True colour of Bengal's class strugglers
Chandra Bhan Prasad
West Bengal's Dalits in public institutions: Societies produce institutions. Institutions, in turn, mirror their character, dynamics and also the nature of changes under way. Institutions, under state or in private hands, demonstrate collective conscience of the society.
Public conscience produced by traditional societies come face to face with the new conscience of industrial societies and modern notions of democracy, liberty and egalitarianism. Dalits' exclusion in the traditional Chatur-Varna society has been one of the fundamental characteristics of India's public institutions. But, with evolution of India into a modern democratic Republic, Dalits' participation became legally possible.
Dalits' participation in legislatures was realised long back; but in the executive the process is still under way. At lower levels Dalits have a substantial presence, but at higher level the situation is yet improve. The data relating to West Bengal Dalits' position in the executive are not available with the present analyst. None the less, in Dalit circles, it is believed that the Left Front Government's attitude in implementing provision of reservation for Dalits is far from being satisfactory.
The institutions, where the state's control is less, or technically non-existent, are black spots. Such institutions, education-related in particular, have shown acute hostility in sharing educational opportunities with Dalits. The area of higher and quality education is still the exclusive preserve of the four Varnas. The knowledge system remains pathetically authoritarian and undemocratic. This hostility against Dalits in the arena of knowledge has a pan-India character.
We would now proceed to examine position of Dalits as school teachers (figures for college/university teachers not available) in West Bengal. School teachers play a decisive role in the expansion of education. Also, school teachers make great impact on society, by intervening in social/cultural movements. They greatly contribute to consciousness building, and considerably influence polity at grassroots levels. Thus, it is not for nothing that the employment question in schools, colleges and universities occupies a very high place in Dalit movements in the country.
Class character of West Bengal and society shows its true colours: Dalits are unfit to teach - isn't this a national anthem? And who can sing this song louder than the pitch at which the West Bengal State and society seem to be singing?
Table N shows that the West Bengal Dalits are far behind their all-India averages in terms of appointment to teaching positions. While at India level the picture is bad, it is worst in Bengal, where the short-fall in the SC/ST share is 17.26 per cent, 7.43 percentage points more than the short-fall at all India level.
Table N also shows that, the West Bengal society is more hostile to Dalits than the society at all-India level. West Bengal Dalits' share in private schools, where state control is non-existent, is 5.16 percentage points less than the all India average for them in the same category of schools. This clearly proves that the social context created by the Left Front rule in West Bengal is more reactionary in content than elsewhere in India. The reactionary character of the Left Front rule in West Bengal for more than two decades becomes more pronounced when compared with some other states, known for backwardness and indifference towards people.
The "Bimaru" states and West Bengal: The four states of the north, Bihar Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, are called the "Bimaru" (ailing) states of India. A considerable area falling under these four states, forms hub of the Hindi heartland - the nerve center of obscurantism. Further, with the exception of Bihar, all the four states in question are traditionally ruled by the Congress, which till 1989 was a reference point of right-wing politics. Thus, it will be in order to compare West Bengal's position with "Bimaru" states', to see how well or badly West Bengal under Left Front rule has fared.
Table O shows that the West Bengal lags behind all the four "Bimaru" states, including Bihar, in implementing reservations in teaching positions in schools.
Table O clearly establishes that, while all the bimaroo states appear to be hostile to the constitutional provision of according due representation to Dalits in teaching positions, the hostility of the Left Front Government is without any parallel. Assuming that the Dalits' position may not have been good enough even in 1977, as we do not have relevant data of that period, 17 years is long enough a period to right the wrong, which the Government under Mr Jyoti Basu has failed to do.
(The series is concluded)
SC / ST Teachers in Schools
Table : N (Primary, Upper Primary, Secondary, Higher Secondary) All India West Bengal
All --- SC/ST seats * SC/ST Short All --- SC/ST seats * SC/ST Short
filled up Quota Fall filled up Quota Fall
(Source : The Sixth All India Educational Survey (National Tables; Volume
III); April 1998; brought out by NCERT, New Delhi)
SC / ST Teachers in Schools
SC/ST Population SC/ST Teachers Short -Fall
Share in percentage (%) (percentage points)
NB : The NCERT's Sixth All India Educational Survey; Vol. III; was published in 1988 but the information collected dates back to October 1994. By 1994, the Left Front had completed 17 years of uninterrupted rule in West Bengal