Dalits remain highly deprived

Kolkata: A national seminar on “Dalit households in village economies” sheds light on the poor plight of Dalits in the rural areas. Based on actual surveys conducted by various agencies and organisations, the seminar papers presented a scene of abject deprivation - poor access to official sources of credit, their lack of command over assets and amenities, and lower levels of employment and income.

Commenting on the inferences of the papers presented, Abhijit Sen, member of Planning Commission, observed that their findings deserve serious considerations. The field studies conducted by Foundation of Agrarian Studies (FAS) were made not to find out how the Dalits were faring in socio-economic terms. The studies tried to assess the extent and nature of deprivation vis-à-vis agrarian relations in the country, in which caste played an important role. Vikas Rawal, Associate Professor at the JNU, pointed out that ownership of land accounted for an overwhelming proportion of assets among Dalits as well as non-Dalits. There exists “a huge disparity” between the two social groups on that parameter.

Madhura Swaminathan and Shamsher Singh of Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) demonstrated the inequality in terms of access to basic amenities such as housing, water, sanitation and electricity, faced by Dalits. Survey of pooled data of 12 villages from five states pointed out that about one-fourth lived in kutcha houses and 30 per cent lived in a “single-room structures.” According to V.K. Ramchandran of I.S.I., Kolkata, “Caste not only matters, but is right up there as a major explanation for inequality.”