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How To Solve Unemployment Problem In India - Lessons From Ancient India : Part 2

The best method to solve unemployment problem is to give a deep thought to the social structure of ancient India. We need to go back, into the post Vedic history but pre-Mahabharata history. The sources are a little confusing/contradictory. I have tried my best to keep proper dates and duration in this article - based on majority of articles. That means, if more than one research paper cites a particular date, I've picked up those dates. Please note that these dates etc are just for your reference and may not be exact. The article expands on my previous article on how to solve unemployment problem in India - Education Structure.

PART II: Lessons From Ancient India - Social Structure & Society

This relates to the period when society was structured based on caste. Of course, the caste system still prevails in India but the lines are much blurred and the definition of caste nowadays is more hereditary rather than what is defined/explained in the Vedas - the ancient Hindu scriptures. Not only three out of the four vedas: Rig Veda, Yajur Veda and Sam Veda, but scriptures such as Manu Samhita and other scriptures speak of a social structure based on castes. The point to note here is that the classification of castes/varnas was pretty different from what it is today.

Ancient Indian Society: The Main Divisions

In other word, the ancient Hindu scriptures divided the society into four main sections:
  1. Brahmins at the top,
  2. Khsatriyas at second place,
  3. Vaishyas at the third place and finally
  4. Shudras at the fourth place.

The same social structure is mentioned by Lord Krishna in Bhagwad Gita as well. However, there was another section of the ancient society that related to the untouchables.

I do not really understand how and who created this section but I guess that too was based on karma (or work of the individuals).

We'll talk about the untouchables in the ancient Indian society in a while and see why exactly they were considered untouchables. Before that, let us check out the main four sections of the society and how it worked.

The Main Social Structure in Ancient India - Based On Bhagwad Gita

Much after the Vedas were written, Lord Krishna taught Arjuna about the essence of life in the battlefield of Mahabharata. Vedas and Manu Smriti were pre-Ramayana era: i.e. some 900000 years from 2013AD. According to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad books, Lord Rama was born in year 5114BC. It took another yuga (age) for Lord Krishna to appear. According to the same books from Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the year of birth of Lord Krishna is determined to be 3228BC. But these dates are not exact as most scriptures put Lord Ram in Kriti yuga (the first yuga - age).

According to Hindu scriptures, there are four ages: Kriti or Satyuga when people were still honest and lived peacefully. The sins and cruelty perpetuated a little when the age changed to "treta yuga". This was when demons etc rose to fight the good and finally Lord Ram put an end to these demons. Note that Lord Almighty takes birth "avatar" towards the end of each yuga (age) to restore order in the world. Since we are talking about Bhagwad Gita that was recited on the battle ground on Mahabharata, we will have to look at the dates surrounding Lord Krishna, who recited the secrets of life that came to be known as the fifth veda - The Bhagwad Gita. In the Bhagwad Gita, Lord Krishna mentioned about Kaliyuga - the current yuga. Lord Krishna himself belonged to dwapar yuga, the third age/era. It is said Dwapar yuga ended with Lord Krishna leaving for his heavenly abode.

We got a little deviated from the main topic in the above two paragraphs. The point I wanted to make was that what Krishna preached is not much old when compared to the Ramayana era. According to the some sources, the Bhadwad Gita was penned around 3138 BC that is in contrast to the birth year of Lord Krishna as mentioned above. Some sources, such as the Bhagwad Gita Organization, says the battle was fought some 5000 years ago.

The reason why I am trying to bring in dates and years here is to convey something that you might not know: Caste system in ancient India was much different from what it is today. While today's caste system categorizes people based on their birth, Lord Krishna spoke of a system where castes or varnas were decided based on the karma of people. Also note that Lord Krishna never mentioned about the untouchables in his discourse with Arjuna. That means the untouchables could either be lowest of lowest varna/caste or were totally out of the then society.

Flexibility Of Ancient India's Caste System

Unlike today's caste system that ties you to a certain caste throughout your life, the then varna system allowed you to move up or down the varna system - based on the type of work you did. For example, if a Brahmin's son joined army, he would be then Kshatriya. Similarly, if a trader's son spent much of his time studying and educating others, he would be regarded as a Brahmin.

The untouchables were probably not considered part of active society. They would have been people who were not of much education and/or skill. Possibly, the kind of work they did had people keep away from them. For example, cleaning of roads and toilets requires a person to bathe at the end of the day before he or she could go meet other people. I do not think you would shake hand with a person who just comes out of a toilet after cleaning it with his bare hands.

Employment Scenario In Ancient India's Varna System

From the above, it is evident that people had certain skill sets that made them belong to certain caste. They had the option to move over to other castes by improving their skills related to the caste they wanted to move to. There was no restriction on movement among the caste levels. I cannot say the same about the untouchables though as I could not find any related documentation. But I do think the untouchables were pretty poor to afford proper skills required to move up the ladder of the then caste system of India.

That makes you deduce that people were mostly trained for skills rather than just formal education. In other words, not everyone would become Brahmin as their interests and intellect levels would vary. Education and training were provided based on the intellect levels and also on the current caste level of individuals. That made sure everyone had enough skills to earn and to live a decent life (barring the untouchables). I feel the untouchables were the one who engaged in work that was not considered decent and hence were barred from the active society. Examples could be sex workers, crap cleaners, and other odd jobs that were considered unhealthy and contaminating.

To sum up the entire post, the caste system in ancient system was a guide for young to move towards proper education and then expand upon their knowledge. That made sure that no one was unemployed or without work. 

In today's scenario, everyone wants a white collar job. The teachers are paid poorly while the rulers need no training. People are moving from agriculture to cities expecting better paying jobs. Since they cannot impart skill based education and since caste system has become rigid, the government provides reservations for lower castes. Imagine people without proper skills doing jobs that require good training. No need to think too far, just imagine people running the country with no knowledge of what it is all about.

Money could have been the base in the ancient system too but there are references of kshatriyas saving people just because their 'dharma' said so. Likewise, Brahmins of that age were supposed to teach without expecting anything. It was up to the students to pay up whatever they could - after they completed education.

Caste System In Ancient India - Applying Yesterday To Today

There can be many things to understand from the caste system of Ancient India that can help remove the current unemployment scenario from India. To start with, the educators should be given a life that is self sufficient. That also means creating universities for alternative education - not only IITs, Medical and MBAs but anything technical that helps people acquire skills. The facilities should be available to all, irrespective of their economic condition. This is not hard to achieve. I have stressed the importance of skill based education in my previous article on Lessons From Ancient India (see link below).

Then the rulers aka politicians should be properly educated with respect to what they are supposed to do. It is not possible for a single person to learn it all. The academics can be used as consultants. But the rulers can seek consultation only if they know of a problem. Maybe the politicians do not need training in warfare these days but there are many more aspects of politics and humanity where they need good grades. However, education is not a criteria for people to join politics. No need to say everything related to country is in rut.

Finally, the system should be changed a little to support small businesses and agriculture plus crafts. There should be systems in place that not only finance but also guide the aspiring entrepreneurs. Likewise, if proper support is provided to fields like crafts and agriculture, the need for these people to migrate would reduce. This is not difficult and I can see SBA in the US helping out entrepreneurs.

What is happening right now is that the government does not want to help the lower two sections - vaishyas and shudras as they were known. When a govt thinks offering them work only for 100 days a year, you cannot expect progress there. There should be instead training that helps them to start out on things that keep them employed throughout the year. But since the political parties consider them votebank, they will not do anything lest they lose their votes. In addition, oppressing a section of society for appeasement of society further diverts one's mind from constructive thinking. That means, people are stuck with petty problems forever that prevent them from progressing in their life. This is just an outline of current affairs while the above three para gives you an idea of what can be learned and implemented from the ancient Indian social structure.

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