Mumbai

‘Untouchability eradication should be govt.’s priority’

Sukhdeo Thorat at the ninth Dr. Ashgar Ali Memorial Lecture at Asiatic Society.

Sukhdeo Thorat at the ninth Dr. Ashgar Ali Memorial Lecture at Asiatic Society.  

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Prevention of Atrocities Act should continue without amendments, says expert

Mumbai: Eradication of untouchability needs to be the priority for the government, as the practice enables upper castes to not only maintain their status but also to derive economic benefits from lower castes, said Sukhdeo Thorat, former chairman of the Indian Council of Social Science Research.

Delivering the ninth Dr. Ashgar Ali Memorial Lecture at Asiatic Society on Saturday, he said Dalits are not just in the minority demographically, but they are the poorest economically, which makes them dependent on the upper castes for survival. “There are some villages where the situation is such that the Dalits cannot afford justice of any kind.”

Mr. Thorat, who is also a Padma Shree awardee, quoted several surveys conducted in rural Maharashtra, and said that the Dalits were physically and verbally abused. “There are cases of extreme cruelty like gang rapes, murder, parading naked, arson, and social boycott.”

“There is complete denial of access to wells, grocery shops owned by upper castes, religious celebrations, and marriage processions while differential treatment is meted out to them at health centres, education institutions, and at midday meals in anganwadis, with separate seating arrangements,” said professor Thorat.

He also said that the Prevention of Atrocities Act should continue without amendments. “The conviction rate under the Act is as low as 3.4% in rural Maharashtra while atrocities against the Dalits are on the rise.”

He suggested measures like implementation of the MNREGA, access to the Prime Minister’s Awas Yojana, and relocating Dalits to urban areas where they can have jobs. “We are still a nation and democracy in the making, and denying the fundamental rights and justice to the Dalits is denying them citizenship.”

The lecture was hosted by the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, and was chaired by Dinesh Waghmare, secretary of Social Justice and Special Assistance Department.

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Printable version | Dec 14, 2019 6:14:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/untouchability-eradication-should-be-govts-priority/article19446954.ece

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