Although Maharashtra is a progressive state, its 1.33 crore scheduled castes (SC) population still faces discrimination not only in education, but also in access to public places and land ownership, and many are still forced to pursue traditional occupations based on caste.
Despite the government providing financial avenues, only a small number of students have benefitted from quotas and scholarships.
These are some of the stark findings of a study — Educational Status of Scheduled Castes in Maharashtra: Attainments and Challenges — by Dr Govardhan Wankhede of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), along with the Indian Council of Social Science Research.
The study, commissioned by the HRD ministry, was carried out across five sample districts of Mumbai, Nagpur, Osmanabad, Jalgaon and Sindhudurg.
The study is based on a sample research done over eight months in 2013, gathering the views of 3,714 respondents ranging from students of SC and non-SC communities, heads of households, villages and city schools/colleges, government officials, teachers and parents.
Seventeen per cent of students said they either continue to follow traditional occupations or their families still haven’t shifted from jobs based on their caste, which include cleaning, sweeping, tanning leather, etc.
Ownership of land is an important symbol of social and economic status. However, the situation is unchanged despite various government programmes and facilities. Of the total 1,586 respondents, 55% said they own no land and 5.4% own less than two acres.
Access to public places is a major hurdle. While 15% still don’t have access to the village temple, the ones who do, never touch the idols; 16% are not allowed access to the common village wells, while in rural areas, 25% are not allowed in common burial grounds.
“The idea was to analyse the educational status and situation of SCs in Maharashtra post-liberalisation and privatisation, and to see how it has affected their lives. Things have improved, but we have a long way to go,” said Wankhede. There will be a discussion on the study on May 27 at TISS.