Untouchability in Contemporary India and its analysis of the Policy: Relevance in Indian Context


The caste system in India is a four-fold categorical hierarchy of the Hindu religion, where the Brahmins (priests, preacher) are at the top followed by the Kshatriyas (warriors, rulers), who are further followed by Vaishyas(farmers/teachers/merchants) and lastly the Shudras (laborers) and in addition to this outside of the four-fold caste structure, there is a fifth category of “outcasts” who are thought to be undertaking unclean tasks.

This four-fold system is inducted from Hinduism’s sacred texts, supposedly the Manu smriti, which is the Hindu Law and it is thousands of years old, it presided over all the essential facets of life like marriage, occupation, location, etc. India’s caste system is conceivably the longest continuing social hierarchy. Caste is a distinguishing feature of Hinduism, enclosing a complicated hierarchy based on ceremonial purity.

A person is considered a member of the caste within which he or she is born, and remains so until death, however, the caste’s particular ranking may alter between places and over time. The differences in the status are conventionally justified by the religious doctrine of Karma, a certain belief that one’s place in life is set on by one’s deed in their previous lifetime. Despite the constitutional ban on ‘untouchability,’ the practice of imposing social dysfunction on people based on their birth into specific castes has remained largely unchanged in rural India.

Between the 1920s and 1950s, the realm of identity politics and reservations in contemporary India was hotly debated, notably among the groups clamoring for formal designation within the categories, nonetheless, this particular status was removed in the midst of discussions over the limits, reason, and without a doubt obligation of portrayal inside the advancing structure of bunch rights.

While bantering over the connotations of discomfort, they were acknowledged for their unique status (regarding a common history of criminalization), this didn’t convert into true acknowledgment as a different class of hindered resident after autonomy, subsequently entangling these networks’ capacity to get to the special approaches initiated by the free constitution in 1950. This paper will analyze how the policy relevance stands up in India with respect to untouchability.




Indian constitution provides for equality as a fundamental right, and it is an established constitutional value that no one should get discriminated against based on caste, creed, gender, and color. This has many policy implications for the Indian administration. Abolition of untouchability is one such policy issue that continues to be in debate even today.

Even though the term ‘untouchability’ is recognized with some situational examples, it lacks a coherent definition or a common feature of its own. This ambiguity of the term has led to many confusions in policy circles and popular perception. In this background, the research focuses on the following question.



How does the ambiguity in defining untouchability affect the policy implications regarding equality?



The caste system was forced into constructions on the day-by-day encounters of people, on their basic points of view, and on the decisions of others. All over, consequently, the constitution’s desire to eliminate these pollutants from Indian culture and usher in new types of opportunity was revolutionary in scope and profoundly opposing to unlawful types of power all through the society. The connection between these groups and the law, in any case, is essential for the fundamental design of significant and enduring endeavors to destroy an arrangement of social subjection.


This paper aims at explaining the debates that arose in regard to untouchability in India and the relevance of the policies based on the caste system.



The examination technique utilized in this venture is doctrinal research where case study analysis has been used for the research. Doctrinal research includes the investigation of various laws, perusing articles research ventures, online journals identifying with the subject. The information has been gathered from optional sources like diaries, papers, articles, and distinctive contextual analyses.



The Government of India Act, 1935, contains the legal precursors of the compensating segregation framework, which was implemented after independence. The Act resulted in a significant devolution of executive powers to the territories, as well as an extension of the establishment, albeit it remained heavily constrained. Similarly, how to address the concerns of disempowered and minority groups reached the pinnacle of heated political debate.

The Act rooted in suspicions about inherent and contrary gathering contrast broadened separate unrestricted portrayal and saved seats for certain minorities. For the first run through, seats were saved for applicants having a place with what came the revised classification of the prior downtrodden groups is known as the Scheduled Castes. The meaning of the discouraged classes was itself a disputed matter, in any case.

The colonial government realized that it was an unclear and territorially unforeseen class that essentially needed more noticeable clearness. The term “welfare work” has a long history in depressed communities, but it was only in the twentieth century that it was coined and politicised.[1]

M.B. Dadabhoy, a nationalist leader, proposed forming a committee in the Imperial Legislative Council Committee in 1916 that would put together schemes for the moral and material betterment of the depressed classes and he even argued that the improvement of the country’s overall state will not be effective until the downtrodden classes are upgraded. ‘In the first place what are the Depressed Classes? This term is often used in the press and on the platform, but I am not aware that it has ever been defined’[2], questioned H. Wheeler, Secretary to the Government of India.

To clarify the concept, Dadabhoy claimed that the untouchables were the most usually referred to as the depressed class among Hindus, although the aborigines, criminals, wandering tribes, and Mahomedan ‘ajlaf’ and ‘arzul’ were also entitled to be included as they basically formed the lowest strata of the Indian society. Even though Dadabhoy eventually retracted the resolution, it is remembered as one of the first official attempts to define the term.

In the same year, the Indian government initiated an investigation into the matter and stress was especially laid on finding the exact definition of this term. However, for the time being, the Home Department had divided the tribes into three categories: (a) untouchables, (b) aboriginal and hill tribes, and (c) criminal tribes. At this stage, there was widespread agreement within the government that the depressed class encompassed these three groups in particular.

Every one of these gatherings was related with a specific sort of inconvenience. In Dadabhoy’s fundamental argument, he stated that the issue for ‘untouchables’ was notable abuse and corruption as a result of unapproachability practises. The ‘aboriginals and hill tribes,’ on the other hand, resided ‘on the slopes far away from the centres of settlement,’ and training was a necessity for them. For the ‘criminal clans’, the ‘fundamental inquiry’ was ‘one of settlement, instruction positioning next insignificance.

Authorities did, be that as it may recognize the constraints of a particularly reductive system. Who was precisely referred to as ‘depressed class’ differed across many areas, among different communities, and among reformers?  Local governments responded to the issue of the poor on their own terms to the issue of the poor. Because of Dadabhoy’s purpose in 1916, the issue arose even across distinct portions of a comparable territory, as indicated in the Imperial Legislative Council which is an alternate one and must be drawn closer in an unexpected way.[3]

The dissimilar methodologies taken by local governments on the issue got obvious during the proof provided to the Indian Franchise (Southborough) Committee, the committee charged with researching changes to the institution in 1918–1919. It has been the mix of the strictly based social-separation and disconnection with financial drawbacks which has given the foundation of unapproachability its sting and it fortitude. [4]

In principle, the situation of people and ascriptive gatherings were fixed, and however practically speaking every caste created fantasies that made exemptions for itself, and some effectively modified their relative status. Anyway, in light of the current situation of the seriously discouraged economic wellbeing and financial pendency, it was incredibly hard for an untouchable to modify its situation in the general public.

There are just uncommon reports of cases in which a distant had the option to change fundamentally its custom or material status, however, we can’t reject the chance of different cases, effectively stowed away from the two counterparts and history specialists, happening particularly during times of incredible social disturbance or relocation to an agitated domain.[5]

The name Scheduled Caste comes from a provision in the Government of India Act of 1935 that established an authoritative timeline, or rundown of stations thought about subject to the act of distance and in this way needing extraordinary government help and assurance. The Constitution of India nullified the act of untouchability, thus formally there could be not, at this point any ‘untouchables’.

In any case, as we have noticed, the constitution additionally incorporated the exceptional arrangements advancing the government assistance of these positions, yielding the contentions of the Scheduled standing pioneers and some higher rank reformers that the material and economic wellbeing of the ‘ex-untouchables’ couldn’t be adjusted promptly by the administrative fiat.

The Scheduled Castes additionally are in no way, shape, or form a homogeneous gathering in friendly or financial terms. The class is made out of many separate castes that share certain normal debilitations according to the remainder of the general public, yet they are very unmistakable and progressively positioned.


The Constitution of India frequently proclaimed as a milestone archive was roused by the emancipatory vision of its central draftsman Dr. B.R. Ambedkar-a Dalit pioneer who himself endured harsh discrimination and who looked to guarantee equivalent assurance and considerable balance for Dalits in autonomous India.

The constitution as a document joins wide social reason, originating from the social substance of the Independence Movement, with functional regulatory detail, in view of the Assembly individuals’ [6] encounters in government and on the occasions around them. Indian constitutionalism endeavors, anyway incompletely, to adjust freedom and correspondence interests and in this manner hints the fragile harmony among formal and considerable originations of fairness in worldwide common liberties law.

Despite the fact that researchers keep on discussing the exact starting points of the position the framework, there is a general arrangement among history specialists and anthropologists that it has existed in India for up to 2,000 years. The old Hindu sacred texts, the Veda, depict a severe social pecking order that bears a few likenesses to the advanced Indian position framework.

As indicated by Veda, the universe is coordinated into a severe arrangement plot and a bunch of progressive connections that are reflected in the association of society. The connection between the position framework and the construction of the universe given a profound strict legitimization to the delineation of society as indicated by station, and its compartmentalization into sovereign networks with the ability to oversee their own undertakings. [7]

During the Constituent Assembly discussions, the unjust acts executed under the caste framework were quite possibly the most squeezing matters confronting the delegates. During an underlying conversation of a goal that would characterize the essential points and articles of the Assembly, Mr. M.R. Masani contended that the caste framework had injured India’s political turn of events and communicated trust that the new constitution would permit truly mistreated lower positions to have more noteworthy correspondence in the new commonwealth.

The Constituent Assembly obtained the most recent constitution in November 1949, which carries various enormous obligations for societal development and to the abrogation of existing social disparities related to the Hindu rank framework. Article 14 expresses that the “State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.” [8]

Article 15 prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. Article 17 abolishes untouchability and makes “the enforcement of any disability arising from it an offence punishable in accordance with law.” [9] Additionally, Article 29 provides that “any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same.” [10] The constitution contains various arrangements that expressly give advantages to these groups.

Articles 341 and 342 engage the President, with the interview of the governor of a specific state, to differentiate between the Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes who will gain from the constitution. The Scheduled Tribes are native networks that had been, similar to the untouchables, the subject of authentic separation and treated in manners identical to distance.

Under the constitution, consequently, the Scheduled Tribes are viewed as much the same as lower station bunches for the motivations behind the advantages agreed by the constitution. Article 330 stores seats in the law-making body for the Scheduled Castes and Planned Tribes with respect to the populaces of these gatherings in each state. Article 335 entitles Scheduled Castes and Tribes to get unique thought in employing for government posts. [11]

Notwithstanding the constitutional provisions that are provided, the Indian government has tried a two-pronged approach to closing the gap between the financial situation of the Scheduled Caste population and the national average., one prong includes administrative estimates which guarantee that the different arrangements to ensure their privileges and interests are sufficiently executed, authorized, and checked; the second spotlights on expanding the independence of the Schedules Caste populace through monetary help for independent work exercises through advancement programs to expand instruction and abilities.

The combative portion of this methodology includes the requirement of the legal arrangements that make up the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955, and the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, as well as other state and federal government laws, as well as positive discrimination in the fields of government business and advanced education through reservations. The National Commissions for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes monitor these defence measures. The improvement measures for the instructive, social, and monetary “upliftment” of the Scheduled Castes are directed by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment [12]


According to Article 16(4) of the Indian Constitution, the state has the authority to establish “any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of people who, in the view of the State, is not adequately represented in the State’s services” [13]. India grants Dalits a number of rights, including reservations (quotas) in training, government occupations, and government bodies, in accordance with constitutional frameworks and several legislations. India’s arrangement of the reservation is an endeavour by the central government to cure past treacheries identified with “low-caste” status. [14]

To consider relative portrayal in certain state and government institutions, the constitution holds 22.5 percent of seats in central government occupations, state legislature, parliament’s lower house, and instructive educational institutions for the Scheduled castes and the Scheduled Tribes.  A change to the constitution likewise empowers reservation for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in village gatherings (panchayats) and regions, with no short of what one-third of saved seats to be allotted to the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe women.[15]

Strikingly, no other reservation programs accommodate a sub-classification of reservations for ladies. Reservations have likewise been accommodated “Other Backward Classes” (“OBCs”)- a gathering of ranks authoritatively perceived as having been generally rejected however who, in contrast to Dalits, are not treated as “untouchables.” Under the reason of relative portrayal, OBCs are qualified for 27% reservations in the public sector employment and for higher education. [16]


In the same way, like other of the protective estimates depicted in this Article, the reservations strategy has not demonstrated all by itself to be an adequate solution for the caste oppression of Dalits in India. However, reservations have helped support a Dalit political arousing, they are restricted in their range. The reservations strategy benefits one moment level of Dalits in the country-high lack of education and dropout rates among Dalits imply that not very many can profit themselves of sacred rights in open area work and training. Various key areas additionally keep on leftover external the domain of the reservation strategy and caste-based separation keeps on being drilled in the areas where reservations are gotten, prompting underenforcement. [17]

Issues of implementation and reach are, be that as it may, viably side-lined in the counter reservations banter. Reservations are currently at the focus of a tempest of study that projects reservations as subverting “meritocratic beliefs” and building up caste-based divisions. There has additionally been far and wide-open resistance to reservations for Dalits in nearby government bodies (regularly prompting savagery) and in profoundly desired government occupations and seats in advanced education in light of the monetary security these positions are seen to offer.”[18]

While reservations to state governing bodies and the lower place of parliament have guaranteed more prominent Dalit portrayal in political bodies, these reservations have not really meant more prominent insurance of Dalit rights. At last, as of now the restricted reach of reservations is progressively sabotaged by financial advancement and its chaperon re-appropriating of public area occupations to the private area where reservations, until further notice, in any event, can’t reach.

Allies of reservations contend that without agreed activity Dalits would not have the option to infiltrate the standing roof in instruction, what’s more, a business that outcomes from the dug-in enemy of Dalit biases. They add that there are no target norms of legitimacy appropriate to all gatherings inside society, given that prevailing groups shape customs inside which they make decisions of merit. Further, they support reservations on the premise of public variety, contending that various perspectives ought to be addressed in public foundations to advance variety, this, in the end, promotes the country’s social and political life.

Allies additionally highlight proof that reservation policies have been fruitful in certain regions. Reservations in nearby government bodies, like town boards or panchayats, for instance, have upgraded the conveyance of nearby open products to hindered groups. Similarly, reservations in advanced education have managed the cost of more prominent freedoms to Dalit understudies. [19] The normal financial status of Dalit understudies is still essentially lower than that of different understudies. Because of reservations, these understudies can get preferable professional openings over they would have without reservation strategies.




For a long time, the minorities or the people from lower caste suffered a lot of oppression and were deprived of many opportunities due to the practice of untouchability. While one section of our society claims that the practice of untouchability doesn’t exist anymore but the untouchables, themselves are seen to claim or give statements where they often say that though there are many policies which are made for their benefits they are actually deprived of most of them and still have to face difficulties to live in this society.

They believe that most of these policies are just for eye washing the public and gaining their trust and support which actually helps in winning their votes. There are few instances in recent time which actually shows that these peoples from the backward classes are correct. For example,

  1. A) Valmiki Community protesting after Prime Minister Narendra Modi washes feet of 5 members of the community: Many Valmiki community members raised their voices after PM Narendra Modi washed the feet of 5 sanitation workers in Prayagraj. The main concern of the community people was that if prime minister and his government really cares and respects the people from this community then why are they denied of any chance to secure specialized and expert abilities like mechanical work, electrical work and so on.

The members of Valmiki community, who are mostly engaged in sanitation and sewage cleaners and are considered and treated as the untouchables in the society, openly demanded that they don’t need any kind special privileges but all they want is the respect they deserve as human beings, as well as prospects for more lucrative work and to break free from the constraints of such a vocation. They believe that though discrimination being punishable by law, nothing has changed and even today, there is the practice of open and public discrimination practised by others from higher societies towards everybody hailing from the sanitation worker’s families.


  1. B) Two Dalits beaten up by Rajput’s in Gujrat: On 25th September and on 29th September in 2017, two different Dalit men were beaten up the Rajput’s for having moustache. It was even reported that the Rajputs verbally abused the Dalits saying that they can’t be like Rajputs even if they keep moustache like the Rajputs. From these two cases, it is evident that discriminating on the basis of race is not acceptable, caste is illegal in our country but in many areas or parts of our country, the Dalits or people from lower caste are considered as untouchables and they are treated badly sometimes they are physically abused causing death.


  1. C) The practise of Untouchability that Indian churches have admitted to: In 2016, many people claim that there is no such thing as untouchability in society, the Indian Catholic Churches officially admitted and accepted that untouchability is practiced and the Dalits are discriminated. It was mentioned in their submission that though there are large number of Dalit Christians present in the society but they were never considered or were given any kind priorities for the post of higher level leaders, it says that “their participation in the level of leadership in the diocesan administration as well as in religious orders is minimum and at the upper levels, it is almost negligible”.


  1. D) Tirumala Temple Case: In a significant emblematic advance towards eliminating caste-related biases, the Tirumala temple has chosen to offer training to non-Brahmins in temple customs. This occurred following six years of the temple opened its Vedic school to Dalit understudies. Around 200 Dalits and other socially backward people would be trained at the temple.

The Indian Express said that the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam had previously launched a project named ‘Dalita Govindam,’ in which it transported Lord Balaji idols to Dalit areas. The CPI (M) had, in any case, considered it as an “advanced type of untouchability”, and said that the temple ought to permit Dalits as clerics of the main temple and permit them to enter the region where the food items are being prepared.




We can handle inclination against caste and gender above all else by perceiving the worth   and nobility of all work (counting neglected work) and all specialists (remembering those for the most troublesome exhausting and debased occupations). We ought to likewise give a more prominent voice to customarily abused and smothered gatherings, including by empowering associations and affiliation and unveiling the and corporate private movement more straightforward and responsible to individuals by and large.

A two-level framework has been made, with to a great extent privatized quality training and medical care for the individuals who can pay, and a huge populace left to fight for themselves with extremely low-quality public administrations.




The caste as it is known is presumed to be the encounter between the Colonial rule and the Indian Society. Undoubtedly, the class of Scheduled Castes exists, but just in the Indian legal and political framework. The British through the caste policies and censuses spread the possibility that “Hindu society” was described by a resistance between Caste Hindus and Untouchables. Even in the past decades many scholars argued about this and said that the British Colonial powers constructed the caste system as the essence of Indian society.

Being untouchable correspondingly includes originations of bunch enrolment verbalized by untouchables and regarding biases usually held all through Indian culture. The regard conceded to each rank in Indian protected law proposes that participation locally inside a status, progressive system may likewise include certain regulating responsibilities, particularly the subordinate gathering’s norms for enrolment, that convolute any work to utilize the force of the state to address basic social disparities among gatherings.

The fate of the caste system is largely determined by the castes themselves. Law has pointed the way; however, it has done as such so that comprehends the cut off points of law comparable to the types of power that exist in places that individuals can live, contact, and even love. The fate of Indian law relies upon the cooperation among the individuals from the lower castes, their networks, and lawful precept. It is a task that the courts have just barely started, and one that will proceed. The tenets created by courts in light of these strategies, in any case, have an exceptional relationship to the political authority of castes and different networks subordinate to the state.

To an astonishing degree, Indian courts have shown reverence to the authority of the caste system in manners that underscore the political authority of the caste order and sabotage the constitution’s yearning for more prominent equity. This component of Indian balance the law mirrors a strain between the established goal to social change on the one hand and yielding to the authority of the caste or clan to characterize its own limits on the other.


This article is written by Miss. Garima Chakraborty, 3rd Year, B.A LLB (Hons.) student at Alliance University.



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