Tuesday, 15 March 2016


Article-Who are thinking for the upliftment of Dalits?
Dr.Debesh Bhowmik

Who are thinking for the upliftment of Dalits ?
Dr.Debesh Bhowmik (Retired Principal, debeshbhowmik@rediffmail.com)

This paper discussed about the economic status of dalit focusing their deprivation ,social exclusion and discrimination. To what extent they are protected by Indian constitutions have been classified through various acts. What did the India’s Five Year Plans formulate programme for dalit has been explained in details with much criticisms. Some recommendations from the national and international institutions have been given to justify the assessments of the dalit’s developmental programmes.  
Key words- Social status of dalit, opportunity in constitution, dalits in the plans, recommendations.
Dalit is a designation for a group of people traditionally regarded as untouchable. Dalits are a mixed population, consisting of numerous social groups from all over India; they speak a variety of languages and practice a multitude of religions. The word Dalit—literally translating to “oppressed” or “broken”—is generally used to refer to people who were once known as “untouchables”, those belonging to castes outside the fourfold Hindu Varna system. According to the Hindu caste hierarchy, there are four castes namely the Brahmins (priestly caste), the Kshatriya (warriors), the Vaishyas (traders) and the Shudras (menial task workers). Below this four-tier caste ladder there is another rung of peoples, who are called the untouchables (Panchamas). Among the untouchables, the status of women is further eroded and closely linked to the concept of purity. This is what the rigid, fundamentalist Hindu promotes through continuation of caste system, imposing the Brahminical values to maintain the caste system. Discrimination against Dalits has metamorphosed over time from overt, open and accepted norm to subtle, invisible, hidden and ‘unaccepted’ behaviour. Through history, the practice has been to assume that Dalits are the serving class and therefore what they need at best is the skill to be able to serve the rest.
Origins of Untouchability and the Dalits Untouchability were initially introduced for the purpose of segregating what Indian society perceived as two individual races. Vedic literature classified India into the Aryan race and the Anaryas or Dasyus race. The segregation of the two was based upon specific phenotypic differences such as skin pigmentation, the shape of the lips, and the nasal bone. As time passed,skin pigmentation became the most distinctive racial dividing line and continues to remain so today.
Of the two races, the Aryan populations are light-skinned and traditionally formed the
first three varnas of the caste system. These three original levels represented class and social
distinctions within the Aryan race. For example, the highest members of society were part of the
Brahman caste, the next highest were part of the Kshatriya caste, and so on. It is suggested that
around 2,000 B.C., partial Aryan descendants, known as the Sudras, were also allowed entrée to
the caste system in an extremely restricted sense. They were made the fourth and last caste of the
Aryan community (Dahiwale, 2002). In this manner the caste system was first formed.
In opposition to the Aryan population, those labeled as Anarya and Dasyus were dark-skinned
and traditionally functioned as a slave class. Because of their low status in the Indian
social structure, this group of people was shifted and isolated away from the Aryan houses and
living areas. As a result they were separated physically and socially from caste members. They
were given the names of Antya, Antyaja and Antyavasin, which mean untouchable, isolated, and
non-caste. This was the initiation of untouchability in India (Rao, 2001).
In an effort to preserve caste structure, the ancient Code of Manu (Manusmruti) details thousands of rules describing acceptable social intercourse among different castes. The Code of Manu is an ethical code maintained by classical Hinduism. It teaches that the caste system is divinely ordained and the only means of transcending the caste system is through repeated incarnations (Massey, 1994). The laws include descriptions of what items can or cannot be accepted by a person from a particular caste, what one can and cannot eat, with whom one can or cannot eat, and, perhaps most importantly, who one can and cannot touch. Untouchables were so called because the mere sight of their shadows was thought to be polluting.

 Dalit women are also coerced to be victimised in the patriarchy. Dalit women are bearing the burden of double day caste and sexual division of labour. Dalit women are demeaned and degraded and their body is a free terrain of colonization by men from other community. Dalit women are a deprived section and at the lowest level of economic and educational structures. They are poor, illiterate, sexually harassed, faces state, caste violence and exploited. Doubly, triply or multiply discriminated, Dalit women face a lot of struggles in daily bases otherwise just being overwhelmed with those surges of discrimination up to them. Without being struggling, Dalit women would be just left in despair.Dalit women are thrice discriminated, treated as untouchables and as outcastes, due to their caste, face gender discrimination being women and finally economic impoverishment due to unequal wage disparity, with low or underpaid labour. Within the dalit community, Dalit women face more burdens due to caste and gender discrimination. Dalit women are subjected to systematic oppression and structural violence both from the general community and from within their own community and their families. They would be influenced, pressurized, blocked, intimidated, stigmatized and revictimised. If they still take up the struggle for justice, it would really be a difficult path that they have to travel.

II. Social  And Economic Status Of Dalit

According to census 2011, Dalits make up24.4%of the total Indian population, but their access &control over resources of the country is marginal—less than 5%. Close to half of the Dalit population lives under the Poverty Line, and even more (62%) are illiterate. The Dalit population is broadly distributed across Indian states and districts. In 2011, the state of Punjab had the highest proportion of its population as Dalit, at about 31.9 percent, and the state of Mizoram had the lowest at nearly zero. The government of India recognises and protects them as Scheduled Castes(SC) and Scheduled Tribes(ST). The term Dalit has been interchangeably used with term Scheduled Castes, and Scheduled Tribes.They belong to various religion.22% SC and 9% ST are Hindu .90% SC and 7.40% ST belong to Buddhism and 9% SC and 33% ST are Christrian,31% SC and 0.9%ST are Sikhs,16% ST belong to Zaroa and 2.6% ST are Jains respectively. 
 Among the Dalits, most of those engaged in agricultural work are landless or nearly landless agricultural labourers. The average household income for Dalits was of Rs. 17,465 in 1998, just 68% of the national average. Less than 10% of Dalit households can afford safe drinking water, electricity and toilets, which is indicative of their deplorable social condition. About 65 % and 56 % of ST and SC women respectively suffered from anaemia compared to 47.6 % of nonSC/ST women . About 90 % of women working in unorganized sector are mainly from lower castes . In 1991, about 71 % of Dalit women workers in rural area were agricultural labourers. Only 19 % of them owned land .
According to the Ministry of Labour, 85% of the Dalit women have the most formidable occupations and work as agricultural laborers, scavengers, sweepers, and disposers of human waste. In 2001, about 57 % of SC and 37 % of ST women respectively were agricultural wage labour in rural areas, as compared with 29 % for nonSC/STs. In urban areas, 16 % SC and 14 % ST women were daily wage labourers as compared with only 6 % from nonSC/STs. Only 21 % of SC women were cultivators compared with 51 % for STs and 45 % for non SC/STs. SC/ST women also faced differential treatment in wageearning, particularly in urban areas. In 2000, SC and ST women casual labourers received daily wages of Rs 37 and Rs 34 respectively, compared with Rs. 56 for nonSC/ST women; the national average was Rs 42.
In rural areas, 37.8% of government run schools make Dalit children sit separately from other children .In 27.6% of rural villages, Dalits are prevented from entering police stations. In 33% of rural villages, public health workers refuse to enter Dalit homes.48.4% of Dalit villages are denied access to water sources .In 70% of rural villages, Dalit and non-Dalit people cannot eat together.

III.Dalit And Indian Constitution

The provision and safeguards for Backward Classes and especially for SCs and STs have been incorporated in the Constitution of India. The safeguards are in the field of social, economic, political, educational, cultural and services under the State for the people belonging to these communities for their development.  The safeguards provided to Scheduled Castes are grouped in the following broad heads:
[i]Social Safeguards
[ii]Economic Safeguards
[iii]Educational & Cultural Safeguards
[iv]Political Safeguards
[v]Service Safeguards

Social Safeguards

 Article 17, 23, 24 and 25 (2)(b) of the Constitution enjoins the State to provide social safeguards to Scheduled Castes. Article 17 relates to abolition of untouchability being practiced in society.
 Article 23 prohibits traffic in human beings and ‘beggar’ and or other similar forms of forced labour and provides that any contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law. Althogh there is no specific mentions about SCs in this Article but majority of the bonded labour belong to SC community. Article 24 provides that no child below the age of 14 years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any hazardous employment. Even in this Article, there is no special mention about the SCs but substantial portion of child labour engaged in hazardous employment belong to SC community. Article 25 (2) (b) provides that Hindu religious institutions of a public character shall be opened to all classes and sections of Hindus. The term Hindu includes persons professing Sikh, Jain and Buddhist religion.

Economic Safeguards
 Articles 23, 24 and 46 form the economic safeguards for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Article 46 states that, “The State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.”

Educational and Cultural Safeguards

 Article 15 (4) empowers the State to make special provisions for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens and for SCs. This provision has enabled the State to reserve seats for SCs in educational institutions in general and professional courses etc.

Political Safeguards

 Reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the local bodies of the State/Union Territories, Legislative Assemblies of the State and in Parliament are provided in the Constitution of India as follows: the Article 243 D- Reservation of Seats, Article 243 T- Reservation of Seats:- Article 330- Reservation of Seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in House of the People, Article 332- Reservation of Seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Legislative Assemblies of the State, Article 334- Reservation of Seats and Special Representation to Cease after 60 Years, etc are to be mentioned.

Service Safeguards

 Service safeguards are contained in Articles 16(4), 16 (4A), and 335. In the year 2001, the Parliament through Constitution (Eighty-fifth Amendment) Act, 2001 amended the provisions contained in Article 16 (4A). In Article 16 (4A) for the words: “in matters of promotion to any class” the words “in matters of promotion, with consequential seniority, to any class” has been substituted. The effect of this amendment is that the SCs/STs promoted earlier than their counter-part in general category by virtue of reservation policy shall be senior to general category in the promoted scale/post.

Important Legislations

 In addition some of the legislations of specific as well as general nature have greater relevance to Dalit communities.(a) The Untouchability Offences Act, later reformulated as the Protection of Civil Rights Act (1955) and rules 1977,(b) The Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 and rules1995,(c) Bonded Labour (system) Abolition Act, 1976
d) Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993
e) Devadasi system Abolition Act in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka.
f) Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986,(g) Minimum Wages Act, 1948, (h) Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 and ( i) Land Reforms Act in different states.
Moreover,there is a provision to set up Special Courts for trying cases registered on the grounds of untouchability and atrocities under inflicted on Dalits and Adivasis under the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
But these are not enough to protect them for their living in society.The international institutions thus raised some inefficiencies about Indian Constitutions for safeguarding SC and ST.The following are the objections.

[a] On 2/1/07, European Union passed a resolution that found India's enforcement of laws to protect Dalits "grossly inadequate. Also found that "atrocities, untouchability, illiteracy and inequality of opportunity, continue to blight the lives of India's Dalits." The resolution called on the Indian government to end caste-based discrimination.
[b] On 2/13/07, Hidden Apartheid Caste Discrimination Against India's Untouchables-113 page joint report was published Human Rights Watch and The Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York University School of Law. Report found that India systematically failed to uphold its international legal obligations to ensure the fundamental human rights of Dalits, despite laws and policies against caste discrimination.
[c] On 3/9/07, United Nations Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) found that "de facto segregation of Dalits persists" and highlighted systematic abuse against Dalits including torture and extrajudicial killings, an "alarming" extent of sexual violence against Dalit women and caste discrimination in post-tsunami relief.
[d] On 7/24/07, US House of Representatives passed a concurrent resolution condemning the caste system and untouchability in India.
[e] The greatest deficiency of the Protection of Civil Rights Act was the fact that abuses against Dalits were not limited to name-calling or denial of entry into public spaces: violence was a defining characteristic of the abuse. Thirty-four years after the introduction of the PCR Act, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, was enacted to bring these other forms of abuse to an end. “In the Atrocities Act_ the complainant is given more weight... There are also stringent provisions against the police for negligence.”
[f] Although Article 17 of the Indian Constitution banned untouchability in 1950, Dalits still suffer widespread discrimination and mistreatment, particularly in villages and rural communities. Local law enforcement personnel often refuse to document, investigate, and respond adequately to Dalit complaints. Upper caste members often threaten and assault Dalits who dare protest against the atrocities The 1989 Act also requires states to set up Special Courts to adjudicate Scheduled Caste offenses. In addition, the Act provides punishment for public servants who fail to enforce the protections set forth in the Act. The Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules of 1995 further delineate procedures for state governments to take toward investigation, prosecution, and punishment pursuant to the 1989 Act.
[g] While Indian domestic law is designed to protect Dalits, the fact that Dalits often do not benefit from these laws demonstrates India’s failures under CERD.Compliance is monitored by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD Committee), which reviews periodic reports written by States Parties, conducts hearings, and issues comments on inter-state and individual complaints.


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