Har govt forms committee to review implementation of SC/ST Act – Business Standard
Dalit nation – Front Line
Dashrath Manjhi: The Mountain Man of Bihar – The Hindustan Times
How Capitalism Is Undermining the Indian Caste System – CATO
Bodies That Do Not Belong – Dalit Web
Dalits Concerns Before Land Rights
Struggle Groups/ Mainstream Movements
Har govt forms committee to review implementation of SC/ST Act
Press Trust of India | Chandigarh
July 22, 2015 Last Updated at 19:42 IST
A notification has been issued in this regard recently, said a spokesperson of the Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes Department here today.
The Committee will review implementation of the provisions of the Act, relief and rehabilitation facilities provided to the victims and other matters connected therewith, he said.
Prosecution of cases, role of different officers or agencies responsible for implementing the provisions of the the Act and various reports received by the sub-divisional administration, would also be reviewed by the panel, the spokesperson said.
The Sub-divisional Magistrate would be the Chairman of the Committee while the senior-most Tehsil Welfare Officer of the sub-division concerned would be its Member Secretary, he said.
The other members include elected members of Panchayati Raj institutions belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, Deputy Superintendent of Police and Tehsildars of the sub-division concerned among others, the spokesperson said.
The committee would meet at least once in three months and its head office would be the concerned sub-divisional headquarter, he said.
The findings of Census 2011 provide remarkable insight into the lives Dalits across the country, clearly demonstrating that the government must go the extra mile if it is serious about inclusive growth. By RAMESH CHAKRAPANI
THE Socio-Economic Caste Census 2011 has stirred up a controversy after the government refused to release some findings from the data. But months before it became the eye of a storm, the government had released thorough and insightful statistics on how people belonging to the Scheduled Castes (S.C.s) live, which went practically unnoticed.
The data, from Census 2011, give a clear picture of the socio-economic situation of the S.C.s, with details on the States where they are in significant numbers, their presence in rural and urban areas, the condition of their dwellings, their access to drinking water, the presence or absence of toilets, the type of fuel used for cooking, and the number of households availing themselves of banking services and owning assets such as radios, televisions, telephones, computers, two-wheelers and four-wheelers.
Of the 4,42,26,917 S.C. households in the country, 3,29,19,665 or over 74 per cent live in rural areas and 1,13,07,252 in urban areas. The distribution is similar in most States, with the exception of Gujarat and Maharashtra. Gujarat is the odd man out among all States, with more S.C. households in urban areas (5.04 lakh) than in rural areas (4.91 lakh). In Maharashtra, which has a total of 33.11 lakh households, 17.77 lakh are located in rural areas and 15.34 lakh in urban areas.
A look at the distribution of Dalits across States shows that 60 per cent of the entire S.C population is concentrated in six States: Uttar Pradesh (76.49 lakh households), West Bengal (51.40 lakh), Tamil Nadu (37.59 lakh), (undivided) Andhra Pradesh (36.71 lakh), Maharashtra (33.11 lakh) and Bihar (32.30 lakh).
According to the findings, more than 91 per cent of all the households live in good or livable residences, a encouraging sign of the progress in their living conditions over the years. It is also encouraging to note that 3,98,20,398 households, over 90 per cent, live in own residences. However, data on the number of dwelling rooms present a distressing picture. Of the total, 2,06,16,913 households live in houses with just one dwelling room and 1,39,24,073 get by with just two rooms, and they account for 78 per cent of all S.C. households in the country. Only about 30 lakh households have at least four rooms at home.
The data also show that some 1,75,35,781 households depend on handpumps for drinking water, while 1,29,80,745 access tap water from a treated source, together accounting for 70 per cent of all S.C. households in the nation.
The main source of lighting is electricity in 2,61,04,596 households, or 59 per cent of the total, which may be a measure of how successful the government’s electrification programme has been. One must note that even with universal electrification, kerosene is still the chief source of lighting for 1,74,64,007 households all over India, 1,61,36,903 of them in rural areas. The data are an illustration of how electricity is yet to reach millions of marginalised people in rural areas.
A crucial metric of quality of life is the availability of toilets within the premises, and on this count S.C. households still lag behind, with only 1,49,75,126, about 34 per cent of the total, falling under this category. It is distressing to note that 1,82,616 households still dispose night soil into an open drain, while 64,111 depend on a human to remove night soil.
According to the census data, for more than 50 per cent of all people belonging to S.C. communities (2,42,76,493 households), firewood is the main fuel used in cooking. While liquefied petroleum gas has reached only 74,84,864 households, it is heartening to note that 39,729 households use electricity and 87,166 depend on the eco-friendly biogas for their kitchen fuel needs.
Given the government’s major push to make banking services available universally, it would do well to start with the S.C. communities, of whom than 50 per cent remain outside the purview of banks. Census 2011 data show that 2,25,29,047 households make use of banking services, less than half of the total, a pointer to how far the government has to go.
On the assets front, it is most disturbing to note that 99,95,804 households do not own any of the following assets: mobile phone or landline, radio, TV, computer, two-wheeler and four-wheeler.
The Hindustan Times
The Mountain Man of Bihar
Arun Kumar, Hindustan Times, Patna
Updated: Jul 23, 2015 10:52 IST
Having moved a mountain in his lifetime, Dasrath Manjhi has moved the normally star-struck Bollywood to make a biopic on him after his death.
Manjhi- The Mountain Man, a Ketan Mehta film releasing next month, is inspired by the undying spirit of this landless labourer in Bihar, who in real life, sliced through a 300-feet hill single-handedly to bring accessibility to his remote village.
The film is likely to bring Majhi nationwide fame posthumously. But Manjhi had already attained legendary status in Bihar, long before the movie was even conceived.
Born in a family of landless Mushahars – said to be the lowest of the low in Bihar’s rigid caste-ridden society- Manjhi faced steep odds. He toiled tirelessly in a landlord’s quarry but lived in penury. The tallest challenge, however, was a rocky mountain that stood between his village Gehlaur in Atri block of Gaya and civilization.
Cut off by the mountain from the rest of the world, the village had no electricity and no amenities. The nearest doctor was at Wazirganj, some 70 kilometres over the mountain.
Everyone cursed the remoteness, but did little. Until Manjhi was spurred into action when his wife Falguni died in 1959. She reportedly died as she could not be taken to a doctor on time.
Manjhi spent the next 22 years chipping the mountain with a hammer, chisel and crowbar. People called him a lunatic, but he carried on till a tiny cleft across a rock wall opened up one day. He then went on to widen the cleft. Some several years later, he managed to carve out a passage 360 feet long and 30 feet wide.
Watch Manjhi trailer
The passage cut down Gehlaur’s distance to Wazirgang to 6 kilometres, catapulting Manjhi to the status of a folk hero. Having conquered the mountain, he earned the sobriquet of Mountain Man.
He died of cancer in 2007, but is still eulogized. Gehlour now has a road and a hospital, both named after him. A welcome gate is planned at the entrance of the village, to be named Dasrath Manjhi Dwar, says the Gaya district magistrate Sanjay Agarwal.
Manjhi, when alive, inspired awe. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar stood up and vacated his chair when Manjhi once visited him at his Janata Durbar in Patna. The movie – with Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the role of Manjhi – now may make the nation take a bow in memory of the Mountain Man.
How Capitalism Is Undermining the Indian Caste System
Karl Marx was wrong about many things but right about one thing: the revolutionary way capitalism attacks and destroys feudalism. As I explain in a new study, in India, the rise of capitalism since the economic reforms of 1991 has also attacked and eroded casteism, a social hierarchy that placed four castes on top with a fifth caste—dalits—like dirt beneath the feet of others. Dalits, once called untouchables, were traditionally denied any livelihood save virtual serfdom to landowners and the filthiest, most disease-ridden tasks, such as cleaning toilets and handling dead humans and animals. Remarkably, the opening up of the Indian economy has enabled dalits to break out of their traditional low occupations and start businesses. The Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI) now boasts over 3,000 millionaire members. This revolution is still in its early stages, but is now unstoppable.
Milind Kamble, head of DICCI, says capitalism has been the key to breaking down the old caste system. During the socialist days of India’s command economy, the lucky few with industrial licenses ran virtual monopolies and placed orders for supplies and logistics entirely with members of their own caste. But after the 1991 reforms opened the floodgates of competition, businesses soon discovered that to survive, they had to find the most competitive inputs. What mattered was the price of your supplier, not his caste.
Many tasks earlier done in-house were contracted out for efficiency, and this opened new spaces that could be filled by new entrepreneurs, including dalits. DIOCCI members had a turnover of half a billion dollars in 2014 and aim to double it within five years. Kamble says dalits have ceased to be objects of pity and are becoming objects of envy. They are no longer just job-seekers, they are now job creators.
Even in rural areas, dalits have increasingly moved up the income and social ladders in the last two decades. One survey in the state of Uttar Pradesh shows the proportion of dalits owning brick houses is up from 38 percent to 94 percent, the proportion running their own businesses is up from 6 percent to 36.7 percent, and the proportion owning cell phones is up from zero to one-third. Some former serfs have now become bosses. A rising proportion have become land-owners, and sometimes hire upper-caste workers. Even more revolutionary, say dalits, is the change in their social status. Once they were virtually bonded laborers, and could not eat or drink with the upper castes. Today the bonded labor system is almost gone, and dalits operate restaurants at which upper castes eat and drink. They remain relatively poor and discriminated against, but economic reform since 1991 has revolutionized their social and economic status.
Bodies That Do Not Belong
by EDITORIAL TEAM on JULY 17,
The existing mainstream narratives about caste in Kerala either express shock and surprise at the continuing persistence of caste in India, or were mostly produced by savarna men and women who were well-aware of the marketability of caste in academia and activism. These most often end up reinforcing the savarna hegemony by appropriating voices of the underprivileged. It is in this context that the internet and social media gave a scope for breaking away from such narratives and became influential in making heard multiple voices which were otherwise kept away from mainstream discourses. The avarna narratives, largely excluded earlier have gathered momentum and much more visibility since.
It is in this background of a mainstream discourse about Kerala where ‘caste does not exist’ that I write about Soumya Devi, another young Dalit woman who has been subjected to discrimination at her workplace, Technolodge, Kerala’s first rural IT park under KeralaState Information Technology Infrastructure Ltd (KSITIL). Soumya hails from a humble family background. Her mother, a nurse, is a retired government employee while father who was engaged in several casual jobs and petty businesses had to stop working due to his chronic health condition. After finishing MBA in Human Resources from Kerala, she went to University of Northampton, UK for Masters in Human Resources, where she studied and worked for almost 5 years. As a competent young woman, she showed the courage to pursue what she dreamed of. Under normal circumstances, a full-time master’s degree from a recognized university in the UK opens up ample employment opportunities in India. Soumya also assumed the same and returned home with high hopes.
She had been asked for an interview in a leading financial institution in Kerala where she was more or less assured of a position as Branch Manager. She had the work experience, qualifications and was recommended by an important person. She talked about her experience, “They communicated to me about everything, the salary, perks and so on… I was told that I would be in charge of the Ernakulum Branch. They wanted to meet me. But when I went there, things seemed to have changed and they seemed quite uninterested in taking me. I have no idea why. May be they did not like me. May be they did not find my appearance suitable enough to head a Branch.”
I ask her why she thought that her appearance was a reason for not being offered the role. She says that that she finds no other reason at all, and hence assumes that she was rejected because she was not ‘beautiful’ and ‘presentable’ as they might have expected. Then she adds that the interviewer said, “I can’t believe that you went to the UK for higher studies. You should not have gone to study in UK. There are good colleges and universities in Kerala. I would have rather studied in one of them than gone abroad.” It was an ironic comment in a society where emigration for education and livelihood is highly regarded. In Soumya’s case, instead of her qualifications (especially her degree from abroad) adding to her value, it seemed to have depreciated her worth in a very unusual way.
In another instance she mentioned that she was an active member of the Technolodge community. She played a major role in its activities and public relations programme. But there seems to be no record of her contributions. There has been a deliberate invisibilization of her presence and activities. In her own words “all media attention that Technolodge got was focussed on a few start-ups although I was the one who spoke to several people and convinced them to start their offices in Technolodge. To the media, they spoke of their gender-focussed efforts to encourage women entrepreneurs, but that was never the case in practice.” She recollects instances in meetings where suggestions made by her were promptly ignored, but the same suggestions when made by different people who were part of prominent start-ups were accepted and duly granted. She feels that many of her ideas were presented and executed as someone else’s idea, and that she was never allowed to occupy the front row for functions or events. She adds, “from my School days onwards I am active in extracurricular activities. I am not a person with inferior view of myself and who holds myself back. But the society always reminds me that people like me are not fit for the front row.”
This reminds me of something that happened in the recent past: the media coverage of the Kiss of Love (KoL) campaign. In an eminent university campus where the protest was organized as part of KoL, women were all dressed up wearing bright shades of lipstick and make-up (interestingly only women were wearing the lipstick). Among the organizers, there was a dark skinned girl who seemed to be an active and important member of the group of protesters. Every news telecast of the protest showed just a quick-peek of her and quickly changed the camera elsewhere when she came into the frame; the camera was more focused on the fairer girls with similar make up although all of them were dressed similarly. Quite interestingly, when the dark girl was speaking, it was just a voice-over while the visuals were of fairer women. Despite being well-read and well-aware both these women seemed to be ‘stuck’ with bodies that do not quite ‘belong’ to the spaces which they are part of.
The Stereotypical Bodies
An individual could be understood as a socialized body; the body in which the basics of culture, value systems and practical taxonomies of the society in which one lives. (Jenkins 1992 :76) The ‘socialized body’ is conditioned to stand with the society by accepting and internalizing its power structure than opposing or resisting it. Pierre Bourdieu conceptualizes habitus as ‘an acquired system of generative schemes objectively adjusted to the particular conditions in which it is constituted’ (Bourdieu 1977:95) Therefore in a sense, our habitus shapes our social world and external social structures shape our habitus. ‘The socialized body (which one calls the individual or person) does not stand in opposition to society; it is one of its forms of existence’ (Bourdieu 1980:29). It could be said that in the Indian context habitus is something that is shaped or conditioned by the caste system. It is caste system that disciplines and socializes bodies. Thus the different stereotypes for bodies for ‘upper’ and ‘lower’ caste people. Traditionally these bodies were bound by their assigned jobs which are considered to be their duties. When the boundaries are transgressed, when they are visible in spaces which are otherwise meant to be for ‘upper’ castes, violence is not always explicitly physical but rather perpetuated through symbols and actions that would assert the authority of ‘upper’ castes by constantly humiliating the ‘lower’ castes. This maintains the existing status-quo and power structure of caste. This is done by distinguishing US from THEM; ‘upper castes’ from ‘lower castes’ through various symbols, of which body and skin tone is an important one.
Skin colour, English-speaking ability, articulation skills, attire etc. are some of the markers of caste. Since many communities in Kerala do not keep caste surnames along with their names, identifying one’s caste becomes an inferential game based on the caste stereotype. One can still go wrong in doing so, because across communities in Kerala had all kinds of these markers. If one is from an ‘upper caste’ community and still dark skinned, she is still considered ugly, not because she is dark-skinned, but her dark-skin represents a lower caste identity. Popular culture and media reinforce these stereotypes, naturalize the power relations and hegemony resulting in the symbolic violence, through what Bourdieu says as “dehistoricisation and universalization”. The symbolic violence would seem natural even to those who suffer from it, as it denies the history and social context of such violence, and these naturalized inequalities would be treated as inevitable facts of life. A major part of this dehistoricisation and universalisation in Kerala happened through communist movements; juxtaposing class on to caste and hence negating the existence of caste itself, and thus appropriating the voices to speak about exploitation of the underprivileged, homogenising them underneath class identity.
Soumya’s story sounds familiar to me. Many English-speaking, educated, left-leaning Dalit Bahujan Adivasi women (men too) try to live the dream of a casteless Kerala. They act like caste was phenomenon of the past; they know caste just as much as they know of reservation and discrimination never existed in their reality. Until one fine day when something unusual and unexpected happens to wake them from this dream. For Soumya it was when the CEO of the organization asked her, “Why has a Pulaya with no money come to do business? Why don’t you go for some other job?” Even though Soumya and her Consultancy firm Be Positive Management was forcefully moved out of Technolodge due to defaulting on rent payment, several others who owed higher amounts were allowed to continue without any warning or termination and got enough time for payment. Her laptop and other belongings were confiscated by Technolodge. Soon after, some socially active groups and well-wishers offered to pay her rent but the CEO of Technolodge took the stand that even if they close down Technolodge, they will not accommodate Soumya. She is now contemplating legal proceedings against the concerned people.
Many spaces which appear modern are sites of violence and exclusion; it constantly tries to expel those who do not belong there. In Malls, IT parks, or in educational institutes, most of the Blue-collar workers are lower castes as if it is quite a ‘natural’ phenomenon for them to be there; while an Entrepreneur in an IT park such as Technolodge being a lower-caste, that too a woman is quite ‘out of place’. It is not surprising that the ‘solidarities’ extended to those ‘in place’ would be more than those extended for those ‘out of place’.
The Voices of Resistance
It is important to talk about Soumya as a Dalit Woman because the mainstream discourses do not have a vocabulary to speak about her experience. Many of us internalize the society’s savarna violence and try to fit in without being able to effectively address the segregations based on caste. Many of us assume, quite wrongly, that our education, qualifications and achievements are merits that rise above caste divisions. They fail to understand that their merit is ‘lower caste’ merit, which is never the same as the merit of ‘upper’ castes; for the merit of the savarna is a birth right and privilege which avarna people cannot snatch away or earn. Soumya could have slipped away from this had she not been confirming with the stereotypes of a ‘lower caste woman’ being dark-skinned; this is possibly why she repeatedly refers to her skin tone. Since she was easily identified as one, she was side-lined. Hers is a fight which every avarna woman has to go through in varied degrees. They deal with multiple paradoxes; everyday becomes a struggle to survive and fit in. In this struggle to fit in the person has to adjust, hide, adopt and imitate. Make herself acceptable. Her intelligence and qualifications do not seem to matter here but her appearance is the indicator of her ancestral caste and thus ‘merit’. Soumya’s case was no different. There are many out there, struggling, fighting, subverting, resisting their everyday violence. It is this fight because of which they belong; otherwise, they would all be space-less, timeless and caste-less!
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