//Still a long way to go: Dalits

Still a long way to go: Dalits

The recent announcement by Union minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Meira Kumar about a draft Bill on the issue of job reservation for SC/STs in the private sector has not excited the community.

Saying that the matter is far from resolved, Udit Raj, chairman, All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations, says, "The reservation issue is still inconclusive because there is lack of political will, effective and appropriate pressure has not been built up by the government, and industrialists are opposed to it and above all Dalits are also not organised on this issue." He adds that even a leader like Ram Vilas Paswan attended only one GoM meeting.

But why have reservation in the first place? Explains Dalit activist and writer Chandra Bhan Prasad, "People holding positions of power and sitting over wealth need not necessarily be qualified for such positions. They may have just inherited. And those (like Dalits/Adivasis), who are born outside the caste order are born with the inheritance of being segregated. That system of segregation was manmade and history mandated, and the same can be corrected by a policy of inclusion or reservation. This will boost efficiency and competitiveness."

He adds, "If Dalits are brought into positions through reservations, they will boost Indian economy as they will return all their earnings to the market. Already, Dalit/Adivasi government officers/employees are estimated to spend over Rs 3 billion annually in the market. In fact, job reservations will be a boon for the private sector. The private sector should prefer profit over prejudice."

Rubbishing the argument that reservation has not delivered in more than 50 years and it wouldn’t do so now, Ashok Bharti, convenor, National Conference of Dalit Organisations (NACDOR), says, "Reservation was never aimed at eliminating all ills of highly structured, hierarchical iniquitous Indian society, and nor will it eliminate all these in future. It, however, provides opportunities to Dalits in organised employment and produces a section capable of guiding and leading the community to its emancipation."

Talking of an economic criterion rather than a caste-based one, he explains, "Economic criterion does not address India’s realities of social marginalisation resulting in economic, political and cultural deprivation. However, it is timely to see how caste-based criterion could be strengthened by incorporating few indicators, such as the ones used in the Mandal Commission, which has economic criterion as well."

Sums up Umakant, secretary, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), "Reservation policy is not an anti-poverty policy. The objective of a reservation policy is parity and not charity. Reservation is a human rights issue of Dalits and Adivasis, which cannot and should not be denied any longer, if India as a nation claims to be egalitarian and a nation that is sensitive and responsible enough to end all kinds of discrimination hitherto faced by Dalits and other disadvantaged sections."

SOURCE: The Financial Express