Why Caste Matters: Examining Socio-Economic Structure

Anusha G
6 min readJan 23, 2022

(Read Part 1: Examining Religion)

Before we discuss reservations, let’s understand the socio-economic structure of our society. The dominant castes (DC) make up approx 26% of the total population but occupy almost twice the amount of teaching positions in educational institutions.

Caste Demographics (Source: Social Welfare Statistics & AISHE)

DCs also have the lowest levels of landlessness, the highest academic qualifications, and earn the most (an average of Rs 35,000 vs Rs 19,032 for SCs) amongst all social groups. Even if we remove caste as a category and only consider low economic status, DCs still rank high in completing graduation.

(Source: Why Reservations)

Furthermore, some jobs are assigned only to SCs and STs. Almost half or more than half of their population is employed in bonded labour, sanitation workers, cleaners, and other menial jobs.

“Then, why can’t they just stop doing those jobs?”

Such jobs, especially jobs like ‘corpse-burner’ (done by the Dom community in Varanasi) and manual scavenging (which is supposedly illegal in India), are assigned based on caste. They cannot simply quit because no DC individual will ever work in these positions. It, therefore, decreases the annual income of oppressed communities, hindering their access to opportunities like better education and health.

I’ve seen DC men refuse to hold a broom. How does one expect them to even respect, let alone be employed, in such jobs? The hypocrisy is evident when DC families settle abroad and treat foreign labour differently. They don’t seem to have an issue when labourers walk into their homes with their shoes on. They are friendly with them and rarely practice any form of untouchability (separate utensils, etc.). They lecture about the ‘dignity of labour’ in Australia and support the Black Lives Matter movement for the rights of Indigenous communities. But the minute a Dalit is attacked, they turn a blind eye.

A relative once remarked, “Because of reservations in India, Brahmins are moving abroad. This is why India is not developing.”

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Anusha G

Creative Writer | Sex Talk Sunday Series | Film Enthusiast