"Market-driven strategies worsened Dalits' economic situation"

FLORAL TRIBUTES: Senior CPI leader R. Nallakannu paying homage to Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in Chennai on Wednesday. Madras University Vice-Chancellor S. Ramachandran (centre) and R. S. Deshpande of the Institute of Social and Economic Changes, Banglore, ar e also in the picture. Photo: K. V. Srinivasan  

Staff Reporter

Focus on injustice to Dalits in labour, product and credit markets

CHENNAI: Social discrimination begins at the doorstep of economic discrimination, according to R.S. Deshpande, professor, Institute of Social and Economic Change, Bangalore.

Delivering a lecture at the Dr. Ambedkar Centre for Economic Studies, Professor Deshpande focussed on the injustice perpetrated against Dalits in the labour, product and credit markets.

In many parts of the country, Dalit-owned land is valued at one third the cost of land owned by others, he said. Infrastructure is poor in areas with large Dalit populations and market driven strategies have worsened their economic situation over the last two decades, he said.

In his lecture on "Positive discrimination in a changing context," V.K. Natraj, former director of the Madras Institute of Development Studies, said Dr. Ambedkar was not a believer in perpetual reservations, and that Article 15 (4), which enables reservation in educational institutions, was not a part of the original Constitution.

Quota in private sector

In the changed scenario post-economic reforms, empowering provisions such as preferences in contracts and licences and removal of discrimination in the labour, land and credit market systems need to be given as much importance as reservations, he said. Talking about reservation in the private sector, Professor Natraj said that "quality and equality are not dichotomous", and called on all parties involved to move away from their irreconcilable standpoints towards an attitude of dialogue.

Creamy layer concept rejected

R. Nallakannu, senior leader of the Communist Party of India, focussed on the issues that Dr. Ambedkar had felt, could affect Indian democracy, such as discrimination against women and lower castes and the graded inequality of the social system. Quoting from Ambedkar's speech, Mr. Nallakannu reiterated, "We must make our political democracy a social democracy as well." He rejected the creamy layer concept.

He pointed out that the Dalits massacred in Khairlanji owned some land and had some education, so they would have been part of the "creamy layer," but they were not even granted the right to live in the village.