The reservation system in India, also known as the caste quota, has been a controversial topic since India’s independence. The reservation system was set up keeping in mind the educational status of underprivileged communities to improve their lives. It strives to bring more equality to India’s modern caste system (class divisions).

The Indian government wants everyone to be given an equal chance. They want those who were not fortunate enough to be born high in the caste hierarchy, or who don’t have enough financial support, to be provided with appropriate resources so that the gap between the rich and poor, and also the gap between castes, becomes smaller over time.

The reservation system, among other things, makes sure that a fixed percentage of jobs go to the different castes—Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (ST), Backward Class (BC) and Other Backward Classes (OBCs).

Modern caste system in India

For centuries, the Hindus have been divided on the basis of caste, which dictates their daily life in their hierarchy.

The upper and lower castes almost always lived in segregated colonies, the water wells were not shared, Brahmins would not accept food or drink from the Shudras. And one could marry only within one’s caste, which maintained a crucial divide between the castes. Lower castes always stayed lower while upper castes carried the same hierarchy. This system was somewhat similar to the Western system throughout history where peasants would stay peasants through generations while kings would stay kings.

The caste system still exists in India today, though it has transformed. In an effort to create more equality, the Union Cabinet recently cleared a proposal to grant a 10 percent  quota increase in government jobs and education for “economically weaker” sections. This extra 10 percent tips the quota over and above the existing 50 percent quota for the Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), and the proposal will take the total reservation to 60 percent if passed.

Mrs. Roja NSS program officer
Mrs. Roja NSS program officer.

Does the government’s help actually reach the people?

The Komorebi Post interviewed Mrs. P. Roja who is a National Service Scheme (NSS) program officer. Her work often consists of teaching and public service. She has worked as an NSS program officer since 2013.

Roja is a humble and patient lady. She has been working in Jalari Peta area for three  years, helping the fishermen surrounding the city of Visakhapatnam. Belonging to a backward class, it is tough for the fishermen.

Roja stated, “When I went for the first time I was not aware of the happening because we do see many schemes for the welfare of the backward class and so I never thought there is any. However, after speaking to them, a question always comes into my mind as to ‘Why are they not availing the benefits of the schemes?’ The man answered, ‘Mam, the government has many schemes and we also just heard about them. We are not exactly being made aware of how to use it or how to apply for it.'”

She stated that the major problem is lack of awareness. Due to the lack of right education, the fishermen and others belonging to the backward class still follow old traditions of child marriage and face many health issues. It is found that more than 60 percent of girls in that area are married before the age of 16. This difference is a major problem. There are separate dormitories for SC and ST caste students based solely on prejudice, which is a wrong step. All humans are equal and should be treated equally. Roja also said that if the government wants to provide privilege, then it should be on the basis of need and not caste. The era of the Brahmans being rich has gone, the world has changed, and we have to understand that.

The government has done its best in removing the caste barrier by providing scholarships and various schemes so that past injustices can be remedied . The reservation quota has existed for a long time in India. It is meant to provide an equal opportunity to all people by leveling the playing field.  However, there is a loophole in these kinds of policies – lack of awareness. So when the day comes where opportunity is given to the needy and not given on basis of caste name, then we can see a better future.

Roja with backward class.
Mrs. Roja with members of the backward class. Photo credit Neha Jain.

Reflecting on solutions

With the Indian government passing this rule, we should ask this question to ourselves:

Should we divide people on the basis of caste, or religion and give them reservation accordingly, which leads to people exploiting them while the ones who actually deserve to use them, are not aware of it?

Should we divide the people who are backward economically, is it the right decision?

Or should we just not divide people at all? Not just in the way of providing them reservations but also in the way of removing this casting from the roots of our mind? Should we just start treating them equally while providing them a platform to rise equally, not through the means of reservations but through the ways of equality and helping them economically?

That’s a discussion that goes deeper and we would love to hear your views about it in comments.

One thought on “Modern Caste System in India: Is the Government Doing Enough?”

  1. Article is very opt for the present situation of the country financial help is needed for upper caste weaker sections.Government also announced the income limit and percentage of reservation , mainly upper castes are economically poor but meritorious hence they need government support.This new reservation ten percent definitely help them to reach their goals
    No doubt it’s a appreciating ,and welcoming issue
    Congrats Neha for your article

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