There’s a price to pay for the neglect of the Dalits
If sufficient Dalit empowerment had taken place in India, there would have been fewer social tensions nowUpdated: Sep 20, 2016 22:34 IST
A lag between desire and fulfilment is seen in every aspect of India’s public life but nowhere is the hiatus as stark as it is in the case of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, otherwise known as the Dalits. An investigation by IndiaSpend has shown that Rs 2.8 lakh crore set aside to improve the living conditions of the Dalits has not been spent over the past 35 years. The money was supposed to be expended on account of crop insurance, scholarships and mid-day meals. For this act of omission, the price is being paid not just by the Dalits but the country as a whole. If sufficient Dalit empowerment had taken place in India, chances of there being instances such as the killings by the Ranvir Sena in Lakshanpur-Bathe or Bathani Tola in Bihar or the Dalit murders at Khairlanji in Maharashtra would have been minimal. The reservations, around which so much trouble seems to be brewing all over the country, could have phased out.
The central question is: Why does the allotted money remain unspent? The answers to that are mainly two. First, to spend a certain amount of money for a purpose presupposes that conditions for spending it have been met. For example, if a bridge is to be constructed on a river, there must a road to reach the river. For the amelioration of the conditions in which the Dalits live, a lot of groundwork needs to be done. The State is unable, and sometimes unwilling, to do it. There is another reason for this too. There are elements in the official class who, out of prejudice, are averse to doing anything good for the Dalits. Not many of our IAS officers, who are the permanent executive, have had the conscience of an SR Sankaran, who had taken up matters related to atrocities on Dalits.
But it is also a fact that through reservations and the expansion in government, a Dalit middle class has come into existence. And it is through this class that most of the Dalit demands are being articulated. The State often fails to fill posts in government service meant for the Dalits, what to speak of crop insurance. If affirmative action for the Dalits is to find a point of beginning, it must not leaving any job of the Dalits vacant. There have been many manifestos on Dalit emancipation, the Bhopal Declaration of 2002 being the most prominent among them. The Niti Aayog and the Union ministry of social justice would do well to take a look at it and consult the people involved in drafting it.