Skip to main content

In face loss to govt, Gujarat Information Commission orders release of CEPT University study on untouchability


By Our Representative
In a major loss of face for the Gujarat government, the State Information Commission has ordered the state social justice and empowerment department to hand over a copy of a report on untouchability in Gujarat's villages within a month. About a month and a half ago, giving a strange explanation, the state government declared that providing information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act on prevalence of untouchability in the state will lead to “a sharp rise in incidence of enmity in the rural areas of Gujarat.”
The explanation came in reply to an RTI application, filed by top NGO Navsarjan Trust's senior activist Kirit Rathod, who had wanted to know details of a report, titled “Understanding Untouchability”, prepared by the Centre for Environment and Town Planning (CEPT) University, commissioned by the Gujarat government on October 22, 2010.
Rathod approached State Information Commissioner Balwant Singh against the state government decision on May 8, saying that there was little reason for providing the report, as untouchability remains a major social evil of Indian society. 
“Why are so many programmes being organised to end untouchability, if the problem has already been deemed as solved? Why is a Citizens' Cell operating, again with the aim to fight untouchability? Why is a special court functioning to punish those guilty of practicing untouchability? Why does the chief minister minister call the meeting of the monitoring committee on Dalits, if untouchability had ended?”, he wondered.
Finding the government explanation totally unacceptable, Rathod said, “Does the Gujarat government believe that untouchability should continue and those who practice it should go unpunished? Or does it think that by practicing untouchability the village peace remains intact?”. 
Significantly, the government explanation did not just include the imagined prospect of a sharp rise in incidence of enmity in villages in the state in case information on untouchability is provided, but also such reasons like “possibilities of hurdles in the process of dialogue between different castes” in the rural areas, and chances of “a sharp decrease in interdependence” between different castes, which allegedly characterizes the “homogenous atmosphere” in the state's rural areas.
Saying that if information is provided, “relations between different communities may be in jeopardy”, the reply to Rathod further said that in case incidence of untouchability are “proved to be true” in villages, this would lead to “rise in the atmosphere of peace, dialogue and compromise” which may be prevailing in the villages.
“There is also a possibility that the person who reports on untouchability would find living difficult in the village”, the government believes, suggesting how Dalits in some villages, in order to maintain an atmosphere of homogeneity, take steps which apparently ensure that the overall atmosphere of peace in the village is not marred.
“In some villages, for instance”, the government explanation said, “the Dalits themselves do not want to enter into villages.Similarly, in some other villages, if the barber refuses to entertain a Dalit wanting to have hair-cutting, the Dalit decides to go to a town-based barber in order to avoid any possibility of a dispute taking shape in the village between different castes.” Further: in case the information is provided, it would lead to a situation where the Dalits may be deprived their source of livelihood. “This is because the Dalits' livelihood depends on the job provided by higher castes”.
Rathod, who had wanted to know about details of the untouchability report prepared by the CEPT University, had sought details like on-the-spot inquiry of incidence of untouchability in the state's rural areas, made by the CEPT University scholars, as also the explanation on untouchability provided by the state's state-level and district-level officials. The government, while denying the details, said it acted under the RTI Act's section 8(J).
The Gujarat government had sponsored the study, titled “Abhadchched in Bhal” (Understanding Untouchability) to the CEPT University following Navsarjan Trust's “Census on Untouchability”, a complete survey report on prevalence of untouchability in the state's rural areas, carried out in as many as 1,589 villages. The Navsarjan Trust released the results of the survey on January 27, 2010.

Comments

TRENDING

India performs 'poorly' in Quality of Life Index, ranks 62nd out of 64 countries

Counterview Desk “Expat Insider”, which claims to be one of the world’s most extensive surveys about living and working abroad, in a survey of 20,259 participants from around the globe, has found that of the 64 destinations around the globe, has found that while Taiwan is the best destination for persons living outside their native country, closely by Vietnam and Portugal, India ranks 59th.

India's GDP down by 50%, not 23%, job loss 200 million not 122 million: Top economist

By Our Representative  One of India’s topmost economists has estimated that India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) decline was around 50%, and not 23%, as claimed by the Government of India’s top data body, National Statistical Organization (NSO). Prof Arun Kumar, who is Malcolm S Adiseshiah chair professor, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi, said this was delivering a web policy speech, organised by the Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi.

Youngest of 16 activists jailed for sedition, Mahesh Raut 'fought' mining on tribal land

By Surabhi Agarwal, Sandeep Pandey* A compassionate human being, always popular among his friends and colleagues because of his friendly nature and human sensitivity, 33-year-old Mahesh Raut, champion of the democratic rights of the marginalised Adivasi people of Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, has been in prison for over two years now.

Human development index: India performs worse than G-20 developing countries

By Rajiv Shah A new book, “Sustainable Development in India: A Comparison with the G-20”, authored by Dr Keshab Chandra Mandal, has regretted that though India’s GDP has doubled over the last one decade, its human development indicators are worse than not just developed countries of the Group of 20 countries but also developing countries who its members.

#StandWithStan: It's about Constitution, democracy and freedom of expression

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  It is more than three weeks now: On the night of October 8, 2020, the 83-year-old Jesuit Fr Stan Swamy was taken into custody by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) from his residence in Ranchi to an undisclosed destination. According to his colleagues, the NIA did not serve a warrant on Fr. Stan and that their behaviour was absolutely arrogant and rude.

Stan Swamy vs Arnab Goswami: Are activists fighting a losing battle? Whither justice?

By Fr Sunil Macwan SJ* It is time one raised pertinent questions over the courts denying bail to Fr Stan Swamy, who was arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), and granting it to Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief of the Republic TV, arrested under the charge of abetting suicide of Avay Naik, who ended his life in 2018. It is travesty of justice that a human rights activist is not only denied bail but is also made to wait for weeks to hear a response to his legitimate request for a straw to drink water, while Arnab Goswami walks free.

India among heavily impacted by Covid-19, China 'notoriously' evading transparency

By NS Venkataraman* With the year 2020 inevitably ending in the next few weeks, the thought amongst the people all over the world is whether the coming year 2021 will be free of Covid-19 (often dubbed as Wuhan virus, as it known to have spread from Wuhan in China).In the early 2020, many people thought that Covid-19 would be a localized affair in China but later on, it proved to be a global pandemic.

Namaz in Mathura temple: Haridwar, Ayodhya monks seek Faisal Khan's release

By Our Representative As many as 23 members of the Hindu Voices for Peace (HVP), including the founder president of the well-known Haridwar-based Matri Sadan Ashram, Swami Shivananda Saraswati, and a one of its top monks, Brahmachari Aatmabodhanand, have expressed their “dismay” over the arrest of Khudai Khidmatdar chief Faisal Khan and three others on charges of “promoting enmity between religions” and “defiling a place of worship” after they offered namaz in Mathura’s Nand Baba temple premises on October 29.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Government of India 'refuses' to admit: 52% of bird species show declining trend

Finn's Weaver  By Our Representative The Government of India has been pushing out “misleading” data on the country’s drastic wildlife decline, says a well-researched report, pointing towards how top ministers are hiding data on biodiversity losses, even as obfuscating its own data. It quotes “State of India’s Birds Report 2020” to note that of the 261 out of 867 bird species for which long-term trends could be determined, 52% have declined since the year 2000, with 22% declining strongly.