was caste conceived in a world of shortages? india still faces shortages in many fields: is that the reason why caste works so well today? nearly half the country still doesn't have regular access to electricity, and almost all gas based plants in the country are hungry for fuel. the babus from the former soviet union would know better about how goods and services get distributed when they're rationed out- the weak stay in the lines, forever, while the powerful get those goods without ever stepping into any line. our own planning commission would also know a lot about it: the government stores enough food in its godowns, for everyone, but the poor never get enough.
if the true principle of socialism is the elimination of hierarchy, caste espouses the merits of hierarchy. if socialism is about equality, caste is about separation. then why, in practice, do both end up looking like each other? the problem is with looking at hierarchy and separation separately: hierarchy would remain as long as there is separation, or inequality, and not just along class lines, but along ethnicities. and if you wish to eliminate ethnic divisions, say, which ones would you eliminate, first? yeah, hierarchy. across the world, people progress towards democracy by eliminating the nobility first. physically, or by stripping them of all privileges. is it possible in the hindu world? prachanda is trying to do that in nepal? yeah, with a tilak, most probably applied by a brahmin, on his forehead. i don't think i've seen an image more loaded with irony, hypocrisy and deceit in recent times.
coming back to the original question: when gas is rationed out, would the rationing work in any other way? and should t.r.baalu feel guilty about jumping the line? he says, he did it for the shareholders. that's a secular reason the prime minister finds nothing wrong with. did t.r.baalu act out of secular motivations? his grihastha dharma enjoins him to focus on his extended family first, the world later. that's what he was doing. if a hypocritical democracy finds comfort in secular excuses- interests of cheated shareholders must be good enough.
if nepal wishes to promote equality, it should start thinking of eliminating the privileges of those at the top (and not merely those, nominally, at the top), first. would there be any lower castes without any upper castes? and if the dmk, a party that has long championed the cause of social justice and reform, wishes to destroy the caste system it can't harbour members such as t.r.baalu who practise caste so very openly. hell, it can't harbour even folks such as karunanidhi. every secular excuse that they offer in defense of according special privileges to their kin would strengthen caste. special privileges and hierarchy go together- if you acquiesce to a system of privileging, you would consolidate the position of those at the top of the order, more than justify their practice of caste, and not bring them down.
a lot of champions of lower caste politics, especially those of the obc kind, act like fools cutting down branches of the trees they're sitting on. if you're a thevar seeking special privileges for your kin, you're not just separating yourself from others lower down in the hierarchy, you're also separating yourself from other thevars, less fortunate than you. will your actions, in any fashion, dent the whole hierarchical order? no, they will only strengthen it. other thevars would find it that much more difficult to secure their rights, forget privileges, because those traditionally at the top would not need any excuses to continue to practise caste. remember, their right to privileges is divinely ordained while your right to equality is the result of secular, democratic struggles. when you uphold privileges, don't you strengthen the divine writ (and weaken your secular right to equality)? how can you begin to question their privileges when you seem to accept, willingly, other portions of the divine writ?
everyone should look after their own kind, right? first the kul, or the family, then the jati, then the varna and finally, if there's any time left, the world. as long as you defend privileges, mr.baalu, you defend caste. and as long as you defend caste, don't nurse any illusions that you can always secure all your rights. there'd be other people stealing your rights most of the rest of your life, who wouldn't even need to defend their actions: caste has already accorded them privileged positions.
lastly, those thevars who show scant respect for the dalits, lower down the caste order, aren't very different from baalu, are they? someone would always reign over them as long as they try to reign over the dalits.