'Caste situation in country unchanged'
By Our Special Correspondent
HYDERABAD, AUG. 13. A training programme for delegates attending the U.N. meet at Durban was inaugurated here on Monday with speakers asking them to be well-prepared to effectively voice the outrage faced by Dalits in the country.
Earlier at a meeting, the speakers said the inclusion of para no. 109 in the agenda for the Durban meet was a triumph in itself. Criticising the Government's efforts to prevent caste from being included in the agenda, they said the ``cosmetic assurances'' given in Article 14 and Article 17 of the Constitution had not been able to change the ground realities, and discrimination based on descent and work continued unabated.
Mr. Ramdas Athawale, MP, said that caste discrimination was worse than racial discrimination. The living conditions of Dalits had not changed despite Government claims to the contrary. A majority of Dalits - over 65 per cent - had no land of their own and an equal number depended on wage labour in rural and urban India.
Discrimination in employment continued and though the literacy rate had gone up a little, the number of Dalits undergoing higher studies was a dismal two to three per cent, he said. Till date, one lakh cases of atrocities had been booked in the country, which went to show that Dalits continued to be at the receiving end despite Constitutional provisions.
Mr. Bojja Tarakam, president of the State unit of the Republican Party of India, Prof. Chalam of Andhra University, Prof. S.K. Thorat of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Mr. Kannabiran, president, People's Union for Civil Liberties, Mr. Martin Macwan, national convenor of the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), Mr. Henri Tiphange, executive director of People's Watch, Mr. Paul Divakar, secretary for advocacy and lobbying, NCDHR, and Prof. Vasanthi Devi, former VC, Madras University, detailed the persecution of Dalits. They felt the Durban meet was only the beginning of the long struggle that the Dalits would have to wage.
The three-day training programme would impart skills to the participants in advocating the Dalit cause properly and to seek a covenant for Dalit human rights.