November 09, 2014
After the struggle by the CPI(M) and TNUEF, Dalits entering the Muthalamman temple that was "out of bound" for them for many years
Need For Simultaneous Fight against Class Exploitation & Caste Oppression

K Varadarajan

THE anti-people policies of the BJP and the Congress have made it very difficult for most of the people to run their day-to-day life. Though they have affected everybody, the worst affected are the rural poor, mainly agricultural workers. Most of them are dalits also. As far as this section is concerned, they are attacked in two ways - economically as well as socially. LANDLESS AGRICULTURAL WORKERS In 2003-04, the total agricultural land in the country was 18.32 crore hectares. It came down to 18.24 crore hectares in 2008-09. In the five-year period, the agricultural land decreased by 8 lakh hectares. By 2011, as many as 86,12,851 farmers moved out of farming. Thus, a considerable number of farmers are leaving cultivation as a source of their livelihood. The number of agricultural workers is also going up. The National Sample Survey Organisation reveals through its 68th round survey that the landless households in rural areas have increased from 35 percent in 1986-87 to 49 percent today. WOMEN AGRICULTURAL WORKERS In agricultural operations, women workers constitute 59.8 percent of rural workforce. They are facing discrimination both on domestic front and in society at large. Gender discrimination persists at all levels. Those women who are shouldering the responsibility as head of the family are not being considered when it comes to deliver the welfare benefits such as crop insurance, loan disbursals, tenancy rights, etc. CONDITIONS OF DALITS The dalits are at the lowest rung of society not only in the economic order but also in all socio-cultural aspects. Caste discrimination is evident even at the policy making level when it comes to economically empowering these sections. The issue of caste, tribe, gender and other forms of social exclusion and discrimination based on hierarchies of status are intrinsic to the agrarian question in India. Exclusion and discrimination by social groups can take different forms. Such discrimination may take the form of direct violence, killing and physical harm. Our organisations such as Theendamai Ozhippu Munnani (Untouchability Eradication Front) in Tamil Nadu and the Kulavivaksha Vyatirekha Porata Sangham (Organisation for the Struggle against Untouchability) in Andhra Pradesh have recorded some of the criminal forms in which direct discrimination is still practised. In the present context of increasing contractorisation and casualisation of the workforce, increased outsourcing and fragmentation of production processes, the unorganised section of workers is all the more exploited, with lower wages and no or negligible benefits. Among the urban and rural proletariat, among casual and contract workers, among manual labourers, a disproportionate number belongs to dalits. In rural areas, among dalits, the proportion of casual workers is as high as 53 percent. It is also true that in the most menial jobs, dalits are over-represented. In rural areas, majority of agricultural workers are dalits. Among women, majority of them are from dalit communities. WAGES Data from the Annual Employment Survey (2011) clearly shows that within casual and manual labourers, the average daily wage of dalit as regular worker is Rs 236.16, as casual worker in public works is Rs 94.47, and casual worker in other works is Rs 95.25. The slogan of class unity will have meaning for a dalit only if working class movements mobilise all workers against caste oppression and exploitation that a worker faces as dalit. The issue of wages was easier to fight for, as a result of the acceptance of MGNREGA in the villages by the majority of the people. The Fair Wage Committee rightly pointed out that the minimum wage should not only preserve the efficiency of the worker but also provide for some measures of education, amenities and health. Hence, a demand of Rs 10,000 per month as minimum wage is to be taken up. CRIME AGAINST DALITS According to UN’s Report, the inhuman practice of untouchability in society and racial discrimination in India is worst in the world. UNDP Report states that 65.8 percent of dalit population in India lives below poverty line. According to Annual Reports (Crime in India) of National Crime Record Bureau under the ministry of home affairs, in spite of constitutional provisions and Acts, the atrocities and crimes committed against dalits have been increasing. SC SUB PLAN From 1979, the SC Sub-plan has been introduced in India with the objective of all round development of these backward sections of societies and it was decided to allocate fund for these sub-plans in commensurate with the proportion of population of these communities. Proportion of dalit population in India is 16.2 percent. But the allocation to SC Sub-plan is deprived of the guidelines and far below the ratio of dalit population of the country. REPRESENTATION OF DALITS IN SERVICES According to a report published by the ministry of labour in 2001 (the last of its kind), 15 percent of the population constituting the three upper castes (Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas) with no legal reservations occupy 86.5 percent of political representation, 43 percent of education, 87 percent of employment, 97 percent of business and 94 percent of landed estates. The rest of the population consisting of the OBCs (shudras), dalits and tribes along with Muslims, with a population of share of 85 percent share the rest in hopeless conditions of inhuman inequality. This social order has to be overthrown to begin the struggle for social justice. MGNREGA The present BJP government at the Centre has attacked MGNREGA. The legislation brought under the insistence of CPI(M) and other Left parties during the tenure of UPA-I, though its implementation was poor, had brought some relief to the rural poor. According to the Economic Survey presented by the BJP finance minister, under this legislation 4.5 crore households had been provided an average of 45 days work in 2013-14 at an average daily wage of Rs 132. Although this is woefully inadequate, the present dispensation wants to eliminate the law itself, instead of reforming the implementation of this law to strengthen the right to work. The Modi government has cut down the funds for MGNREGA drastically. This has affected the rural poor very badly. Actually the Modi government was providing just 52 percentage of the funds, instead of reconsidering its priorities in expenditures, the ministry of rural development has cut the allocations to each state signaling the death knell for the implementation of the law. Tripura has been the best performing state in the implementation of MGNREGA. Its record in creation of man-days and giving work has been double that of the national average. The average workdays per household in Tripura have been 88 in 2013-14. On the basis of past performance and projected demand, an allocation of Rs 1,406.96 crore is needed. But, the government has sanctioned only Rs 660 crore, i.e. 47 percent. This is the case for almost all the states. CASTE DISCRIMINATION The landlords are using the caste as a weapon to divide the affected people, small and marginal farmers and agricultural workers who constitute 75 percent. It should be properly understood. Unfortunately a big section has fallen prey to it. Another aspect to be considered is some of the individual leaders from dalit sections like Mayawati use this oppression as an electoral weapon and to occupy power. This experience shows that they are not doing anything to improve their life and bring an end to social oppression. Most of the parties in India do not want to touch dalit issues including some reformist parties like DMK, AIADMK, etc., which have originally performed such reformist movements. They have not touched the oppression of dalits in the interest of mobilising votes of OBCs and upper castes. In this situation, the CPI(M) and Left parties alone have to take up both the social and economic issues of dalits. Manusmriti has brought a big section of Hindus as slaves, i.e., sudras, dalits and STs. The upper caste bramins, kshatriyas and vaisyas can have some lands. But the sudras, dalits and STs could not and should not own lands. This existed in India from hundreds of years. So, without abolishing landlordism, caste oppression and gender oppression cannot be fully abolished. But, at the same time some say that the fight against social oppression is not necessary and fighting on economical issues only is enough. This is also a wrong approach. Fight against social oppression as well as class oppression simultaneously is necessary. Understanding this scientific truth, the CPI(M) has declared that the fight against caste oppression as well as class oppression should be done together and it cannot be separated. This path only can change the face of villages in India. This should be strengthened further in India.