How Does the Caste System Affect Indian Society?

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While it has been illegal in India to discriminate against others based on caste since the 1950s, the system continues to affect society in terms of economic inequality, genetic disease and even the election of politicians. Those who live in the country continue to grapple with the implications of caste despite a new, more egalitarian economy. Many compare the impacts of caste in India to those of race in America.

In simple terms, India’s caste system is a division of labor in which a person’s future line of work is determined at birth. From the Brahmins to the Untouchables, each caste is known for its assigned work.

While castes are not as obvious as they used to be in cities, where the tech boom has created many jobs, they stand out in rural communities. Many landowners tend to take advantage of those who belong to lower castes by overcharging for rent.

In politics, many Indians vote according to a candidate’s caste. According to an article in the New York Times, more than half of the residents of Bangalore, which has a well-educated population, say they vote primarily based on a politician’s caste.

Genetically, the caste system has had a tremendous effect on genetics. Intermarriage in India began to drop off significantly about 2,000 years ago. As a result, modern Indians face an array of genetic-specific health problems, according to Dr. Kumarasamy Thangaraj of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research’s Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology.