July 20, 2022
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether our government has done enough for the education of Dalits. We also look at the setting up of a Tribal University in Telangana, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Education of Dalits in India
Recently, a 17-year-old Dalit boy, Prem Kumar, received a scholarship worth ₹2.5 crores from Lafayette College in the US. He is one of the six students who was selected for the Dyer Fellowship worldwide. The son of a daily-age worker bagged a full-ride scholarship from one of the most prestigious engineering schools in the US. Prem is the first college student in his family and the first generation to even go to school.
In light of this, we couldn’t help but wonder – are Dalits getting similar educational opportunities in their own country?
The caste system has always been a deeply entrenched part of Indian society. Dalits have had to face oppression and discrimination for centuries despite government interventions. Although Dalits account for 25% of the Indian population, they struggle to achieve social equality. This rings true in the education sector as well. Apart from restricted access to education, Dalits also face caste-based violence in these institutions.
It is understood by both Dalits and non-Dalits that education is the answer to a good life as it is a vehicle to ensure socio-economic mobility, vocational opportunity, political participation, and civic inclusion. During colonial rule, Dalits were not permitted in classrooms. Education was reserved for upper-castes only.
This changed after the introduction of the Caste Disabilities Removal Act, signed in 1850 by the British. Theoretically, this was the first step forward toward social equality in India. In spite of the introduction of this Act, discrimination from higher castes discouraged Dalit children from pursuing an education.
Decades later, caste discrimination still impacts Dalits in the education system. Take the example of Rohit Vemula, a Dalit PhD scholar who committed suicide, highlighting the objectification of Dalits by the ruling classes in his suicide note. This forces us to look at the disparity between the promise and practice of education, illuminating the still-existing inequalities in Indian society: class, gender, caste, and religion.
VIEW: Laws to prevent caste-based discrimination
Post-independence, the government took up the responsibility of preventing caste-based discrimination by implementing stringent laws against the same. The question of their impact is debated to date however, they serve as a regulatory force to ensure equal opportunities for marginalised sections of society.
The primary law providing protection to scheduled caste and scheduled tribes is the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. The Act was summoned in the case of Deepa P. Mohanan who pledged a hunger strike in response to caste-based discrimination while pursuing her PhD at the International and Inter University Centre for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (IIUCNN).
In addition to this Act, many policies have been proposed by the government to ensure educational opportunities for Dalits in India. The most important one is the reservation of seats for SCs and STs in higher education institutions. The policies dictate that 15% of seats at higher education institutions must be reserved for Dalits while 7.5% for Scheduled Tribes.
A study conducted in 2008 revealed that the gap between upper castes and Dalits diminished and there was a significant decline in inequality, specifically during the 1990s when affirmative action was being carried out to empower Dalits. The study also highlighted a decline in the educational gap but only at the primary school level. It was noticed that educational inequalities declined due to the affirmative action policies proposed by the Indian government such as reservation policies.
COUNTERVIEW: Caste-based discrimination in higher education
Numerous studies have been conducted analysing the involvement of Dalits in higher education institutions. Many top academic institutions under-represent marginalised castes, unwilling to acknowledge the casteism prevalent in Indian higher education institutions.
A study titled ‘The Steady Drumbeat of Institutional Casteism’ highlights the ways in which the current higher education system of the country blatantly practices and even normalises casteism. The study brings out the discrimination and discrediting of Dalits through the opposition of higher castes to reservation, stating the argument of ‘saving merit.’ Additionally, the study exposes the non-compliance with UGC guidelines by numerous higher education institutions, resulting in drop-outs and even suicides.
Another study conducted by the All India Survey of Higher Education (AISHE) in 2018-19 takes a look at how well-marginalised castes are represented across higher educational fields. The study reveals that the mandated quota of 15% for Dalit enrollment fell short across multiple major fields of study. Fewer than 20% of students belonging to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes were enrolled in higher education in large states such as Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Bihar.
It was also reported that the drop-out rate from IITs is higher among Dalit students when compared to forward castes. Priyanka Pandey, a World Bank economist and Sandeep Pandey, a social activist found that Dalit students at IITs faced caste-based discrimination in addition to recording poorer academic performances. Economists Sukhadeo Thorat and Paul Attewell noted that Dalits are also less likely to get jobs although they are as qualified as their forward caste counterparts.
What’s your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) The government needs to do more for the education of Dalits.
b) A lot has already been done by the government for the education of Dalits.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Attacking India’s Ex-Vice President Hamid Ansari, The BJP Has Gone Too Far
For the Left:
The Moderate Mahila Mandate: The Kashmir Files Is Not Vile, But Goes The Extra Mile
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Digital village centres (Jammu & Kashmir) – 44 Digital Village Centres (DVCs) have been set up to empower Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs). 44 Panchayat ghars were identified in several districts. They are equipped with IT infrastructure and have all-weather connectivity. They’ll be a one-stop shop providing WiFi hotspots, telemedicine, and digital payments, among others. More such DVCs will come up in the remaining gram panchayats.
Why it matters: It began as a pilot in 44 villages across the state for ₹5 crores. The government wants these centres to provide effective governance through IT-enabled services and generate awareness of government schemes. Through digital connectivity, the government hopes to upgrade the socio-economic status of rural folk.
Tribal University (Telangana) – Telangana is set to get a Tribal University as a Bill will be introduced in the monsoon session of the Lok Sabha. The Centre will also move the Central Universities Amendment Bill, 2022. In the AP Reorganisation Act-2014, the Centre assured the state of a tribal university. The centre only recently prepared a detailed project report after delays and submitted a proposal to the Department of Expenditure in February.
Why it matters: There was a delay in the identification of land that led to the delays. The state has allocated 116 acres of assigned land, 50 acres of forest land, and 169 acres of government land at Mulugu for the university. The project report had been shuttling back and forth between NITI Aayog, the Education Ministry, and the University of Hyderabad.
English in schools (Chhattisgarh) – The Bhupesh Baghel government wants to overhaul the state’s education system. Part of that effort involves Swami Atmanand Government English Medium Schools (SAGES). They were launched as a pilot project in Raipur three years ago. There are 171 today with more than 72,000 students. 76 more will come up this academic season. These have English as the medium of instruction.
Why it matters: The government said there’s a demand for these schools from parents when they interact with Baghel. Part of the reason is they break down the barriers for students from Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes who normally don’t get educated through English. Only in 2002 did former Chief Minister, late Ajit Jogi, decide English will be taught from Class 1 onwards.
Private sector for mineral exploration (Rajasthan) – The Congress government in the state wants to engage the private sector in mineral exploration, including drilling for mineral resources. Mining leases are being registered in revenue records to prevent their allotment for other purposes. It’ll ensure the land with mineral resources is protected. Three lignite blocks in Bikaner and two limestone blocks in Nagaur are ready for auction.
Why it matters: The state does have a problem with illegal mining. According to government data, more than 630 cases of illegal mining were registered in 2020. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has previously spoken about the abundant mineral reserves in the state and the need to use them. He criticised delays in environmental clearances for mining projects and wanted leases to be allocated quicker.
Chakma-Hajong ultimatum (Arunachal Pradesh) – The All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU) issued a 15-day ultimatum to the state government to resolve the Chakma-Hajong issue. AAPSU President Dozi Tana Tara showed residential proof certificates of over 500 Chakmas and Hajongs. He alleged certificates are being issued with the knowledge of the Changlang District Committee. The group wants the Bordumsa-Diyun MLA Samlung Mossang to be stripped of benefits and facilities and said the state shouldn’t be a training ground for the tribal people.
Why it matters: The certificates are necessary to apply for central jobs, including in the army and for private companies. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has previously called for the government to finalise citizenship rights for the eligible people of Chakma and Hajong tribes. In 1996 and 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of granting citizenship to them, who have settled in the state since the 1960s.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
₹14,000 crores – The earnest money deposit (EMD) put forward by Reliance Jio for the 5G auctions. The EMD is part of the application process filed to the Department of Telecom. It’s the highest among the telecom operators vying for 5G spectrum.