Friday, 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

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