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India Caste, Class and India's Growing Middle Class

Discussion in 'Breaking News' started by spnadmin, Jun 24, 2013.

  1. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    Caste or Class?


    Yogita Limaye

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-23003532

    2027, India is projected to have the biggest middle class population in the world. In a society fragmented by caste, there has been much debate about whether recent economic growth has reached the country's most disadvantaged groups.

    While the change is slow, there are signs that economic growth and education are helping to bring down social barriers.

    On a rainy monsoon day in Mumbai, Vishal Nalawade holds up an umbrella and escorts his new wife to the vegetable market. Vishal married Shraddha Meshram three months ago and the two have paid a heavy price to be together.

    Vishal and Shraddha have been forced to cut ties with their families who opposed the match because they belong to different castes.

    Caste is a hereditary division rooted in Hindu society. It's based on a number of factors, but primary among these are occupation and social ranking.
    India's middle class projected to hit 475 million by 2030 Source: Institute for Emerging Market Studies

    Vishal is a web developer while Shraddha works in public relations. They are both well educated and have good job prospects but none of this mattered to their parents when it came to marriage.

    Inter-caste marriages are largely frowned upon in India. There have even been cases where couples who married outside their caste were murdered by their own families. The term "honour killing" has been used to describe this.

    But many from India's large young population are choosing to look beyond traditional caste hierarchies.

    Watch: India's swelling middle class is reshaping the country's social categories. Yogita Limaye reports.

    "I married Vishal because he is a genuine, hard-working person. When we were children, we were told about caste and religion. But as we grew up and got educated, we began to realise that these factors aren't so important.

    "I think over the next two or three generations, caste divisions will disappear," says Shraddha.

    Her view is reflected in trends being noted by matchmaking services. Matrimonial website shaadi.com is one of the largest in India. When creating a profile on this website, the user needs to select their caste from a dropdown menu with more than 400 choices.

    But just below this the portal has introduced a little box to ask if the person is not particular about their partner's caste. The company has found that many are choosing to tick this box.

    "In India, it's very much about two families marrying one another. I think in the past, caste was that indicator of inter-family compatibility. I think it's becoming much less relevant now and what we're seeing is over 50% of our audience is saying I'm not looking to marry into the caste I belong to," says Gourav Rakshit, Chief Operating Officer at shaadi.com.

    But it's not just marriage where caste plays a big role. Traditionally it also dictated what job you could do. People from the lowest caste were forced to do the most menial jobs. Some were even termed untouchables.

    To remove this inequality, seats have been reserved for students from lower castes in educational institutes around the country. This quota system also extends to government jobs.

    A proposal to introduce caste-based reservations in the private sector sparked fierce debate about whether such policies were fair. Many say they are needed to make up for decades of missed opportunities for people from India's lowest castes.

    "The reservation policies that we have, have actually not reached the largest number of people. They've just reached the tip of the iceberg," says Dr Gita Chadha, a sociologist at the University of Mumbai.

    "Now there is a move to ask for reservations in the private sector and we are hoping this will happen," she adds.

    Studies have found that very few people from lower castes own businesses in India, but it is a number that is growing.

    Sachin Shinde belongs to a caste that would have forced him to be a cobbler some decades ago. But today Mr Shinde owns two small workshops where he employs close to fifteen people.

    He makes leather goods like wallets, belts and shoes for luxury hotels. Sachin has a business management degree from a foreign university and dreams of creating his own big brand.


    "When I go to clients for business, no one asks me which caste I belong to. They only see my products. It hasn't been a factor when getting jobs either," he says.

    "But I have faced discrimination earlier in life. When I went to a bank to get an education loan some years ago to go study in the UK, people there commented about how a person from my caste could think of going abroad. I didn't like that."

    Entrepreneurs like Mr Shinde now have a chamber of commerce to back them up. The organisation is exclusively aimed at helping start-up businesses promoted by people from lower castes.

    India's finance minister P. Chidambaram recently said that every bank branch in the country must hand-hold an entrepreneur from a lower caste and that such a move could have a ripple effect on the economy.
    Three times more travellers will fly through India's airports by 2020 Source: IATA

    At present much of India is still fragmented by caste. But two decades of economic liberalisation, government policies and increased awareness among people themselves have kick-started the process of change.

    It is unlikely that there will be a complete transformation soon, but some say that for a country shackled with centuries of discrimination even a start is good news.

    Are you middle class? We want to hear from you and see your pictures so we can build a snapshot of the middle class today. Please get in touch using the form be
     

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  3. arshdeep88

    arshdeep88 India
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    The caste system is a devil in the society no doubt but i don't know how promoting people of lower castes to higher statuses in the companies or in other sectors just on caste basis and not on merit basis will help?
    wont it create another differentiation among people ?
     
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  4. Harry Haller

    Harry Haller United Kingdom
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    of course it will, but when the see saw has been sawing constantly in one direction, then that is only to be expected until some sort of equilibrium is maintained.

    We all need to push that side up until it can sustain itself free of the prejudices that have held it back,
     
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  5. Tejwant Singh

    Tejwant Singh United States
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    Many "Sikhs" in India have been marrying into low castes to take advantage of this loop hole and this loop is a huge one. In Fact many Jatt castes have applied for what they call in India is 'Schedule Caste' status for this purpose only.

    This Indian "Affirmative Action" has lot more advantages because of the sheer amount of the low caste population hence the abuse is rampant with 'The Indian Way'..
     
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    #4 Tejwant Singh, Jun 25, 2013
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2013
  6. dalsingh1zero1

    dalsingh1zero1
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    I'd go as far as saying that these days many Sikhs are at least equally (if not more) obsessed about their caste nonsense than many Hindus.

    Whilst the latter have the excuse of the official position of their faith what excuse do Sikhs have in the 21st century for propagating some feudal Panjabi hierarchy?


    I often hear this and I feel the assertion is ridiculous, as if completely incompetent imbeciles are being given jobs solely on the basis of their caste - which simply isn't true. Truth is that people in general are loathe to relinquish their own privileged status and so legislation HAS to be used to break the status quo because people seem to refuse to accept any change perceived to be detrimental to their own privileged position and resist it, even if subtly.
     
  7. arshdeep88

    arshdeep88 India
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    Dal singh1zero1
    sat sri akal ji
    can i have the statistics from you which shows that admission into educational institutes and promotions in public sector for the people belonging to lower castes is not on the basis of caste solely but is on the basis of other factors
    if so what other factors you are talking about

    imagine a situation of two people ,one of them toils himself day and night for his goal either to get admission into educational institutes or to work for the company he is been employed for
    other one works average but not so comaparable to the person working earlier but now the latter person's average efforts bears fruits and is given preference just because he is from the lower caste
    in this situation what wrong did the person not belonging to lower caste did wrong?
    doesnt it show the earlier person that maybe if he was from lower status his life would have been bit easier or maybe try next time to fake a lower caste certificate as tejwant singh ji mentioned
     
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  8. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    I don't understand how sikhs are marrying in lower caste when it is clear that you cannot get reservation benefit if you spouse is of lower caste. Also children from lower caste father are only eligible for reservation benefit.If a lower caste woman marries with high caste man , the reservation benefit will not be given to her children
     
  9. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    There is nothing wrong if reservation is given to poor lower caste.you just can't compare merit just on the basis of marks only.Just imagine children from double income families have access to best tutors , best schools their own A/C rooms to study . On the other hand poor families live in 1-2 room set with 5-6 members. Sometimes these students also have to help their parents to earn.There is no way those students can compete with middle class or rich students
     
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  10. dalsingh1zero1

    dalsingh1zero1
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    I don't think you've understood the underlying plank of my comments? It requires an understanding of socio-historical processes, not mathematical analysis.


    I think you've totally decontextualised the whole matter from its wider historical and social context above. I give some examples of why I think this is:

    Firstly, we have to own up to the truth that Indian society has systematically deprived and marginalised so called 'lower castes' for centuries. This naturally has consequences/effects for both the oppressors and the oppressed. At ground level this marginalisation means the lower castes have been excluded from resources/wealth/opportunities accessible to 'higher castes' for generations. When such a scenario occurs, people become 'actors' in a social setup which enforces this status quo. As Kds has alluded to earlier, long term oppression essentially 'locks down' those on the receiving end into unfair social dynamics that prevent them having a fair shot. That is the whole point of the hierarchy. The question then becomes about leveling the playing field which has been so imbalanced for generations.

    The nature of such social imbalances is that it invariably leads to an internalised sense of entitlement from the favoured groups (conscious or subconscious) and outright or subtle resentment towards upward mobility of those deemed to be beneath them in the pecking order.

    So, the latter are not playing on an even field from the beginning and the former will never willingly relinquish their advantages (or even acknowledge them!).

    So you have to take action to compensate for such imbalances and quotas are one way to achieve this. But even this is insufficient because once inside, the oppressed classes will often still be subjected to negative comments and softer exclusion from the people who believe that their privileges are being impinged upon.

    On another note, it is well documented aspect of human nature to aspire to role models that one can relate to (i.e. from your own community). So another important consideration is that the systematic, inegalitarian setup prevents the young of the oppressed from having the necessary role models so they may aspire to the positions hitherto reserved for the privileged only, whilst the privileged have no end of such examples.

    I mention the above to highlight how these deeply ingrained inegalitarian setups have long term implications for those on the receiving - that cant just be fixed with throwing a few bones out to them and expecting them to be satisfied.

    Things can quickly start looking like the 'higher' castes being resentful of privileges being extended to people outside of their own identity group. Which is ironic given their own communities long term monopoly on opportunities.

    Move on over and let someone else have a chance now. lol
     
  11. arshdeep88

    arshdeep88 India
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    dal singhzero1
    i asked you to show statistics because you told that growth and promotion for the people in lower castes is not solely on the basis of caste only
    yes there can be many among lower caste people(personally i m finding it tough to type and represent them lower caste people again and again as i myself dont believe in caste system at all)who are hard working and solely grow in life on the basis of sheer hard work and hats off to not only them but all the people who work hard day and night to achieve desired goals
    Hard work should be the sole criteria for any person to grow in life

    and about other points i beg to disagree with you
    yes whatever happened in the past is unfortunate and tragedic no doubt about it and yes we people of today should be more responsible for our behaviour in the society but now again creating a distinction in the society in the name of RESERVATION is unfortunate and tragedic in the already competitive world out.
    equal oppurtinities can only come if there is equal preference to all
    in the future the general classes say that we couldnt move forward in life and couldnt grow just because we were not from lower castes and yes i have not held people from ropes or chains to not come and have their chance i am just trying to explore things from all prospective :soccersingh:
     
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    #10 arshdeep88, Jun 25, 2013
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2013
  12. arshdeep88

    arshdeep88 India
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    kds ji ok i got your ponit which you mentioned POOR people from lower castes not able to move ahead due to lack of facilities
    but there are many families from lower middle class too which dont have the facilities of ac or the best tutors and in those conditions only parents know how they are able to spend money for their studies
    considering the fact that majority of students are from middle class only
    what about them?
    what about those people who are POOR but are not from lower castes
    i am in support of wavering fees for the poor people irrespective of caste whether they are higher or lower which many institutions provide so
     
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  13. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    I can understand that poor upper caste students also don't have support but the problem is reservation cannot be given on the basis of income as so many people will start claiming to be poor even if they are not.

    Wavering fees is not going to do anything as the best colleges in India have killer cut offs.Kota the town in Rajasthan just thrive on coaching institutes who give coaching to students for engineering colleges.There is no way a student from poor background can get into top college unless he/she is genious.

    Reservations should be restricted to very poor and down trodden castes.Unfortunately in reservation many castes like Jats , Yadavs etc have entered which were historically never oppressed
     
  14. dalsingh1zero1

    dalsingh1zero1
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    It's not based on caste only though is it brother? I mean those people have passed assessment tests and at this current point in time, given the outright discrepancy between the resources and situation of the people from one background to the other, it is arguably justifiable to make accommodations to adjust for this. There is clear logic in acknowledging that someone from one background who may not have access to educated people in their family to help with homework, a quiet space to study, who in relative terms still struggle with basics like food and electricity (and aren't 'free' to fully commit to academic pursuits like others may be) will be effected in a negative way. So allowing a lower pass rate is perfectly logical in this context. To put it bluntly, given the aforementioned circumstances it can be argued that a poor student getting a grade B or C in the face of multiple obstacles they face, is a greater achievement than a relatively pampered counterpart who gets an A but hasn't really had to deal with any serious socio-economic problems whilst studying.


    When you say that you should acknowledge how traditionally the 'lower' castes have been prevented from this very thing for centuries, whilst the 'higher' castes have been benefiting from their 'status'.

    It just seems like the privileged are now grumpy that they have to share with people their own society has marginalised for centuries. When the competition favours oneself, people stay quiet, once this changes they get upset. Maybe it is time to acknowledge that what one is going through now is something that one's own people have been subjecting others too for centuries? And it is outright false to claim that oppression of 'lower' classes is something that took place in the past. It takes place here, now as well.


    Simply put, their has been an unequal system for centuries. To balance it out, we may have to reverse the inequality to favour the oppressed for a while.

    In this situation, the privileged get a microcosmic taste of what their own society has dished out for centuries. This should maybe be an eye opening and humbling experience for them and not an excuse to further resent people who've been downtrodden for long enough as it is already. You may not be doing this personally, but to deny that caste structures are based exactly on the principle of maintaining advantageous hierarchies for the 'higher' castes is to live a lie. Until 'higher castes' freely give true equal opportunities to those beneath them in the setup (which personally I can't see happening given human selfishness) entry for the traditionally oppressed must be forced.

    You personally might not block 'lower' caste aspirations but you and I both know that there are hordes of 'higher' caste people who would do exactly this given an opportunity. Factor that in perhaps?
     

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