a new lease of life through politics. In modern political understanding of caste system, the element of caste is predominant and the element of system is less.
As the result of this development –

Rise in militant attitude – Rising expectations, political ambitions and economic interests have aroused the militancy among the discontented youths of different castes and communities all over the nation, which has divided the Indians into innumerable unbridgeable groups.

Materialistic attitude – Attempts for social changes make a virtue of narrow loyalties of caste and religion, generating sub-cultures like favoritism, lure for easy money, nepotism, parochialism, communalism, regionalism, bigoted sentiments and irresponsible comments, spreading in-discipline in the society. The work culture has been degenerated. Though a social institution, Caste has entered into Indian politics.

‘Caste’ becoming single most important factor in Indian politics – Entry of ‘caste’ into politics has given rise to casteism. At present, caste is the single most important factor in Indian politics. Reservation policy and electoral politics numbers gave boost to casteism.

Lower castes more tenacious about their caste-identity – The politics of vote-banks and advantages of reservation policy have made lower castes more tenacious on the subject of their caste than the higher/upper castes. Its unchecked growth has resulted in the increase of caste and communal conflicts. There is a difference between ‘caste-system’ and ‘caste-ism’.

Centralization of control systems – There is complete centralization of control systems in the hands of a few Individuals, families and groups irrespective of castes or creed. They have money and muscle power.

Criminalization of politics – Usually to grab political power, many politicians seek support of the criminals and in return provide them protection. Together they control destiny of millions and have say in almost every walk of national life.

Under-currents of caste politics have made the government incapable to solve the burning national issues. It has made the task of governance of the nation ineffective. ‘Caste-politics’ needs to be arrested at its earliest.

Winding up

Recently, North has lagged behind the South in matter of education, population control and Prosperity. There was a time, when North was a great cradle of statecraft, knowledge and culture. There is no reason why it should not move forward. It is still blessed with natural resources and hard working people in abundance.

South has enjoyed certain advantages as compared to North –
•Advantage of its geographical position spared South from many violent disturbances and gave an undisturbed peaceful atmosphere to plan and progress.
•Modern education with English medium started much earlier in South, during the second-half of nineteenth century giving it leverage over North. Spread of education amongst masses inspired them to contain their population growth.
•Knowledge of English for government jobs made missionary schools very popular both amongst Brahmins and non-Brahmins during second half of the 19th century.
•Missionaries and British government both paid more attention to non-brahmin castes during the second half of the nineteenth century. Missionaries did so with an aim to convert them into Christianity and government to raise a force against Brahmins

What is required?
•The whole of India needs to check casteist politics and concentrate on building up its infra structure.
•It should pay attention to educate all. Superstitions, illiteracy, lack of awareness, desire of male child and high mortality rate among children have led to unchecked population growth in the north. Agrarian community and poor people refuse to regard children as burden. For them they were an asset and insurance for old age.
•Population explosion needs to be controlled in the North on priority basis as it has neutralized all the efforts made, so far, for economic and social development. It puts severe strain on the already over loaded system. It has aggravated many problems such as poverty, low per capita income, food availability, pressure on land, burden on education, medical care, housing, unemployment, underemployment, rapid depletion of natural resources, etc.
•South India needs to overcome its anathema against Hindi language, North Indian people, their festivals and its culture. There has always been and still is resentment in south Indian people and politicians against North for its always remaining in prominence in national politics.
•It is not the upper castes but the backward castes which need not be so tenacious on the subject of their caste. The reality of modern India is at present is that lower castes have become so vocal and assertive, that even politicians in power fear to annoy them and concede to all their demands openly or discreetly.
•All the Indians – whether living in South or North – must give-up caste-politics at its earliest and learn the lessons of self-reliance.
•People must learn to prosper without the crutches of ‘Quota-system’.

i Tara Chand, ibid. p 516.

ii Sriniwas M N, The Mandal formula, Times of India, dated September 17, 1990, P6.

iii Basham P.189)Distinction between education and training

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January 26, 2014 - Posted by | Social and political values and systems |

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