. . . . . . "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

<< current

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

Friday, November 19, 2004  
Linking trade to human rights
The Deccan Herald
19 November 2004

Many human rights organisations hold that diversity trade audits can be used to eliminate Dalit discrimination


When the European Union-India summit concluded at the Hague last week, Dr Manmohan Singh and Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende of the Netherlands both described the event as “very successful, and politically and economically significant”. There was one group, however, that was hoping for a more meaningful outcome — human rights activists who had suggested that the summit could link trade negotiations and geo-political issues, for the first time ever, to the elimination of discrimination against the oppressed sections of society.

Economic sanctions have been used before as a means of urging nation states to improve human rights situations — by the US against Cuba and Iraq, for instance, and by the world community against South Africa (to press for the removal of apartheid) but human rights groups are now pointing out that the situation of Dalits in India (who at 170 million form a group larger than the combined populations of several countries of Europe) is equally an issue of denial of basic rights.
Linking talks on trade and aid could be one way of insisting on state action for upholding human rights, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) believes.

Dalit torture
Under Article 17 of the Indian Constitution, untouchability was “abolished” and its practice made punishable under the law, 57 long years ago. Nonetheless, even today reports of Dalits being tortured — for drawing water from a public tap, or for entering a temple to offer prayers — continue to make the news with painful regularity. Mid-day meal schemes for school children run into problems because ‘high caste’ parents object to their children eating alongside children from low castes.Of the 200 million persons living in absolute poverty in India, 170 million are Dalits, and despite the Prevention of Atrocities Act of 1989, over 30,000 cases of crimes against Dalits are recorded annually, of which one third are from UP, the state that has given the largest number of Prime Ministers to the nation.

Where legislation has not delivered, pressures via international and bilateral dealings could help in urging nations to address the issue of the denial of basic rights to the oppressed, says Gerald Oonk, spokesperson for the Dalit Network of the Netherlands (DNN).

Apart from trade, the summit covered a number of issues like counter-terrorism, research and development, environment, and space exploration. So why not use the strategic event to focus on the need to improve human rights in the sub-continent, DNN argued, even while conceding that given the sensitive nature of the issue, both sides might be reluctant to discuss the persistence of untouchability. Two years ago, Denmark raised caste discrimination as an issue at the EU-India summit, and the talks collapsed. Raising the Dalit issue at the earlier world summit on racism too had caused heated controversies.

Netherlands is now chairing the EU, and prominent members of the EU and Dutch parliament are reportedly not opposed to using trade negotiations to improve the situation of Dalits, which is why the India Committee of the Netherlands, along with DNN, Justicia et Pax and other bodies monitoring human rights issues worldwide, raised the question of Dalits’ rights in the run-up to the summit.Parallel with apartheidThe Guardian weekly, reporting last month on the perpetuation of caste-based discrimination in India, drew a parallel between South African apartheid and India’s untouchability — both assume an entire ethnic group’s incompetence. India opposed apartheid, and Nelson Mandela drew inspiration from us in his struggle against discrimination. So why is our polity unheedful of the persistence of pervasive discrimination in our own midst, ask global Dalit solidarity networks.

The answer is clear — because our elections are fought, manipulated and won to this day, on the basis of strong caste factors. Politicians responsible for overseeing the implementation of existing legislations on social equity are clearly not up to the task of mustering the necessary political will to translate laws and Constitutional guarantees into ground realities for the oppressed masses. As in other areas of globalisation, once again commerce overrides social equity and civil rights.DNN is suggesting that European companies operating in countries affected by caste discrimination should have an active anti-discrimination policy in recruitment and sub-contracting, and use ‘diversity audits’ for affirmative action.However, as in the case of child labour (which has been made an issue by European importers of carpets and other goods from India) the solution to human rights violations on the basis of caste will call for political will in terms of implementation on a wider canvas, because with sanctions alone, it is the outcasts who will suffer more, if employment opportunities dry up.

Link to the article

10:43 AM

Thursday, November 18, 2004  
Existing Pro-Dalit Policies in Nepal

Nepalnews.com/The Telegraph
17 November 2004

Mr. Tek Tamrakar
Constitutional Promises
The Constitution of Kingdom of Nepal, 1990, has clearly mentioned for protective discrimination in the Article 11(3). Prohibiting to the caste as well as sexual discrimination, the constitution has pledged to initiate special programs and welfare laws for the socially, and educationally backward class people. This provision has indirectly paved the way for affirmative action and reservation. Following the spirit of this provision, the fundamental governance of the constitutional framework (Directive Principles and State Policies) has been enshrined. As a result, the government has enacted various Acts, policies and programs i.e. free legal aid, free primary education, provision for political participation in local level, policies for cultural enhancement, specific program for their economic enhancement. Some programs for social security have also been formulated. Other major obligations for Dalit upliftment, provided to the government by the constitution are given as follows:

State shall pursue a policy of increasing the participation of the labor force, the chief socio-economic force of the country, in the management of enterprises by gradually securing employment opportunities to it, ensuring the right to work and thus protecting its rights and interests(Article 26(6).

State shall pursue a policy of making the female population participation to a greater extent, in the task of national development by making special provisions for their education, health and employment (Article 26(8).

State shall pursue the policies in matters of education, health and social security of orphans, helpless women, the aged, the disabled and incapacitated persons and ensure their protections and welfare (Article 26 (9).

The state shall pursue a policy which will help promote the interests of the economically and socially backwards groups and communities by making special provisions with regard to their education, health and employment.(Article 26(10)

In order to secure justice for all, state shall, pursue a policy of providing free legal aid to indigent persons for their legal representation in keeping with the principle of the Rule of law 26(14).
Welfare Legal Provisions

After the restoration of the democracy, the government has enacted various laws and provisions addressing Dalit issues. Though, there is not any specific law like in India for the elimination of untouchability and upliftments of Dalit, there are some laws which directly/indirectly address some of these aspects. Basic laws among them are as follows:

Legal Aid Act provides legal representation to the marginalized communities;
Local Self- government Act has mandated for several welfare policies carried out for the upliftment and promotion of Dalit at the local level;
Scholarship Rule provides 10% scholarship as reservation to Dalit student,
Education Act provides free education to Dalit students in secondary level;
Bonded Labour welfare Act, Children Act, Child Labour Act and Social Welfare Act are other important laws that help to the Dalit
Besides the above mentioned provisions and plans Muluki Ain5 has also included various provisions for the upliftment of Dalits.

Tenth Plan
The current Tenth plan of the government has also planned the various welfare programs for Dalits, which focuses on such aspects as: Employment of Dalits; Foreign employment; Sensitization programs against untouchability at the local level; Encouragement to Dalit women for school teachers; Distribution of scholarship programs; Job in governmental as well as non-governmental entities;

Other programs visualized by this Plan are: Health awareness at all levels; Food for Work program;
Housing arrangement for homeless Dalits; Income and skill generating training for modernizing their traditional occupations; Arrangement of leasehold forest within community forests for Dalit forest users; Provision of grants to poor Dalits for micro-irrigation;Focal point will establish in levels of the government for Dalits; Discrimination in the entrance into temples will be discouraged; Political parties are mandated to nominate Dalits in every level of parties; Political parties are mandated to punish them who are involved on discriminatory activities; and Abolish all discriminatory provisions and enact new special law to eliminate discrimination.

As per these Plans it is found that the main priorities of Tenth plan are eradication of poverty, women’s empowerment and gender mainstreaming. Tenth plan states the importance of the many faces of poverty and focuses on the economic growth distribution of resources, human resources development, social balance, empowerment and social transformation. Tenth plan provides for the compulsory education up to primary level and promises to be taken as national movement and accordingly the institutional, administrative and other necessary improvements will be done.

The National Commission for Dalit
The Government has ratified International human rights instruments, including International Convention in Elimination of all kinds of Racial Discrimination, 1965 (ICERD), International Covenant on Socio-economic and Cultural Rights, 1966 (ICSPR), Convention in Eliminating all kinds Discrimination against Women, 1979 (CEDAW), Convention against Torture (CAT) and Anti Slavery Convention (CAS). Besides, strong voice has been raised by the Dalits for a watch dog body. Accordingly, for the protection and promotion of Dalit rights, the government led by Sher Bahadur Deuba established National Commission for Dalit in 2002. The main objectives and assigned tasks given to the Commission are as given below:
Protect and promote the Rights of Dalits; Make recommendation for social welfare laws and introducing change in them; Investigation on the issues and cases relating atrocities and violation of rights; Make recommendation for adopting the special plans and programs to concerned authorities; and Adopt special steps for carrying out Dalits into the mainstream of development.

Ministry for Women, Children and Social Welfare
The Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare was established in September, 1995 with the objective of bringing women into the mainstream. The other developments are Ministries having Women Development Units, sections or divisions in all ministries like in Local Development, Agricultural, Labor, Education and the National Planning Commission. But the Ministry of Social Welfare has merely been involved in empowerment of women and children and not for Dalit community, though in principle social welfare includes the advancement of poor, disadvantaged and downtrodden people.

Committee for Deprived/depressed and Dalit Community
With a view to uplifting and promoting socio-economic status of Dalits, the government established the Depressed and Deprived Dalit Committee under the Local Development Ministry in 1997. But the Committee could not prove dynamic and pragmatic. The main weakness of this committee is due to its composition and functioning. Since, the nomination of the committee members is politicized, the dedicated and the genuine personality from among the Dalits have not been appointed. Therefore, the members mostly serve the interest of their bosses, who are actors for propagating discrimination. The Committee, however, initiated some activities like distribution of scholarships, awareness campaigns against untouchability, publication of bulletin, radio program, etc. But the insufficient budget, apart from the defective policy in the distribution of scholarships proved impediment. Another barrier behind the effective function of this committee is frequent change in the composition of its structure. Committee is changed as and when there is change in government.

The National Commission for Women
As per the recommendation of Beijing Declaration, the Ministry for Women, Children and Social Welfare established the Commission for Women in 2002 to design, execute, monitor and evaluate as well as promote the implementation of the policies related to the women. It was intended to promote the legal, political and social safeguards of the women. This Commission has not it’s own Act like Dalits’ Commission. Yet, this has organized a series of seminars, apart from conducting studies. Similarly the commission has visualized to hear the complaints regarding the sex discrimination issues and operate the awareness programs to make women sensitized and well known about their rights. The Commission has formed the group against the atrocities against women and accordingly it has made case against such social taboo as ‘witchcraft’. But, there is a lack of participation of Dalit women in the decision making process of the Commission.

National Human Rights Commission
As a result of long struggle of human rights activists and the other working organizations in Nepal, the Human Rights Commission was established in 2000. The Commission is empowered to investigate the incidents of human rights violations including violations due to carelessness and neglect. It has a mandate to deal with complaints against HMG/N employees and agencies only. However, it is supposed only to recommend but not to implement its decision on any issue. Similarly, the Commission lacks of the alternative dispute resolution mechanism to deal with complaints. In the absence of this sort of mechanism, the complete protection of human rights is not possible. It is gathered that when a complaint is lodged regarding Dalit problem in the Commission, it forwards the case to the National Commission for Dalits. But some of the steps that the Commission has taken against caste discrimination are appreciable, which include case of Maruni Devi and also the case of social boycott. The Commission has to do more for the protection and promotion of Dalit rights. It must correct this stereotype perception and work as strong ombudsman for the protection and promotion of Human Rights of all without any discrimination.

Citizenship to Dalits
Citizenship certificate is the identity of the sovereign people. It paves the way for people for the participation and enjoy the state facilities. As such, some jurists have rightly recognized it as fundamental rights among fundamental human rights. But, the Dalit people are deprived of citizenship certificate. Since most of Dalits are involved in traditional jobs, they hardly own their land. Deprivation of land hampers them to have their permanent accommodation. But land is a pre-requirement for citizenship certificate. At this juncture, the decision of Government to provide citizenship certificate to Dalit easily in 1996 played vital role. But still Tarain (Madhesi) Dalit and Badi Dalit are being far from achieving the citizenship certificate.
Citizenship Certificate with Thar

Right to self-determination is an inalienable right under civil liberties. Autonomy and independence are considered as the basic infrastructure for human development. The ratified covenant on Civil and Political Rights8, 1966 has obliged State Parties to be liable to protect and promote the right regarding self-determination. With a view to providing citizenship certificate entitling thar, the Government has made written declaration. Dalits still are deprived of receiving certificate with their thar. But the decision of the government is important. ( The author is a public interest lawyer)

Link to the article

8:57 AM

This page is powered by Blogger.