Are caste associations a boon or bane?

Historically many castes in India have established associations on behalf of their castes and have been functioning in various dimensions. Telugu speaking areas (Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, some areas of Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Tamilnadu et al) are no exception and we can see several associations operating as well-being and development associations on behalf of their respective castes. Yet, the role of caste associations, which some anthropologists and sociologists call as “agents of modernism functioning as democratic pressure groups”, has always been a focus of an academic and hypothetical discussion rather a study serving specific objectives. Many caste associations apart from working for the welfare of their own castes are also focusing on generic progress of society. Most of them are realizing that any service activity conducted should include other communities at least to a limited extent.

Akin to other communities, Kammas do have several organizations across the South India wherever there is a presence of Kammas. Whether such organizations are of any worth is purely personal perspective as just like in any society, here too there are manifold naysayers and defeatists who try to propagate negativity. Irrespective of the good being done these worryguts have always something to carp and object. Paying no attention to these decriers’ grumbles, if we pragmatically analyse what exactly is being done under the leadership of these caste associations, we can find something constructive happening in multiple perspectives. For any individual education, employment, and healthcare are the cardinal requirements. Majority of Kamma families still living on agriculture and there are so many families that live in limited means. Irrespective of their financial viability, every Kamma family gives utmost importance to the education and makes it certain that every child gets education that would make him or her succeed in life. There are many cases where we see parents even sell their properties for enabling their children to get educated.

In order to support such underprivileged Kammas, associations for decades across the Telugu speaking areas are doing a great service by constructing hostels and giving accommodation. Along with that they are also extending their support by giving scholarships to the eligible candidates. 1000s of students, may be couple of lakhs, in the last 6-7 decades have used this infrastructure and built their careers. After finishing the education the next uphill task for any student would be to get employed. With most of the students coming from rural background, they are poor in communication and presentation skills. Thus the associations are arranging free sessions by experts who train these students in upgrading their employable skills.

Organization of voluntary healthcare camps is one activity which we often see in rural areas. Caste associations play a pivotal role in organizing such camps which helps hundreds of people. Some go further and do organize minor surgeries such as Cataract which help the victims cumulatively save lakhs of rupees. In addition, the associations are active in organizing get-togethers regularly brining the people of respective community at one place. Such gatherings enable the participants to build new networks and get introduced to persons they don’t know. In many ways such gatherings are adding value to both associations and individuals. Also, on the occasions like Ugadi, some associations organize events to felicitate the achievers in various fields pertinent to that community. When we look at associations of some communities like Vyshyas, Khojas, Marwadis lot of other things are happening. Some of them are running banks, for instance Agrasen bank run by Agrawal Community, which are extending support to the members of that community. The ones like Khojas are endeavouring to develop an entrepreneurial ecosystem by funding the aspirants and giving them requisite business counselling.

For the society to progress, every individual in that society has some kind of voluntary responsibility to offer his level of contribution. And caste associations are doing the same thing. Every association is extending support in selected areas to a section of public in a particular region. Such activities are inspiring others to start another association in their area and take up benevolent activities. In the recent years this is spreading swiftly. Now we could see 1000s of associations working for every caste across the state. When something good is happening, why deny is the question? As long as such associations don’t spread venom on others and work systematically, they could be endorsed. If they cross the line and try to foster the enmity, the individuals doing it irrespective of their social status, should be ousted. But the association shouldn’t be shut.

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