According to the 2011 Economic and Caste Census, 4.42 crore families out of total families in India belong to the Scheduled Castes (Dalits). Only 23% of these families live in good houses, 2% in habitable houses and 12% in dilapidated houses. 24% of these families live in grass pallet, polythene and mud houses. It is clear from these figures that most of the Dalits do not even have a habitable house. Many Dalits do not even own their house land. It is also well-known that most of the Dalits and Adivasis are living in these slums. It can be estimated how physical distancing is possible to prevent Corona in these small houses and huts with large families. Dharvi Slum of Maharashtra is its biggest example where Corona infection cases are turning up very fast. If this situation continues, the chances of its spread are very high.
According to the above Census only 3.95% Dalit families have government jobs. Only 0.93% have state sector and only 2.47% have private sector employment. It is clear from this that Dalit families are the biggest victims of unemployment. It is worth meditating that despite 70 years of reservation being implemented, why the representation of Dalit families in government jobs is only 3.95%? Has there not been enough dishonesty in the implementation of reservation? Have not the Dalits been cheated openly in the name of merit and have not been deprived of their constitutional right (share)? Even if the false reasoning of lack of merit among the Dalits is accepted, then who is responsible for not allowing merit to grow among Dalits in so many years?
It has emerged in this Census that only 83.55% of the Dalit families in the country have a monthly income of more than 5,000. Only 11.74% of households have monthly income between 5,000 and 10,000 and only 4.67% of families have income above 10,000. Only 3.56% of the families have a monthly income of more than 5,000 from a government job. It is clear from these figures that the percentage of Dalits below poverty line is very high; due to which Dalits are the worst victims of malnutrition.
Similarly, according to the above Census, 56% of the households in rural areas are landless. Of these, the percentage of landless Dalits can be more than 70 to 80%. The condition of landlessness of Dalits is their biggest weakness due to which they remain completely dependent on the landholding castes. Similarly, 51% of the households in the countryside are Manual Labour, out of which the percentage of Dalits can be more than 70 to 80%. According to the Census, only 18.45% of Dalit families have nonirrigated land, 17.41% have irrigated land and 6.98% have other land. It is clear from it that the landlessness of Dalits is about 91%. Dalit labourers have maximum dependence on agricultural wages. According to the Census, only 30% of the households in the countryside get employment in agriculture, so it can be estimated how many Dalits can get employment in agriculture. This is the reason that Dalits are the most migrated labour from the village to the cities. In the recent times of Corona crisis, the majority of them are Dalits who have migrated from the cities to the village in reverse migration.
The landlessness of Dalits and the compulsion of Manual Labour is their biggest weakness. For this reason, they can neither demand high rates of agricultural wages nor are they able to strongly oppose the daily atrocities and oppression. Therefore, for Dalits, land and employment is their biggest requirement, but for this Modi government has no agenda. In contrast to this, the Modi government is making the Dalits landless by acquiring land and reducing employment opportunities in this area by not investing in agriculture. In other areas too, the government has failed miserably in generating employment.
Due to privatization of public sector undertakings, the employment opportunities available to Dalits through reservation are also shrinking. In contrast, Dalit and other workers are being exploited openly by the contractual labour practice. The Modi government has harmed the workers by relaxing the labour laws. Due to this, open exploitation of labourers is taking place, whose biggest victims are the Dalit families.
Current corona epidemic studies in the US have found that there are more black people among infected / deceased people than whites. Four main reasons have been cited for this: more poor health and less health facilities availability and discrimination, more Black Americans being engaged in essential services, insufficient information and smaller homes. In the case of Dalits in India, apart from all these factors, the biggest factor is social discrimination. That is why it is natural that in our country, like black Americans, Dalits and Adivasis being at the bottom of the society are likely to be the most affected by Corona. .
The Dalits/Adivasis are going to suffer the most in jobs which have been lost due to the present Corona crisis. According to the recent estimates, about 40 crore people in India are likely to be unemployed as a result of Corona crisis and most of them are going to be Dalits. With this, the coming recession is going to have its worst effect on Dalits and other poor sections. It has also been seen that the relief announcements made by the government during the current crisis are completely inadequate and are the same as cumin seeds in the camel’s mouth. In these schemes, such conditions are imposed on the eligibility that it is becoming impossible for the common man to get their benefits.
The plight of Dalits in the Post Corona period is going to worsen because of the terrible economic recession as jobs are going to decrease enormously. Since Dalits do not have any means of production like land and trade, hence the effects of recession are going to have the most impact on Dalits. For this, it is important that Employment, like the Right to Food and Education, should also be made a Fundamental Right and the system of Unemployment Allowance should be implemented. Along with this, Health Security should also be made a fundamental right so that poor people also get health security. For this, it is necessary that the Democratic Socialistic Welfare Model of Development should be adopted in place of our present Capitalistic Model of Development.
It is noteworthy that Dr. Ambedkar was a strong supporter of State Socialism (Democratic Socialism) and a staunch opponent of Capitalism. While addressing the conference of Depressed Classes Railway Workers Conference, he said that “Dalits have two big enemies, one is Brahmanism and the other is Capitalism.” He was very much in favour of the political power in the hands the working class. The framework of socialism was very clear in Dr. Ambedkar’s mind. He considered it indispensable for the social transformation and economic development of India. He had also presented its outline to the nation in his draft of the future Constitution of India which is available in the form of a book called “States and Minorities”. He was in favour of having all major and basic industries and insurance under state control, nationalization of agricultural land and collective farming. He was in favour of giving agriculture the status of state industry. Dr. Ambedkar did not want to make the right to property a fundamental right, but it was not under his control.
The present Corona crisis has proved that the Capitalistic Model of Development in most countries including India has promoted exploitation and inequality. It has failed miserably to solve basic problems of common people. Ever since the corporatization of politics and the importance of finance capital have increased, since then democracy has turned into a monopoly of totalitarianism and rightist stance. The fact has also emerged from this Corona crisis that only socialist countries like Cuba, Vietnam and China have been able to face this crisis. Only their democratic socialistic system is capable of protecting the life of mankind. Otherwise you must have heard about US President Donald Trump wherein he says that about two and a half million Americans have to die from Corona and he cannot do anything in it. This is the tragic call of the supreme model of capitalism, showing that the capitalist system that thrives on profits is completely hollow. Therefore, protecting the interests of Dalits is also possible in the Democratic Socialist polity only. Babasaheb’s vision will come true only when Dalits, getting free from BSP, Athawale, Ramvilas and other people engaged in the service of capitalists, will join hands with radical agenda like land distribution, employment, health security, education and dignity based democratic socialist politics. Only this politics will establish a welfare state in which the challenges of the post-Corona period can be answered. The All India People’s Front is an attempt of democratic socialist mass politics.
SR Darapuri I.P.S. (Retd.) National Spokesperson, All India People’s Front