General Studies Paper 1 (Indian Society): Untouchability

Untouchability

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Syllabus: General Studies Paper 1 (Indian Society)

 

Untouchability is still a widespread problem, not only in rural India, but also in urban India. Enumerate the reasons. Do you think, developing awareness among children would address this problem, give your opinion?

 

Introduction:

Untouchability is long standing social evil in India. Dalits who are at the bottom of the Hindu caste system have been subjected to multiple form of discrimination, especially in the form of untouchability. Despite constitutional protection (Article 17) and advent of modernity, its practice in real life, both subtly and overtly, has been registered in many pockets of the country.

Body:

According to India Human Development Survey conducted by the National Council of Applied Economic Research, 27% of the household still practice untouchability. Recent survey called Social Attitudes Research for India supports the claim.

Reasons for prevalence of untouchability in India:

  • Racial factor:
    • Racial difference segments the members in the category of ‘touchables’ and ‘untouchables.’
  • Religious factor:
    • Existing religious literatures are both rigid and biased against dalits/scheduled castes.
    • In rural areas, concept of purity and pollution is still strictly practised. Lower castes are understood to be not strict followers of hygiene and cleanliness.
  • Social factor:
    • India continues to function within a deep rooted caste system.
    • Endogamous marriages-Still most marriages are within the same caste. So, intermixing of lower castes with upper castes is limited. This perpetuates untouchability.
  • Psychological factor:
    • Societal and cultural attitudes have not changed much even after people getting educated because of habitual obedience.
  • Economic factor:
    • Poverty and illiteracy among lower castes resulted into unavailability of resources with them. This marred, in most cases, their economical upliftment.
    • Unclean Occupation­ Most of the jobs like cleaning sewage drains and other manual works are done by people of the lower castes. While these are important jobs in a society, they are essentially low paid and considered unclean.
  • Political factor:
    • For political rivalry and greed of remaining in power, political parties have been exploiting existing social cleavage. This has made discriminatory caste practices and conventions a political agenda.
    • Reservation, relaxation and concessions in favour of SC have helped in their social and economic upliftment but it has also helped in perpetuation of old practices in social and political lives.

 

Educating children to curb untouchability

  • A child is first exposed to practice of caste discrimination at a young age. Awareness and education about this evil practice will discourage future generations to blindly follow them.
  • A study of primary school students in the United States found that white students who read about both the accomplishments of and the discrimination faced by black Americans later displayed less biased attitudes towards blacks than white children who had merely read about accomplishments.
  • Other ways to reduce discrimination can be
    • Strict implementation SC/ST atrocities act. Based on latest National Crime Bureau data conviction rate is very less under this act.
    • Awareness about one’s constitutional rights and multiple opportunities at educational and professional front will need curd this menace faster.
  • To end untouchability will mean that everyone, from government official, to teacher, to young mother has to make an effort.
  • Everyone needs to admit that untouchability is still a widespread problem, not only in rural India but also in urban India.
  • Even people who don’t agree with the practice of untouchability themselves need to talk with children in their lives about where it came from, what it feels like, and how it can be stopped.
  • If they don’t, their neighbours, many of whom do practise untouchability, may end up teaching their children to perpetuate these archaic, hurtful social norms.

 

Conclusion:

To end untouchability will mean that everyone, from government official, to teacher, to young mother has to make an effort. However, it can be said that things are slowly changing; the mind set of modern generation is also changing. Today’s youth with modern education and globalized outlook are viewing the social order from different perspective of equality and impartiality and not from the religious or traditional point of view. Hopefully, the wicked practice of untouchability would be removed from the society sooner rather than later and our country would usher into a new era of social equality and brotherhood which will be the true India of Gandhi and Ambedkar.

 

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