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Social Issues of India

Even though colonialism and British barbarianism are the major reasons for the decline of India’s wealth, prosperity and technological advancement, there are some socio-cultural issues made it easier for the colonialists and accelerated its impact. Religious customs and social framework made possible the independent self-sufficient communal villages of ancient India. But the restrictions on travel, education, division of labor and social customs restricts people from acquiring skills necessary for the self improvement and social advancement.

Division of labor among the members is necessary for a self-sufficient independent community. But this division should be based on skills and experience rather than color of the skin or family. The possibility to change labor and class will allow competition to acquire skills and further advance technological achievements.

In ancient Indian society the system of social stratification and social restrictions was mainly based on labor alone. The four major classes were the Brahmins (teachers, scholars and priests), the Kshatriyas (kings and warriors), the Vaishyas (traders, landowners and some artisan groups), and Shudras (agriculturists, service providers, and some artisan groups). Memberships to these classes were assigned by merit. So this stratification or caste system had a major role in preservation of order in the society, integration of foreigners and invaders into the society, economic activity in the society and preservation of culture in the society.

Later the caste system become more rigid and the caste become inherited rather than acquired by merit. Educational opportunities were denied to people in the lower caste which produced millions of illiterates and forced people to stay within the strata. When the literate in the society was a few and from the same group, it was easy for them to interpret the laws and customs the way they wanted. So the Brahmins get an upper hand in the society. More social restrictions added later to continue the supremacy in the society. Not only deny the opportunity for education but also deny the right to visit temples, access to public roads, right to have property and right to have a compensation for the labor.

This rigid caste system causes social injustices, disabilities and inequalities among a vast majority of the people. The continued practice exposed the weaker sections of society to unjust exploitation by the socially and politically privileged groups in the name of religion and tradition. The caste system became an instrument of oppression in the hands of socially privileged castes and they exploited the lower castes and subjected them to inhuman treatment. It promoted disunity, distrust and prejudices among the people. Soldiers were recruited based on the caste not based on the physical ability. Also the caste system divide the soldiers based on caste line which made the co-ordination difficult. This resulted in failure to defend the country against foreign invasions. Less qualified or incompetent members of the upper classes often chose for the highest positions rather than well qualified and experienced low caste members. This resulted in slowing economy and contributed to the fall of India.

The caste system is still alive in India. The inter-caste marriages are not allowed in some traditions especially in rural areas. Caste based organizations are exist today and conflict between them sometimes become violent. The government has caste based reservation policy to uplift the low caste members in the society. More castes wanted to be included in these reservation categories. At the same time the organizations associated with upper classes against reservations and quotas. Caste is a powerful factor in politics and many political parties are associated with caste. So these issues rather complicated today.

The caste system might have served its purpose in ancient times, but does not fit into the values and principles of modern times. In a democratic country with many languages and cultures progress can not be achieved without find unity in diversity. Ancient wisdom teaches us tolerance and universal brotherhood. The history teaches us what happens when we deviate from those basic principles. Half of the population of India lives in poverty today. We can ignore them by saying it is because of their bad ‘karma’ or we can help him to get out of poverty by your good ‘karma’.