Sunday, October 31, 2004

Build Strong Movement Against Untouchability

CPI(M)’s Call To The Youth

S P Rajendran

“Wherever the Red flag flies, we’ll destroy untouchability” – declared the leaders of CPI(M) at a public meeting held in Madurai, Tamilnadu, on October 21, 2004. The meeting was held during the state-level “Special Conference on Abolition of Untouchability”.

The special conference was organised by the CPI(M) Madurai urban and rural district committees as per the decision of the state committee and attended by people of southern districts. It was presided over by the CPI(M) legislator S K Mahendran.

N Varadarajan, CPI(M) state secretary, while inaugurating the conference drew the attention of the audience to the prevalence of untouchability in as many as 7,000 villages of Tamilnadu, in various forms as ‘double-tumbler’ system in tea stalls, denial of even basic rights such as wearing of chappals, use of umbrellas, entry to temples, participation in temple car festivals etc. He expressed his anguish at the elections not being held in certain panchayats reserved for dalits and called upon the working class of the state to rise in revolt against all forms of the cruelty of untochability, an anachronism in the modern scientific age. He also warned the state government that if it failed to intervene, thousands of cadres of CPI(M) would take up the task on themselves and fight against the injustice, with the cooperation of the like-minded parties and people.

K Varadarajan, CPI(M) central committee member and general secretary of AIKS, called the prevalence of the menace of untouchability a disgrace to the state, particularly in view of so-called rational thinkers ruling the state for the past 37 years. He then referred to the 157 struggles conducted by the CPI(M) against untouchability in Tamilnadu during the past seven years and added that the Party could emerge victorious in those struggles. “People used to call the CPI(M) as “untouchables’ party in East Thanjavur region – a matter to be proud of,” said Varadarajan. He noted with pride that the Party now had 30 per cent dalits as its members. He moved a resolution demanding the state government to distribute 50 lakh acres of wasteland to the landless poor peasants.

Sitaram Yechury, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member, was the chief speaker at the conference. In his address he remarked, “Without creating consciousness and a sense of revolt against the curse of untouchability, it is not possible to achieve social change and social revolution”. He noted that it was unfortunate that in the land of poet Bharathi and great social reformer Periar, untouchability still continued.

Yechury said that in India the class division was superimposed on the caste structure and both, while being interdependent, were helping each other. Therefore, the struggles against economic exploitation must be accompanied with the struggles to liberate people from social oppression, he stressed. Noting the growing consciousness among the dalits against the atrocities perpetuated on them, Yechury however cautioned against the caste leaders attempts to confine this consciousness within the folds of the caste system. He wanted the Party to further integrate the struggles for liberation of the oppressed people with the struggles against economic exploitation. Recalling the struggles conducted by the Party in Kerala, West Bengal and Telangana, Yechury said fighting for the rights of dalits was not something new to the Party.

The CPI(M), he said, would not remain a mute spectator to the atrocities on the downtrodden and wanted the youth to emulate stalwarts like E M S Namboodiripad and A K Gopalan who made great efforts for the Dalit struggle for emancipation and liberation. The present generation should not bear the double-tumbler system and the non-entry of Dalits into temples among other atrocities, he appealed and called for an integration of social movements as it could change the society and also stop economic exploitation.

Yechury, amidst applause from the audience, said that CPI(M) is the only Party in India which regularly fielded dalit candidates in general constituencies – the only exception being the case of Sushil Kumar Shinde of Congress in Maharashtra, who too won from a general constituency. He asked the people to ponder why untouchability persisted even now, in spite of the earlier efforts of leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Jothiba Phule, B R Ambedkar and Periar. He emphasised the need for the younger generation to carry forward the struggle for the real emancipation of dalits from caste oppression.

“An intellectual battle is carried on by the upper caste intellectuals to distort and black out the historical contribution made by the working class to the cultural and literary development of the human society. We have to demolish the so-called artificial intellectual superiority that the Varnasrama Dharma wants to impose and a struggle on the intellectual front is to be carried on to establish equality of humans”, said Yechury.

On the current situation, Yechury said that the CPI(M) would be pro-reforms if the reforms are pro-people and anti-reforms if the reforms are anti-people. He said the CPI(M) would support the present UPA regime as long as it implemented the Common Minimum Programme. He called upon the UPA government to expedite the process of extending the reservation policy to the private sector. In conclusion, Yechury exhorted the people to rise like tigers to fight against system of untouchability and build up mass struggles.

D Lakshmanan, P Sampath, K Balakrishnan and M N S Venkatraman, members of the CPI(M) state secretariat and K Balabharathi, CPI(M) legislator moved various resolutions on dalit rights and welfare. Earlier, R Jothiram, CPI(M) district secretary, Madurai urban, welcomed the gathering and V Sundaram, CPI(M) district secretary, Madurai rural, highlighted the objects of the conference.


Boomikku Porukkathu
, a collection of dalit stories, Marxists in the War against Untouchability, a book by P Sampath and a Telugu novel written by Kalyan Rao against untouchability (translated into Tamil by Ethirajulu) were released during the conference. Pudukkottai Boopalam and Kalaivanar teams performed cultural programmes. CPI(M) Lok Sabha member from Madurai, P Mohan, N Nanmaran MLA, and R Krishnan, former MLA also spoke. A Lazar, CPI(M) state committee member, proposed a vote of thanks.

Source: People's Democracy, October 31, 2004

Case registered against teacher for inciting casteist bias

Ghaziabad, Oct 31 : A case has been registered against a school teacher near here for allegedly inciting casteist feeling among students, official sources said today.

Students of a government primary school in village Magla Moosa refused to eat the midday meal which was cooked by a Dalit woman, the sources said adding following which the state primary education minister ordered an inquiry into the incident.

The inquiry concluded that one of the teachers had allegedly played a key role in developing casteist feelings among the students, Sub-Divisional Magistrate Ranga Rao told PTI.

The accused teacher is absconding, Rao said.

Source: Press Trust of India, October 31, 2004

Friday, October 29, 2004

SC tells govt to frame law on reservations

Kathmandu, October 29:

In a move that could help the uplift of the backward communities to a great extent, the Supreme Court today directed the government to promulgate a law to reserve seats for the Dalits, Janajatis and women in various sectors. The order comes in response to a writ petition filed by a group of students challenging a three-month-old decision taken by the government to provide reservations to the Dalits, Janajatis and women. A division bench of justices Min Bahadur Rayamajhi and Anup Raj Sharma issued the directives to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Cabinet, the Ministry of Education and the Tribhuvan University’s board and Grant Commission. “Unless specific Acts are formulated, the authorities do not have the right to provide quotas to any one,” the bench ruled. The apex court revoked the government decision taken on August 3 which provided 10 per cent seats to the Dalits, 15 per cent to the Janajatis and 20 per cent to women for pursuing the MBBS and BE courses in colleges under the TU.

On September 17, the apex court had ordered the TU to withhold results of the MBBS and BE entrance examination held some months ago. The results were scheduled to be published on September 22. “This is a positive move,” former law minister Subash Kumar Nembang said. He urged the government to promulgate the Act needed in this regard as soon as possible. Challenging the government decision on quotas, a group of students had filed three separate Public Interest Litigations at the SC. They had said the government decision violated their right to equality guaranteed by Article 11 of the Constitution. “The government has taken the decision without formulating special laws,” the petitioners had claimed. They had also questioned how the rights of other classes of people can be secured if the government provided quotas to a specific group without any law backing it. Meanwhile, the Student Federation of Adibasi Janajati Nepal (SFAJN) and the Nepal Independent Dalit Students Organisation (NIDSO) criticised today’s SC verdict.

Source: The Himalayan Times, October 29, 2004

Bihar Dalits have lowest literacy rates: Report

PRANAVA K CHAUDHARY

PATNA: The rate of literacy among Dalits in Bihar is the lowest (19 per cent) in the country and the drop out rate is only marginally better than Sikkim and Rajasthan (61.76 per cent and 63.20 per cent respectively in contrast to Bihar's 61.64 per cent).

Bihar has a huge illiterate population, both among SCs and non SCs. Bihar is ranked 30th position in terms of the gross enrolment ratio for the SC children at the primary level. But the situation is different at the higher education level in the state.

In terms of the total SC students enrolled at BA level, Bihar is ranked 14th and 15th at the postgraduate level in the country. At the PhD level Bihar climbs up still higher to the 10th place. The overall higher education (PhD, MA, M Com, BA, B Sc, MBBS and BEd) among SC population is ranked 11th in the country.

This was one of the recent findings of a Delhi based NGO -Deshkal Society, presently engaged in developing an alternative curricula on Dalit studies for universities. "In this backdrop, Bihar appears to be an ideal state to launch initiatives in developing a curricula on Dalit Studies", said Deshkal Society secretary Sanjay Kumar.

Dozens of experts on Dalits have gathered here to attend a two-day workshop on "Emerging Dalit Studies: Problems, Potentials and Challenges in Higher Education" commencing at the A N Sinha Institute of Social Studies from Saturday.

Eminent scholars like Gail Omvedt, Imtiaz Ahmad, Manager Pandey, Badri Narayan, Prathma Banerjee, G Aloysius and Arun Kumar are expected to present their research papers during the two-day workshop which is being supported by Ford Foundation.

Kumar told ToI on Friday said:" the purpose of the workshop is to intervene in our system of higher studies in order to sensitize it to the Dalit issue".

"We have recently developed alternative curricula of History and Hindi introduced in the B R Ambedkar university, Muzaffarpur and we are also negotiating with some other universities in Bihar", Kumar said.

On the second day of the workshop, a 30-minute documentary - Aaropit Pahchan Ke Paar (on Musahars's culture, identity and resistance) would be screened. The film captures the everyday life, day-to-day struggle of Muashars settled in Gangetic plains.

"The voices of self-assertion mark the narrative of the film that shatters the centuries old, and incessant, myth about the Musahar as a rat eating community", said its director Sanjay Kumar.

Source: The Times of India, October 29, 2004

Killing cat comes costly -- Feudalism in Madhya Pradesh

Santosh Singh in Bhopal

Oct. 28. — Killing a cat can be too costly for villagers in Damoh. Noboby knows it better than Mangna Kumhar, who was forced to arrange a mrityubhoj for 400-odd members of his community for two days — thanks to the panchayat which wanted “justice” for the animal kingdom. Killing of a cat is treated as an act of “sacrilege” in Kumhar community.

The move might have made the champions of animal rights happy but not poor Mangna who had to run from pillar to post to collect money and ran into heavy debt to atone for his “sin”. Mangna, a resident of Jhabera tehsil, killed the cat which often feasted on his flock of hens. The five-member panchayat went a step further when Hira Kumhar, a villager, did not turn up at the cats’ mrityubhoj. The panchayat ordered Hira Kumhar, to shell out Rs 1,000 fine for not attending the feast. And when he failed to do so, he was ostracised.

The matter came to light only after an office-bearer of the Damoh Prajapati Sangh, convinced 50 villagers to lodge a complaint with the Damoh collector. The district administration found the case “weird” and let off the panchayat by asking it not to act in such an autocratic fashion in future.

This is not the first time that a panchayat has had its way in Madhya Pradesh. About two months ago, a Shivpuri village panchayat had persuaded upper-caste school children not to accept food prepared by a Dalit cook. Last year, a Guna village panchayat forced a woman to consume pig excreta after branding her a witch. Former state chief minister Mr Digvijay Singh, considered the harbinger of panchayati raj, had then taken the incident with a pinch of salt.

Source: The Statesman, October 29, 2004

Thursday, October 28, 2004

BJP Faces a Crisis of Strategy

by Praful Bidwai

THE victory of the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party led Democratic Front (DF) in the Maharashtra assembly elections will go down as a political landmark. The result is all the more creditable because the ruling alliance faced heavy odds both from the burden of incumbency and from a rebellion by dissidents in the two parties. The DF admittedly provided a shabby government, whose top leader (Mr Vilasrao Deshmukh) had to be changed midstream and his deputy (Mr Chagan Bhujbal) was dropped because of the Telgi stamp-paper scandal.

Under the DF, India’s second most populous state - and its most industrialised one - sank under a debt mountain of nearly Rs 100,000 crore. Hundreds of farmers committed suicide under the impact of a drought and the DF’s mismanagement of relief provision. Even more shamefully, 3,500 children died of malnutrition. This created a fertile ground for an unambiguous electoral triumph of the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena. Yet, that alliance managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory! The DF did reasonably well in all the six regions of Maharashtra, although in Western Maharashtra, its undisputed fortress, it lost some ground to Congress-NCP rebels. The voter emphatically rejected its communal rivals and affirmed the secular, inclusive politics centred on livelihood issues, on which Ms Sonia Gandhi and Mr Sharad Pawar concentrated their campaigns. They were rewarded with 141 seats in the 288-member assembly, seven more than their 1999 total. With its Left allies, the DF can now sew up a clear majority.

The Sena-BJP campaign was fettered by the failing health of star performers like Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee and Mr Bal Thackeray. It was further affected by the BJP’s demoralisation from the loss of power at the national level and by the bitter succession battle in the Sena. But this only partly explains the defeat suffered by the Right-wing alliance. A much weightier factor for the debacle was the erosion of the BJP-Sena’s appeal and social base, even in regions considered their strongholds -Mumbai, Vidarbha and Marathwada.

Clearly, the Congress’ traditional constituencies like the urban poor, Muslims, Dalits and Adivasis are returning to it as the party gets revitalised. The Congress-NCP’s increased attraction seems in no small measure attributable to the Left-leaning Common Minimum Programme of the United Progressive Alliance government and to the waiving of power charges in agriculture and other “populist” measures taken by the DF.

The BJP-Sena further damaged themselves by running a highly divisive, vitriolic and negative campaign. During his sole public rally in Mumbai, with Mr Vajpayee, Mr Thackeray launched a vicious attack on Mumbai’s immigrant community, which forms 60 per cent of its population, and he brazenly peddled “sons-of-the-soil” Maharashtrian chauvinism. Rather than counter this with moderation, Mr Vajpayee acquiesced in it. This cost the BJP-Sena many non-Marathi votes. Given the BJP-Sena’s shrinking social base, and its unconvincing programmatic alternative to the DF, its so-called “development” agenda did not sell.

Nor did its Hindutva appeal. BJP ‘master-strategist’ Mr Pramod Mahajan turned out a dud in his home state: his much tom-tommed “micro-management” did not work. The BJP’s cynical calculation, namely that the Bahujan Samaj Party would eat into the Congress’s votes, enabling many easy Sena-BJP victories, went awry. Nor did the fiery rhetoric of Ms Uma Bharati, fresh from her rather ludicrous Tiranga Yatra, or the demagoguery of Ms Sushma Swaraj, back from a pro-Savarkar demonstration at Andaman Jail, produce results. Supposedly more “sophisticated” leaders like Mr L K Advani too failed to make an impact.

The BJP had reckoned that a victory in Maharashtra would enable the National Democratic Alliance to present its Lok Sabha debacle as an aberration, a freak phenomenon, or a flash in the pan. The NDA would resume its interrupted victory run and reaffirm its claim to being the “natural” party of governance, while undermining the UPA’s credibility and its chances of completing its full term.

The opposite happened. After Maharashtra, the UPA has consolidated itself. By-elections in other states too showed that the Congress has expanded its social support-base. In the UP by-elections, it pushed the BJP to the fourth or fifth position. The next round, due in February in Bihar, Jharkhand and Haryana, could result in a further setback to the NDA. That defeated, beaten and increasingly fragmented alliance is on the ropes in these states.

In Bihar, Mr Laloo Prasad’s RJD and the Congress make a formidable combination. In Jharkhand, Mr Shibu Soren’s “martyrdom” through his resignation and arrest will work against the BJP. And in Haryana, Mr Bansi Lal’s re-entry will help the Congress immensely. And in the round that follows in 2006, with elections in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the BJP is not even in the reckoning.

The Rashtriya Swabhiman Manch, recently formed by Mr George Fernandes, Mr Chandrasekhar, Mr Subramaniam Swamy and Ms Sushma Swaraj, was to be a step towards dislodging the UPA government. Now, these leaders have been put out of business at least for a while. And it is highly unlikely that Mr Ram Vilas Paswan, leave alone Mr M Karunanidhi, will quit the UPA.

Today, the BJP faces a three-fold crisis — a crisis of strategy (it has no coherent counter to the Centre-Left); an organisational crisis (its leadership structure is dysfunctional and has seen four presidents in six years, three of whom did not complete their term); and a crisis of leadership succession. It is too heavily invested in globalisation and Right-wing neo-liberalism to be able to pursue an independent policy.

The BJP is too deeply mired in Hindutva to be able to broaden its appeal beyond a small, bigoted Hindu minority. It is too cravenly devoted to power to be able to rejuvenate itself when out of office. Today, the BJP is in danger of becoming too dependent on the RSS for coherence, mentorship, and votes.

Mr Advani’s very first decision after becoming party president was to pay his respects to RSS leaders on Vijaya-Dashami Day in Nagpur! Over-dependence on the sangh parivar could be suicidal. The BJP has tried every trick in the Hindutva book, including Savarkar, Tiranga and terrorism. It conjured up the spectre of Muslim demographic colonialism, and played the anti-Pakistan card. Nothing has worked. As Mr Vajpayee and Mr Advani fade out, the party seems set for prolonged exile.

Source: The Navhind Times, October 28, 2004

V-C under fire for alleged 'anti-Dalit stand'

PUNE: Vice-chancellor Ashok Kolaskar came under fire for his alleged "anti-Dalit" stance at the University of Pune (UoP) senate meeting.

Associations of the backward class teachers, like the Babasaheb Ambedkar teachers federation and the Bahujan Shikshak Va Shikshaketar Karmachari Sanghatana, have launched a dharna outside the university main building.

They alleged that Kolaskar had an "anti-Dalit" bias, and was dithering on filling up the posts meant for backward castes in the varsity. They also opposed the revised PhD guidelines, saying it had no concessions for the Dalits.

Senate member Venkatesh Holehonnur moved a stay motion on the issue of Kolaskar not holding talks with the agitators.

The proposal was withdrawn after discussion on the issue in the council. Some members challenged Kolaskar's contention that he had not held talks with the agitators as he had not received any official request to that effect till 11:30 am on Tuesday.

Alleging that Kolaskar was misleading the house, they said that the agitators had sent a memorandum and six reminders to him. The members urged Kolaskar to hold talks with the agitators "as soon as possible" as the issue had immense social importance. Kolaskar said the talks would be held after the senate meeting.

Source: The Times of India, October 28, 2004

Politics of defeat

By Rajdeep Sardesai

Ageing tigers don't change their stripes. On the last day of the Maharashtra campaign, Bal Thackeray, issued a stern warning to the people of Mumbai.

"B stands for Balasaheb not for Bangladeshi Muslims," thundered the master of incendiary rhetoric. Only days earlier, Dr Manmohan Singh, gentle as ever, had promised to make 'Mumbai into another Shanghai'.

The contrast was striking. One, a dyed-in-the-wool rabble-rouser, the other a genial technocrat; one talking the language of hate and division, the other spinning a futuristic dream. In the end, Mumbaikars, and indeed most of Maharashtra, preferred the dream to the hate speech.

If there is an enduring lesson from the Maharashtra elections, it lies in the limits of exclusion in politics. The Congress system is under strain yet the vacuum could not be exploited by the BJP-Sena combine.

The tiger's cub, the affable but wholly uncharismatic Udhav Thackeray, had claimed that Hindutva was not an issue in these elections. It wasn't. But then you can't shift gears overnight.

It is a fact that when your 38-year-old political history is littered with violent campaigns against Gujaratis, South Indians, trade unionists, Dalits, Muslims and north Indians, then you can't suddenly claim to represent peace and prosperity.

Shiv Sena is still a party of lumpens, which stands for extortion not economic growth.

In 1995, the Shiv Sena could emerge as the dominant party of Maharashtra projecting itself as the saviour of Hindus in the backdrop of the riots and blasts. But in 2004, it isn't religious strife that haunts Maharashtra but increasing unemployment, declining agriculture and crumbling infrastructure.

The BJP's man for all seasons, Pramod Mahajan had recognised this, which is why he abandoned his Raybans and laptop for the heat and dust of Maharashtra's villages.

The problem for Mahajan too is that image makeovers don't happen overnight. You can't be the 'India Shining' posterboy on the treadmill one day, and then suddenly reappear in Kolhapuri chappals and crumpled kurta the very next and talk passionately of farmer suicides.

At least Mahajan tried to grapple with some of the 'real issues'. In a highly localised bijli-sadak-pani election, they seemed more comfortable raking up a jingoistic fervour.

So, there was Uma Bharti waving her tiranga through the drought-hit districts of Vidarbha while others were endorsing the Shiv Sena's 'chappal maro' campaign against Mani Shankar Aiyar.

At a public meeting in Pune, L K Advani lashed out at the fires raging in the northeast and Kashmir. For the troubled Maharashtra farmer, his electricity meter bill matters more than the crisis in Manipur.

This is where the Sharad Pawar-Sonia Gandhi combination had the clear edge. They finally provided the space and leverage to operate as a regional boss, and with the added advantage of being the agriculture minister, a canny Pawar spoke a language the farmer understood: sugarcane packages, better irrigation facilities, loan waivers.

The saffron alliance too offered its share of handouts, but the pragmatic Maharashtra farmer seemed to repose greater faith in the power of the Central government to deliver than in the state leaders.

After all, the Shinde government was viewed as singularly incompetent and corrupt. It had no vision and couldn't balance the budget. But while there was an obvious anti-incumbency, there was also a massive incumbency advantage as a result of the changing power equations at the Centre.

Enter Sonia Gandhi. Sonia was seen as the woman who had sacrificed power for service. It gave an otherwise ageing Congress machine an opportunity to refashion a 'pro-poor' image that has managed a temporary truce with its traditional vote in Maharashtra - Dalits, Muslims and Adivasis.

The substantial queues of women voters in rural Maharashtra is perhaps a sign that while foreign origins may be an issue in a television debate, it doesn't resonate in the far-flung villages of Gadchiroli.

Unfortunately, instead of recognising the appeal of the 'Sonia factor,' the BJP has remained uniformly contemptuous of it. Instead of even attempting to force Sonia into a genuine debate on her policies, the focus has been on targeting the individual, often in the most vitriolic language.

Instead of launching a 'swabhimaan manch' patently directed at Sonia, why not question the economic viability of the numerous promises made in the UPA's common minimum programme?

In a sense, the Maharashtra verdict is a final reality check for those who became a potent political force in the late 1980s by re-inventing Indian nationalism. But fifteen years on, its apparent that the very rhetoric that brought parties like the BJP and the Shiv Sena to power is now subject to the law of diminishing returns.

Leave aside the caste cauldron of UP and Bihar - 50 per cent of which is under the age of 25 - is in a desperate race for upward mobility through economic empowerment.

Ironically, the man who spearheaded the BJP's ascent to power in the 1990s is now being asked to do the resurrection act once again. He either ensures that the BJP focusses on issues of governance or they remain buried in identity politics. If Advani effects a permanent shift the BJP might yet prove to be the legitimate alternative to the Congress-led coalition.

Else, Mahajan can go back to his designer look. And like a tiger in winter, Thackeray can retire and go back to sipping red wine.

Source: Mid Day, October 28, 2004

Protecting Women and Aged


by Dinkar Shukla

A day before adjourning at the end of the monsoon session, the Madhya Pradesh legislative assembly passed two noteworthy social sector legislations. Both were sponsored by the government. One of these seeks to enhance penal provisions for specified crimes against women.The other legislative measure is meant to enable grandparents as well to claim maintenance allowance in cases where they have no surviving children to support them in their extreme penury.

The first piece of legislation has apparently been brought in the wake of the shocking case of disrobing, parading and gangraping of three Dalit women of a family at Bhomatola village of Seoni district of the state in the second week of July, this year.

Bringing the amending legislation to make stringent penal provisions in the law in less than a month after the incident took place shows the anxiety and concern of the state government regarding the growing cases of violence against women.

The offshoot of the government's thinking was the Indian Penal Code (MP amendment) bill. The amendment seeks to make crimes against women's honour, such as disrobing. parading and criminal assault, a non-bailable offense. More importantly, it prescribes a jail term of not less than one and up to ten years for such an offence.

Originally, the provision of maximum jail term was only up to two years. The amendment also lays down that such cases will henceforth be filed in the sessions court. Earlier, such cases were initially brought before the magistrate.

In the absence of the Congress Opposition, which was boycotting the House proceedings at the time, the bill was passed in a quick go after a brief discussion. Members participating in the discussion regretted that oppressed class females were usually victims of such atrocious crimes.

A member recalled the shameful episode of an elected mahila sarpanch of the Dalit class who was subjected to misconduct by upper caste villagers for daring to unfurl the national flag on Republic Day.

The state department of woman and child welfare is working out a plan in consultation with the women's rights council. It is also proposed to entrust cases relating to crimes against women's honour to fast track courts. Besides, the police department is being instructed to register complaints relating to crimes against women promptly and unfailingly."

Source: Navhind Times, October 28, 2004

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

New PhD rules opposed

PUNE: The University of Pune (UoP) senate council on Tuesday expressed an almost unanimous opposition to the new PhD rules framed by the state.

Almost all the senate members, except a few, including arts faculty dean Ashok Thorat, spoke in favour of the resolution moved by Dhananjay Kulkarni, which demanded that the rules not be implemented in the university as "they killed the spirit of research".

Kulkarni said that the marks obtained in exams had no linkage with intellectual merit and research mentality.

In the debate, the members spoke against the revised rules which specify that a student needs to have at least 55 per cent and 60 per cent marks at the graduate and postgraduate levels, respectively, for PhD registration.

Though the motion demanding a rethink was accepted, vice-chancellor Ashok Kolaskar, said he agreed in principle with the members demand, adding that the rules were binding on the universities as they were passed by the governor.

The clause in the new rules which states that a student should pass a state-wide aptitude test, which would be conducted by the UoP, also came under fire.

Members objected to Kolaskar's remarks about the rules not being applicable to foreign students "as they were concerned more about the quality of the Indian students and not foreign students".

Kolaskar said the university had suggested to the university grants commission (UGC) and the All-India council for Technical Education (AICTE) that the rule about a college principal compulsorily holding a doctorate be altered.

The psychology based test for students would be an appropriate barometer to gauge their aptitude and a thought was being given to make the test walk-in and online in the future, Kolaskar said. The testing process was likely to start by December, he added.

Senate member Swati Rajan alleged that the new rules, which gave no relaxation to the backward and scheduled classes, heaped injustice on the Dalits and the rural students.

Members also alleged that the students from outside Maharashtra would be at an advantage as there were no such rules in their states.

Moreover, the possibility of students from Maharashtra going to other states to secure doctorate degrees and using dubious methods to secure the necessary marks for eligibility could not be ruled out. Introducing a subjectwise entrance test instead of a uniform one were also suggested.

However, arts faculty dean Ashok Thorat argued that degrees like M.Phil had a cut off percentage of 55 per cent and, hence, introducing a cut off percentage for PhD was required.

Source: The Times of India, October 27, 2004

Uttaranchal ignores SC order to reinstate land to dalits

More than a decade after a landlord illegally took land from dalit villages, in connivance with the local authorities, the Uttaranchal government still has to redress the wrong

A Supreme Court of India order directing the Uttaranchal state government to return land to impoverished dalits in a village in Kashipur block has been ignored for eight months by the Uttaranchal state government, says the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) that is seeking an explanation from the state government.

In February 2004, the country’s highest court found that a local landlord had illegally occupied over 1,000 acres of land in Kashipur sub-district. To date, the state government has done nothing to right the wrong.

In 1993, the landlord, with help from the local authorities, violently evicted around 150 families while contesting the land in the Allahabad High Court. Following the court’s ruling in favour of the villagers, the case was taken to the Supreme Court.

“After a decade of struggle, it would have been hoped that your administration would act to protect the rights of the affected persons, in compliance with the court’s order, at the nearest possible date,” says Basil Fernando, executive director of the AHRC in a recent letter to the chief minister of Uttaranchal, N D Tiwari.

“However, we are informed that since the date of the judgement, no action has been taken to that end. In fact, we are led to understand that illegal sale and occupation of the land by the company involved, in connivance with local authorities, has continued unabated,” the letter continues.

The affected community consists of dalits who are struggling to survive since being forced off their lands, the AHRC notes. “The situation is difficult for us as there is no work,” one villager says. “It is over 10 years now that we are out of our places (lands) and nothing has been done,” he adds. “Poor people cannot wait. They have to arrange for their next day’s meal.”

“There can be no conceivable reason as to why it should have taken your state government so long to implement the clear order of the Supreme Court,” other than deliberate obstruction that may amount to contempt of court, Fernando wrote in his letter to the chief minister.

The AHRC also warns that failure to provide relief to the affected community quickly and effectively could result in violence.

Source: www.ahrchk.net, October 27, 2004

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Arundhati Roy on Dalits & Aborigines

[Roy] stated that she wants the money to go to Australian aboriginal activists because she believes that Australian aboriginals are the equivalent of India’s dalits.

“It (untouchability) is one of the most cruel forms of discrimination, but one thing that didn’t happen to them was the attempt to genocidally wipe them out, which happened in Australia.”

Source: Mid Day, October 26, 2004

Monday, October 25, 2004

Two (upper caste males?) held for raping dalit women

PATNA: Two persons Sanjay and Ranjit both residents of Taregna railway station locality of the district were arrested by the police for allegedly raping two Dalit women belonging to Rewa village under Masaurhi police station of the district on Saturday.

The victims had come to Taregna with their children to celebrate Dussehra when they were accosted by four persons and were taken away to a nearby saw mill where they were raped. The victims protested vehemently and their cries drew the attention of the local people who informed the patrolling police party of Taregna about the incident.

According to Rural SP, G P Sinha, the police responded quickly and reached the spot and arrested two of the rapists redhanded while two others managed to escape from their dragnet.

Source: The Times of India, October 25, 2004

Friday, October 22, 2004

NHRC exposes two faces of the police

New Delhi, Oct 22 : The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has accused the police of discriminating against people from the socially underprivileged classes, bordering on sabotaging justice.

An NHRC report on prevention of atrocities against the Scheduled Castes (Dalits) has found that the police went out of their way to protect members of high caste Hindus who perpetrate violence against Dalits seeking justice.

"The problem starts with registration of the case itself. Police resort to various machinations to discourage Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes from registering a case, to dilute the seriousness of the violence and shield the real accused (who may be caste Hindus)," it said.

If at all the police register a case, they refuse to file cases under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, so as to avoid punitive measures against the accused, the report claimed.

The only register the cases under the Protection of Civil Rights Act, a much leaner act.

The failure results in the perpetrators being punished with a lesser sentence, rejection of claims for compensation by the victims, and release of the accused on bail.

But the most obvious form of state violence against Dalits was the treatment meted out to them in police custody in connection with criminal case, petty cases of theft and minor offences, the report said.

It claimed that police reserved barbaric interrogation methods for their Dalit subjects, inflicting serious injuries on them that often end in their deaths.

"The custodial deaths are covered up usually," it said, adding that killing of Dalits in gun battles was the next best favourite means of elimination used by the police.

Police also act with vengeance against Dalit activists fighting for their rights, by invoking harsh provisions of the law including the National Security Act, it said.

Though the report did not cite examples of individual case studies, it said that Dalits and Scheduled Tribes in Maoist strongholds face dual violence - from the caste Hindu landlords and from the state (police).

Usually Dalit women bear the brunt of such police violence, which the report said was "offensive and humiliating".

The NHRC study said the apathy and bias was not confined to police personnel alone, but extends to other agencies of the government, including the district civil administration.

Source: Indo-Asian News Service, October 22, 2004

Post-Godhra, Buddhists seek support from Dalits

'As Muslims are unlikely to convert, focus will be mainly on Dalits'

Milind Ghatwal

Ahmedabad, October 21: After more than two years after the post-Godhra riots, Buddhist organisations have begun a subtle campaign to tap the mutual distrust between Hindus and Muslims in the State.

Though the organisations haven't fixed any target, they plan to convert as many persons as possible leading up to the October 2006 golden jubilee of Dr Babasaheb Ambekdar's conversion to Buddhism in Nagpur in 1956.

Most of the 10 organisations existed before the 2002 riots but were not active.

An action committee of members from the Gujarat Buddhist Academy, Buddha Vihar Nirman Trust, Mahabodhi Society, Dhamma Circle, Lord Buddha Club and National Research Institute of Buddhist Education and Culture has been formed to promote Buddhism and bring in more followers in their fold.

A member of the Buddha Dharma Abhiyan Pracharak Samiti admitted that as Muslims were unlikely to convert, the focus would be mainly on Dalits whose sense of frustration at being discriminated against was heightened when they found themselves unwillingly involved in the riots.

A streetplay Yudh Nahi Buddha will set the tone for the campaign that seeks to avoid direct confrontation with other religions.

"It will not be anti-Hinduism but pro-Buddhism," says Dr Jayvardhan Harsh, a core committee member admitting that a subtle but systematic campaign will follow with an eye on the golden jubilee celebrations.

The campaign will begin with Dhamma Maitri Charika, an awareness rally on December 5 and December 6 from the Ambedkar statue in Sarangpur. It will promote Buddhism's ideals of friendliness and brotherhood.

Two meetings were held in Dalit localities of Ahmedabad on October 10 and 17. More meetings are planned in Amraiwadi, Danilimda, Behrampura and Raikhad to increase the turnout at the December rallies.

Buddhists number less than 50,000 in Gujarat but there are more than three lakh Dalits in Ahmedabad alone and this can help the campaign's cause.

Activists will take stock of the situation at weekly meetings at the Gujarat Buddhist Society.

Between December and April two meetings will be held in Ahmedabad every month. The exercise will be repeated in other towns and cities like Khambhat and Surat. Surat has a sizeable number of Dalits.

Bakul Vakil, a Gujarat High Court lawyer and a committee member says, "When we visit Dalit localities, we get a feeling that they are sandwiched between Hindus and Muslims."

He feels the campaign will succeed because of the polarisation that followed the "communal holocoust".

Vakil, who converted to Buddhism years ago, says though Dalits were also responsible for allowing communal elements to exploit them during the riots, "We tell them that they have to create a new identity for themselves. No one should be your enemy, neither Hindus nor Muslims and you should not side with anyone."

Amrit Parmar, a retired railway officer who edits Mangal Prerna, a fortnightly on Buddhism says, "We don't want to antagonise any community. I don't think Hindu organisations will allow such activities, but our target is 2006."

Harsh says the meetings in Dalit areas will also be used to identify the problems of the community and efforts will be made to solve them. Civic issues will be taken up with municipal councillors of that locality, especially with those belonging to the Dalit community. Employment-related issues will be taken up with the departments concerned.

Organisers say they were aware about the bad publicity a mass conversion programme planned last Dussera by Buddhist monk Sanghpriya Bhante created.

Source: The Indian Express, October 22, 2004

Students boycott mid-day meal cooked by Dalit


GHAZIABAD: A school in Nagla Musha village in Ghaziabad has been shut down following an incident that took place on October 4.

On this day, according to the mid-day meal scheme of the Uttar Pradesh government, the students of the school were served lunch.

However, the students boycotted the meal, refusing to eat food cooked by a Dalit.

And in a shocking twist, a teacher in the school allowed only the Dalit students to eat the mid-day meal.

"Once they realised that the food had been prepared by a Harijan, the Muslim children refused to eat," says Roshni Deve, a villag- er.

Along with Muslims, there are quite a few Dalit families in this village. There are 131 students in the school out of which 80 are Muslims, and 32 Dalits.

Students in the school have been served the mid-day meal only once even after the school received funds from the government.

Perhaps the reason for this is the growing tension among differ- ent castes in the village. However, the Gram Pradhan denies this and says it's simply because they lack the necessary resources.

"We do not have utensils, and no payment has been made. Nothing happened on that day. All the children had the mid-day meal," claims Mustafa, Pradhan.

"A case has been registered against Gajendra Kaushik, a teacher in the school, for inciting caste violence," says Anil Kumar Jha, CO, Modinagar.

Even though the number of students in UP schools has increased, the real purpose seems to have been defeated as the school admin- istration spends more time on cooking and feeding the children than on educating them.

Source: Central Chronicle, October 22, 2004

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Film on casteism in quake-hit Gujarat (in 2001) censored

Chords... still tangled in controversy

Makers of banned film on earthquake-hit Kutch reject Adults certificate

Mumbai, October 20: ''The NDA government has created a communal divide in an already tragedy-stricken Kutch,'' boomed Shyam Ranjankar, director of the 45-minute documentary about the 2001 earthquake in Kutch-Chords On The Richter Scale.

The Examining Committee of the censor board banned the film in 2003. It has now been returned with 14 cuts.

When the director appealed again, the board offered to retain the deleted scenes but wanted to then give the film an 'A' certificate. The perturbed filmmaker and his producer insist there is nothing objectionable in their film, which has merely recorded facts.

Chords On The Richter Scale uses the Kutch tragedy as the backdrop while attacking political parties like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sena for allegedly harbouring communal tension in the affected villages after the earthquake.

Parts of the film feature soundbytes from afflicted villagers saying the VHP demanded that anyone who wanted biscuits and milk during the relief operations say ''Jai Shree Ram''. The film also describes how one community kitchen forbade Dalits from eating their meals with upper-caste Hindus.

There are also statements from anonymous party workers saying they prevented a number of Dalits from converting to Christianity, when the latter, fed up with the lack of relief measures from the government, approached missionaries for help.

''This is all part of a propaganda drive forcing the issue of forced conversion-in the midst of a terrible tragedy,'' said Ranjankar.

For now, he is waiting for the censor board's final decision. ''We are hoping for the best,'' said co-producer Ramesh Pimple.

Source: The Indian Express, October 21, 2004

Will Anupam Kher, who was recently fired from his position as chief of the censor board, care to explain the rationale for censoring such films? Even if he wasn't explicitly taking orders from the Sangh Parivar, in keeping such films under wraps, he was obviously helping their cause and hurting dalits. Good riddance of him!

Cooked by a Dalit: Students boycott mid-day meal


Thursday, October 21, 2004 (Ghaziabad):

A school in Nagla Musha village in Ghaziabad has been shut down following an incident that took place on October 4.

On this day, according to the mid-day meal scheme of the Uttar Pradesh government, the students of the school were served lunch.

However, the students boycotted the meal, refusing to eat food cooked by a Dalit.

And in a shocking twist, a teacher in the school allowed only the Dalit students to eat the mid-day meal.

"Once they realised that the food had been prepared by a Harijan, the Muslim children refused to eat," says Roshni Deve, a villager.

Caste divide

Along with Muslims, there are quite a few Dalit families in this village. There are 131 students in the school out of which 80 are Muslims, and 32 Dalits.

Students in the school have been served the mid-day meal only once even after the school received funds from the government.

Perhaps the reason for this is the growing tension among different castes in the village. However, the Gram Pradhan denies this and says it's simply because they lack the necessary resources.

"We do not have utensils, and no payment has been made. Nothing happened on that day. All the children had the mid-day meal," claims Mustafa, Pradhan.

"A case has been registered against Gajendra Kaushik, a teacher in the school, for inciting caste violence," says Anil Kumar Jha, CO, Modinagar.

Even though the number of students in UP schools has increased, the real purpose seems to have been defeated as the school administration spends more time on cooking and feeding the children than on educating them.

Source: NDTV, October 21, 2004

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Dalit women, still a deprived lot

Chennai, Oct 20:

Who said women are on road to empowering themselves and seem to enjoy the benefits as men do? At least not in villages of our country.

Atrocities against Dalit women still continue in Siruthondamadevi Village of Panruti Taluk, Cuddalore district, according to a representative from the village, whose name was withheld on request.

Though an incident in which a women named Pazhaniammal, who was sexually-harassed by the dominating community, was featured in almost all the media, violence and sexual exploitations continue unabated in the village, says the representative.

Recently, a pregnant woman who had been waiting in the ration shop was beaten up by the women from the dominant community in order to get the rations first. Another incident involved a woman from the lower caste, who was raped by three men from the so-called upper caste. The victim was murdered and the body thrown into the river, alleged a Dalit representative.

These kinds of atrocities were going unchecked and the people from the lower caste were neglected and deprived of employment opportunities in the village. Hence, people from the lower rung of the social ladder were forced to travel four or five kilometers from the village to find other employments, said Bernad Fatima of Tamilnadu Dalit Women Movement. She also said that with an aim at giving the discriminated Dalit women an opportunity to air their grievances, a State-level conference had been planned at Panruti. The sixth conference of its kind would discuss issues relating to the atrocities based on caste and sexual harassments against Dalit women, Fatima added.

Delegates and representatives of the Dalit comunity from all over the country would be participating in the meet. Workshops to train women in and around Panruti to empower the women community would also be held as part of the conference, she said.

Source: News Today, October 20, 2004

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

NHRC concerned over Dalit atrocities

Releasing its status report on the atrocities committed on the Scheduled Castes and Tribes, the National Human Rights Commission has expressed its concern over rising crime rate against Dalits.

Despite a guarantee by the Constitution and a statute to prevent atrocities against the schedule castes, the community is increasingly being subjected to such crimes. The NHRC which came out with its status report on the subject expressed its shock and concern.

"Crimes committed against Scheduled Castes and Tribes remain a case of great concern. According to 'National Crime Records Bureau, Crime in India in 2001', 33501 crime cases against schedule castes were registered in 2001. Compare with this 25455 cases in the previous year 2000. Uttar Pradesh contributed 32 per cent of total crime by recording 10,272 crimes followed by Rajasthan contributing 14.6 percent," said R S Kalha, Chief of the Dalit Cell.

The NHRC has come up with a set of recommendations for all the agencies which are involved in preventing such crimes. The Chairperson of the NHRC Justice (Retd.) A S Anand said that some of his earlier recommendations to different arms of the government, have not been acknowledged.

"I have written to Chief Ministers of all the states, the Prime Minister, Deputy Chairperson of the Planning Commission and 11 ministers requesting them on the salient features of the recommendations," added Justice Anand.

Among other things, the Commission has recommended sensitising the law enforcement agencies and increasing public awareness. It also calledfor a greater political will to stop such social injustice. (ANI)

Source: Asian News International, October 19, 2004

Two years on, Dalits still out of work

CHENNAI, OCT. 18. For two years now, the Dalits of Siruthondamadevi village in Cuddalore district have been out of work. After a riot two years ago in the village, upper caste villagers who owned the cashew groves decided not to employ Dalits.

That put the farm hands out of a job and no other source of income.

That is why they have decided to hold a conference in Cuddalore on November 5 and 6 to discuss caste and sexual violence. The conference is meant to be a call for liberation, to send a plea to the government to provide them jobs under the `food for work' scheme, said Bernard Fathima, member, Tamil Nadu Dalit Women's Movement.

While the sexual harassment and physical torture ceased after the April riots, it had commenced all over again with a pregnant woman being assaulted just a few days ago for having stood in front in the ration queue, villagers said.

Though the violence worries them, their biggest concern today is the lack of a livelihood. "We are all farm hands. If we are sent out of the cashew farms, we cannot find work elsewhere. This is why we want to be given opportunities and loans for self employment," a villager added. Even the local self-help group had to wind up for a year, as the women were unable to mobilise the required monthly savings. "When we have a problem putting food on the table, where is the question of saving," a Dalit woman from Siruthondamadevi asks. She has been a victim of the riots and sexual harassment, but has put her past behind her, convinced that getting a job is the top priority.

Some of the villagers have managed to retain their daily jobs, but those who complained about ill-treatment have been banned from the fields and are left without an alternative source of income.

Source: The Hindu, October 19, 2004

Monday, October 18, 2004

Chidambaram for `healthy debate' on job reservation

Chennai , Oct. 17

THE Union Finance Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, has called for a "healthy debate" on the issue of reservation of jobs in the private sector and appealed to all not to "become emotional and take extreme positions."

Speaking at a `Conference of SC/ST intellectuals,' Mr Chidambaram said that the UPA Government had initiated debate on reservations in the private sector in its `Common Minimum Programme.'

"Reservation of jobs in private sector too should come, but the question is how to do it," he said.

He recalled that in 1988, at the instance of the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, he had initiated a `special recruitment drive' and filled up over 50,000 vacant reserved positions in the Government.

To an observation by several other speakers that Budget-provided funds for SC/ST development seldom reached the targeted communities, Mr Chidambaram said that he would ensure that this does not happen in future.

He also promised to present the Budget differently from next year, so that the portions relevant to funds earmarked for SC/ST development (Special Components Plan) are simple, clear and easy to understand.

The Finance Minister said that while he could learn of the plight of SC/ST communities, by reading and listening, he was "handicapped" in that he was unable to "emotionally realise" how a Dalit citizen felt.

Emphasising that education was indispensable for development of any community, Mr Chidambaram called upon Dalits to start "capacity building" by building educational institutions on their own, perhaps by creating trusts.

Source: The Hindu Business Line, October 18, 2004

Meal cooked by Dalit raises tension

Ghaziabad

The boycott of the mid-day meal prepared by a Dalit woman by over 100 schoolchildren of a particular community has lead to caste tension in a village near Modinagar, official sources said today.

The children of Government Primary School at Magla Moosa village refused to eat the food provided under the mid-day meal plan of the Uttar Pradesh Government during the last week as it was cooked by a Dalit woman. The SDM of Modinagar, Mr S.S.V. Ranga Rao, said.

The matter came to light after an inspection team of State Education Department visited the school for supplying the meal.azThe District Magistrate, Mr Santosh Kumar Yadav, has directed the police to maintain law and order in the village and the SDM to probe into the matter.

Source: The Tribune, October 18, 2004

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Mid-day meal cooked by dalit leads to tension in UP


The boycott of the mid-day meal prepared by a dalit woman by over 100 school children of a particular community, has lead to caste tension in a village near Modinagar, official sources said on Sunday.

The children of government primary school in village Magla Moosa refused to eat the food provided under the mid-day meal plan of Uttar Pradesh government during the last week as it was cooked by a dalit woman, Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM), Modinagar, SSV Ranga Rao said.

The matter came to light after an inspection team of state education department visited the school for supplying the meal.

District Magistrate Santosh Kumar Yadav has directed police to maintain law and order in the village and also directed the SDM to probe the matter.

Gopi, husband of the dalit woman, said it would a "great insult" of dalits if his wife is stopped from preparing the meal.

Source: Hindustan Times, October 17, 2004

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Dalits appeal to State Commission for SCs and STs

MAHABUBNAGAR, OCT. 15 . The State Commission for SCs and STs, headed by Justice Punnaiah, which began a two-day visit to the district on Friday, has received petitions from several organisations attempting to bring to its notice attacks on dalits and atrocities against dalit women. Besides the practice of untouchability, the dalit organizations also drew the commission's attention to the two-glass system prevailing in rural areas. The State vice-president of MRPS, Eeta Balakistaiah, complained to the commission that there was inordinate delay in bringing justice to victims. He said efforts by the authorities to contain the two-glass system were inadequate.

The district president of the SC, ST employees association, G. Naganna, petitioned the commission saying reservations were not being implemented in certain Government departments.

Source: The Hindu, October 16, 2004

Friday, October 15, 2004

Hundreds of Dalits embrace Buddhism

PERAMBALUR, OCT. 14. Hundreds of Dalits from the Southern States today embraced Buddhism in the presence of monks from the Nagpur monastry, in Perambalur district.

Their ordination followed an administration of oath and `Boudh Dhamma Diksha' by Bhante Bodhi Dhamma, founder and national president, International Buddhist Youth Organisation (IBYO).

"Renouncing" Hinduism and Hindu Gods were among the oaths administered at the ceremony, organised by the Dr. Ambedkar Youth Front and the IBYO.

About 1,500 people took the final oath.

Over 50 people had their heads tonsured.

K. Kandasamy, State president of the Dr. Ambedkar Youth Front and K.B. Dhamma Sen, IBYO State secretary, said embracing Buddhism was their only solution from the sufferings and "subjugation" caused by "caste-ridden" Hinduism.

They assailed the Dravidian parties for blocking the rise of Dalit-centric political parties. During the daylong ceremony, groups of people came from Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Pondicherry, and parts of Tamil Nadu, including Tuticorin, Vellore, Chennai, Tiruvannamalai and Ramanathapuram.

Elaborate security arrangements had been at and around the venue on the outskirts of the town.

Source: The Hindu, October 15, 2004

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Dalits barred from voting in UP bypolls


LUCKNOW Oct. 13. — Dalits were barred from voting in many areas in the by-elections to 12 Assembly constituencies and one Lok Sabha seat in Uttar Pradesh. Four persons died in group clashes in the state which recorded nearly 55 per cent polling.

At least two persons were killed in a firing at Mainpuri. One death each was reported from Athrauli and Karchana. Twelve people were injured in clashes.

Dalits were not allowed to vote in Salahapur and Hatwa under the Allahabad (West) Assembly constituency. In Karchana, Dalits alleged that Samajwadi Party supporters allegedly fired upon them leaving one dead and several injured. Dalits were also stopped from voting in several villages of Baghra Assembly constituency in Muzaffarnagar where Rashtriya Lok Dal supporters went on a rampage. Several persons, said to be supporters of the Bahujan Samaj Party, were injured in Baiswal and Pigna.

Source: The Statesman, October 14, 2004

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Dalits may spring surprise

Tired of promises, they are at crossroads, where BSP waits to receive them



MUMBAI, OCTOBER 12: Act II may prove even more fatal for a ruling combine, battered by the split in Dalit votes in the Lok Sabha polls. Across Maharashtra, the out-of-work Dalit youth, while still hostile to the saffron combine, has given up on the Congress and the RPI. From Mumbai’s Dharavi to Aurangabad’s Ambedkar Nagar and the ghetto of Indora in Nagpur, they feel let-down by a leadership that swore by quotas and welfare schemes; that the Chief Minister himself is a Dalit is ironical.

Having seen his leadership implode in a power struggle, the Scheduled Caste voter may be at a crossroads — where the BSP waits to receive him.

‘‘Promises made during elections are never kept,’’ say Bapu Ustad (65), a retired millworker, and Utkarsh Kate (28), an unemployed youth. Both are killing time in a dingy alley of Valmiki Nagar, in Asia’s biggest slum Dharavi. Bapu, a former grappler from Maharashtra’s wrestling centre Satara, is happy to have friends calling for a round of rummy. Utkarsh, an undergraduate with vocational training, is jobless, so are his seven friends.

‘‘It’s the same old story. They come for votes now and vanish once elected,’’ Bapu smiles. ‘‘I’ve seen every election since independence. All parties have been using us to their benefit.’’

Aba Hoval (68), concentrating till then on his rummy hand, says: ‘‘Even Baba’s (Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s) Republican Party of India has failed us.’’

Employment tops the agenda for a class struggling to make ends meet. That the neo-rich among them have exploited reservations, without a thought for those still toiling in poverty, makes the economic disparity even more stark. But talk about Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s rhetoric about a ‘‘voluntary’’ job quota in the private sector and the youth in Dharavi shoots back. ‘‘We don’t trust the Congress. BJP-Shiv Sena are Manuwadi and RPI doesn’t matter at all...so there’s no harm in trying out BSP this time.’’

In Aurangabad, some 500 km from Mumbai, Rama Kamble (24), an arts graduate, who earns a mere Rs 2,000 per month working as a driver with a private tour operator, personifies his community’s response. ‘‘I would give these leaders a bad time if they came to me for votes. Thackeray asks railways to scrap job interviews for north Indians, but has he ever asked them to restart the recruitment process?’’

Dalit scholar Dilip Arjune links this shift in political loyalties to the first line of Dalit leaders who have split the RPI into a dozen factions. ‘‘Ambedkar wanted us to learn, organise and struggle. But what we do today is organise and then fight among ourselves.’’

Historian Y.D. Phadke says: ‘‘The neo-rich among Dalits, who thrived on quotas, haven’t helped the underprivileged. The affidavits of some crorepati Dalit candidates speak a lot about this disparity.’’ Decisions such as the Maharashtra government’s move to impose reservations on promotions to class-I and super class-I jobs are seen to be merely skimming the surface of a working class comprising clerks, drivers and officeboys.

Sugalabai Dhandore (55), a domestic help, says, ‘‘Ours is a Hindu-Mahar family entitled to reservations. But my 28-year-old son Ravi is jobless.’’ She, alongwith elder son Pramod, a peon with a private firm, support the family of seven.

Given the heartburn, Mayawati’s brand of Dalit politics may just be the key to a votebank that comprises over 11 per cent of Maharashtra’s population.

Source: The Indian Express, October 13, 2004



Uproot Hinduism, says PW

Hyderabad, Oct. 13: People’s War Group State secretary Ramakrishna on Wednesday said that uprooting Hinduism would provide a solution to social ills. Asked whether the PWG would agree with Ambedkar’s philosophy of uprooting Hinduism, Ramakrishna said Hinduism was being nurtured by feudals and overthrowing these forces would automatically lead to Hinduism being rooted out.

He said, “We will deal with it in our own fashion and we will achieve the goal.” The issue would not figure in the agenda in the talks with the government. But his stand became a sticking point when it seemed as if he was positioning the PWG as the sole saviour of the Dalits.

Advocate Sobha Rani asked if the PWG would support Mulayam Singh, Lalu Prasad, Kanshi Ram and others who are working for the poor, Ramakrishna replied: “They too belong to the same exploiting class.” Sobha Rani retorted: “Do you criticise even Kanshi Ram and Mayawati? I am not satisfied with your answer. I will not stay here for a moment,” and walked out. Asked to comment on the PWG’s criticism of Ambedkar as “liberal bourgeois”, Ramakrishna said the PW differed with Ambedkar on ideological basis as he supported a bourgeois Constitution. He, however, refused to go into further details.

Ramakrishna was replying to questions at an interactive session by representatives of scheduled caste, scheduled tribes, backward classes and minority organisations. Senior PW leader Sudhakar and Janashakti leader Riyaz besides balladeer Gaddar and PW emissary Kalyana Rao were also present.

Land is the issue
Ramakrishna maintained that the government would resort to statistical jugglery on the availability of land for distribution to the poor. He said the government would be asked to set up an independent commission to make a detailed survey of lands and appoint people who were acceptable to all and would discharge their duties in a democratic manner.

The PWG secretary said the talks process would also expose the government’s sincerity in addressing people’s problems in the “cosmetic” democratic set up. “We will ask the State to implement its assurances, which it claimed to have made in the framework of Constitution,” he said adding that reservation in private sector and punishing the people responsible for the carnage of Dalits at Karamchedu and Chundur would fall in this category.

Talks will be recorded
Talks between the State government and top Naxal leaders to be held in the board room of Marri Channa Reddy Human Resources Development Institute from Friday will be recorded with video cameras.

Home Minister K Jana Reddy has issued orders to the Police Department to make arrangements for the talks. Mediapersons will be briefed in the MCRHRD auditorium at the end of the day. Sources said the department was asked to make arrangements for 30 persons to be present in the board room during the talks.

Source: Deccan Chronicle, October 13, 2004

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Dalit leader calls for revamp of electoral system

Shobha Warrier in Chennai | October 12, 2004

The Indian electoral system needs a total revamp, says Dr Krishnasamy, the founder president of Puthiya Thamizhagam.

Puthiya Thamizhagam represents the dalit community of the southern region in Tamil Nadu.

One of his demands is that a separate electorate should be created for scheduled castes and tribes so that they can elect their representatives directly and without fear. Ambedkar first suggested this in 1931. Even after 57 years of independence, the problems and atrocities faced by dalits have not reduced. Which is why, he says, Ambedkar is valid even today.

Dr Krishnasamy adds, "Ambedkar feared that scheduled castes and scheduled tribes will not get due representation in legislatures. That is why he wanted a separate electorate for them. Gandhi opposed it vehemently saying it would divide the Hindus. When Gandhi went on fast, Ambedkar accepted the idea of reserving constituencies to safeguard his life."

Ambedkar did not believe a separate electorate for dalits would divide the society, he says. "It is a fact that Indian society is divided along caste lines. Even after 57 years of independence, nowhere in the country are inter-caste marriages a norm."

According to Dr Krishnasamy, reserving constituencies for SCs and STs has not served the purpose as dominant political parties and not the party that represents the dalits select candidates. Consequently, he says, MPs and MLAs elected from the reserved constituencies act as the representatives of the political parties.

"It's either the national party or the state-level party that decides who should contest. How can you expect such a person to work for dalits? There are seven reserved constituencies in Tamil Nadu. What I suggest is, let the dalits of Tamil Nadu vote for the general constituency and also for the reserved constituency. This is the only way dalits, who constitute 20 percent of the population in Tamil Nadu, can select their leader."

A separate electorate is the only way to empower dalits and strengthen grassroots democracy, he says.

Creamy layer

Dr Krishnasamy, a qualified medical doctor, is of the view that the 'creamy layer' criteria should be adopted for all communities that enjoy reservation. "Nowadays, you see upper caste within the lower castes. What we need is, the first generation should be given priority in reservation. What happens now is that only some people enjoy the fruits of reservation while the poorest in the villages still languish in poverty and lack of opportunities."

Proportional representation

Dr Krishnasamy feels that true representation of people is not possible if we follow the present electoral coalition politics. In 1991, the AIADMK-Congress alliance swept the entire assembly seats, but the AIADMK got 40 percent votes and the DMK 34 percent. Still, the DMK front won just two seats. "With just 40 percent votes, they won 232 seats out of 234!"

In 1996, the AIADMK front won only three seats and the DMK the rest. The difference in the votes they got was just 6 percent. In 2001, the AIADMK front got 31 percent and the DMK front 30.4 percent; the difference was just 0.6 percent, but the DMK front got around 30 seats only. "With just 0.6percent difference in votes, the AIADMK could come to power, and that too with more than 170 seats!"

In the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, Dr Krishnasamy points out that the difference between the two fronts was just 25 lakh votes. But the DMK front swept the elections.

"How can you call this democracy?" he asks.

In the proportional representation theory suggested by the Puthiya Thamizhagam leader, parties contesting the elections will get its representatives depending upon the number of votes polled. This, he says will lead to a fair representation of all parties. "I need not go and beg for a seat to Karunanidhi or Jayalalitha. I can go to the people. Money power will not come into play if we have proportional representation in the election system."

Dr Krishnasamy has sent a memorandum to Justice Kuldeep Singh, the chairman of the Delimitation Committee, and the Chief Election Commissioner. He also plans to write to all political parties, dalit organisations and NGOs seeking their opinion.

Source: Rediff.com, October 12, 2004

Sunday, October 10, 2004

'Discrimination on caste lines a genetic disorder'

RADHA RAJADHYAKSHA AND NINA MARTYRIS


MUMBAI: Are reservations in the private sector, as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently declared, "an idea whose time has come"? Most corporate bigwigs disagree.

Rahul Bajaj, chairman of Bajaj Auto which provides the highest private sector employment in Maharashtra, had threatened to pull out his manufacturing base from Maharashtra when chief minister Sushilkumar Shinde floated the job reservation idea in June this year.

In a trenchant article in this newspaper, Bajaj had argued that reservations were antithetical to a meritocracy.

Bajaj's views are shared by most industrialists. "Job reservation in the private sector will lead to incompetence and increase costs at a time when Indian manufacturing companies are competing internationally with high-quality products," says Gautam Singhania, vice-chairman of Raymonds Ltd, which employs close to 20,000 people.

"Any move to reserve jobs will also be disadvantageous to countries that are eyeing India as a low-cost manufacturing base." Adds Anil Singhi, executive director of Gujarat Ambuja Cements Ltd, "Any employment has to be on merit."

It is statements like these that rile Dalits who have had to struggle every step of the way. "It's a canard that Dalits are lazy and do not have merit," says Dr Rohidas Waghmare, who heads a World Bank health project in Maharashtra and grew up as the son of a poor cobbler in Latur.

"Reservations are only a gate pass—after that, everyone is equal and has to slog to prove himself. I personally faced opposition at every step inmy medical studies from peers and teachers and had to work doubly hard to prove myself. Believe me, most Dalits work with sincerity and commitment."

Waghmare adds poignantly that caste discrimination is a "genetic disorder" most Indians have.

Chandrabhan Prasad, a commentator questioning the no-merit assumption, recently wrote—Is there a scientific study to show that the presence of Dalit engineers, doctors, scientists and managers causes industry to collapse?

Shashikant Daithankar, former principal secretary, government of Maharashtra, points to the example of India's only Fortune 500 company, IOC and other PSUs like HPCL, BPCL and ONGC (recently privatised) which have done better than most private sector companies.

"Their reservation quotas are almost 80 per cent complete (quotas lying unfilled because candidates are not up to scratch is another argument against reservations)," he says. "And they are doing so well."

The fact that PSUs are increasingly being disinvested is another reason why private sector reservations are nothing to baulk at, says Dr Kranti Jejurkar, principal of Siddharth College which was set up 51 years ago for backward caste and economically underprivileged students by B R Ambedkar.

"The opportunities for employment have gone down for those from the reserved sector," she says.

And to those who question why the private sector should carry forward the government's social agenda, the pro-reservation lobby points out that the exchequer subsidises much enterprise substantially—by way of land, electricity, water, loans and so on.

The pro-reservation lobby also states that the backward classes comprise only four per cent of India's organised sector workforce.

Comparing this to the US, the benchmarking Mecca of Indian capitalists, they point out that companies like Boeing, General Motors and Wal-Mart recruit close to 25 per cent of their employees from the minorities—which is more or less their representation in the population.

However, as a recent report by industries' association FICCI is at pains to point out, this affirmative action on the part of US industry is entirely voluntary.

Indian corporates like Bajaj couldn't agree more with the voluntary bit. "One-third of the workforce of Bajaj Auto comprises SCs\STs and OBCs, but it is entirely on merit," says Bajaj.

Agrees Infosys CEO Nandan Nilekani, "Reservations per se are not the solution. The focus should be on high-quality education for all." Singhi suggests that corporates divert a part of their taxable amount to providing primary education "for the upliftment of the underprivileged".

However, at least one industrialist accepts job reservations in the private sector unreservedly —Venugopal Dhoot, chairman of Videocon. "While I oppose legislation on the issue—you need a change of mindset, not legislation —industrialists must understand the difficulty of the backward classes," he says.

"They have been exploited for 5,000 years and must be given their due. At Videocon, we have about 20 per cent reservation for SCs\STs in the workers' category, and we have done this on our own. Why can't other industrialists do the same?"

Writer P Sainath, who has written extensively on Dalit issues, sums up the reservations-versus-merit argument by talking about the hothouse-versus-garden brand of reservations.

"The entire Indian private sector is based on 100 per cent reservations for the privileged and always has been," he says.

The 23-year-old-son of a company chief picks up a fifth-rate degree from an unknown business school in Europe and joins the company's board of directors. On what merit other than bloodline does he make it to the board?

Incidentally, elite reservations in the Indian corporate sector are also heavily caste-based. So, what we really ought to be talking about is doing away with reservations based on wealth and entrenched power.

"It's the primitive attitude of the Indian upper middle classes that makes them view reservations in an apocalyptic frame," he adds. "The idea of associating a particular caste or castes with lack of merit is vicious and inhuman—it is, in fact, racist."

( With inputs from Baiju Kalesh and Prashant Hebbar )

Source: The Times of India, October 10, 2004

Dalit students fail to get promised scholarships

Sunday, October 10, 2004 (Patna):

Bihar government's scholarships, meant to be distributed among the Dalit students is the state, have been pending for years.

Sometimes these scholarships just lapse and the students remain deprived as they pass out.

Thrown out of gear
The academic life of a poor Dalit student, Sanjay Kumar, has been thrown out of gear, after he failed to receive his scholarship money from the government.

"We can't purchase books or any items as there is no money. Since I come from a Scheduled Caste background, nobody understands my problems," says Kumar.

There are thousands of students like Sanjay across Bihar, who are yet to receive any of the scholarship money promised to them.

What's worse, colleges refuse to understand the predicament they are in.

"The money for the scholarships is returned and we do not get anything," complains another student, Lalwant Paswan.

Erratic distribution
The state government's Welfare Department accepts that they are erratic in paying the scholarship money to the students, but they pass the buck to the Finance Department for not paying up on time, resulting in the backlog.

At present, nearly Rs 150 crore is pending with the government.

"Due to procedural delays and more than expected applications, there is a backlog. But we are trying to meet the demand from this year," says N S Madhavan, Secretary, Welfare.

But despite this, the state government has issued full-page advertisements inviting Dalit students to apply for the scholarship.

However, with the current state of affairs, no one is likely to take these advertisements seriously.

Source: NDTV, October 10, 2004

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Karanataka Dalit women demand justice

Nupur Basu

Saturday, October 9, 2004 (Bangalore):

With atrocities on Dalits in rural Karnataka continuing to grab headlines, a group of Dalit women in Bangalore are now demanding justice after attacks by upper caste landlords.

After having been denied justice by the district police and administration in Gonal village in Koppal district, the women have come all the way to Bangalore to highlight the physical attacks.

"I was cleaning the cattle shed in front of my house when 20 men suddenly appeared and pulled out sticks from the roof of the hut. Then they started beating me," said Durgamma, a Dalit victim.

"The landlords want to grab the land and that is why they attacked these women on the September 24. They dragged the women out of their small huts and beat them up and after beating them up these people went to police but no arrest was done," said K S Vimala, Secretary, AIDWA, Karnataka unit.

Novel method

Knowing very well that there is a stringent legislation in place against atrocities on Dalits, the landlords came up with a novel method.

"To attack these Dalit agricultural labourers this time they made a new plan. Instead of doing it directly they engaged a Dalit group from the city area, whom they had paid them. They dragged these women out of the huts and physically assaulted them," said President, Agricultural Workers Union, Karnataka.

Meanwhile, AIDWA has planned a massive rally to Vidhan Saudha this weekend to highlight the plight of the women and demand swift action on the guilty landlords.

Source: NDTV, October 9, 2004

'Untouchables' put barbers on razors' edge

Santosh Singh in Bhopal

Oct. 8. — Your caste can pose a hindrance to your wanting a hair-cut. A hair raising issue? Well there’s more to it. The Chhatarpur barbers recently found themselves on razors’ edge after they refused the Dalits a hair-cut. On Mahatma’s birth anniversary, an Asprisyata Nivaran Camp (untouchabilitity removal camp) was organised. There was a feast for people of all communities and castes. It was attended by local leaders and the collector to give the equality theme a boost.

While political leaders and bureaucrats might well have taken it as just another function, the Dalits took it seriously. From the next day, they started visiting hotels, public places and shops to know their position in the society. Barbers were perhaps the “first catch” for the Dalits. Wanting to put the equality theory to test, on 3 October dozens of Dalits went to a barber’s shop for a hair-cut. But they were reportedly refused because they were “untouchables”.

Incensed at the behaviour, five out of the humiliated lot reached Bakswaha police station and registered a complaint against the barbers. They demanded the police to register an FIR under provisions of the SC/ ST Act. What followed was a closure of saloons over the next three days. It was only after the collector and SP intervened that the shops reopened from today. Bakswaha police said they had been questioning barbers to ascertain if the complaint should be converted into an FIR and brought under the SC/ ST Act provisions. A police officer said the situation was under control.

Source: The Statesman, October 9, 2004

BSP accuses SP of ignoring dalits and OBCs

Faizabad, Oct 8 : BSP MPs here today alleged the ruling Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh has ignored the interests of dalits and other backward caste people and its leaders were organising 'Brahmin, Pasi and Thakur sammelans' in different parts of the state.

Six MPs, including the local MP Mitrasen Yadav, were addressing an election rally in favour of the party candidate, Anandsen Yadav, who is contesting the Milkipur assembly by-poll.


BSP general secretary, Naseemuddin Siddiqui also alleged the government was flouting a model code of conduct in Milkipur and about a dozen ministers, camping here were misusing the government machinary.


The MPs, Baleshwar Yadav, Ramakant Yadav, Bhalchandra Yadav, Umakant Yadav and Mohammed Tahir Khan also addressed the rally.


Source:
123bharath.com, October 9, 2004

Cop booked for Dalit's murder in custody

Pradip Kumar Maitra

Raipur, October 9

In a significant development, the Kawardha police booked the an incharge and a head constable of Piparia police station under sections 302, 201 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for the custodial death of a Dalit youth on Tuesday.

Chief Minister Raman Singh admitted that the Dalit youth, Ballu Satnami, whose body was found near an electrical poll, adjacent to the Pipariya police station, died of severe injuries.

The post mortem report that was received by the district administration on Friday said that there were as many as 14 injuries on the body of deceased.

Besides, clot of blood was also found in his brain.

"In view of the post mortem report and the prima facie evidences, we have booked the police station in-charge, Dilip Sosodia and the head constable, Deocharan," chief minister said and informed that both have been arrested by the district police.

Moreover, the district Superintendent of Police, Pawan Deo has been shunted out from the district and posted as the SP of Railway, Raipur.

Source: Hindustan Times, October 9, 2004

Friday, October 08, 2004

Shiv Sena on dalit 'onslaught'

Krishna Patil, a Sainik in Gangapur, points out that this is Maratha country and the Sena alone guards the interests of this dominant caste against the onslaughts of the Muslims and Dalits.

MANINI CHATTERJEE

GANGAPUR (AURANGABAD DIST.), October 7

It is difficult to imagine that just weeks ago the land here was brown and barren, wracked by dushkal (drought), haunted by farmers’ suicides.

As you cross the Godavari river and enter Marathwada, it seems like a pastoral paradise. Neat rows of jowar and bajra, cotton and oilseeds stretch out into the far horizon. Even the wastelands are carpeted with lush-green grass and clumps of joyous yellow wild flowers—the perfect pasture for the dhangars (the shepherd community) to graze their herds on.

The rain gods have been kind this year, washing away not just the ravages of four consecutive years of drought but also blunting the edge of anti-incumbency that had helped the Shiv Sena-BJP combine win six of the eight Lok Sabha seats in this arid zone of Maharashtra in the general elections four months ago.

The plentiful monsoons in Marathwada, which has 46 assembly seats in the eight districts of Aurangabad, Parbhani, Beed, Osmanabad, Nanded, Latur, Hingoli and Jalna, are definitely cause for cheer in the Congress-NCP camp. But it would be a fallacy to presume that the tide has turned in their favour.

The Mararathwada region—which was part of the erstwhile empire of the Nizam of Hyderabad—has been a stronghold of the Shiv Sena for nearly two decades and the BJP’s OBC nursery for some years. And despite some cracks in the edifice, the saffron combine is here to stay.

That the Sena is a formidable force becomes clear within minutes of entering Aurangabad district from western Maharashtra. Bands of young men, sporting saffron scarves and Bal Thackeray badges, crowd wayside dhabas in rural Gangapur and are equally in-your-face in the town of Jalna or the city of Aurangabad. Krishna Patil, a Sainik in Gangapur, points out that this is Maratha country and the Sena alone guards the interests of this dominant caste against the onslaughts of the Muslims and Dalits. The view is echoed by a bunch of Sainiks in Jalna who talk of the bomb that went off in a local mosque last month, and has united all the Marathas against the ‘‘violent’’ Muslims.

Bal Thackeray has groomed them well. The Sena supremo was instrumental in making the Marathwada region—starting with the volatile city of Aurangabad— the most formidable Sena bastion outside its traditional base in Mumbai. He came to Aurangabad in 1988 and made fiery anti-Muslim speeches—which went down well in a region with a 30% Muslim populace and at a time when Hindutva was on the ascent nationwide.

But the real boost to the Sena came when it spearheaded the agitation against the renaming of the Marathwada University in 1992. Since 1978, the issue had caused widespread caste tension in the state with the Dalits pressing for it to be named after Dr Ambedkar and the Marathas vociferously opposing it.

In 1992, Sharad Pawar as chief minister effected a compromise—naming the university Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada Vidyapeeth. The Maratha youth saw red—or rather saffron and flocked to the Sena. Even today, when asked if Sharad Pawar would cut into the Maratha votes, a group of Sainiks scoffed at this reporter’s naivete. ‘‘How can you call him a Maratha—after what he did in 1992?’’ they asked.

Building on the twin planks of caste and communal identity, the Sena rapidly spread into ‘‘every village’’ in Marathwada. Their fabled organisational capacity (the name of Diwakar Raote as the organisational lynchpin is often mentioned) helped. As did the general decline of the Congress and the subsequent split in the party.

If Shiv Sena was concentrating on the Maratha community, the BJP was trying to garner OBC support and shed its image of being a minor party of the numerically insignificant Brahmins. Since BJP’s biggest state leader Gopinath Munde was an OBC from Beed in Marathwada (he belongs to the traditional nomad caste of Vanjare), the BJP tried the ‘MADHAV’ experiment— bringing together the castes of Mali (gardener, equivalent to the Keoris in UP-Bihar), Dhangar (shepherd—much like the Gujjars of north India) and Vanjare (Banjara).

Although MADHAV never assumed the scope of Gujarat’s once famous KHAM or UP’s AJGAR combine, it has clearly paid dividends in Marathwada. Of the six Lok Sabha victories, BJP and Shiv Sena shared three each. In the 1999 assembly polls, the BJP won 10 and the Sena 16, while the Congress-NCP combine together bagged only 16 of the 46 seats in the region.

The saffron combine’s big hope is that they will make even bigger gains in Marathwada this time to offset the losses in Mumbai and other urban centres.

That could be difficult. The rains apart, the UPA government’s Rs 500-crore package for drought-hit Maharashtra within a month of assuming office in Delhi, the state government’s waiver of electricity bills and farmers loans, and the positive reaction to Sonia Gandhi’s tyaag has also weakened the current of anti-incumbency.

The Indian voter’s stock reply at election time is usually barabar ka takkar hain (neck and neck), or ‘‘50:50.’’ For once, Marathwada with its 46 seats may prove them right.

Source: The Indian Expess, October 8, 2004



Thursday, October 07, 2004

Don't crib about job quotas for Dalits

By Chandrabhan Prasad
Thursday, 07 October , 2004, 09:46

In the ongoing debate on private sector quota for Dalits, new unknown faces with no knowledge about the rights of Dalits and reservation have shown up. And it's the Indian media - a bastion of Brahmans and Baniyas - that has discovered these faces who claim to know all about the American system.

The discovery was necessitated as new-age Dalits are citing the American experience. It's important to understand that Dalit issues are not just confined to jobs. They are about India's democratisation, which covers capital market, industry, trade, films, media, knowledge, and above all, land reforms. Job reservation is just one aspect of the entire debate. | Also see: Oprah Winfrey has lessons for India |

In any healthy debate, one truth is cited to create conditions where another hundred can bloom. However, these so-called experts are using one truth to suffocate another hundred. In fact, they are media's spokespersons who defend their narrow caste interests. Nowhere in the world, media has been so partisan, ghettoized and has stooped so low. The media's new faces argue that "there is no quota system in the US," which is true.

The experts don't stop at this. They suggest that the Indian industry cannot afford to fix quota, and Dalits' citation of the American model holds no ground. However, these experts do not elaborate on what should replace quota?

How cantankerous the Indian media can best be exemplified by citing the experience of Eastman Kodak. The $385 billion company is a world leader in photographic equipment and cameras and employs more than 70,000 people in 30 nations.

But what we don't know, and what the Indian media censors don't say, are the following: In December 2003, the Kodak Board of directors mandated a thesis called Winning & Inclusive Culture (WIC) as social system for the company. The thesis is based on recommendations of the Kodak Diversity Advisory Panel, set up in 2001. Kodak resolved to "strive to eliminate under-representation in jobs in the United States by December 2006". | Great Debate: Do we need reservation in private sector? |

In line with the WIC social system, the company issued a policy statement: "Kodak conducts business in a competitive global environment. Its customers, markets, and employees span many cultures and backgrounds. This reality guides recruitment and retention efforts in Kodak."

Kodak, in its 2003 annual report, stated: "Despite workforce reductions and continuing global economic uncertainties, the company worked to sustain its diverse US workforce demographics for women and people of colour."

In a path-breaking move, the company set up The Kodak CEO Diversity Award. The award recognises an executive who demonstrates exemplary leadership and embraces the mindset and behaviours that lead to a diverse and inclusive work group." In other words, Kodak awards an executive who excels in recruiting more candidates of colour. | Discuss: Don't allow reservation in private sector |

An American White racial group has begun describing Kodak as 'Kodakquota'. Kodak's 2000 annual report shows that the racial/ ethnic minorities comprised 21% of the workforce. However, there was a reduction in the total workforce. At the level of Board of Directors, minorities comprised 8% in 2000, which went up to 33% by 2002. At senior manager/ director/ manager/ supervisor levels, minorities comprised 12% in 2000, which went up to 14% by 2002.

The SHRM (Society for Human Resources Management), a world leader in the field, has come out with a stunning report. In its study on 50 Fortune 500 companies admired by minorities, 76% "award bonuses to managers who achieve measurable diversity goals".

Most of these 50 American companies are leading MNCs, where most Indian management/ engineering graduates dream to work. The study found that "62% job seekers prefer to work for organisations with a commitment to diversity". Most American companies focus on setting goals and striving to achieve them instead of cribbing about the quota system. Kodak is just an example.

Source: Sify news, October 7, 2004