21 Nov, 2006 TIMES NEWS NETWORK
NEW DELHI: National Commission for SCs has taken the view that reservation benefits should not be extended to children born to Dalit mothers married to non-SC men as such offspring would grow up in houses without social stigma of untouchability attached to a Dalit household.
The commission has reasoned that children in Indian society inherit the social status of their fathers and as they would grow up in a family of "general castes" they would be at an unfair advantage while competing with wards of Dalit fathers for quota benefits, depriving the needy of welfare measures.
The strong opinion may inhibit government's plan to bring a Bill to undo a Supreme Court ruling which also held that access to quotas for children of mixed caste marriages was not automatic but depended on the child's upbringing.
Though not binding, government may have to weigh NCSC's contentions, especially that children of mixed caste backgrounds would be unfair competition to those who's fathers are Dalits.Union social justice ministry is mulling a bill for giving statutory provision to replace existing government orders which give automatic SC status to children of mixed caste Dalit marriages.
Besides social justice, "gender justice", too, was offered as a reason by the ministry which claimed that weight being attributed to the father in deciding benefits as being biased in favour of men.
However, while the government was pushing for the proposal, union coal minister and tribal leader Shibu Soren came out strongly against the move, even shooting off a letter to the SC commission.
Underlining the SC panel's opinion are apprehensions that extending quota benefits to children of non-Dalit fathers would lead to misuse of marriage to grab jobs and other advantages. The rampant instances of forged caste certificates could only be compounded by approving the proposal, it alluded.
Unlike the government, the SC commission is categorical that fathers dictate the social status of a child. It stated that such children would inherit the "customs and traditions of the gentleman" and they would not fulfil the criteria of untouchability for being a Dalit.
In its opinion, Dalits welfare programmes would suffer if the proposal went through. "The SCs, by pedigree of SC fathers, will be deprived of their privileges/safeguards due to multiplicity of beneficiaries out of such a wedlock and the benefits will not percolate to the downtrodden and those treated as untouchables," the panel said.
Fakir Bhai Vaghela, vice-chairman of the panel, felt the proposal had the potential to divide general category families. "They will be divided into two groups, reserved category and unreserved category which will create more differences in society and affect social harmony," he said.