The dalit (down-trodden) constitute 16.5 per cent of India’s population. But, their share in the country’s wealth is only about seven per cent. In contrast, the high castes own 45 per cent of the country’s wealth, exceeding their population share of 21 per cent (almost twice the population share). The Other backward Classes own about 21 per cent close to their population share of 36 per cent. Lacking income-earning assets, the dalit earn their livelihood in daily-wage employment. But, even there they suffer high unemployment because of discrimination.
Due to low income, they remain steeped in poverty. But, at every step, discrimination in market and non-market institutions is fetter to their feet. The high castes shun them in eateries, grocery, transport (car, jeep, auto- and cycle rickshaw). Bulk of the dalit customers belong to their own caste. The dalit find them faced with a macabre choice close down their businesses or operate them at a hand-to-mouth margin of profit.
To win over the dalit, the BJP appropriated BR Ambedkar though his views sharply contrasted Hindutva, a cornerstone of the BJP’s tacit ideology. BJP’s 2014 poll manifesto makes tall promises to ameliorate the dalit’s lot in a section titled `Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Weaker Sections: Social Justice and Empowerment’. It read: `The BJP is committed to bridge the gap, following the principle of Samajik Nyaya (social justice) and Samajik Samrasata (social harmony). The social justice must be complemented with economic justice and political empowerment _We will accord highest priority to ensuring their security, especially the prevention of atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Schedules Tribes’. The manifesto identifies specific areas for action including “eco system for education and entrepreneurship”, “eradication of untouchability at all levels”, “eliminate manual scavenging” ”pull the people out of poverty” ”housing, education, health and skill development”, focus on children, especially, the girl child with regard to health and skill development”.
The Modi government never allocated budgeted funds for the dalit’s welfare proportionate with its 16.6 per cent population share. “The average allocation to the Scheduled Castes population for five years between 2014 and 2018 c comes to a mere 7 per cent which is about ten percentage points short of 16.6 per cent Scheduled Caste population in the country. According to the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, dalit Arthik Adhikar Andolan 2018 (Dalit economic rights movement) these ten percentage points represent Rs 2752.72 billion. This low allocation has naturally affected several
Schemes. The low allocation affected governent’s flagship educational schemes, hyped in BJP’s propaganda. Even Dr BR Ambedkar’s post-matriculation flagship scholarships, started in 1945 bore the brunt. This scheme paved way for development of the dalit’s higher education. It provided for day-to-day maintenance of poor students, including their fees. About 5.1 million students felt the crunch due to non release or delay in payment of Rs 80 billion by Modi’s government. Non-payment of scholarships forced students to drop out of their colleges and universities.
The dalit’s discrimination in education
Discrimination against marginalized students in education is an age-old problem. However, it shot into prominence after the suicide of a dalit student, Rohit Vemula in the University of Hyderabad in January 2016, and of another dalit research scholar, Mathukrishnan Jeevantham , in Jawaharlal University in Delhi in March 2017. No action was taken against vice chancellor or other authorities responsible for forcing them to commit suicides.
A glimpse of other atrocities
The actual situation caricatures the…