. . . . . . "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

Tuesday, March 08, 2005  
PM forms panel of ministers for Dalit schemes

The Indian Express
March 08, 2005

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday constituted a committee of ministers on Dalit affairs to supervise programmes being run by various ministries and departments for welfare of Dalits. The committee would consolidate the functioning and implementation of schemes to improve effectiveness and identify areas needing attention. The committee has been set up because despite large amounts being allocated to a number of prog- rammes, the outcome has not been commensurate.

As a first step, the Government plans to launch awareness campaigns with the help of NGOs to ensure that Dalits avail of the schemes. The Government would also encourage state governments to implement all existing schemes for empowerment of the community. It would order early identification of surplus land under the Land Ceiling Act and distribution among Dalits.

The committee will be chaired by the Prime Minister and will also comprise Union Ministers of Defence, HRD, Agriculture, Home, Chemicals, Fertilisers and Steel, Law and Justice, Rural Development, Small Scale Industries, Social Justice and Empowerment, Water Resources, and Labour and Employment.

The committee will also comprise Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, and Minister of State for Personnel and Parliamentary Affairs.

Link to the article

7:40 AM

Monday, March 07, 2005  
Affirm, Arise
The UPA's new Dalit panel has its heart in the right place. Now can it deliver?

14 March 2005

by Rajesh Ramachandran
Amagna Carta, a Mandal Commission for Dalits or just another well-intentioned attempt destined to be mired in a crossfire of vested interests? Outlook has learnt that last week, without much fanfare, the upa regime constituted a high-level committee of 12 Union ministers and the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission to prepare an action plan "identifying the gaps in existing schemes" for Dalits.

A 33-point agenda has also been laid down. If the panel is serious, this could mean radical changes in the way Dalits live. The ambitious "remit" (area of authority) includes land distribution, reservation in private educational institutions including technical and professional institutes, filling up of the backlog in reserved jobs, strict implementation of the scholarship policy, funds allocation for Dalit welfare programmes, a law to ensure state assemblies and Parliament debate the SC commission reports and much more.

Good as it sounds on paper, will the panel be able to deliver? D. Raja, cpi secretary and the lone Dalit among Left leaders, says, "Not much was done to give the Dalits their due share in wealth creation and distribution. So there's a growing agitation among them that the government can't wish away. This has compelled the latter to address certain serious issues. Let us see how serious their efforts are.

"Professor S.K. Thorat, director, Indian Institute of Dalit Studies, feels the constitution of the panel and its agenda point towards a growing recognition that Dalit welfare programmes have not worked on the ground. "This document (the 33-point agenda) has the potential of being radical if the assertions on land distribution and reservation in private educational institutes translate into action," says Thorat. Despite the many promises and legislations, only 18 lakh acres of land were distributed in the last 50 years. And 20 per cent of this happened in Left-ruled West Bengal.

Apart from the feudal-caste order that alienated Dalits from the land they tilled, there were laws like the Punjab Land Alienation Act of 1901 that made it impossible for Dalits to own land. As a result, 94 per cent Dalit farm workers in Punjab do not own land. All over India, 62 per cent of the rural Dalit population are landless, casual farm labour.While Dalit intellectuals like Thorat seek a one-time compensation in terms of land, education (a corpus of funds to ensure food and lodging too) and access to capital, the government agenda for the panel is largely within the ambit of existing policies.

For instance, the agenda for land distribution states: tap 179 million hectares of degraded land or wasteland; make 120 million hectares of this productive to generate employment for three crore families. In the short term, 37.5 million hectares could be irrigated and allotted to Dalit families.

The quality of such land could be questioned, but the Centre also has a plan to buy land and allot it to landless Dalits. "The land purchase scheme should be implemented as a centrally-sponsored scheme...implemented through the state financial corporations for the welfare of SCs and a project-based approach could be adopted. State corporations could receive adequate amounts from the National SC Finance and Development Corporation for this purpose," says a February 24 cabinet secretariat note.

The most immediate and pressing demand is for filling up existing reserved jobs. For instance, Delhi University—its affiliated colleges have 7,000 teachers—has just 200 from the sc/st community when the government quota mandates over 1,500. Another major area of concern is school dropouts. While enrolment levels of Dalit students is as good as that in the rest of society, the dropout ratio is very high, 76 per cent till 10th standard and around 90 per cent at the 12th standard level.The reason: obviously poverty. The document, though, is silent on a radical idea mooted by Dalit bureaucrats and intellectuals—giving a portion of government contracts to Dalits. Still, the Congress thinking is that filling up backlog vacancies and ensuring education for their children would help it regain some credibility among the Dalit masses.

Link to the article

10:16 AM

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