Thursday, January 21, 2010

THE POSITION OF DALITS IN INDIA TODAY

According to the 2001 census, scheduled castes comprise 16.2 per cent of the total population of India, that is, they number over 17 crore. Scheduled tribes comprise 8.2 per cent of the population, that is, they number over 8 crore. Both together constitute 24.4 per cent of the Indian population, that is, they together number over 25 crore.


The six states that have the highest percentage of scheduled caste population are Punjab (28.9), Himachal Pradesh (24.7), West Bengal (23.0), Uttar Pradesh (21.1), Haryana (19.3) and Tamil Nadu (19.0). The twelve states that have the largest number of scheduled castes are Uttar Pradesh (351.5 lakhs), West Bengal (184.5 lakhs), Bihar (130.5 lakhs), Andhra Pradesh (123.4 lakhs), Tamil Nadu (118.6 lakhs), Maharashtra (98.8 lakhs), Rajasthan (96.9 lakhs), Madhya Pradesh (91.6 lakhs), Karnataka (85.6 lakhs), Punjab (70.3 lakhs), Orissa (60.8 lakhs) and Haryana (40.9 lakhs).


Almost every socio-economic indicator shows that the position of scheduled caste families is awful. In many cases their plight is getting worse. Let us have a look at some of the major indicators.

LAND: In 1991 70% of the total SC households were landless or near landless (owning less than one acre). This increased to 75% in 2000. In 1991, 13% of the rural SC households were landless. However, in 2000 this saw a decline and was 10%. As per the Agricultural Census of 1995-96, the bottom 61.6% of operational holdings accounted for only 17.2% of the total operated land area. As against this, the top 7.3% of operational holdings accounted for 40.1% of the total operated area. This gives an indication of land concentration in the hands of a few.

FIXED CAPITAL ASSETS: In 2000, about 28 % of SC households in rural areas had acquired some access to fixed capital assets (agricultural land and non-land assets). This was only half compared to 56 % for other non-SC/ST households who had some access to fixed capital assets. In the urban areas, the proportion was 27 % for SCs and 35.5 % for others.


AGRICULTURAL LABOUR: In 2000, 49.06 % of the working SC population were agricultural labourers, as compared to 32.69 % for the STs and only 19.66 % for the others. This shows the preponderance of dalits in agricultural labour. Between 1991 and 2001, the number of agricultural labourers in India increased from 7.46 crore to 10.74 crore, and a large proportion of them were dalits. On the other hand, the average number of workdays available to an agricultural labourer slumped from 123 in 1981 to 70 in 2005.


CHILD LABOUR: It is reported that out of the 60 million child labour in India, 40 % come from SC families. Moreover, it is estimated that 80 % of child labour engaged in carpet, matchstick and firecracker industries come from scheduled caste backgrounds. The tanning, colouring and leather processing, lifting dead animals, clearing human excreta, cleaning soiled clothes, collection of waste in slaughter houses and sale of toddy are some of the hereditary jobs generally pursued by Dalit children.


PER CAPITA INCOME: In 2000, as against the national average of Rs. 4485, the per capita income of SCs was Rs. 3,237. The average weekly wage earning of an SC worker was Rs. 174.50 compared to Rs. 197.05 for other non- SC/ST workers.


POVERTY: In 2000, 35.4 % of the SC population was below the poverty line in rural areas as against 21 % among others (‘Others’ everywhere means non-SC/ST); in urban areas the gap was larger – 39 % of SC as against only 15 % among others. The largest incidence of poverty in rural areas was among agricultural labour followed by non-agricultural labour, whereas in urban areas the largest incidence of poverty was among casual labour followed by self-employed households. The monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) for all household types was lower for SCs than others.


EMPLOYMENT: In 2000, the unemployment rate based on current daily status was 5 % for SCs as compared to 3.5 % for others in rural and urban areas. The wage labour households accounted for 61.4 % of all SC households in rural areas and 26 % in urban areas, as compared to 25.5 % and 7.45 % for other households.


RESERVATIONS: 15 % and 7.5 % of central government posts are reserved for SCs and STs respectively. For SCs, in Group A, only 10.15 % posts were filled, in Group B it was 12.67 %, in Group C it was 16.15 % and in Group D it was 21.26 %. The figures for STs were even lower, at 2.89 %, 2.68 %, 5.69 % and 6.48 % for the four groups respectively. Of the 544 judges in the High Courts, only 13 were SC and 4 were ST. Among school teachers all over the country, only 6.7 % were SC/STs, while among college and university teachers, only 2.6 % were SC/STs.


EDUCATION: In 2001, the literacy rate among SCs was 54.7 % and among STs it was 47.1 %, as against 68.8 % for others. Among women, the literacy rate for SCs was 41.9 %, for STs it was 34.8 % and for others it was 58.2 %. School attendance was about 10 % less among SC boys than other boys, and about 5 % less among SC girls than other girls. Several studies have observed discrimination against SCs in schools in various forms.

HEALTH: In 2000, the Infant Mortality Rate (child death before the age of 1) in SCs was 83 per 1000 live births as against 61.8 for the others, and the Child Mortality Rate (child death before the age of 5) was 119.3 for 1000 live births as against 82.6 for the others. These high rates among the SCs are closely linked with poverty, low educational status and discrimination in access to health services. In 1999, at least 75 % of SC women suffered from anaemia and more than 70 % SC womens’ deliveries took place at home. More than 75 % of SC children were anaemic and more than 50 % suffered from various degrees of malnutrition.


WOMEN: While dalit women share common problems of gender discrimination with their high caste counterparts, they also suffer from problems specific to them. Dalit women are the worst affected and suffer the three forms oppression -- caste, class and gender. As some of the above figures show, these relate to extremely low literacy and education levels, heavy dependence on wage labour, discrimination in employment and wages, heavy concentration in unskilled, low-paid and hazardous manual jobs, violence and sexual exploitation, being the victims of various forms of superstitions (like the devadasi system) etc.


SANITATION: Only 11 % of SC households and 7 % of ST households had access to sanitary facilities as against the national average of 29 %.


ELECTRICITY: Only 28 % of the SC population and 22 % of the ST population were users of electricity as against the national average of 48 %.

ATROCITIES, UNTOUCHABILITY AND DISCRIMINATION: During 16 years between 1981 to 2000 for which records are available, a total of 3,57,945 cases of crime and atrocities were committed against the SCs. This comes to an annual average of about 22,371 crimes and atrocities per year. The break-up of the atrocities and violence for the year 2000 is as follows: 486 cases of murder, 3298 grievous hurt, 260 of arson, 1034 cases of rape and 18,664 cases of other offences. The practice of untouchability and social discrimination in the matter of use of public water bodies, water taps, temples, tea stalls, restaurants, community bath, roads and other social services continues to be of high magnitude.

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