Caste System Contributed To Child Labour In India

Dr. K. Jamanadas,

The following is a small news item published in news paper,

Hitavada dt. 8th Jan.97. It reflects a lot on the ills India is facing. It is only a survey of child Labour problem, but if one ponders over it one would know the real problem India is facing. First let us read the news item, which runs as under:

NEW DELHI, Jan. 7, (UNI) The rigidity of the caste system in India has, among other things, contributed to the mushrooming of child labour in the country, says the UNICEF..

In the report "The state of the world's children", the UNICEF said the dominant cultural group in India might not wish its own children to do hazardous labour but it would not be so concerned if young people from racial, ethnic or economic minorities did it.

Citing the magnitude of child labour, it said, "In India, the view has been that some people are born to rule and to work with their minds while others, the vast majority, are born to work with their bodies." "Many traditionalists had been unperturbed about lower-caste children failing to enroll in or dropping out of school," the UNICEF said, adding "and if these children end up doing hazardous labour, it is likely to be seen as their lot in life." The UNICEF's observation came against the backdrop of the recent supreme court judgment banning child labour in hazardous and non-hazardous industries.

He said the technique being used in glass industry should be upgraded. The Government of India had sanctioned an amount of Rs. 12.86 lakh on the basis of a report by the ITI Kanpur.

According to a survey conducted to find out labours engaged in glass industry of Faizabad, 18,126 child labourers and 316 suspected were found, in which 13,199 were boys and 7,843 were girls. The number of affected families was 15,919. The meeting was also informed that 12,900 of five development blocks of Ferozabad had been admitted to various educational centres and they were getting benefit mid-day scheme.

Before we understand the problem, we analyse the various cultural ehinic groups mentioned above. Dr. Ambedkar, who was an authority on caste, has clarified the population of India is divided into (A) avarnas and (B) savarnas. Savarnas are 1. dwijas i.e. brahmins, ksatriyas and vaisyas, the so called Upper Castes (UCs) and 2. the shudras, the so called BCs, a whole lot of miscellaneous amorphous castes. The Avarnas are a. Scheduled Castes (SCs) b. Scheduled Tribes (STs) c. (ex) Criminal tribes (VJ) and Nomadic Tribes (NT) and d. minorities like Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and Buddhists. The UCs are about 15% and the rest are about 85%. and these days are called 'bahujans'.

The UNICEF Report only deals with problem of Child Labour, but it alludes to many problems eg. Problem of Illiteracy, malnutrition, prostitution, beggary, disease, The report shows why, in 'Independent India', the benefits of planning are not reaching the masses. It should show why judicial results are not doing justice, it could show the root cause of corruption. It shows the main reason, why the Indian elite think the way they do. It shows why there was a struggle going on for centuries between two ideologies.

The literacy rate of India is poor. India has the largest number of illiterates in the world. Why is it so? From times immemorial, brahmins taught to the masses that all knowledge was stored in Vedas alone. In consequence, those who were not supposed to read the Vedas had no purpose of learning to read and write. The masses were forbidden to learn the language in which they were written. And if somebody happened to even hear them, severe corporal punishments were ordained. Hence the preponderance of illiteracy. Whatever little literacy was their in ancient India among the bahujans was because of Buddhists and Jains. But Jains were 'naturalized' as Hindus and Buddhists were anihilated, giving a most illeterate country in the world. That you find a few literates among the non-brahmins these days, is due to work of Fuley, Shahu and Ambedkar. And one has to thank the British rule as well for that. But the fundamental point remains, that the upper castes do not like the other castes to learn. Many policies adopted by the rulers emanate from this feeling. Even a caste war was fought in Gujarath on the point of reservations to Backward castes in Educational Institutes. The war over Mandal Commission is not yet over. The problem of illiteracy is not the problem of upper castes, it is the problem of backward castes, and unless it is addressed as such, it cannot be solved.

India has got the largest number of blinds in the world. Nearly half the blind population of the World is in India. Why the proper treatment facilities are not made available? Because, again most of these people are backward castes, and the upper castes do not bother to ameliorate the conditions of these people for they are not their 'own' men.

The problem of malnutrition and deaths due to hunger are typically problems of SCs and STs. Thousands of children die each year in the rainy season in the area of STs. Why the death rate does not come down? Again because it is not their problem.

So is the problem of beggary. Almost all the beggars are backward caste people. So are the street children in big cities. What has been done to rehailitate them?

Almost all the prostitutes are similarly of the same castes. How can their problem be ameliorated? Even a religious backing is given to their institution. It is remembered, Ms. Durga Bhagwat, a noted Marathi literary figure, long time back, once said, that prostitution is very useful institution. Raja Dhale, that time a Dalit panther leader and now one of the topmost leaders of RPI had retorted back: if it was all that useful why does she not do it herself or send her relatives for the same. There was a hue and cry over his statement in the Brahmnical press of Maharashtra. But the problem of prostitution still remains.

The problem of Slum dwellers in India is another very important problem. Ruling class is trying to solve it by banning the Indian citizens to enter cities like Bombay, or by deporting Muslims out by labeling them as foreigners. This is not proper solution. It is the problem of Internal Refugees - Refugees from the country itself. Nearly half the population of big cities is leading a life of a refugees. Why the problem is not getting solved? Again, because it is not their problem, it is again a problem of bahujans.

The problem of landless labours is also same. So is the problem of juvenile delinquency. Not that there is no land available in the country. A lot of barren land can be made cultivable if it is given to land less bahujans. But there is no political will to solve the problem. The glaring example of Mayawati is an eye opener for any body who likes to think, how things can be done in a short rule of six months, and problem can be addressed, if there is will.

All these are real problems for the masses. but these are always ignored by the ruling class. But the things are changing fast. All the backward people are opening their eyes. They are awakening. They can now understand what Phuley, Shahu Ambedkar have advised them. The days of Brahmin supremacy and Chaturvarna domination are numbered. No amount of Gobel's propaganda by BSO press is now going to work.

Lastly, to quote the final verse of a marathi song:-

* The final class war has not yet come to Bharat; when it does we will fight not on the side of the Kaurus nor the Pandavas but the long neglected Eklavya will take up bow and arrow to establish his state. *
Gail Omvedt, "Oppressed Indian" August 1980, p.24

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