People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)

Vol. XXX

No. 15

April 09, 2006



Fight For Real Empowerment Of Dalits


V Sreenivasa Rao


NOT a single day passes without the ceremonial recitations about the development of dalits, tribals, poor and other backward sections of the society by our ruling classes. It is just like building castles in the air. The promises made during all these years come out as writings on water if we look closely at the official statistics. There are umpteen ‘name-sake’ schemes on the paper. They have provided, along with reservations, many constitutionally guaranteed opportunities for these sections. Yet, all these 'opportunities and safeguards' have utterly failed to improve the lives of these most oppressed people. With the implementation of neo-liberal reforms since a decade and half, even these minimum opportunities are being lost. Whatever few jobs are available today are vanishing because of the dismantling of the public sector. There is no significant step forward on providing reservations for dalits in the private sector except for the sweet talk. The experience in governance by the Left proves that real emancipation is possible only through land reforms and sharing of the political power.


We have to remember Dr Ambedkar on the occasion of his birth anniversary on April 14. It is relevant here to pay tributes to his contribution for the upliftment of dalits. Unlike the bourgeois parties which routinely garland Ambedkar statues, make tall pronouncements and then forget about dalits until the next anniversary, the real tribute to Ambedkar's contribution is to carry forward the struggle for all-round development of dalits. And it is only the communists in India who can do this because they possess a comphrehesive understanding on the dalit issue. Their commitment and hardwork among dalits in particular and agricultural labour in general has contributed to raise the level of consciousness of these sections. Here we have to recall the tremendous amount of work done by our beloved leaders like EMS Namboodripad and P Sundaraiah, who despite coming from upper caste landlord families, worked hard to liberate these people from the bondage. The CPI(M) is firmly committed and dedicated to continue that rich tradition. That is why it organised a special convention on dalit rights recently to rally these sections under one banner.




Many interesting facts have seen the light of the day in the first all India convention on ‘Dalit Rights’ organised by the CPI(M) in the national capital. Delegates from various states highlighted the various forms of caste discrimination and atrocities that the dalits are facing everyday. They stressed the fact that no dalit organisation was able to protect their interests. One old woman from Delhi explicitly stated that all their hopes rest on the communists. The supreme confidence that she has on the Red flag had inspired all the delegates in the convention.


In its report submitted recently to the government, the 'Andhra Pradesh SC, ST Commission', headed by Justice Punnaiah, has mentioned many incidents that prove the falsity of the claims made by the ruling classes. The Commission has expressed its concern over the fact that the problems of dalits are not being addressed despite the Constitutional guarantees, the human rights reports etc. It has reminded: “Even today dalits are not allowed entry into the temples in many villages. They are not allowed to collect water from common taps and wells. Untouchability is still prevalent in various forms. There was a discussion on this issue even in the state assembly. Government Order (GO) No 128 was issued directing all the mandal revenue officers to observe the 30th of every month as a day of citizens’ rights.


Three important aspects have come out during the inquiry of the Commission: (i) litigations on land issues (ii) cases of atrocities and (iii) cases of untouchability. It was proved in the inquiry of the Commission that officials in all the districts have forgotten about existence of the GO No 128 that was issued to protect the rights of dalits and tribals. It was also proved that the government is bringing out many such GOs only to create illusions in the minds of the dalits and tribals. The report of the Commission documents with utmost detail the lackadaisical reaction of the police on the complaints lodged by the dalits. In many instances the police are conniving to lodge a false counter case against the complainant and were harassing them. In land disputes, the revenue and police machinery is openly working for the landlords. For example, in Anantapur district alone there are 77 cases of atrocities that were filed, but only in a handful of cases were the culprits arrested. Many cases are kept pending in the name of investigation. The culprits are moving around freely as gentlemen.


In fact, the Punnaiah Commission was formed as a result of the struggle waged by the Committee Against Caste Discrimination. The CPI(M) played an active role in that struggle. At the call of the CPI(M) central committee, Party state secretary B V Raghavulu is currently leading a 600-km bicycle yatra covering the remote villages of Rangareddy district where this discrimination is more acute. Party Tamilnadu unit is also regularly taking up several programmes against caste discrimination. Their experience is very encouraging and inspiring, particularly the high and active participation of dalit women in these programmes. Like in Andhra Pradesh, the ruling parties there also are forced to talk about dalit rights. In a similar manner the CPI(M) is championing the cause of dalits across the country.




The Congress government of the day in 1980 has introduced a special component plan fund for dalits and sub-plan area funds for tribals. As per this, funds for all development activities should be expended for the welfare of dalits according to the ratio of their population to the population of that area. The idea behind this is that in this way dalits too would develop parallel to the general development in those states. The prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh who was then the member-secretary of the Planning Commission wrote letters to the chief secretaries of all the states asking for the implementation of the same. Many government programmes in Andhra Pradesh are run in the name of Indira Gandhi. One such scheme is the Indira Prabha Scheme, under which pattas have been given to dalits for the land already under cultivation. But they have forgotten to take over the land for which pattas are given. It is much worse in other states where the BJP and Congress are in power. It has been proved in practice that the BJP only sheds crocodile tears about the status of dalits. It is the only party in India which openly and shamelessly supports chaturvarna system of Manu.


The special component plan is deeply buried today. When K R Narayanan was the president, he had appointed a committee under the chairmanship of P C Alexander to review its implementation. This committee has submitted its report with many recommendations. They have identified that the funds allotted to dalits are being channeled in other directions. Some of the recommendations, based primarily on the experiences of Maharashtra are aimed at putting a stop to this misutilisation. One recommendation stipulates that the social welfare department should be the nodal agency to supervise the fund expenditure. Without its permission these funds should not be diverted to any other programs. Even the finance department must not have any right over this fund. Despite this, the diversion of funds is continuing unabated. This is true not just for Andhra Pradesh but also for many other states. There are many such examples in the report of the National SC, ST Commission.




The budget for social welfare department in 1995-96 was 8.4 per cent of the entire plan grants. It fell to 2.4 per cent in 2002-03 and in 1999-2001 it had gone down abysmally to 0.7 per cent. It is to be noted that Telugu Desam Party was in power in this period. Moreover this is the period during which welfare took back seat  and ‘reforms’ became the driving force. No other example is needed than this to understand how neo-liberal economic policies break the back of dalits and tribals. Twenty years back the Governor’s Committee in its report has stated: “The funds allocated to dalits and tribals under special plan are not at all satisfactory. Efforts are on to either divert or reduce even these nominal funds that are allocated.” The situation is the same even today and this speaks volumes about the diabolic morals of our rulers. Many departments do not even spend a portion of the allotted amount. Except for livestock breeding and adult education, no department is allocated the 16 per cent of the plan grants as per the population ratio of the dalits. In the financial year 2006-07 out of the Rs 1553 crore that was allocated to social welfare, Rs 400 crore have been allotted to Indiramma Model Villages, Rs 100 crore for housing schemes, Rs 193 crore for gurukula schools.   


The social welfare minister Reddya Naik was forced to concede these facts in the assembly when the CPI(M) legislators raised the issue on February 27, 2006. Even then the government refused to form an inquiry committee on this issue. From this we can understand their sincerity in the empowerment of dalits. The minister even failed to provide the House with true statistics. The CPI(M) has demanded the formation of a nodal agency to supervise this. Even though the government was legally bound to form such an agency, it has declined to do so. Instead, the minister gave a long speech on the injustice meted out to dalits under the Telugu Desam rule. Through this the Congress government has proved that it too is not far behind their predecessors on these issues. This is the reality of ‘rule of Indiramma’ in the state.




The life of dalits and tribals in West Bengal and Tripura – the two states ruled by the Left – is entirely different. That untouchability is not prevalent in those states, though surprising to many, is a fact. This is stated not by the leaders of the CPI(M). A website of the Dalit Studies carries an essay by a writer V B Rawat has stated this fact. Although the essay appears to have been written with the intention of maligning the Left, it clearly states “Untouchability is largely absent in West Bengal unlike the condition in other parts of the country.” Nothing more is needed to highlight the specialty of the Left rule. The essay gives a sympathetic account of the various problems faced by dalits who have migrated from other places to Bengal.


The important reason for the absence of untouchability is the protracted struggles waged by the Left, especially the CPI(M) in those states. Along with land struggles many activities were held on social issues too. In the 30 years of Left rule, the hegemony of landlords in villages has been done away with. Dalits and tribals enjoy a prime place in the running of the panchayats. Nearly 56 per cent of the beneficiaries of the land reforms are dalits and tribals. Pattas are given in the name of both the wife and husband. Among them 12 per cent of the pattas are given exclusively for women and this shows wherein lies the real welfare. Around 42 per cent of the tenants are dalits. Irrespective of the reservations, dalits and tribals are in leading positions in 40 per cent of the villages and this is again another example to understand where we can find real empowerment. Dalits and tribals are in the forefront even in literacy in both the states of West Bengal and Tripura. Dalits and tribals are much more secure in the states ruled by the Left as compared to any other place in the country. According to 2001 statistics, 33,503 cases of atrocities (of which 716 were cases of murder) on dalits were registered through out the country. 1316 dalit women were raped. In this period there were only 10 such incidents in West Bengal. In Tripura there were only 2 such cases. In the same period 6217 cases of atrocities were recorded on tribals in the entire country. In Bengal only two cases were recorded while in Tripura, a state predominantly of tribals, there is not a single instance of atrocity on the tribals. This is the greatness of the Left rule. Let us see if so called “pundits” who regularly indulge in a malicious campaign with a blind hatred of the communists, will open their eyes after seeing these statistics.


Communists strongly believe that caste discrimination can be stamped out only through fundamental changes in the society. Without destroying the feudal setup,  which still continues in various forms, dalits cannot be freed from the clutches of this social bondage. While struggling for social, economic and political benefits and preserving the Constitutional guarantees like reservations, we must also fight for land reforms, which really benefit the dalits and other downtrodden sections of the society. It is precisely for this that the CPI(M) has given a call for a campaign on dalit rights throughout the country in the month of April.