Sunday, July 02, 2006

Public Policy in Casteism

Francios Gautier, a French journalist is writing about casteism in India. There seem to be a lot of public policy issues involved here. I have alway kept away from writing and talking about caste based issues for personal reasons. However, I do think that there is a lot to be said in terms of public policy here, and I think there are a few economics dissertation topics here. I am still not sure if I would like to write and publish on these issues, for one I am likely to be heavily biased and totally unrepresentative of average sentiment due to my background. However, it is a debate to which I think I can make a positive contribution.

Colonialism distorted several religious and cultural practices in India, and made them seem barbaric to Westerners. In due course with Independence, Nehru followed the Socialist Secular motto for the country, and quotas were written into the constitution. Dr. Ambedkar himself believed that the quotas should be temporary and last only 30 years or so. The public policy argument is that individual politicans and political parties of course have one major goal in mind, to be in power. Therefore, to gain votes and remain in power it was easy to perpetuate a class divide. While the Communists and Marxists promoted the class divide, the other parties added a twist and mixed caste with it. Today the real issue is that of class divide (rich and poor), and it is promoted as caste divide.

The fact that there are so many OBC categories and several castes and sub-castes vying to be included in the OBC category is a case in point. In the absence of special favours by the government what is the necessity for classification into different caste groups? Different caste groups would of course emerge as groups evolve over time, just like there are several church groups in the west; however, would they engage in such 'wars' as exist today in India in the absence of political favouritism?

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