The Indian constitution sets out the resolve to eradicate the age-old system of caste, which has denied for centuries the opportunity of social advancement to the lowest stratum of the system, the Dalits (formerly “Untouchables” or Harijans, “children of God”, as Gandhi named them). Considerable steps were taken after independence actively to promote the education and welfare of these depressed classes, most notably through a system of positive discrimination—by assigning a quota of up to 50 per cent of places in universities and professional institutions to the “scheduled” castes.
Old traditions die hard, however, and despite these efforts and those of individuals such as Gandhi, Ambedkar, and others, prejudice, mainly in the social sphere, remains. Nevertheless, individuals from scheduled-caste backgrounds are now found in all walks of life and include eminent scientists, judges, and politicians. In recent years, as a business-led, consumer culture evolves, with status counted more by material wealth than family and tradition, the hold of caste is declining, with many inter-caste marriages, especially among the urban middle classes.
In rural India, however, tradition shows little sign of changing in this regard. In the political sphere, parties and organizations based on caste lines have often been vociferous in the demanding of rights and the protection of the interests of their communities. Politicians and parties frequently seek to secure the votes of particular jatis (sub-castes). Allegiances, however, tend to be fluid and often based on expediency. The continuation of the system of positive discrimination in university entrance has caused friction with non-scheduled-caste students, who claim it has resulted in intolerably high entrance requirements for other castes and lowered standards overall. "India" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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