Report : Equality and Inclusion(Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes)

via Dr. Vijaya Rajiva published on September 4, 2011

The 97 page report ‘Equality and Inclusion :Progress and Development of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in Independent India (August 15, 2011)’ is a must read for
anyone interested in understanding the enormous strides made by independent India on behalf of the schedules castes (SCs) and the scheduled tribes (STs) of India.

The author Dr.Rakesh Bahadur and his dedicated team have produced a document that is detailed and authentic. The references drawn from governmental, scholarly and NGO sources indicate that the team has been involved in the conceptualization of the question and the painstaking task of data collection and analyses. The document abounds with tables, charts and graphs that are relevant to tracking the work done by independent India.

They have not hesitated to include criticisms that argue that the lot of the SCs /STs has not substantially improved in the last 67 years of independence. Bahadur and his team refute these claims by hard core stats and analyses, rather than emotional rhetoric. This is the strength of the report. It can be relied upon to provide reliable data and sober analysis.

The report shows improvements in real time as opposed to preconceived notions and prejudices surrounding the question. To quote from Subhash Kak (cited in the report):

“ No aspect of Indian society is as poorly understood as its social organization. The caste system, as described in Indian textbooks, is a creation of the anthropologists and sociologists of the nineteenth century who were then studying the bewildering complexity of Indian society. The informants of these social scientists used the theories of the archaic Dharma Sastras to fit the communities in a four-varna model. Although such classification was wrong, it has been used by generations of Indologists and filtering into popular books it has, by endless repetition, received a certain validity and authority.
In an example of reality being fashioned in the image of a simulacrum, many Indians have started believing in the enduring truth of the classification(Subash Kak,1994)”

The sober methodology of this report is therefore crucial in dispelling some of the myths propagated by those fishing in troubled waters and who continue to impale India on the topic of SCs/STs. Their political agenda needs to be defeated and the Bahadur report does just that. The Report offers an analysis of long term trends based on the parameters of literatcy rate, poverty, human development index, crime rate, human rights violations, job reservations in legislative bodies and executive bodies. The improvements of the condition of the SCs/STs can be seen in real time, rather than in the context of abstractions.

The various relevant chapters of the Report ( which has11 chapters in all) describe the reservation policies of the government of India for SCs/STs  and the impact these affirmative action policies (whether in education and employment) have on the progress and development of these communities. The Report also examines the reservation of jobs in the private sector “which is simply unparalleled anywhere in the world” (p.10). This applies also to job security in the public sector, which is  also unparalled anywhere in the world.

Chapter 10 discusses the reports by foreign governments and international agencies and how wrong conclusions are arrived at because of ignoring ground realities. The US State Department, United Nations Development Program and Human Rights Watch come under scrutiny.

The overall result of the Report shows not only changes in real time in the status of the SCs/STs but also the often ignored fact that human rights violations occur primarily owing to general lawlessness. These violations should come under the rubric of law and order problems.

Three informative appendixes emphasise the substantial work undertaken by this Report.They are (1) ‘Origin and Definitions of the Terms SC/ST, (2) Constitutional and Legal Protections for Development of SC/ST and  (3)Affirmative Action in the U.S.: A Case Study. This pertains to affirmative action for African Americans.
In this third appendix the Report  analyses the following parameters : population, education, income,unemployment, and  homeownership rate. Interestingly the study concludes thus:

“ Affrimative action in the United States is similar to India’s policies for the upliftment of SCs/STs. The main difference is that there are no constitutionally required quotas for admission to educational institutions, jobs, promotions, reserved seats in the US Congress and  the Senate etc. Table 31 shows that even after the introduction of affirmative action, there exists a significant difference between  White and African Americans. The long term trends between  White and African Americans show that the gap is not narrowing between the two races. This trend is exactly opposite to the trend between the general population and SC/ST in India. It may be noted that in the very beginning of the Indian Republic, specific quotas for various disadvantaged categories were fixed. Even after half a century of affirmative action, the African American population is lagging behind the white population in all the social-economic parameters. “ (p.97)

Owing to the detailed nature of the Report’s illustrations via tables, charts and graphs, and the general statistical nature of the work (noted by Shri R.Venkatnarayan in his Preface to the Report) the reader is advised to go through the entire document to get a  feel and understanding of this work which is indeed a labour of love.

Those readers who are also interested in the historical question of varna, jati and caste there are brief sections on the same. However, as the author notes, the Report is not focused on those questions which have been dealt with by other authors. The Report itself emphasizes the dynamic nature of social systems which change in real time and the affirmative actions that assist in that change.

(The writer is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university)

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