The Rights and Budget of Dalit Essay Example
The Rights and Budget of Dalit Essay Example

The Rights and Budget of Dalit Essay Example

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  • Pages: 17 (4514 words)
  • Published: September 17, 2017
  • Type: Research Paper
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The significance of budgeting for Dalits is acknowledged in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and explained further in the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) of 1966. However, despite being included in these agreements, states and human rights organizations have paid little attention to them. Many are unaware that ESC rights and government budget allocation exist, wrongly assuming that human rights only apply to civil and political rights. This lack of awareness limits opportunities for systematic changes, understanding individual and group entitlements, and holding governments accountable to international agreements. Fortunately, both human rights and development organizations are increasingly recognizing the importance of ESC rights and budgetary allocation.

However, there are still some organizations that have not acknowledged or dealt with this issue. It is es


sential for them to do so quickly. The time has come for organizations to reassess their methods, change their perspectives on human rights, and include a comprehensive budget assessment within the human rights framework. This will help reduce human rights violations, eradicate poverty, and uplift Dalits and marginalized communities. Currently, the Indian economy is witnessing rapid advancement along with a strong economic growth rate.

The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the impact of economic growth and development on marginalized subdivisions, specifically the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Tribes. It aims to assess whether these efforts adequately address their needs and demands. The Budget plays a critical role in indicating the government's priorities and policies for societal and economic development. For SCs and Tribes, improved socio-economic conditions are viewed as a means to uplift them from their disadvantaged state characterized by poverty an

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mistreatment. The objective is to ensure that they can also reap the benefits of economic progress. This study examines the historical background of Dalits, highlighting the discrimination they face, requiring a human rights-based approach. Additionally, it explores international commitments such as the Millennium Development Goals and how the Indian government has responded to them. Moreover, it presents key strategies for Dalit development, including specific budget allocations aimed at improving their circumstances.

Throughout history, Dalits in India have endured significant human rights violations that have resulted in their current marginalized position in social and economic spheres. Despite endorsing various agreements dedicated to upholding human rights and integrating them into the Constitution, these injustices persist.

India presents an interesting case where commitment is evident on paper but not practiced in reality. The Dalit rights movement must legally fight for both budgetary provisions and their implementation. It is important to analyze Union and State Budgets from the perspective of Dalit rights to ensure their human rights are protected through adequate financial allocations. This budget analysis reveals how India has violated the fundamental ESC right of Dalits. To support this claim, we examine specific instances of budgetary provisions being violated in India. We also provide recommendations to improve this specific situation, as well as recommendations to address the larger issue - the lack of full recognition of Schedule Caste rights in the human rights dialogue.

The text is divided into three main sections. In Part One, there is an overview of Dalit history, their economic status, discrimination against them, reasons for their marginalization, and the potential for their inclusion in a comprehensive human rights approach.

Part Two presents facts and figures

about the position of Dalits in Indian society. It highlights the various economic and social challenges they face.

In Part Three, there is examination of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Indian government's response to Dalit human rights. The first section offers general information on the MDGs and budget allocation in India. Section Four specifically focuses on the budget allocation for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) in the Union Budget.

The text discusses the occurrence of misdemeanors in India, particularly concerning human rights. Part Five focuses on the gaps in policy implementation by the Indian government regarding development policies for Dalits. It emphasizes the importance of incorporating ESC rights within a human rights framework to tackle global poverty and injustice. Part Six provides recommendations to the Indian government regarding necessary changes in development policies for Dalits, as well as allocating sufficient budgets for overall development of Dalit communities and addressing worldwide poverty and injustice.

Historical context

The term dalit was first introduced in the 1930s, serving as a Hindi and Marathi translation of 'Depressed Classes', which was used by the British to refer to what is now known as the Scheduled Castes.

The newspaper published in Pune in 1930 was known as Dalit Bandhu ('Friend of Dalits'). Dr B.R. Ambedkar frequently used this term in his Marathi addresses. In his 1948 publication The Untouchables, Ambedkar translated dalit into English as 'broken men' to refer to the ancestors of the Untouchables.

In 1973, the Dalit Panthers expanded the definition of "Dalit" to include marginalized groups like Scheduled Tribes, neo-Buddhists, landless individuals, and disadvantaged provincials. Anthropologists and sociologists have extensively examined the caste system and hierarchical structure within Hindu

society. The study of Dalits has become a significant focus in Indian sociology and anthropology. The Dalit community has endured centuries of discrimination and deprivation, resulting in their disadvantaged status. There is a noticeable gap between Dalits and the non-Dalit population across various development indicators. Through Dalit sociology, efforts are made to comprehend the aspirations and challenges faced by marginalized individuals as they strive for a society that values equality, social justice, and human dignity.

According to "Caste in India" (1963) by J.H. Hutton, the lower castes' origins are shaped by race, religion, and social customs. The settled men who no longer wished to engage in warfare sought protection by hiring individuals from conquered nomadic groups and isolated persons known as "broken men." These individuals were marginalized due to their affiliation with a distinct tribe.

These marginalized workers were treated disrespectfully, similar to mercenaries. Throughout history, these marginalized communities have referred to themselves as Dalits, who have faced discrimination for centuries. In an attempt to regain their dignity and reject the dehumanizing position enforced by Hindu society, they established a new identity based on the principle that "Dalit is Dignified." Jotirao Phule (1826-90), the initial Indian advocate for Dalit rights, sought to rebuild a societal structure founded on equality, justice, and rationality.

Examining history helps to understand the current situation of the Dalits. Throughout society's long existence, hierarchies have been formed through the Hindu caste system, which categorizes people into various castes and cultural groups. The Manusmriti, a significant Hindu sacred text outlining laws and regulations, states that adult females and Shudras (Dalits/untouchables) do not possess any sacred texts. Consequently, Dalits, especially the Scheduled Castes (formerly known

as Harijans), have suffered from limited property rights, educational opportunities, and fair wages.

The roots of Dalit oppression can be traced back to the Hindu Caste System, as described in the Manusmriti, a sacred Hindu text dating back to the 2nd century BC. This system marginalized communities that were considered outcastes, commonly known as 'Untouchables', both socially and spiritually. They were restricted to performing menial tasks such as animal slaughter and working with leather. The arrival of Islam in India during the 13th century AD resulted in significant conversions among low-caste and 'untouchable' groups, leading to around a quarter of the population becoming Muslim by the mid-nineteenth century.

During India's struggle for independence, two distinct approaches emerged regarding improving conditions for these marginalized individuals who are now known as Dalits.

Both Mahatma Gandhi and Dr Ambedkar played crucial roles in addressing the issue of untouchability in India. While Gandhi's focus was on improving the status of Dalit people, whom he called Harijans, while still keeping certain aspects of the traditional caste system intact, his ultimate objective was to eliminate the degrading stigma and practices associated with untouchability. In contrast, Dr Ambedkar, a lawyer and an untouchable himself, believed that dismantling the entire caste system was the only way to completely eradicate untouchability. He advocated for separate legal and constitutional recognition for untouchables similar to what had been granted to Muslims, Sikhs, and Christians. However, Gandhi opposed this demand which eventually led Ambedkar to abandon it. In 1956, Ambedkar renounced Hindu values and converted to Buddhism which served as inspiration for a large number of followers who also made the same conversion. Following India's independence, legislation outlined in

the Indian constitution abolished untouchability.

The current political relations of Dalits revolve around the implementation of affirmative action benefits granted to them under the constitution in areas such as employment, education, and electoral representation. However, the effectiveness of laws derived from the constitution, specifically the Protection of Civil Rights Act 1955/1976 and the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989, remains largely ineffective. Several factors contribute to this inefficiency: a lack of political will from both central and state governments; a deficiency in commitment from upper-caste and higher-class administrative officials towards achieving social justice; an absence of citizen oversight commissions responsible for monitoring implementation; and limited authority held by the Mandal Commission in directly punishing those accountable for crimes against Dalits. The main focus of affirmative action for Dalits is on improving their economic status without addressing the dehumanizing effects caused by caste discrimination and 'untouchability'.

The socioeconomic challenges faced by Dalits are intricately connected to both caste and poverty. In recent times, discrimination has disproportionately impacted Dalits, who face prejudice not only based on their caste but also due to religious, social, and cultural norms that relegate them to the lowest position in society. The label of untouchability makes them particularly vulnerable to various forms of discrimination and mistreatment.

The development policies and programs have largely marginalized Dalits in various aspects such as wellness, education, housing, employment and benefits, application of legal rights, decision-making and political engagement, as well as rural development. The national population policy specifically targets Dalits and women for family planning programs with the belief that they are responsible for the population 'explosion' and poverty. These women continue to face oppression,

marginalization, violation, and neglect in society. Development policies often label them as 'women in extreme poverty'. Despite reservation systems at national and state levels, Dalits have not been able to fully participate in mainstream discussions due to the absorption of the Dalit agenda into those led by upper-caste men within mainstream political parties. Consequently, this has resulted in neglecting the primary needs of Dalits.

Approximately 90% of Dalits live in rural areas and are primarily focused on improving their economic status. Most of them engage in subsistence farming or labor without owning land. Due to limited job prospects, many Dalits opt to migrate either to urban areas or specific regions within India.

Although this practice was legally abolished in 1976, many individuals still find themselves in debt and are compelled to work as bonded laborers. In such situations, laborers borrow money from landlords or usurers and commit to working for them until the debt is fully repaid. However, due to high interest rates and poverty, it becomes challenging to repay these debts, often resulting in laborers being trapped in a cycle of bondage that deepens their indebtedness. This vicious cycle can also be inherited by future generations, making it extremely difficult to break free.

In certain countries, Dalit laborers who serve wealthy landlords of higher social standing often receive minimal wages or no compensation whatsoever, whether in cash or food. These landlords may resort to violence when confronted with resistance from their workers, sometimes causing physical harm or even death. Instances of mob violence against Dalit communities, occasionally incited by the landlords themselves, are frequently reported.

This violence becomes more prevalent when Dalit workers join labor unions or experience

progress in education and economic mobility.

Dalit households have relocated from rural areas to reside in slums and on the streets of burgeoning cities. In these urban regions, they frequently encounter low-paying and undesirable employment opportunities. Nevertheless, specific cities have established municipal unions for traditional occupations such as sweepers, which provide steady jobs and improved incentives for them. Additionally, many Dalits also participate in irregular manual labor, predominantly in small factories, quarries, brick kilns, construction sites, as rickshaw pullers or in menial trades.

There is an increase in the number of Dalits employed in secure occupations, such as public service, banking, railroads, and private industry. Dalits living in cities have access to secondary and higher education, which has led to the emergence of a middle class within their community. As educational opportunities and aspirations grow, Dalits have the potential to bring positive change to India in the future. This is especially true if they can unite across language and religious barriers.


Dalits, also known as 'Scheduled Castes', make up about 20% of India's population. However, due to their lack of awareness about their rights, Dalits face worse conditions compared to others. Many consider Dalits as part of the Scheduled Castes (previously referred to as Harijans) and the Scheduled Tribes (the indigenous people of India).

The number of Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribes in India exceeds 250 million. According to the 2001 Census, the population of Scheduled Castes is 166.63 million, accounting for 16.2% of the total population. Dalits are the most impoverished group in India and make up the largest segment of impoverished individuals. In rural areas, while 27% of the overall population lived below the poverty line in

1999-2000, 36% of the SC population fell below this line. Due to social and economic marginalization, their progress is hindered by low levels of literacy and education.

The literacy gap between Dalit and non-Dalit communities in 2001 shows a significant disparity of approximately 14.12% for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and 21.71% for Scheduled Tribes (STs). The withdrawal of government support in various sectors has disproportionately affected Dalits. They face a double disadvantage as the emerging markets align with the dominant caste dynamics and economic liberalization. With the decline of state involvement, the private sector becomes crucial for everyone, including Dalits, to access resources such as land, capital, jobs, education, housing, and healthcare services.

The Hindu societal order's customary regulations result in Dalits (SC) falling behind in all aspects of their lives, depriving them of societal equality, opportunities, education, and employment. The ongoing caste and untouchability-based discrimination in India has persisted for many decades. To strengthen India, its people must become stronger since a weak population cannot lead to a strong nation.

International Instruments

It has been 62 years since the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 1948. These rights are further outlined in the 1966 International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which continues to profoundly impact people's lives worldwide.

Since their inclusion in these pacts, provinces and human rights organizations have given little attention to India's ratification of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) on July 10th, 1979. Economic, social, and cultural rights are fully recognized by the international community and international human rights law. These rights aim to ensure the protection of individuals as whole persons, allowing

them to enjoy rights, freedoms, and social justice. However, many are unaware of the existence of ESC rights and mistakenly believe that human rights only consist of civil and political rights.

This limits the chances for systemic alterations, reduces cognition of single and group entitlements, and reduces authorities' answerability to international understandings.

United Nation Millennium acme and the millenary declaration

From 6th to 8th September 2000 United Nations Millennium acme was held at United Nations Headquarters in New York to consider the function of the United Nations in the 21st century. In this meeting, the caputs of 189 member provinces of the United Nations agreed to perpetuate their state to beef up planetary attempts for peace, human rights, democracy, strong administration, environment sustainability and poorness obliteration, and promote rules of human self-respect, and equity.For this intent the caputs of the state ratified the United Nations Millennium Declaration in which eight ends were promoted. United Nations Millennium acme was as an affair of fact the largest assemblage of universe leaders in history.

The Millennium Development Goals

In 2001, the United Nation member provinces recognized the need to support impoverished nations more assertively. To achieve this objective, eight goals were derived from the Millennium Declaration, outlining the framework for development in developing countries to be accomplished by 2015. These goals were called the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs are eight international development goals agreed upon by 192 United Nations member provinces and at least 23 international organizations to be achieved by 2015. It is important to consider the Dalits, who are at the bottom of the social development hierarchy, when assessing progress

towards these MDGs. India has failed to provide even the most basic entitlements for Dalits, jeopardizing their right to survival, life, and dignity, particularly for Dalit women.

Indian Legislation and Dalit Human Rights

In 1989, India implemented the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act to prevent and punish abuse against Dalits and provide relief and rehabilitation for the victims.

Under Article 15 of the Constitution of India, no citizen can be subjected to any disability, liability, limitation or condition with respect to access to shops, public restaurants, hotels, and places of public entertainment. Similarly, with respect to the use of wells, tanks, bathing ghats, roads, and places of public resort funded by the State or meant for the general public, no citizen can be discriminated against based on faith, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any other similar factors.

Article 17 abolishes untouchability in any form and deems its practice as illegal. Furthermore, Article 23 prohibits human trafficking and forced labor.

The Central and State Governments have implemented special measures to protect the Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) from all forms of discrimination and ensure their development. The SC and ST communities constitute a significant portion of agricultural and other labor types, and a large number of bonded laborers belong to these communities.

To address these issues, the Minimum Wages Act of 1948 establishes minimum wages for different types of labor, while the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act of 1976 aims to abolish bonded labor and provide release and rehabilitation for those affected.

There are two important statutes related to Article 17, namely, The Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 (PCRA),

and The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (PAA). Initially, the Untouchability (Offences) Act, 1955, was enacted to eliminate the practice of untouchability and social disabilities against members of the Scheduled Castes. It was amended in 1977 and is now known as the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955. Under the revised Act, the practice of untouchability was made both punishable and non-compoundable, with strict penalties provided for offenders.

Despite the fact that 60 years have passed since India's constitution was enacted to ensure basic human and civil rights, as well as equality before the law for all citizens, discrimination against Dalits is still prevalent. Various forms of human rights abuses persist against Dalits, including untouchability, manual scavenging, violence against individuals and communities, atrocities against women, and daily discrimination and humiliation. This mistreatment is an everyday reality for Dalits, whether it be in accessing water from wells or being forced into unsuitable occupations. Dalit workers, primarily contract workers, perform tasks such as handling excrement, dead animals, medical waste, toxic chemicals, sharp objects, and garbage without any protective equipment. They are the ones responsible for keeping the city clean. Unfortunately, marginalized and underprivileged individuals are far from having access to justice.

Despite the creation of several laws against crime and atrocities, poverty-stricken individuals in India continue to suffer from discrimination and underdevelopment. Millions of poor people in India still face violence and injustices on a regular basis. The situation in India is even worse compared to other countries.

The ignorance and helplessness of individuals in the given situation is evident. The response from the government authorities in dealing with cases of caste violence has

resulted in a failure to ensure equal protection under the law. This also reveals a pattern of cooperation and collaboration between the police and local officials. Furthermore, lawyers take advantage of the poor for their own personal gain and financial benefit. The government of India consistently denies access to relevant UN bodies, such as working groups and special reporters. At the same time, it is challenging to categorize caste-based abuses within existing human rights categories, and the presence of constitutional and legislative protections at the national level allows these abuses to go unnoticed internationally.

Dalit in India:

The term Dalit, which translates to "oppressed", "broken", or "crushed", represents those who have lost their original individuality. It is a name adopted by the people commonly known as Harijans, signifying their desire for change and the eradication of the long-standing oppression under the caste system. In legal and constitutional terms, Dalits are referred to as Scheduled Castes in India. The Constitution mandates the government to outline a list of the lowest castes that qualify for compensatory programs. This list includes untouchable converts to Sikhism but excludes converts to Christianity and Buddhism. The groups excluded from this list, who are still considered Harijans, likely constitute an additional 2 percent of the population. As per the 2001 Census, the Scheduled Caste (SC) population in India stands at 166.6 million, accounting for 16.23 percent of the total population.

The concentrated SC populations are primarily found in Uttar Pradesh (35.1 million), West Bengal (18.4 million), Tamil Nadu (11.8 million), Andhra Pradesh (12.3 million), and Bihar (11.3 million). These States make up 53.36% of the total SC population in the

state. While Uttar Pradesh has the highest concentration of SC population (28.9%) in terms of absolute numbers, Punjab is in first place with 28.9% SC population in relation to the overall state population. Despite the legal abolition of "untouchability" under India's constitution in 1950, the practice of inflicting social disabilities on individuals due to their birth in certain castes, known as "untouchability," still persists in rural India. "Untouchables" are not allowed to cross the dividing line that separates their part of the village from that occupied by higher castes.

They may not use the same Wells, visit the same temples, drink from the same cups in tea stables, or claim land that is legally theirs. Dalit children often sit at the back of classrooms, and communities as a whole perform degrading rituals based on caste. The majority of Dalits live in extreme poverty, without land or opportunities for better employment or education. Except for a small minority who have benefited from India's education and government job reservation policy, Dalits are assigned to the lowest tasks, such as manual scavenging, waste and dead animal removal, leatherworking, street sweeping, and cobbling. The majority of those sold into bondage to repay debts to upper-caste creditors are Dalit children.

Dalit laborers, including women and children, work in the agricultural sector and earn only a few kilograms of rice or Rs. 15 to Rs. 35 (US $0.38 to $0.88) per day. Their higher-caste employers exploit them by using their caste as a means to justify these low wages. This exploitation is perpetuated due to societal acceptance of the lower status of Dalits, which allows them to remain impoverished.

Stark disparities in SC development


The SC community has significantly higher rates of Infant Mortality (83%) and Child Mortality (39%) compared to non-SC groups.

Among non- SC IMR and CMR is 61 % and 22 % respectively. 56 % of SC adult females suffer from anaemia. The morbidity among SC children is also high, with more than 75% of SC children being anaemic. Additionally, over half of the SC children experience malnutrition or undernutrition. Malnutrition is commonly seen as a contributing factor to poverty, which reduces the chances of child survival. According to the 2001 census, the literacy rates for both SC and ST were lower when compared to those of the non-SC/ ST population.

The overall literacy rate in India is 65%, with the literacy rate for SCs being 55% compared to non-SCs at 69%. Particularly low literacy rates were observed among SC adult females (41.9%). Among male children, SCs had approximately 10% lower school attendance compared to non-SCs, while the difference among girls was around 5%. The index of undernourishment (measured by minimum weight for age) was significantly higher for SC children at 54% compared to non-SC/ST children at 44%. Similarly, rates of undernourishment indicated by stunting (measured by height for age) were 52% for SC children and 43% for non-SC/ST children. In the year 2000, approximately 40% of individuals/families lacked access to public health services.

The percentage of individuals/families was lower among SC compared to non-SC/ST. The percentage for SC was 44.15 and for non-SC/ST was 53.55.

Schedule Caste Access to Resources

In the year 2000, at all India level, the Monthly Per Capita Outgo for SC was Rs. 285 which is much lower than the non-SC at Rs.393. With lack of

access to fixed sources of income, low wage earning and underemployment, the SC suffer from high incidences of poverty. In 2000, approximately 45% of SC in the rural areas were poor compared to 21% among the non SC.

Compared to non-Scheduled Castes (SC), SC have a 70% higher incidence of aggregative poorness. Approximately 80% of SC live in rural areas. In 2000, only 16.8% of all SC households pursued cultivation as an independent self-employed business. In contrast, for non-SC/ST, this percentage was more than double at 41.11%. About 28% of SC families had gained access to fixed capital assets compared to 56% of other families.

The percentage of landless families among the SCs in rural areas is approximately 10%, while it is 6% for non-SC families. Similarly, the percentage of landless and near landless individuals among SCs is about 75% compared to 54% for non-SCs.

Gender Difference

The development of any group/community is characterized by the progress of women within that group/community. In 2001, around 57% of SC women workers in rural areas were employed as agricultural laborers, while only 21% worked as agriculturists. In comparison, 45% of non-SC women worked as agriculturists.

2.1% of adult females in rural areas who are part of the Scheduled Caste (SC) are unemployed, compared to 1.4% of non-SC/ST adult females. Many SC adult females are involved in unclean occupations like scavenging. SC adult females working as daily wage laborers experience discrimination in their pay, especially in urban areas. In 2001, casual wage laborers who were SC adult females earned a daily wage of Rs.

According to the Report on Working Group on the Empowerment of Scheduled Caste, Eleventh Five Year Plan, the cost for

SC/ST individuals is Rs.37, while it is Rs.56 for non-SC/ST individuals. In 2001, the literacy rate was lower for SC adult females (41.9%) compared to 58.2% for the general female population. Furthermore, SC/ST adult females also faced a high drop-out rate in addition to their low literacy rate. These adult females from the SC group have the poorest wellness indexes, including high maternal mortality rates and low nutritional status measured by Body Mass Index (BMI). When compared to non-SC/ST adult females, those from the SC groups have a poorer nutritional level.

In 1999/2000, the percentage of adult females with low BMI was higher among SC females (42%) compared to non-SC females (33%). Additionally, maternal mortality rates are also elevated in SC adult females.

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