Against the Caste System, For Equity and Dignity for Dalits

Mar 28, 2014

Dalits constitute the majority of agricultural labourers in our country and form a large chunk of the informal sector workers. Their labour is indispensable to the running of the economy and the society. In spite of playing such an important role in the economy they are the most downtrodden sections of the society. The neo-liberal policies implemented by the UPA government has worsened their conditions even further.

Privatisation Impact on SC jobs

Closure of public sector units and increasing privatisation has led to a situation where reservations have no meaning. The long pending demand of providing reservations in private sector has not been fulfilled by the UPA government so far. The Congress party had promised in the last elections to provide for reservations in private sector, but it bowed to the dictates of the corporates and failed to fulfill its promise.

At the same time the UPA government is displaying its clear disinterest in filling up the vacancies in various government departments. The ministry of personnel, public grievances and pensions headed by the prime minister itself has said that the government's success rate in filling the backlog posts for SC, ST and OBCs has been less than 30 per cent. Of a total backlog of 76,137 vacancies in various ministries, departments and public sector enterprises, the government could fill up just 26,472 in a special recruitment drive, which means only one in three vacant posts are filled. This is no way does mean that there are no qualified persons available for recruitment to these posts, as governmental data itself indicates growing unemployment among all categories of people.

Increasing Landlessness

The social conditions of Dalits continue to remain appalling. Though a large majority of dalits depend on agriculture for their occupation, very few among them own land. Those few who actually own land, possess only small farms and even that they are losing. According to the Census 2011 data, there is an increasing trend of Scheduled Castes losing their land and becoming agricultural labourers. Scheduled Castes constitute the highest percentage of agricultural labourers among all categories.

The number of SCs who cultivate their own land, categorized as “cultivators” in the Census, has also drastically decreased from 20% in 2001 to 14.8% in 2011, signifying a rapid drop in the land ownership. This indicates how even the meager amount of land that is there in the hands of Dalits is being taken away from them, due to the policies pursued by the government. Increased input costs and lack of governmental support is driving dalits away from agriculture. The Congress government instead of supporting dalits in agriculture, in its budget this year, announced the closure of 22 schemes meant to benefit dalits. So much so, for their concern towards dalits and their empowerment.

Increase in Casualisation

Another worrying development is that the number of “main workers”—the Census’ term for people who work for more than six months at a stretch, among SCs is declining — from 73% in 2001 to 70.7% in 2011.

And, correspondingly, the trend of casualization of the workforce is becoming more pronounced, from 27% in 2001 to 29.3% in 2011 for SCs. The female work participation rate for SCs declined to 28.3% by 2011, according to the data of the primary abstract of Census 2011.

The Census data also shows that households are shutting down their micro, family-run enterprises and joining the mainstream workforce. The “household industry workers” for SCs declined from 3.9% in 2001 to 3.2% of total workers in 2011. This clearly shows that there is a lack of support from the government to provide loans and provide marketing facilities to the enterprises run by the SCs. There is an unwritten policy against sanctioning loans of dalit applicants. Credit disbursements to dalit entrepreneurs had dropped by 33.8% according to data released by the RBI in 2012. And the Congress-led UPA government had done nothing to reverse this trend.

No Right to Education?

Dalits are the worst sufferers of economic exploitation and social oppression. Even in education, where constitutionally sanctioned reservations are followed, dalits are not benefiting contrary to the general impression. The drop-out rate among dalits in the primary stages of education is the highest compared to other categories in the society. According to the law, 15 percent of seats should be allotted to dalits but as statistics indicate only 10 percent dalits are enrolled in higher education. The higher one goes up the ladder the higher the discrimination! The number of dalits in premier educational institutes like the IITs and AIIMS is even less than 10 percent, meaning nearly one in three seats reserved for dalits remains vacant in these institutes. Worse, the Congress government had consistently been decreasing the funds allocated to provide scholarships for dalit students. Even this year budget marks a 400 crore rupees reduction in the allocated amount.

Special Component Plan or Special Diversion Plan?

Dalits lag behind even the minimum parameters in all aspects of human development. Despite all the promises made and schemes announced, not much progress has been made and most of these promises have not been implemented properly. Let us examine of one such scheme that could have made a significant impact on the living conditions of Dalits, i.e., the Scheduled Caste Sub Plan (Special Component Plan).

As per the Special Component Plan, the amount of expenditure of planned Central Government budget for dalits should be according to their population but this rule has been flagrantly violated by the UPA government. In the budget for the year 2014-15, according to rules, 16.6 percent of the total funds for dalits should have been allocated, but instead, they were allocated just 8.76 percent, which is just about half of what was supposed to have been given. The total budget for 2014-15 is Rs 17, 63, 214 crores. Under the SCSP, what was supposed to have been allocated is Rs 92,183.45 crores. But what actually was allocated is only Rs 48,638.31 crores, which is only half of what should have been allocated. Experience shows that even what is being allocated is not spent for the welfare of the Dalits. In the last year’s budget (2013-14) Rs 41,561.13 crores was allocated for the SCSP, but according to the revised estimates, only Rs 35, 800.6 has been spent. This clearly shows the kind of attitude the UPA government has towards the welfare and upliftment of the Dalits.

Particulars of Total Plan and Non-Plan budget


2012-13 (AE)

2013-14 (BE)

2013-14 (RE)

2014-15 (BE)

Total Budget





Plan Budget





Non Plan Budget





Particulars of allocation made under SCSP for Scheduled Castes

Allocation under SCP





SCP in Percentage





Due SCP in percentage










Denial under SCP





In order to see that the mandated funds are allocated and spent for Dalits, the CPI(M) has been raising the demand for providing statutory status to the SCSP by enacting a legislation. The UPA government has failed to enact a legislation providing statutory status to the SCSP.

Due to consistent struggles waged by the CPI(M) and later by other like minded organizations, such a legislation was enacted by the Andhra Pradesh government.

Multiple Discrimination

There is a huge discrimination in providing basic amenities and decent living conditions to the Dalits. The Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India on 30 September 2013 released a report on families living in slum areas. More Scheduled Castes (SCs) are living in slums with 1 out of every 5 slum residents belonging to SC, compared to just over 1 out of 10 for others. The proportion of SCs living in slums has risen over the last decade. According to the Slum Area Improvement and Clearance Act, 1956 slums have been defined as mainly those residential areas where dwellings are in any respect unfit for human habitation by reasons of dilapidation, overcrowding, faulty arrangements and designs of such buildings, narrowness or faulty arrangement of streets, lack of ventilation, light, sanitation facilities or any combination of these factors which are detrimental to safety and health of the residents.

The following table illustrates the extent of the discrimination in providing basic amenities to Dalits.

Differences in development indicators between

SCs and other social groups



All groups

Literacy (%)



Malnutrition among Women

(BMI<18.5) (%)





Underweight Children (%)



Pucca Housing (%)



No Toilet Facility (%)



Electricity for Domestic use (%)



Infant Mortality Rate ( per 1000 live birth)



Under-5 Mortality Rate ( per 1000 live birth)



Under 5 mortality rate

Child Immunisation (%)





Incidence of Poverty (Rural)



Incidence of Poverty (Urban)



Source: India – Human Development Report 2011: Towards Social Inclusion, Institute of Applied Manpower Research, Planning Commission

Violence against Dalits

On top of this economic discrimination and denial of basic amenities, dalits are subjected to severe and inhuman social oppression too. Atrocities on Dalits are increasing day by day. The atrocities committed against the dalits in Mirchpur, Dharmapuri, Khairlanji, many villages across Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and other states show how inhumanly are dalits treated even today. Even the national capital Delhi is not free from this shame as recently a dalit bridegroom was not allowed to ride a horse in his baraat, during his marriage.

Even the premier medical institute AIIMS, Delhi was guilty of caste discrimination with dalit students subjected to harassment, failed in subjects and forced to reside in separate hostels. Worse, many dalit faculty posts are lying vacant, not only in AIIMS but in many such institutes like the IITs also. All these facts come out from a committee appointed by the government to look into the prevalence of caste discrimination in AIIMS. But no action was taken.

Cases registered under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act are on the rise across the country. In the year 2010, according to the National Crime Records Bureau, 10, 513 cases were registered under the POA Act; 11, 342 cases for the year 2011 and 12, 576 cases were registered for the year 2012.

Rise in the crime on Dalits and the decreasing conviction rate warranted the strengthening of the Prevention of Atrocities Act by bringing in the necessary amendments to plug the loopholes and incorporate the changing forms of crime. But despite repeated protests and actions, the UPA government has failed to enact the amendments to strengthen the POA Act.

Dalits face immense difficulties to lodge FIRs. Even for the cases filed, according to the government itself, the conviction rate for the cases of atrocities on SCs and STs is between 3 to 8 per cent, while pendency of such cases in court is 80 to 90 per cent. This was a fact conceded by the concerned minister himself in a statement made in the parliament in the immediate background of the 2012 judgement on the Bathani Tola massacre, where 21 dalits were killed and the convicts were freed, for want of evidence.

Moreover, in this year’s budget the UPA government has reduced the money for prevention of atrocities on Dalits .

For Modi, Scavenger work is “spiritual” activity

The condition of Dalits in Gujarat, the laboratory for the Hindutva model, is even more appalling. BJP’S prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi believes that scavenging is a profession that gives ‘Spiritual Experience’ for Dalits. He says, “I do not believe that they have been doing this job just to sustain their livelihood. Had this been so, they would not have continued with this type of job generation after generation…At some point of time, somebody must have got the enlightenment that it is their duty to work for the happiness of the entire society and the Gods; that they have to do this job bestowed upon them by Gods; and that this job of cleaning up should continue as an internal spiritual activity for centuries.” So that's 'enlightened spiritual activity'! Wonder why the proponent of such wonderful ideas does not walk the talk! Can the conditions of dalits and other deprived sections of the society improve if such a man and party, the BJP is elected to power? Never, on the contrary, it is bound to further deteriorate.

According to the 2011 census data there are more than 2000 households who are forced into manual scavenging in Gujarat. Another survey conducted by Tata Institute of Social Sciences mentions that more than 12,000 manual scavengers exist in Gujarat. And Saurashtra, which has the greatest concentration of dalits in Gujarat, leads with more than 900 families indulging in manual scavenging.

BJP ruled 'model state' of exemplary governance has blatant caste discrimination. Some recent incidents:.

  • In a survey conducted in 2011, where dalit children and non-dalit children were interviewed in 12 villages in Gujarat, it was revealed that more than 90 percent of dalit children have faced discrimination while procuring medication at government hospitals and clinics. More than 80 percent of dalit children have faced discrimination while trying to avail something as basic as pathological tests.

  • Dalits in at least 77 villages in Gujarat have been forced to migrate due to social boycotts, according to a statement made by the chairman of the National Human Rights Commission. According to him, nearly 100 complaints were also received by the NHRC on alleged police atrocities, particularly the police refusing to register their complaints, or showing total inaction in pursuing the cases after registering the complaints.

  • Conviction of those who have been booked under the SC/ST Atrocities Act, is just about 3.5 per cent in Gujarat

  • In a village called Galsana in Ahmedabad district, which is around 100 kms from the city, dalits are not allowed entry into any of the five temples in the village. The younger generation of dalits who gathered courage to protest this ban, resulted in their social boycott. The administration did not intervene on behalf of the dalits.

  • In the gruesome killings of dalits at Thangarh (September 2012) the Gujarat state government did not come to the rescue of dalits despite the complaints lodged by them about the imminent attack.

CPI(M) is the only political party that has taken up the issues concerning Dalits in a consistent manner and fought against caste discrimination and violence on Dalits.

In Dharmapuri, where caste based arson resulted in the loss of property worth crores of Dalits, the CPI(M) and the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF) struggled for bringing justice to the affected families.

The Uthapuram untouchability wall was demolished due to the struggles conducted by the CPI(M) and the TNUEF.

Similarly in Andhra Pradesh, due to the consistent struggles waged by the CPI(M) and the KVPS, the Sub-Pan for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was given statutory status. Struggles were conducted against the prevalence of many discriminatory practices like not allowing dalits to use common wells and other water bodies in villages, preventing dalits from walking on certain streets, denial of burial grounds, two-glass system in hotels and canteens and for temple entry. CPI(M) stood by the dalits and forced the government to intervene whenever dalits were subjected to social boycott.

In West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, the policies of land reform pursued by the CPI(M)-led Left Front governments benefitted Dalits the most. Under the Left Front governments and because of the strength of the Left movements, caste discrimination in these states was strongly opposed and therefore the kind of discrimination and violence seen in other States is not there. Now with the TMC government in West Bengal, all the erstwhile landlords whose lands were distributed are now trying to re-occupy all the lands that were distributed to the poor, particularly the dalits. The CPI(M) is standing in the forefront of the struggle resisting such attempts.

For a change in the conditions of dalits and their empowerment, for a strong struggle against the horrific caste system, strengthen the CPI(M) and the struggle against all forms of caste discrimination and oppression.

Vote CPI(M), Strengthen the Left

Against the Caste System

For Equity and Dignity for dalits