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Updated: October 25, 2010 00:33 IST

The plight of Dalits and the news media

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The Hindu

The new chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC), P.J. Punia, has begun his tenure by making a spirited appeal to the Central government to provide job reservation for Dalits in the private sector. He did not agree that reservation in private sector was a “misnomer.” He argued that the “private sector depends on the government, nationalised banks and state-owned financial institutions for its survival and thus cannot insulate itself from reservation.” Besides, he contended during a recent meeting with journalists in Hyderabad that the private sector also had a “social responsibility” to uplift the weaker sections of the people.

The next item on the NCSC chief's agenda is to streamline the implementation of the Scheduled Castes Sub-Plan (earlier known as the “Special Component Plan for Scheduled Castes”) in respect of budget allocations and put an end to the diversion of funds allotted to the plan. The Commission has prioritised its tasks: ensuring reservation for Dalits in the private sector and maximising the benefits of sub plans to Dalits.

Major concern

It is not surprising that in a country in which a substantial section of the people, accounting for one-fifth of the population and segregated for centuries, remain poor, ill-treated, humiliated, and discriminated against, state intervention is the only antidote even after six decades of democratic governance under a republican Constitution. A major concern for the state is how to address the alarmingly rising unemployment among this section of society.

The Constitution provided for reservation in education and government employment for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in proportion to their share in the population. This provision was made as part of the social strategy of affirmative action (or positive discrimination) to offset extreme historical discrimination and social oppression. If reservation, despite its existence for over 60 years, has failed to improve the lot of Dalits, the fault is to be seen not in the reservation system, but in the tardy way it has been implemented by the state. Disturbingly, there has been no concerted effort to take quality education to this section of the people.

The state's failure in this respect along with a flawed reservation system restricted to the entry point only helped ‘caste-Hindu' bureaucrats to fill most of the higher posts on the ground that “qualified, eligible and fit” persons were not available among the Dalit claimants. Yet, if the establishment claims that Dalits have been appointed in government service in greater proportion than their share in population, it is because vacancies at the lowest levels are filled with Dalits, because, perhaps, no one else might be willing to offer himself for such jobs. It is surely a scandal that despite developments in technology, and in violation of a Supreme Court order, the central and State governments have failed to bring to an end the practice of manual scavenging and to rehabilitate those engaged in it in decent alternative employment.

While reservation has benefitted Dalits in general, it has not done much to elevate the majority of them to any higher position in society, mostly because of the state's failure on other fronts such as education and public health. And it must be remembered that a considerable number of these people remain outside this safety net. Over 70 per cent of Dalits live in villages and are dependant on agricultural activities.

Government policies have put severe pressure on employment in scores of public sector undertakings. Disinvestment, dismantling of public sector units and steadily falling state investment in employment-generating industries are posing serious challenges to the system developed after Independence. The policy trend of stopping or delaying recruitments has made matters worse. The policies of the governments welcoming foreign corporate bodies, very often on the investors' terms, have also contributed to the diminishing of job opportunities.

Time for another initiative

It is in this context the NCSC Chairman's decision to press for extending reservation for Dalits to the private sector needs to be viewed. A few years ago, when a demand to that effect was raised, there was a positive response from at least some industrialists, but the global economic slowdown put an end to that. Now that the position has improved in many industrial and service sectors, it is time for another initiative by the government. It needs to remind private entrepreneurs, domestic and foreign, that they have a historic responsibility to help the state implement its social commitments. The question raised by the NCSC chairman is relevant: “When the deprived sections are taken care of, even in developed countries like the United States, why can't we have the same provisions here?”

The second item on the agenda of the NCSC is to get the Scheduled Castes Sub-Plan, which provides for each Ministry to allot special funds from its annual budget allocation for the benefit of Dalists, in proportion to their share in the population. The scheme, introduced in the early 1980s, has not been properly implemented for three decades. The Ministries are often charged with diverting funds under this head to other purposes.

The news media, which have recently been giving serious coverage to major Dalit problems and related issues in a complex situation, can make a real difference by bringing a new focus on the issues of reservation and the Sub-Plan. In addition to exposing atrocities against Dalits, the press, television, and radio should investigate systemic oppression, exploitation, and discrimination in greater depth.

readerseditor@thehindu.co.in

Dalit friends are saying rich Dalits are getting benefit and not poor. So reservation has to follow 100 or even more years. How can one be a fool and rich Dalits enjoy benefit at behest of poor? Dont the poor Dalits who go for Pro Reservation rallies understand that their immediate opponents are not upper castes but Rich people in general. If reserved seats go for poor Dalits, even General Category would feel a bit less unfair than current situation. Right now, Dalits who are richest lot get seats in education by just minimal effort. Whereas poor dalit boy cannot afford coaching etc.. so he always stays backward as compared to rich Dalit.

from:  Pawan
Posted on: Aug 31, 2011 at 22:01 IST

While providing reservation is a positive step there should be some upper limit. it would be good if pvt companies themselves come out with some policies for the suppressed class. Also more thrust should be given to basic education where the progress has been shameful. A solution should be found to stop the exploitation of poor sections by the vested interests inthe form of votebank.

from:  drggt
Posted on: Nov 4, 2010 at 23:21 IST

When the concept of reservation was added to the Indian Constitution by its makers they all had hoped for positive outcomes of it but the very basic idea of reservation has been changed with its negative outcome. The recent Gujjar community's agitation over it is an example of that people have believed that reservation is only solution for thier uplifment in society. I want to say that in present scenario the government and people should change their opinion. The policy of government to reserve the seats in higher education system is beyond my understanding as for getting benefit of reservation in institutions like IITs and IIMs one has to pass the exam but if one childern has never gone to school how can he reach to that level. So government and people both must understand that merely providing reservation is not the solution and much needed to be done.

from:  SUNITA RAWAT
Posted on: Nov 4, 2010 at 20:31 IST

I have only one question which comes to my mind again and again. Should there be reservation on Caste or should there be reservation on economic status ???

from:  ravi
Posted on: Nov 4, 2010 at 12:30 IST

Agreed, poor people are not benefited by reservation but I want to modify this : "poorest people are not benefited from reservation policy". I am a student of IIT ROORKEE and here you can see how students who are not capable of paying fees of even lowest cost engineering colleges are doing exceptionally well in academics. And the major point is some of them are here only because of reservation. Is not it an excellent approach to fetch an underprivileged to mainstream? Yes, rich society getting more benefited but if there was not reservation those &"few" would also have not joined the main stream. One may support a policy which provide reservation on the basis of income of family but he can't deny it(reservation)

from:  kamlesh kumar
Posted on: Nov 1, 2010 at 19:13 IST

It is the need of the hour to give optimum chance to Dalits in private institutions but it should be a one time reservation,

from:  firdoose ul islam
Posted on: Nov 1, 2010 at 17:04 IST

Reservation for SC/ST is a clandestine system formulated by bureaucrats. Only those who are in power/second generation beneficieries can really thrive in this 'quota raj' and definitely not those first generation under-privileged from villages across India.

from:  Karunakaran
Posted on: Oct 30, 2010 at 21:52 IST

Its too good to have reservation for bringing up poor dalits.
But We need such caste based reservation in jobs further more 100 or even more years because only 10-20% of dalits are getting benefitted from the policy which government have and these 10-20% actually dont need reservation.

A poor dalit cannot do higher study even their is no school/college fee because they dont have money to stay and food. The benefit of such reservations are enjoyed by rich dalits.......poor will remain poor and rich will remain rich....

If you just see UPSC/IAS results you can get some insight....
Almost all ST/SC IAS canidates have Rich family background. Hardly/rarely a dalit BPL candidate appears for such examination but still we have so much of reservations. So where a poor dalits is getting benifits?

As National service scheme member for my college I visited some villages to hear problem.
Dalits: We dont have sufficent money to teach our childrens and goverment gives job to only 10pass or higher study. In this village students quit study to support family. So we are not getting any benefit for reservation. One 60years old uncle was saying "sarkar to bas amiro ko naukri deti hai...amare paas bhi paisa hota to hum baccho ko itna padha dete ki unki job waise hi lag jati.....reservation se hamko koi fayeda nahi....fayeda mantri k bete ko hota hai,mukhiya k bete ko hota hai"

One of my friend got selected in Engineering and his sister in govt medicals as dalit quota and his father was a AGM in PSU. Their dalit caste helped them to become more richer.

I can see that there is demand for more reservation...in Army, In juditiary, in private sector. But again who will get benefitted from it, A rich Dalit. We have quota for MLAs and MPs positions, A poor dalit who can not feed his family how can he stop working for say 1 or 2 month for election campaign. Again A rich Dalit will get that seat and increase money in his pocket. I can not see any plan of goverment to make reservation to poor dalits.

My questions is that a poor dalit is born to be a poor dalit only? Goverment ever asks BPL card with caste certificate ?

When we say that the reservation is for poor dalits then it shoud not be for rich. If you can restrict reservation to poors then it will be good for our country.

from:  Manoj
Posted on: Oct 28, 2010 at 15:40 IST
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