The Indian Caste System's Effect on Healthcare

by Laahini Addagatla

The caste system is a social and religious hierarchy system based on Hindu and Vedic origins in India. It was very stratified and immobile, not allowing for people to move up the system. In addition, it had drastic effects on the treatment of the lower castes such as the Dalits. Although the caste system was later abolished by the government in 1950, the discrimination continues. Discrimination highly impacts healthcare and careers. Dalits, the untouchables, are the lowest caste and face the most discrimination. This discrimination often leads to repetitive patterns of illiteracy, high drop-out rates, unsanitary careers, poor health, and other forms of poor living conditions.

To dig in deeper about the effects of the caste system on health care, it is important to understand the impact of the living conditions of the Dalits. Approximately 20% of Dalits do not have access to safe drinking water, which causes problems like malaria and cholera. Furthermore, Dalit women often have to travel long distances to gather and gain access to water. Oftentimes, this leads to a calorie deficit. The poor diets and lack of access to safe water sources causes many Dalits to have diseases and health problems. In addition, Dalits often have careers in waste management such as cleaning sewers or septic tanks. These careers put them at risk of contracting life-threatening diseases. To make matters worse, heavy labor jobs in such unsanitary conditions also creates further health problems for the Dalits.

Dalits are unable to receive or access proper healthcare due to poverty and discrimination. Dalits are not even permitted to enter private health clinics and centers. Not only are they not allowed to enter medical centers but healthcare workers also do not offer aid or work in Dalit communities. Dalit women face other discrimination in relation to healthcare such as lack of maternal medical resources that are vital to a safe and healthy pregnancy. They often do not have access to midwives or doctors causing complications to the mother or the baby during labor, even risking death.

Furthermore, Dalits face discrimination in healthcare in terms of education. Dalit medical students are often failed by their teachers; their journey to becoming a healthcare worker is blocked by various other problems such as finances, family responsibility, or health concerns as well. This prevents Dalits from accessing healthcare, receiving medical attention, or attempting to fix the problem.

In conclusion, the caste system causes discrimination against the Dalits by denying them proper healthcare access and by preventing them from solving the problem.

Works Cited

Tan, Satya. "India's inequality in healthcare: the caste divide." Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust,

28 Jan. 2016,

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