Some of the demerits of Caste System in India are as follows:
If the institution of caste has been of great value to Hinduism, it has also been responsible for a good many evils. According to P. N. Bose, “The caste system has acted essentially to impose that attitude of mind, needed to raise men from savagery but to stop them half way on progress.” Some of the demerits of the caste system are as follows:
The caste system has literally split up the Hindu society into hundreds of hereditary castes and sub-castes and thus encouraged a spirit of exclusiveness and class- pride, narrowed the outlook and created wide gulfs between the various sections of the community.
In this way it has stood in the way of national and collective consciousness and proved to be a disintegrating rather than an integrating factor.
The caste system is a check on economic and intellectual advancement and a great stumbling block in the way of social reforms, because it keeps economic and intellectual opportunities confined to a certain section of the population only and denies them to others.
A sweeper or a cobbler, for example, cannot be permitted to devote himself to any educational or scientific profession, even when he has natural aptitude and physical and intellectual equipment for it. Worthy and capable persons are prevented by caste rigours from getting their proper and rightful places.
This inelastic attitude of the system suppresses genius and represses and curtails individual liberty. It kills all initiative and enterprise of the members. Much human energy and talent remain untapped by the community with a consequent loss to its culture and civilization. Modern democracy has a tendency for leveling down all talents. The caste system, however, is guilty of just the opposite demerit. It does not make proper provision for low-born talents or high-born incompetents.
In the economic field, the caste system undermines the efficiency of labour and prevents perfect mobility of labour, capital and productive effort. As a result, neither are the large scale industries developed nor are the economic resources of the country exploited to the best advantage of the people.
The caste system perpetuates exploitation of the economically weaker and socially inferior castes. It protects the privileged castes and thus it builds up economic discontent and social prejudices.
The needless multiplication of the castes and the subsequent inflexibility and rigid social code of each have been causing today enormous waste of time, money and energy due to series of taboos (several prohibitions in respect of cooking, eating, drinking, etc). Then, again, it does not allow the Hindus to adopt newer and better ways of life and shuts them off from free association with the non- Hindus and consequently the Hindus have not been able to keep pace with the progressing world.
The caste system has inflicted untold hardships on women through its insistence on practices like child-marriage, prohibition of widow-remarriage, seclusion of women etc. These have made the life of women miserable.
The caste system has condemned large groups of people to a life of degradation without any hope of redemption. It has created untouchability, an evil that has been sapping the very vitals of the Hindu society. B. R. Ambedkar rightly said, “Untouchability of Hindus is a rare phenomenon, humanity in any other part of the earth has never experienced it. There is no such thing in any other society. Really, the tyranies perpetuated in the name of untouchability are the black lessons in human culture.” According to Gandhiji, untouchability is “the hate fullest expression of caste.” Large sections of people are reduced to the state of virtual slavery.
Democracy is based on the principle of equality, fraternity and liberty. On the other hand, the caste system is based on inequality of status and opportunities, which often creates conflict and tension in the society. It acts as an obstacle in the normal and smooth functioning of democracy.
The caste system has created the feeling of casteism. The members belonging to a caste carry caste feelings and manifest blind and over-riding loyalty to their caste ignoring the healthy social standards of justice, fairplay, equity and brotherhood. The politicians exploit the feeling of casteism to their advantage at the cost of nation’s interests. According to Ghurye, “It is the spirit of caste patriotism which engenders opposition to other castes and creates an unhealthy atmosphere for the growth of national consciousness.”
The caste system has given scope for religious conversion. The lower caste people are getting converted into Islam and Christianity due to the tyranny of the upper castes.
The caste system obstructs the process of modernization. Modernization necessitates a change in outlook and mentality along with socio-economic development. But the caste system by compelling an individual to act strictly in accordance with caste norms stands in the way of modernization.
Discussed above are some of the shortcomings of the caste system. Modern Indian intellect is, therefore, burdened with a sense of contrition over the matter. Passions overwhelmingly carry us to a position of hostility towards any compromise, and the entire caste structure has as a result been placed in the docks.
Despite this it cannot be gainsaid that the caste system offers a place in the society into which any group-racial, social, religious or occupational can fit in as a cooperating part of the social whole without sacrificing its own individual identity and distinctive character. What the caste system provides in India in terms of integrating disparate forces may have its analogue in other social contexts, but it remains uniquely effective in the Indian conditions, without a parallel elsewhere.