COVID-19 shines light on India’s Caste System

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Caste Apartheid

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India's gross negligence in the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has moved the incredible burden of social order onto Dalit lives. Dalit communities remain on the frontlines with no governmental or social support.

India’s negligence in handling the COVID-19 pandemic has been highlighted by world leaders and media outlets worldwide. Underpinning many systemic issues such as corruption, fascism, and the common practice of bribery is the universality of casteism. Casteism is a social order that grossly violates any conceptual framework of human rights, and also ranks the value of a community’s existence against other communities of different social rankings. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, people of lower castes and lower socioeconomic statuses have had to fight against a system that keeps them disadvantaged to receive the same treatment as citizens belonging to upper castes in hospitals and clinics. Migrant workers and working class people from lower castes have been stripped of employment pushing them further into poverty, with no support or monetary aid for food, shelter and water during government-mandated shut downs of society. These poorly planned states of emergency declared by the BJP government have had no regard for the uniquely vulnerable positions of people from Dalit communities due to their complicity in caste oppression.

In areas of lower socioeconomic standing such as the slums, social distancing becomes impossible due to high population density, increasing the likelihood of super-spreader events and higher infection rates. In this sense, there were no true mechanisms created by the BJP government to support people from Dalit communities to survive the pandemic. Rather, it can be argued that the global Pandemic is being used as a mechanism to completely wipe out parts of lower-caste populations. Despite this, members of the Dalit community have been frontline workers battling the disastrous new waves of COVID rippling through the states — working within crematoriums, sanitation facilities and putting themselves at the risk of infection for the sake of daily wages to provide for their families’ survival.

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