Bageshree S.

Scores of people have produced fake caste certificates to claim benefits

Spellings of caste names are changed to get reservation benefits

Directorate of Civil Rights Enforcement investigating many such cases

Bangalore: It sometimes takes no more than a small change in the way a name is spelt to alter the course of a career and an entire life. No, this is not a reference to numerology, but of scores of people making minor alterations in the name of their castes and getting false certificates to avail themselves of benefits meant for Dalits.

In a case being currently examined by the Social Welfare Department, an employee of the Commercial Tax Department is accused of changing his caste name from “Kaniyar” to “Kaniyan” and getting benefits of reservation for not only himself, but for the entire family. While it is a backward caste when spelt with “R”, it becomes a Scheduled Tribe when spelt with “N”.

Documents indicate a discrepancy between school certificates of the person and the subsequent caste certificates. He has obtained for himself and his wife certificates from Kollegal, declaring themselves as “Kaniyan” in 1979. His two daughters too have availed benefits under ST caste certificates.

This case is but one of the several such being investigated by the Directorate of Civil Rights Enforcement. A Right to Information document obtained by M. Venkatesh of Dalit Bahujan Movement, which has been campaigning against the false certificate racket, shows as many as 72 cases being investigated by the directorate up to last year. Mr. Venkatesh says that this is just the tip of the iceberg and there are thousands of such cases which go undetected, often involving highly placed officials and politicians.

There are several others which are being enquired into, but are yet to reach the stage of being registered as complaints.

Some of the manipulations indicate that people have availed themselves of benefits reserved for Dalits by changing spellings or by adding prefixes or suffixes. For example, there are several instances of “Lingayat Jangamas” changing names to “Beda Jangama” and of “Kurubas” turning “Jenu Kurubas” or “Kadu Kurubas” to avail themselves of ST status.

In north Karnataka districts, there are cases of people belonging to “Dasaru” caste calling themselves “Chenna Dasaru” to avail themselves of benefits reserved for Scheduled Castes. There are also cases of “Korama Shettys” changing their caste names to “Korama” to claim Scheduled Caste benefits.

Even more deceptive are small spelling changes. For example, “Bhoyi” is often changed to “Bhovi” to claim benefits under the Scheduled Caste category. While “Maleru” is ST, “Maaleru” is a Brahmin sub-sect, and one of the cases registered in Ulsoor Gate police station involves a woman claiming benefits by simply adding an extra “a” to her caste name.

The fact that a Hubli-based organisation, Karnataka Rajya Khotti Jati Pramana Patra Virodhi Horata Vedike, exclusively fights fake caste certificate cases is an indicator of the extent of such fraudulent cases in the State.

It may be mentioned here that in April 2008, the Supreme Court came down on those who secure admission to professional courses through fake SC/ST certificates.

It said that erring students are liable to be stripped of their degrees. “But there is no dearth of cases which go on for years. Sometimes, the service of the accused comes to end before the case is finalised,” says Mr. Venkatesh.