Class Discriminations in India

There are very few societies more class-ridden than India. While the country focuses on caste, the discriminations based on class do not let merit and fairness prevail. Caste in educational institutions undermines the concept of merit. But class works beneath the superficial surface and insidiously destroys justice and merit.

Class in the Indian context is a nebulous and complex concept.You can feel it, you practice it but you cannot capture it properly. It is tied at a gross level to caste but also to economic wealth, family station, your English pronunciation and also the colour of your skin! So a poor man is going to be beaten up in the police station but a rich man will stay unharmed. It is very rare even in the most merit-based institutions in the country to see a driver's son being friends with a privileged doctor's child. We do not let people of a different class rise and the concept of merit is twisted to suit the dominant section's interests. In a more open society like the US, you find some of the most influential figures like Clinton,Oprah or even Larry Ellison come up from devastated families and economically deprived backgrounds. But the surreptitious discriminations practiced by Indians do not let any person from a lower class rise similarly, except in academics and research etc. where merit cannot be subjugated.

So the leaders in any part of life today come up from the same relatively privileged 5% of the population.

This is also because we sub-consciously tend to magnify the importance of anybody with the right background and do not really give due importance or respect to people of a lower class. This is part our cultural heritage. The minister's son or the industrialist's nephew will always get the blue-blooded treatment in class compared to the boy with the most merit. Marriages are closely tied to the status of families perpetuating class differences again. The great stories of our society are about kings and princes not about ordinary folk doing extraordinary things. God Rama was not born to a poor man but to a king. The heroes of Mahabharat are all from princely families. Karna grew up as the son of a charioteer and so he was not allowed to participate in the archery competition to win the hand of Draupadi. He wins another archery competition defeating the Pandavas and Kaurava brothers and the crowd is stunned by his prowess. But when they discover that he is not from royal blood, they stop applauding.

A country of a billion people has only a few figures like Rajni Kant,Lal Bahadur Shashtri or an Irfan Pathan who come from a different class and have managed to stand out. Some child from a deprived class, who wants to dream and achieve will always find odds like this daunting and will give up in his quest.

This makes the talents of a large part of the population unavailable for our growth. But there are no easy answers to this. Centuries of mindset and discrimination cannot be undone in a few years.


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