DR. J. MUTHUMARY
CENTRE FOR ADVANCED STUDIES IN BOTONY
UNIVERSITY OF MADRAS
GUINDY CAMPUS, CHENNAI 600 025
There are about 250 million Dalits in India. There is meagre improvement in the socio-economic condition of dalits in the past 50 years. Which that is not enough when compared to non-dalits. Of course, much more needs to be done. The urgent need is to have a national sample survey on dalits. Every fourth Indian is a dalit. There is no proper survey to give the correct number of dalit women in India. They are generally scattered in villages and they are not a monogamous group. About 75% of dalits live below poverty line. Economic backwardness of dalits is mostly due to injustice done to them by the high castes and also due to exploitation. From the time immemorial they worked like slaves, sold as commodities resulting in their social discrimination, economic deprivation and educational backwardness. To assess the position of dalit women in India this chapter is divided into various heads.
Till some years ago, many dalit women were ill treated and educationally backward inspite of the facilities for free education. The reasons for the high rate of illiteracy among dalit women are many.
The following are the main reasons:
1 Resistance from the family to send girls to schools.
2 Fear of insecurity in villages.
3 Lack of physical facilities like accommodation, school, transport and medical facilities.
4 The girls were forced to take care of the siblings when the parents are away at work.
5 Girls were forced to do domestic chores which prevent them from attending school.
6 Working to earn for the family prevent the girls from attending school.
7 Working with parents to earn their livelihood in beedi factories or other unorganized sector made them illiterate.
8 Because of the sick and unemployed parents girls were forced to work.
9 Many were forced to get married at young age, which stop schooling.
10 Social restriction is that the girls should stop education after marriage.
11 In some areas there are complaints from dalit women teachers of misbehaviors, blackmail and exploitation by the male staff of other high caste people.
12 Distance of schools from home.
13 Irrelevant content of the education system.
14 Fear of alienation of girls from their environment as a result of education are some of the other factors for low literacy level among SC girls. Even if the education improved the marriage prospects of the girls, the minus point is the increase in dowry. Therefore many parents wish to withdraw the girls from schools.
The present positions seems to be better with reference to the rate of literacy among dalits. The literacy rate is 31.48% for boys and 10.93% for girls. Dalits women belonging to the creamy layer of the society are better with good education and socially and economically they are well off like other high castes. They are fully aware of the welfare schemes provided by the Government and their percentage is very low when compared with the total dalit population. In rural areas, the first generation girls from SC needs the attention of Government and other organization. Mostly the teachers of the locality provide information to them about the welfare schemes. In many Dalit association executive position are occupied by male members whereas very poor representation is made by women in their pasts. The women are not properly informed about the Government schemes and there is an urgent need to get a feedback about the welfare schemes where lot of money is spent for the development of Dalits. The funds are not utilized properly for their upliftment. Many of the schemes go unnoticed because they are not popularized properly.
The coaching programmes conducted by the Government for dalit women are beneficial in training many women to compete in the competitive exam. These programmes also do not reach the needy dalit women because they are cornered by the very few creamy dalit women. This should be monitored properly and the schemes should be reached by the most deprived and constantly struggling dalit women. Because these dalit women are neglected by socially advanced communities and also by the better off among the dalits, which leads to an unhealthy socio-economic condition. There should be some scientific basis to pick up the poorest and they should be equipped with facilities.
There are some pre-examination coaching centers giving trainings for dalits which are doing very good service to train them in vocational line, for competitive exam, in medical and engineering field, railway recruitment boards, bank recruitment, etc.
Here are some suggestions for the better implementation of the schemes to dalit women:
1 Competitive spirit should be instilled in the girls.
2 Selection and identification of the talented girls should be done correctly.
3 Identify the candidate at college level for coaching.
4 Result oriented teaching is necessary.
5 Group discussions, quiz, and seminars to instill confidence.
6 Teacher : Student ratio 1:20 or below.
7 Monitoring by the teacher after class hours.
8 Loan facility.
Financial aid for uniform for girls, maps, charts, examination grant, laboratory facilities, library facilities should be provided for them special coaching should be given for meritorious dalit girls to compete for IAS and IPS. Hostel facilities for dalit girls at all levels of education starting from primary school up to higher education should be provided reservation policy especially for girls should be allotted in both admission and employment.
There is an increased awareness in recent years among dalit women about their rights and about the Government welfare schemes about higher education. This should be augmented by information technology, which should reach even to the remote rural citizen.
The UGC has given reservation for seats in colleges for SC students 25%, ST 7.5%, which is highly beneficial. Also relaxation in marks for 5% is given to all dalit students in admission. Financial assistance in the form of fellowships is given to dalits. Rs. 3,600/- is given per JRF to continue research studies at the University level. There are special SC/ST cells at the University for effective implementation of the Government orders and to improve the condition of University level dalit students.
There are some of the suggestions for effective implementation of the various welfare schemes for the dalit students.
1 The communication gap between the educational institution and the social welfare department should be reduced.
2 District wise computer database of the male and female dalit students is very essential to provide necessary facilities to them.
3 Pamphlets with details about the welfare schemes should be distributed to the students.
4 Supply of books to the dalit students.
5 Incentive scholarship should be given to deserving and meritorious girls to encourage them for higher education.
Female infanticide is more prevalent among the uneducated dalit families. Educational development among SC women is very marginal because only girls were not sent to school because of the responsibilities at home.
Therefore the gender discrimination starts at the very early stage in the life of a dalit girl. Normally girl children are retained at home to look after the siblings. Another thing is the compulsory marriage of the girls at very early age after which the education is stopped. Generally in the male-dominated society, polygamy is allowed and more so in many dalit families. Because of this the position of the women deteriorated. Joint family system, polygamy, property structure, early marriage, and permanent widowhood were hurdles for the development of all women in early period. But in the twentieth century, after the Mahatma Gandhien movement to educate women, slowly changes occurred in the position of women. But here, rural women were more blessed than urban women because divorce and remarriage were allowed for them. Mainly Sudras (i.e. low caste people) allowed divorce and remarriage for their women.
The occupation of many SC women can be divided in the following heads:
1 Agriculture labourer.
2 Marginal Cultivators.
4 Traditional artisans.
5 Leather Workers.
7 Scavengers and sweepers.
9 Beedi factories and unorganised sectors.
The Work Participation Rate (WPR) of SC population is said to be for males 22.25% and for females 25.98%.
The contribution of SC women to the economic development of our country is significant especially in the agricultural sector. They are exploited by the higher caste landlords. They are paid very marginal salary for the hard work in the field for the whole day. In leather industries the tanning process is considered to be an unclean job which is done only by socially backward class. Traditional artistes get very more benefit because the middleman exploits them. The condition of scavenger and sweepers is very deplorable and they the most vulnerable sectors among SC. The working condition is very poor and the remuneration is also very poor.
Because of the girls remain uneducated, they got married very early. Marriage in the high reproductive stage with high fertility rate, children care more. Because of the unlimited family, the burden fell on the young girls which affected their health. They were not able to assist in family matters to their husbands. But now the situation is different. The girls manage to plan their family, educate the children, assist the husbands in family matters and office going and professional girls improve the economic conditions. On the whole the family becomes socially developed because of the education of the girls.
Education among women increased intercaste marriages, which is definitely a sign of development. Government also encourages intercaste marriages among dalits and highcaste by incentives.
PROTECTION FROM ILLTREATMENT:
Most women are illtreated even today among tribals. Ministry of welfare GI (1993 –94) Annual report had recorded 18,014 crimes against SCs (murder, rape, etc.).
Disputes on land, minimum wage for SC workers bonded labourers, in debatedness – problem.
SC/ST under privileged, regarded less then humanbeings assigned lowest of the low status in society.
Scavenging: is no other country scavenging is amalgamated with the evil structure of caste.
UNTOUCHABILITY AND ILLTREATMENT:
1 Non-access to temples, places of worship.
2 Non-access to hotels and eating-places.
3 Not available – barber services for SC/ST Tamil Nadu.
4 Not allowed in gramsabha sittings – Tamil Nadu.
5 Discrimination in educational institution, public health services.
6 Not allowed to participate in social ceremonies – Tamil Nadu.
7 General untouchability – Tamil Nadu.
8 Enforcement of removal of carcasses – Tamil Nadu.
9 Not access to public cremation / burial ground / public pathways/roads.
10 Not allowed in residential premises of high caste.
11 Access to Dharmasalas – denied.
Untouchability is acute in villages. There is a gradual change in rural areas because they have become aware of their rights. Spread of education, improvement in economic conditions, welfare measures.
BASIC COMMON NEEDS:
The following facilities should be provided:
Malnutrition in female children high infant mortality should be corrected.
Unclean surroundings – proper accommodation should be provided.
3 Family welfare:
SC – women get married very soon high fertility – affect health.
4 Safe drinking water.
5 Electricity in village.
6 Essential goods and medicines.
7 Retail outlets not available.
8 Fair price shops – necessary.
SLUM IMPROVEMENT AT THE GOVERNMENT BASE:
1 Conservation of assets of SC.
2 Provide land to SC women.
3 Train them in new fields for employment.
4 Ensure minimum wages.
5 Compulsory education up to 35 years.
6 Introduce new employment facilities.
7 Self-employment program for women.
8 Modernizing existing traditional activities.
9 Liberate the women from scavenging work – alternative arrangement for dignified work.
10 Eradicate social untouchability.
11 Provide minimum basic facilities.
12 Positive discrimination. i.e. policy of reservation should be continued both in Government and public sector.
13 Fee excemption, age relaxation for direct recruitment – separate interview.
14 Atrocity control room:
Close watch, monitoring of atrocities against dalit women.
The present position is better because of education, literacy rate for boys 31.48%, girls 10.93%. Now they have lot of self respect, aware of their rights, organisations to voice their feelings. The creamy layer is well aware of the Government welfare schemes. Among SC dalits executive positions in associations are occupied only by men, very poor representation by women. Feedback about the welfare programme is very essential.