//Caste system is the greater barrier to social harmony in India, BBC Poll

Caste system is the greater barrier to social harmony in India, BBC Poll

71% say they're proud to be Indians

Rashmee Roshan Lall

LONDON: Nearly two-thirds of all Indians are fiercely proud of 'Mera Bharat Mahaan' but more than half of India believes the caste system is a "barrier to social harmony" and is holding the country back, according to a BBC poll to be published on Monday.

India-watchers expressed surprise at the poll's finding, the first for a nationwide 'attitudes' survey conducted by an international agency, that Indians still seem to have caste firmly on their minds in one way or the other, even though leading sociologists have long argued that urbanisation and industrialisation has helped break down caste-barriers.

The survey aims to itemise exactly how Indians view their own country, at a time when much of the world appears to have a view alternately on "emerging India" or "overheating India". The survey was conducted for the BBC World Service by the international polling firm GlobeScan.

The survey found that 71% are proud to be an Indian; nearly as many (65%) think it is important that India is an economic superpower; 60% think it's important India should be a political power and the same number believe it should be a military superpower. Just under half of all Indians said India's economic growth over the last 10 years had not benefited them and their families. The survey comes as part of BBC's ongoing 'India Rising' week of special programming that charts changes in different sectors of the Indian economy.

In a special message to the BBC's estimated 163 million listeners in 33 languages, President Kalam called for worldwide engagement with his vision of citizenship, notably a "three-dimensional approach involving education with value system; religion transformed to spirituality and economic development for societal transformation of all the nations." Kalam, who called upon BBC's global audiences to flood his website with suggestions and debate, was speaking on a special edition of the BBC's 'Discovery' programme, to be broadcast on Wednesday.

Monday's BBC survey concentrated on asking more than 1,500 Indians a series of questions focusing on social and political issues. It found that Indians overall, seven in 10 exhibited a positive sense of identity by agreeing to the statement, "I am proud to be an Indian." The survey found the view was uniform across all age, income groups, even though it differed among religious groups with Christians (73%) the proudest; Hindus (71%) close behind and Muslim pride in being Indian languishing at 60%.

The poll found that Indians' positive perceptions about their present also extended to the Indian marketplace. A 55% majority said the justice system "treats poor people as fairly as rich people"; 52% said "being a woman is no barrier to success" and just under half of all Indians (48%) declared they would rather "work for a private company than for the government." Interestingly, six in 10, or 58% said they believed India's security is "more in danger from other Indians than from foreigners" and 55% said the "caste system is a barrier to social harmony." 47% said "corruption is a fact of life which we should accept as the price of doing business." But a cheering 45% of 18- to 24-year-old Indians said they were less tolerant of corruption than the older generation.

On religious belief, 50% said "people don't take their religion seriously"; 40% lamented that "young Indians have lost touch with their heritage."