Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Demand for reservation to Dalits in private jobs, private education, capital market and services

By Our Representative
A Dalit Election Manifesto 2014, worked out by a group of human rights organizations working among Dalit and tribal people across India, who gathered under the umbrella of “National Coalition for Strengthening of Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, has said that the “rise of dominant caste people to power at the cost of the Dalits and the consequent deprivation of rights and privileges suffered by the latter”, even after 65 years of Independence, remains a “major issue of debate today in India.”
Pointing out that the Dalits even today are being “systematically robbed and reduced to a state of powerlessness devoid of any protection against social and economic exploitation”, the manifesto emphasises, “Even after thousands of years, Dalits still remain the most exploited and oppressed community in India.”
Jotting down six major thrusts, the manifesto insists that there should be “access to economic entitlement” by legislating “the special component plan (SCP), ensuring a well-designed, dedicated institutional setup at the Central and State level, which shall allocate SCP funds to the ministries/ departments, duly taking into consideration the developmental needs of SCs.”
The manifesto says, there should be “access to quality education with zero discrimination” by implementing the Universities Grant Commission (Promotion of Equity in Higher educational institutions) Regulations 2012, and “ensuring comprehensive education programme to end the culture of caste and gender based discrimination and violence.”
The manifesto points out, in view of vulnerability of the Dalits in jobs, there should a waiver of “full fees from SCP funds”, enabling “SC students to seek admission in premier private educational institutions for professional courses like engineering, nursing, medicine, business administration, management studies, aeronautics, maritime courses, law, etc.”
It says, the reservation norm should be extended to the private sector in “multiple spheres” such as “private employment, market, private capital market, private education and housing, access to inputs and services, products and consumer-goods.” This should be followed up with “the inclusion of legal safeguards of equal opportunities and non-discrimination.” And in order to “ensure its implementation, government must put in place monitoring mechanisms”.
The manifesto wants strengthening of criminal justice administtative system by taking into account of “the seriousness and spirit of SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Ordinance, 2014, passed on March 4, 2014, by developing “appropriate mechanisms to monitor the functioning of special courts, as the trial process is getting prolonged for years.” And for this, exclusive special courts should be established “with special public prosecutors and special investigating officers for speedy trials in the cases the Act.”
Focusing on how the rights of Dalit human rights defenders, victims and witnesses are often "breached”, the manifesto says, there should be a mechanism to “ensure protection of the Dalit human rights defenders, victims and witnesses.” For this, it adds, it is important to “ensure passing of SCs & STs (PoA) amendment ordinance, 2014 as an Act" by the new government which would take over.
Pointing out that there should be “entitlement to land and protection against forced evictions”, the manifesto says, 46 per cent of Dalits “are toiling as agricultural labourers and 15 per cent working as cultivators but still remain landless.” Hence, the “government should launch a centrally sponsored scheme to allocate at least 5 to 10 acres of land per family.”
For this, it underlines, “special schemes should be implemented that prioritise reallocation of surplus land, including ceiling, to landless Dalits labourers with the land title registered also in Dalit women’s names, or as joint title. Ensure that no forced eviction takes place where Dalit habitats are set up.”
Finally, there should be “access to adequate housing by launching “a centrally sponsored scheme to allocate 10 to 15 cents of land to each houseless rural poor (many of whom are Dalits) on a priority and an urgency basis by purchasing land from the market.” The urban Dalits (who constitute 12.6 per cent of total urban population) having no house “must be given 450 to 500 sq yard house with adequate water, sanitation, electricity, health facilities, etc. and cater to their other livelihood needs without any discrimination”, the manifesto says.
Warning that the “Dalits have never been, nor have they allowed themselves to be, won over”, the manifesto says, “They still remain a community to be reckoned with by the casteist forces. History is witness to this reality. Therefore, it is important to view this Election Manifesto from Dalit angle.”
The manifesto calls itself “a collective affirmation of Dalit identity and dignity”, of “assertion of the Dalit community’s power, strength and resilience”, and “one voice of 20 crore Dalits in India clamouring for their rights and entitlements”, insisting, its main points should be included by “all the political parties”.
It adds, the manifesto will act as “a reminder to all political parties of their obligation to be steadfast in implementing/ fulfilling their promises to bridge the increasingly yawning gaps between the Government of India and the Dalit communities on the one hand and between the dominant caste groups and the Dalit community as a whole on the other.”
“The ministries/ departments, in consultation with the Dalit communities, must come out with baskets of new and innovative schemes formulated for the substantive development of SCs under a separate budget head”, the manifesto, which runs into 28 pages, concludes.
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Download full manifesto by clicking HERE

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