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Gujarat govt doesn't want to reveal: Cept Univ untouchability study suggested massive economic discrimination

Cover of the Navsarjan report
By Our Representative
The Gujarat government may have refused to table the Cept University’s “alternative study on education” titled, “Impact of Caste Discrimination and Distinctions on Equal Opportunities: A Study of Gujarat”, in the state assembly, giving the technical explanation that it has not been prepared by a commission appointed by the state government.
However, ironically, following several Right to Information (RTI) pleas, top Dalit rights NGO Navsarjan Trust forced the state government in 2013 to part with the Cept study, which runs into 300 pages.
The study was handed over to Navsarjan Trust activist Kirit Rathod, who sent the RTI plea, following a State Information Commission (SIC) order in June 2013, asking Gujarat’s social justice and empowerment department to part with it “within a month.”
Earlier, refusing hand over the report, in a strange explanation, the state government trued to argue out that providing information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act on prevalence of untouchability in the state would lead to “a sharp rise in incidence of enmity in the rural areas of Gujarat.”
Downloadable HERE, significantly, the Cept University study, commissioned by the state government, was supposedly meant to “counter” a 2009 Navsarjan report, “Understanding Untouchability” (click HERE), which had claimed, on the basis of a survey in 1,589 villages involving 5,462 individuals, that untouchability was part of way of life in rural Gujarat.
Prepared by a group of scholars led by Prof R Parthasarathy, formerly with Cept University and currently director, Gujarat Institute of Development Research (GIDR), the study, despite saying that caste discrimination in Gujarat is “largely related to perceptions”, agrees, through a plethora of data from the five villages it surveyed, that economic discrimination has remained intact.
The five villages it surveyed were Khavda in Kutch district, Kherva in Surendranagar district, Nava Nesda in Banakantha district, Transad in Ahmedabad district, and Menpura in Kheda district.
Samples taken by the scholars reveal that 65.3 per cent of Dalit of scheduled caste (SC) households in the five villages are dependent on agricultural labour as the main source of income, as against 30.6 per cent other backward class (OBC) households and just about 4 per cent other castes and community (OCC) households.
They Cept study said that while just about 12 per cent of SC households are dependent on regular employment, where it is possible to earn a higher income over a longer period of time, compared to 22.4 per cent OBC households and 34.7 per cent OCC households.
The study revealed, among the cultivators, 63.2 per cent of the SC households own less than one hectare (ha) of land, as against 29.8 OBC households, and just seven per cent OCC households.
The study suggests, a larger number of SC and OVC households are forced to migrate to other places for agricultural work with family because of poverty. “Households were enquired if any members undertook migration for work in the last three years…” Among those who migrated, “whereas 55 per cent of the households are OBC, 42 per cent are SC, there are just one per cent OCC households.”
Coming to assets, 53.7 per cent of SC households and 51 per cent of OBC households live in pucca houses, as against 90 per cent OCC households. Further, only 26.7 per cent of the SC households and 20 per cent OBC households have toilets at home, as against 87.6 per cent of OCC households.
Just about 8.6 per cent of SC households own scooters or motorbikes, as against 17.9 per cent OBC households and 61.1 per cent OCC households. And, 6.3 per cent SC households have fridge as against 9.7 per cent OBC households and 62.2 per cent OCC households.
The study also shows that 63.40 per cent SC households are below poverty line (BPL), and are dependent on subsidized BPL ration, as against 37.2 per cent OBC households and just about 4.40 per cent OCC households.
Interestingly, while the Gujarat government asserted in the state assembly on Tuesday that the Navsarjan report “Understanding Untouchability”, was “one-sided and anti-government”, possibly the reason why the Cept University was commissioned an alternative study, top scholar Prof Ghanshyam Shah believes there is little reason to brush it aside like this.
According to Shah, who critiqued the Cept University study in 2013, the Navsarjan report has been authored, among others, by well-known scholars attached with the prestigious Robert F Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights (RFK Center), USA. Three of them are from academic institutions in the US – David Armstrong, University of Wisconsin, Christian Davenport, University of Notre Dame, and Allan Stam, University of Michigan.

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