Caste system in India | Features | Positive & Negative impacts of Caste system on business

The Caste System

Caste is a very ancient system. Originally, society was divided into two parts namely, the Aryans and the non-Aryans. The Aryans came to India as invaders with vast differences in colour, religion, customs and manners when compared to the original inhabitants. The Aryans were the conquerors and were of a fair complexion whereas the non-Aryans are conquered and were dark.

Caste System in India - Features, Positive and negative impacts on business

Image: Caste System in India – Features, Positive and negative impacts on business

Caste is a type of social class having strictly hereditary basis.

Definition of Caste System

C.M. Cooley defined caste as that

“when class is some what strictly hereditary, we may call it a caste”.

In the words of Lund berg,

“A caste is merely a rigid social classes into which members are born and from which they can withdraw or escape only with extreme difficulty”.

Growth of Various Castes in India

The ancient Hindu society was divided into four classes namely, Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Sudras.

The Brahmanas were considered to be the highest class in the society. Their duty was to read and teach the Vedic literature. They were to live on the charity of the people. They performed all the religious ceremonies for other classes.

The Kshatriyas were primarily concerned with the administration of the country, especially defense. Their whole time job was to protect the people and the nation.

The Vaishyas were connected with the economic life of the country. They were responsible for the production of wealth. The entire class was totally devoted to trade and commerce.

The Sudras were the strongest creation of the Indo-Aryans. The section of the society became the most under developed and their lot was the hardest. They performed all the miscellaneous jobs, which included farming, cultivation, construction etc.

Features of the Caste System

The caste system has been a part of the social structure in India for many generations past. It is firmly held in Indian minds. It is a typical Indian phenomenon. In spite of the best efforts of the Government, social awakening and the spread of education it still prevails. The important features of caste system can be listed below:

1. Birth determines caste.

2. A person born in a particular caste remains in it for life and dies in it.

3. Each caste governs the food habits of its members.

4. Some low castes have been considered to be untouchables.

5. The caste system has got a definite gradation based on which different castes are given prestige and power in the society.

6. Members of a lower caste cannot aspire for occupations, which are often done by people of higher caste.

Impact of Caste System on Business

India is a diverse civilization with a large variety of castes. The Anthropological Survey of India (ASI) identified more than 4,600 castes that make up the Indian society.

Here is a link to download the List of Communities in India

Identity assertion, social mobilization, politicization of caste, and inter-caste tensions are some of the dominant socio-cultural features of Indian society. Business and industry are affected, as the corporate culture within is largely a microcosm of the wider socio-cultural environment outside. The impact of caste system on business can be discussed under two heads namely, positive impacts and negative impacts.

Positive Impacts of Caste system on business

The positive impacts of caste system on business are summarized below:

1. Provide for Division of Labour: In caste system, each caste was required to do the work, which is meant for it. In other words, under caste system, labour was divided. This division of labour increased the productivity.

2. Excess Specialization and Efficiency: In caste system, each person followed the profession of his ancestors. Over the period of time they became experts in their field. It increased the efficiency in each field.

3. Advantage of Competition: In caste system, only Vaishyas did the business activities. So there is no unhealthy competition.

4. Initiated the Spirit of Co-operation: Actually, the co-operative movement in India was initiated by the caste system. Each caste organize their own association for the growth and development of the people of their own caste. For e.g. Nattu Kottai Chettiar Community organized “Nagarathar Sangam” for its development.

5. No Exploitation in Business: There was no exploitation in business under caste system because it produced good business people,

Negative Impacts of Caste System on Business

The caste system exerts negative impact also on business.

1. Lack of Initiative: As the caste system was rigid, it killed the initiative of the people. So stagnancy came in the business. There was no technological development in business.

2. Creation of Monopoly: A particular section was highly experienced in a particular field. It created monopoly trend in business, which was not favorable for the consumers.

3. Creation of Idle Class: The caste system created a lot of idle people not involving themselves in business because only Vaishyas were allowed to do business.

4. No Drive for industrialization etc.: It never led to industrialization and urbanization, which are necessary for boom in business because of superstitious beliefs under caste system.

5. Creation of Imbalanced development in the Economy: It created imbalanced development in the economy.