We know that the Hindu society is divided into many castes. Some people who belong to the Sudra caste are considered as untouchables. The upper classes remain aloof from them. Most of them are poor and lead a very miserable life. They are badly treated by people belonging to higher castes.
The untouchables suffer great discrimination.
1. They are prohibited from using public wells and tanks.
2. They are not permitted to enter Hindu temples.
3. They cannot attend public schools.
4. They have to live in separate colonies apart from the rest of—the people.
5. They are compelled to earn their livelihood from degrading professions like scavenging and killing of animals.
The high castes think that they would ‘be polluted if they had any social contacts with the untouchables.
Harmful Effects of Untouchability
Untouchability is a great curse. It has many evil effects on the Indian society. In the first place, it has made the lives of untouchables pitiable. They cannot make progress in any sphere of life. Secondly, untouchability has created bitterness between the Harijans or untouchables and the upper classes of the Hindus. The Harijans think that the upper class Hindus are the cause of their disgrace and misery. Thirdly, the British Government took the advantage of the’enmity between the two. It tried to use the grievances of the Scheduled Classes to divide the Indian people. They checked the growth of national feelings among them.
Measures to Eradicate Untouchability
The great social reformers and the Constitution of India took many significant measures to remove the curse of untouchability in our country.
Work of Social Reformers. Since early times, the social reformers -like Chaitanya, Kabir and Guru Nanak preached against the practice of untouchability In the modem age, great reformers like Raja Ram fo. , Mohan Roy and Swami Dayanand strove hard to end this social evil root and branch.
Role of Gandhiji. Gandhiji was severely opposed to untouchability. He considered it unjust and immoral. He began a powerful movement against this evil. In his Ashrams at Sabarmati at Ahmedabad and in Delhi, there was no discrimination of any kind. They were open to all the sections of society. Sometimes Gandhiji himself stayed in the Harijan colonies To promote the welfare of the Harijans, he founded an All India Harijan Sangh and also started a journal “Harijan”. As a result of his efforts, the Harijans beãn to play an active role in the national movement. They joined the people of other castes in the demonstrations and Satyagrahas against the British Government. The Congress made the uplift of the Harijans a part of its programme.
Laws against untouchability. The Constitution of our country empowers the government to make laws for completely abolishing untouchability It grants right to equality to all the citizens of the country. The Government has made laws to abolish untouchability in any form. By an Act of 1955, untouchability has been declared a criminal offence. It is punishable with a sentence of one year and a fine of one thousand rupees. The Government has appointed a special officer known as the Commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to eradicate the evil of untouchability. The Harijans can now use the public, places such as wells, ghats, tanks, temples, hotels and cinemas without any let or hindrance. The Government is making special efforts to remove poverty, illiteracy and a sense of inferiority from among them. Seats have been reserved for them in the government services, Panchayats, Municipal Committees, State Assemblies and in the Parliament. They are given special concessions and facilities for education in schools and colleges. They are given stipends. They are given books free of cost. Every state has established a Harijan Welfare Pepartment to safeguard the interests of the Scheduled Castes and Schedules Tribes.
Impact of Modem Way of Life on Untouchability
The modern civilization has also contributed much to the eradication of untouchability. The growth of modern industries, railways, buses and other means of transport have brought people belonging to different castes nearer to one another. The growth of cities and towns has also made the people of all castes to live together and develop closer social contacts. The development of trade and commerce and large scale industries have offered opportunities of economic progress to people of all classes. In the past, there was close connection between the caste and occupation. But the situation has changed. In the modern industrial age the making of profits is the main motive without any caste considerations.
What more can we do to remove Untouchabillty?
The evil of untouchability has not been completely removed in spite of the best efforts of the Government and the society Much more has to be done to end this evil.
1. More steps should be taken to improve the economic condition of the untouchables.
2. They should be granted loans on low rates to start cottage ançl small scale industries.
3. The people should be made to realise the evils of untouchability through mass media such as journals, television programmes, cinema, theatre, speeches etc.
4. The Government should establish new colonies in which people belonging to all classes live together and mix with one another freely.
5. National Social Service and Scouting camps should be frequently organised. In these camps, the children belonging to all classes get a chance to live and dine together. This will help in removing the
6. People should be encouraged to make inter-caste marriages.
7. Untouchability is mostly commori in the villages. Such vifiages which succeed in eradicating this evil completely should be duly rewarded.
8. The birth days of great saints like Valmik and Guru Ravi Das should be celebrated with great enthusiasm by all the classes of the society
9. The people should celebrate Harijan Day or Harijan Week every year. It shall give chance to all the classes to mix, sit and dine together.
Many states of India celebrate Harijan Day or Harijan Week every year. It helps in moulding public opinion against untouchability. Special programmes are held for cleaning Harijan colonies and common langars or inter-dining is arranged. The Harijans offer water and food to the people of other castes. The Harijans are also welcomed to visit temples.