UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis | Caste and Economic Transformation | 23 June 2022

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What the article is about?

  • Talks about the role of caste in economic transformation and analysing important factors.

Syllabus: GS-I Society, Caste; GS-II Social Justice; GS-III Economic growth and development

Jobless economic growth:

  • India has been in a phase of jobless growth for at least two decades now, coupled with rising poverty and discontent in rural areas. The ongoing protests against the Agnipath programme, agitations against farm laws a year before, and agitation for reservation by agriculture castes are all arguably an outcome simmering discontent due to this jobless economic growth.
  • Caste, which is mostly confined to politics, could be among the answers, a structural factor that impedes economic transformation in India.

Caste and Economic Transformation:

  • The link between caste and economic transformation:
    • Caste through its rigid social control and networks facilitates economic mobility for some and erects barriers for others by mounting disadvantages on them. Caste also shapes the ownership pattern of land and capital and simultaneously regulates access to political, social, and economic capital too.
    • Three ways in which caste impedes the economic transformation in India:
      • ownership and land inequality related to productivity failure within the farm sector;
      • elite bias in higher education and historical neglect of mass education, and
      • caste-based entry barriers and exclusive networks in the modern sector.
    • India has one of the highest land inequalities in the world today. Unequal distribution of land was perpetuated by British colonial intervention that legalised a traditional disparity.
      • Even the subsequent land reform that took place after India’s independence largely excluded Dalits and lower castes. It emboldened and empowered mainly intermediate castes at the expense of others in rural India.
      • Those castes that had a stake in agriculture did not benefit from the economic reforms for two reasons — historical neglect of education and the entry barriers erected by the upper castes in modern sectors
        • The recent agitations by the Jats in Haryana and Punjab, the Marathas in Maharashtra and the Patels in Gujarat, demanding, among other things, reservation for their castes in higher education and formal jobs exemplify this new trend.
    • If strong growth in productivity within the farm sector is crucial for sustained economic growth, an educated workforce is equally necessary to move to the modern sectors. India failed on both accounts. The Indian education system has been suffering from an elite bias since colonial times. British colonialists educated tiny groups of elites, largely from upper castes, for their own administrative purpose. 


  • All the nations which succeeded in achieving inclusive growth in the Global South had land reforms combined with human capital, invested in infrastructure by promoting capitalism from below and began industrialisation in the rural sector. Only India lost on all three counts.
  • Caste shaped policy outcomes, including India’s highly unequal land reform and lack of public provision of education and health, which in turn erected barriers to economic diversification. Caste also worked in building social networks. 

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