The Modern Caste In India By Garrett Hah

What is the Quota System and How Does it Affect Modern India?


The ancient caste system is an institituiton that has changed India's society even today. A caste is a grouping of people that are ranked by social class. The caste in which they are born into determine their rights and responsibilies. A person remains in their caste until death.


India's caste system had a fifth category in society which was considered the lowest. This group of people were called untouchables or Dalits. They were tasked with responsibilities such as cleaning animal and human waste. They were not allowed to come into contact , enter the same temples, or drink from the same well as the higher castes because they were considered dirty. They faced intense discrimination and were denied basic human rights.

In 1931, reformers observed that approximately one-fifth of India's population was made up of untouchables or Dalits. Because the British government ruling India at that time, they attempted a reform effort that enabled groups meeting the "degraded" criteria to receive special government representation. These groups were now referred to as "scheduled castes."


When India became independent in 1947, the country wished for a casteless society that promoted equality between all people. Despite a law stating that the practice of untouchability is illegal, the caste system remained omnipresent throughout the twentieth century. The modern caste system has now caused many conflicts throughout India. One's caste system plays a large role in marriage, for example. People still only marry in their caste and one's caste also determines socially acceptable partners. Many observers say that caste traditions have mostly faded in the cities of India, but they remain strong in some of the country's rural areas.


The national quota system in India was formed to help the systematically disadvantage lower classes. The country created a set amount of government jobs and university spots that would be reserved for them. By 1990, the quota rose to over 49% of the population. The desicison to make reserved seats for these classes was seen as an opportunity for these classes to rise in society. The quota system is something known as affirmative action, which is simply positive discrimination.

By most of the population, the quota system has been considered a success. There are still some groups who resent the quota system and want to reduce the coverage or abolish it comepletly. For example ; a student that owns a "backward" caste certificate can get into a top university more easily than a tide to without one because the grades required for admission is lower. This understandably frustrates India's students that are not included in the quota system. Another thing that is forgotten howerever is that the lower caste systems make up about two thirds of India's population.


For the people who are dissatisfied with the quota system, they have began to protest. One of the most recent protests began with a group named the Jats, who are an upper middle class group of entrepreneurs, farmers, and traders in the northern region of India. They expressed their frustration saying, "Why si it harder for us to get into universities, to get jobs?" What started out as a peaceful protest soon turned into a violent clash between police and Jats causing 16 deaths.

The Jats specifically are a group that are relatively wealthy A and ar the most respected in their region. Many of them have started successful businesses or are prominent land owners. Despite this, most still struggle for jobs and social advancement. They also face the fact that owning land isn't as important as it used to be in India. The government's data shows that the average land owned by a person in 1960 was 2.63%, and by 2003 it had dropped to 1.06%. This means that India has become more urban and less dependent on agriculture. The Jats face loss in status and wealth while the urban population prospers. The quota system, while it does help many poeple, neglects the middle class.


Over the past century, India has made significant progress socially. The caste system is, for the most part, abolished and many of the lower classes receive privileges form the quota system. While it allows for many to rise in socially, it does neglect the middle class which causes many problems for the country. In the future the Indian government must address this problem and hope that they can find a solution.


1. Agrawal, Ravi. "India's Caste System: Outlawed, but Still Omnipresent." CNN(Atlanta, GA), February 23, 2016. Accessed December 1, 2016.

2. "India: Caste Conflict." In Global Issues in Context. Gale, Cengage Learning, 2016. Last modified 2016.

3. Mayell, Hillary. "India's 'Untouchables' Face Violence, Discrimination." National Geographic, June 2, 2003. Accessed December 1, 2016.

4. Sankaran, Lavanya. "Caste Is Not past." New York Times (New York City, NY), June 15, 2013. Accessed November 30, 2016.

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