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“SC Sub-plan Must Be Strictly Enforced”

Rajya Sabha MP Narendra Jadhav tells BW Businessworld in an interview that there’s a silent revolution underway among the Dalits

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Economist, educationist and now Rajya Sabha MP Narendra Jadhav has authored many books on B.R. Ambedkar and has closely studied the problems faced by Dalits. A prominent Dalit voice, he tells BW Businessworld’s Suman K. Jha in an interview that there’s a silent revolution underway among the Dalits. Excerpts:

How do you look at the attacks on Dalits by self-styled cow vigilantes across the country?
There are various reasons for the increase in attacks on Dalits across the country. The National Crime Record Bureau figures, available until the year 2014 and in some cases 2015, shows a steady increase in crimes against Dalits. This is not limited to Una in Gujarat. Three states with highest incidents of atrocities against Dalits are Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan. The figure is around 18 per cent and in the case of Gujarat, it is around 3 per cent.

In the case of crimes against the Dalits, the vital point is low access to justice. When it comes to crimes under the Indian Penal Code, the conviction rate is a healthy 45 per cent. But the corresponding figure for the crimes against the SCs is 22 per cent nationally. What is noteworthy is that while states like UP and Bihar register high incidents of crimes against Dalits, they also have high conviction rates. Gujarat, however, has a conviction rate of 2.9 per cent only when it comes to crimes against the SCs.

Why are the Dalits being attacked frequently?
There are a number of reasons why the atrocities on Dalits are happening. First is that the Dalits are asserting themselves. There’s a silent revolution among the Dalits and the weapons that they are using include democracy, education and empowerment. You talk about any field — be it architecture or neuro-surgery — you will find a young Dalit boy or girl trying to carve a place for themselves. The assertive Dalit’s voice is against the power structure of traditional society and the response from some quarters has been such as if to protect their hegemony. This results in atrocities. The second reason of rising attacks on Dalits is low access to justice. Then, the SC sub-plan’s implementation is a source of conflict. Mrs Indira Gandhi had introduced the SC sub-plan, whereby every ministry was supposed to earmark a proportion of funds for SCs’ welfare, and this proportion would match the Dalit’s population share.

So, if the 2011 census says that Dalits are 16.8 per cent of the total population, 16.8 per cent of plan expenditure should be spent on Dalits.This scheme has, however, never been implemented to its full potential.

In your years at the Planning Commission, what other problems did you come across about the SC sub-plan?

When I Joined the Planning Commission in 2009, I noticed that enough was not being done. So, I had a chat with the Chairman and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who promptly appointed a committee chaired by me to look into the systemic issue.

Of course, the first problem was that enough was not being earmarked for the SC sub-plan. The second issue was that a large amount was spent on non-Dalit purposes.

To give an example, the previous government in Delhi diverted Rs 700 crore towards the Commonwealth Games. This happens in other states as well. Then there was the problem of SC sub-plan money being lapsed. No wonder various socio-economic indicators show a huge gap between Dalits and other sections of the society.

Then, there’s a prevalent feeling among certain sections of people on how much appeasement is going to be done for the SCs. I call it a double whammy.

What is the trend that you see with the new government under PM Narendra Modi?
In latest three Budgets of the present government, the SC sub-plan share is way below 16.8 per cent although the absolute numbers have increased.

But things are changing when it comes to education for Dalits, aren’t they?
Definitely! Look at the gross enrolment ratio for higher education in the country. The figure is 18 per cent way behind the global average of 27 per cent. But there exists a stratum of society in the country — like the Dalit girls in backward Bihar — where their gross enrolment ratio is less than 5 per cent. Such is the sad state of affair among the Dalits. What is encouraging, however, is that the Dalits have realised that education alone is the panacea to their problems, and that is why many of the Dalits are moving away from their traditional occupations. This is what Ambedkar would have wanted them to do.; @skjsumankjha