. . . . . . "Dalit Solidarity News" is an information project run by the International Dalit Solidarity Network. News stories are extracts from online newsservices. Link to the full story is found at the end of each blog. Visit the International Dalit Solidarity Network at www.idsn.org

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Formed in 2000, the IDSN is a network of international organisations, national solidarity networks and affected country groups, campaigning against caste-based discrimination throughout the world, from the dalits of South Asia to the Osu of Nigeria and the Burakumin of Japan. Visit our website International Dalit Solidarity Network for more information. SUBMIT DALIT NEWS HERE

Wednesday, June 30, 2004  
The Times of India
JUNE 29, 2004

IG or IAS officer, Dalit is still an untouchableHARIT MEHTA

GANDHINAGAR: Rajan Priyadarshi, a 1980 batch IPS officer, has risen to the rank of inspector general. He holds the post of Range IG, Rajkot.

People from different walks of life often approach him with folded hands with numerous problems. But, when the same Priyardarshi decides to visit his native Kadagra village in Dehgam taluka, the equation changes dramatically.

This senior cop still cannot buy a house in the locality inhabited by higher castes of the village. He continues to have a house in the ‘Dalit vaas’ of Kadagra. Though Priyadarshi does not want to speak on the subject, sources say that till last year even the village barber did not entertain Dalit customers.

And Priyadarshi is not alone. A lot of high ranking officials and even politicians continue to face similar discrimination despite enjoying a high status in the government.

Take the case of PK Valera, an IAS officer who retired as commissioner (Fisheries) a few years back. When Valera organised a social gathering in his native Borisana village near Kalol in 1997, the person whom he had given the cooking contract refused to clean up the utensils.

“They suddenly disappeared. We were told that they would not wash utensils at a Dalit’s place. The embarrassment cannot be expressed in words,” he says.


“Sitting in urban areas, people may think that the issue of untouchability is over. But most of the educated and well-placed Dalits face ostracisation when they visit their villages. [...]

When Kanti Makwana, a retired DSP, decided to take out the marriage procession of his son last year in Govana village in Harij taluka, he was not allowed to do so by the villagers. “He finally had to limit the procession to the confines of the Dalit neighbourhood,” said a source from Navsarjan, an NGO fighting for Dalit rights.

According to Martin Macwan of the Navsarjan, nearly all Dalit officials face the same set of problems ranging from temple entry to filling water from village well.

“Even if I want nobody would sell me a house in the upper caste locality. The social structure is such even today,” he says.

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7:17 AM

Tuesday, June 29, 2004  
The Indian Express
June 28, 2004

Captain, a hole in your argument

Industry uses ‘merit’ and ‘efficiency’ to suit its interests


Will we have reservations in the private sector? The Common Minimum Programme promises ‘‘a national dialogue with all political parties, industry and other organisations’’ to figure out how affirmative action should be handled. With such a sensitive issue, which political party will oppose the idea? Which court is likely to strike down reservations if there is indeed such a law? Which industry organisation is likely to support it?

Indeed, industry has already come down heavily against the idea of reservations, arguing this adversely affects merit and efficiency and erodes India’s comparative advantage. With globalisation and competition, this is nothing short of disaster. However, here are some points to ponder.

First, all reservations are inefficient. They distort resource allocation and prevent resources from being used for the most productive purpose. This logic is not limited to the labour market. Reservation of some sectors for production by domestic industry (or services) and import barriers have the same outcome. As do reservations for small-scale industry. And don’t forget the capital market, with defaults and large NPAs (non-productive assets) locking up capital and preventing their most productive use. Doesn’t lack of exit also prevent the most productive use of land? The least we can do is be consistent and argue against all reservations in all product and factor markets, not just the labour market. Had industry been more forthright about advocating elimination of all inefficiencies, the argument would have been more convincing. Instead, we have arguments about level playing fields, when it suits industry. This sounds like having one’s cake and eating it too. Especially since differential treatment to different sectors isn’t alien to industry. What else explains queues in North Block at this time of the year?

Second, we know reservations exist, implicitly, if not explicitly. Look at the way cabinets are formed or look at the composition of different commissions. There must be representation from all sections of the community, all geographical regions. Look at the way sporting teams are drawn up. More explicitly, we have reservations for women and we also have reservations for SCs/STs in the government sector. I am not aware of industry chambers having opposed any of these. [...]

Third, when talking about merit and efficiency, what are we comparing with what? Within the labour market, in arguing that reservations impede recruitment on the basis of merit, we automatically assume that in the absence of reservations, the best person for the job would have been chosen. Anyone who is familiar with the treatment SCs/STs generally obtain in India will find it difficult to buy this argument. Here is one sample from the National Human Rights Commission’s report. ‘‘The Patel Community of Devalia village in Amreily District was committing atrocities and practicing discrimination against the Dalits of the village. The Patels were preventing the supply of water, milk and butter milk and other essential commodities to the Dalits. They were not being engaged as labourers, and the Patel community even prevented the neighbouring villages from engaging them for labour work. Besides this, the Dalits were prevented from going out of the village, and the crops grown by them were being destroyed by the Patels in the presence of the police, who were mute spectators.’’ This is actually not as bad as it often gets. However, the argument that there is free mobility of labour and free entry into the labour market, or free access to credit, is a difficult one to swallow. The responsibility for implementing Articles 15 and 17 of the Constitution is not the state’s alone. In how many instances has industry taken up the agenda of freeing labour markets and removing discrimination? The argument that my company employs SCs/STs is neither here nor there. I am talking about the broader social agenda and this involves more than passing the buck to the state for land reforms and ensuring access to health and education for disadvantaged groups.

Take for instance, the Manu Smriti. According to this treatise, the dwellings of Chandalas must be outside the village. They have no right to wealth. Their sole wealth can be in the form of dogs and donkeys. If you read the Indian Express religiously, you will have noticed that even canine property is now open to question. [...] The argument that the Manu Smriti was composed two thousand years ago is not the point. Whenever it was composed, practice towards Dalits continues to exhibit norms prescribed by the Manu Smriti and other Dharmashastra texts. When the MP Government recently banned cow slaughter, it invoked the Manu Smriti as justification. The Manu Smriti is not a dead treatise. It is a living one. As such, the hypothesis that there is free entry and free labour mobility is impossible to establish. The counterfactual of merit and efficiency, in the absence of reservations, is simply not valid. In how many instances has industry taken up the negative affirmation agenda and done something to eliminate it?

There are reports that the chambers want a national debate on reservations. Excellent idea. But first let’s eliminate the baggage of 2000 years. How about providing a platform for debating the Dharmashastra texts and arguing for their prohibition? After that, we can have the debate on reservations.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think reservations are the answer either. But I don’t think arguing against reservations is the answer either.

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7:39 AM

The Financial Express
June 28, 2004

Are Job Reservations A Pie In The Sky?
If the govt co-opts the corporates, it can augment funds and target better

The move for reservation of jobs in the private sector could be sedating the impoverished and oppressed groups with the hope that the pie in the sky would indeed shower on them. They should realise that the age-old entrenched system in the society and government will subvert any such affirmative action. It ensured that over 54 per cent of the SC/ST quota remains unfilled in the central government itself. 80 per cent and 45 per cent of the quotas remain unfilled in the public sector and the banks respectively. It is reported that dalits occupy only 1.2 per cent of university teaching positions in social sciences, and in sciences they occupy only 0.5 per cent. The gleeful plea is that there aren’t enough suitable candidates.

Despite the formal protests, the corporate world should be far from afraid of the proposed policy, for two reasons. First, employment in the organised private sector has stagnated since about 1995 at around 85-86 lakh. The skill profiles have also changed due to hi-tech shifts in industry and individual firms and further, due to outsourcing to the informal sector. Thus, several activities which have high potential for employment of the SCs and STs have moved to the informal sector.

Second, if the private companies want to discriminate against these vulnerable groups, they can do so by working around the required specifications and competencies as also the tests and procedures for selection. In fact, good companies — they do not require the candidates to mention their castes or religion either in the application forms or interviews — also may now get conscious and use similar defensive mechanisms of exclusion.

It is public knowledge that the reservation-based empowerment of SCs and STs has been a failure. At best, it has helped an estimated 1 per cent creamy layer in the cities — such a concentration of benefits is a global situation as revealed by a recent empirical study of affirmative action in several countries by Thomas Sowell. [...]

Worse still, is the matter relating to manual scavenging by dalit groups that agitated Mahatma Gandhi so very much and the government was able to bring out the Employment of Manual Scavenging and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, in 1993. [...] As per one report, there are over 800,000 dalits engaged in manual scavenging — municipalities, panchayats and governments themselves being the biggest culprits — with nearly 15,000 of them in the Nation’s capital itself! Against this background of lack of will to implement laws, mere protection of dalits itself is under continued doubt.

Reservation policy in the private sector thus is like reaching for the moon when one is unable to even climb a rock. Instead of confronting the private sector with a potential paper tiger, the government would do better to co-opt and collaborate with it to build capacity and empower the deprived sections in select regions. [...]The government should consider giving them incentives and encouragement to undertake projects that would generate employment and improve skill levels, competency, literacy, nutritional standards, knowledge and information that might actually benefit a few lakh SCs and STs every year. The massive funds earmarked, can be better utilised by partnering with the private sector.

Researchers have commented that where these funds were spent, monies have been mostly pocketed by the official machinery and the upper crust — a fraction of the historic 5 paise in a rupee appears to reach the dalits. By co-opting the private corporate sector, the government can augment funds, target better, reach the beneficiaries well and empower them meaningfully.

(The author can be reached at yrk@yagaconsulting.com

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7:24 AM

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