The article discuss about the problems and solutions for the atrocities being faced by dalits in India.
- Recently there was discussion on atrocities on Dalits in the Lok Sabha with hope. Some felt that since the present policy has had limited success in reducing atrocities on Dalits, the discussion would throw up a new initiative.
- But it did not touch the core issue i.e. the roots of the continuing violence against Dalits and a durable solution to the problem.
- There were some rays of hope. The members recognised the problem of persisting atrocities. Most suggested that political parties should incorporate the discourse on caste and equity. They felt that access to education, agricultural land and capital would help improve the condition of Dalits.
- The first suggestion was that political parties should make caste and equity their prime agenda. They can do so by appealing to the provision of equality in the Constitution and also by recalling our traditions of equity.
- Political parties that wish to have equity on their agenda must, therefore, follow the tradition that fought against the caste system and untouchability — they may incorporate the ideas of some thinkers of the counter-discourse who were against caste.
- Attributing atrocities to anti-social elements will also not help since that will take the focus away from the religious and social roots of violence.
- Political parties will have to counter the anti-equity discourse that is behind such violence against Dalits.
- There are also economic reasons behind the atrocities against Dalits. During the Lok Sabha debate, members rightly stressed on the economic empowerment of Dalits through education and ownership of land and capital.
- Ambedkar believed that Dalits would be unable to secure justice in a village society where they were a minority and dependent on upper caste people. Attempts by Dalits to secure equal rights were sure to be countered with ruthless violence and economic boycott, he believed.
- Ambedkar, therefore, suggested separate settlement of Dalits where they would be economically independent vis-a-vis the upper castes. But the current situation does not offer any hope.
- In 2012, only 23 per cent of Scheduled Caste rural workers owned land. The land reforms have practically bypassed the Dalits, so have the policies that encouraged the growth of enterprises.
- The present government’s initiative to encourage Dalit enterprise through loans is welcome, but help is likely to reach only a few.
- South Africa adopted a similar policy for Blacks, which benefited only a few people of the community. But South Africa learned its lessons fast. It adopted the Malaysian model of economic empowerment.
- The government increases the share of the poor in the capital of domestic and foreign companies, and thereby, assures regular flow of income to them.
- India could learn from the experiences of Malaysia and South Africa. Public land and the cultivable wasteland could be distributed to Dalits for horticulture and livestock rearing.
- However, only a few can be successful entrepreneurs. For the majority of Dalits, regular salaried jobs remain the predominant source of livelihood.
- Education and employment through reservation was a major source of upward mobility for Dalits till the early 1990s. But privatisation — both of education and employment avenues — has chipped away at the sources of Dalit empowerment.
- The share of the public sector in jobs has decreased considerably. While students opting for private institutions for higher studies has increased.
- Reservation is a necessary remedy for discrimination against Dalits today. But it does not remedy “past” exclusion from rights to property and education.
- Compensation is the appropriate remedy for the latter form of discrimination. Dalits have been excluded from property and education since the codification of the Manusmriti.
- As the enrichment of the upper castes came at the cost of impoverishment of Dalits, there is a moral and legal ground for compensation. This is a long overdue social debt that upper castes owe to the untouchables.
Reservation is a necessary remedy for discrimination against Dalits today. But it does not remedy “past” exclusion from rights to property and education. Reservations combined with economic opportunities and social empowerment of Dalits could stem atrocities against them.
- Discrimination against dalits in different forms.
- Limitation of reservation system to empower dalits.
- Further steps needed.