Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Dalits in U.P. face hunger deaths and suicides

U.P. has the distinction of having 3.51 crores of Scheduled Castes (SCs) at 2001 census constituting 21.1 % of the total population (16.6 crores) of the state. U.P. holds 1st rank and the 4th rank in terms of absolute number of SC population and its proportion to total population respectively among all the States and UTs. The state has a total of sixty six (66) Schedules Castes. U.P. has also got the distinction of having a Dalit lady Miss Mayawati as Chief Minister for the fourth time. U.P. has also won the distinction of being one the most under developed states of India. It has got the largest number of illiterate, malnourished persons, polio, leprosy and TB cases.
The SCs in U.P. are predominantly rural as 87.7 % of them live in villages. Their literacy rate is 46.3 % which is much lower than the national average (54.7 %) aggregated for all SCs. Male and female literacy rates (60.3 % and 30.5 % respectively) among the SCs is also lower than those recorded for all SCs at he national level (66.6 % and 41.9% respectively ).
Among the SCs literates, 38 % are either without any educational level or have attained education below primary level. The proportions of literates who have attained education up to primary and middle levels are 27.1 % and 18.5 % respectively. Literates who are educated up to matric/higher secondary constitute 13.3 %. Graduated & above are just 3.5%. The non-technical and technical diploma holders constitute a meager 0.1 % only.
Out of the total 133 lakhs SC children in the age group 5-14 years, 58.3 lakhs only have been attending school constituting 56.4 percent. As many as 45.1 lakh (44.6%) children in the corresponding age group have not been going to the school.
Work participation rate (WPR) of the SC population is 34.7 % which is lower than that of all SCs at the national level (40.4 %). Among the total workers, 65.2 % are main workers, which is lower than that recorded for all SCs at the national level (73 %).
"Agriculture Labourers" constitute the highest proportion (42.5 %) among the total SCs workers. This is lower than the national average 45.6 % recorded by all SCs in this category. 'Cultivators' constitute 30.9 % which is significantly higher than the national average (20.0 %). 'Other Workers' account for 22.2 % against the national average of 30.5 percent. Workers in House Hold Industry (HHI) constitute 4.3 %, which is higher than the national average (3.9 %).
Hinduism is the predominant religion of the state (80.6 %). The SCs profess Hinduism account for 99.3 %. Remaining SCs follow Buddhism (0.6 %) and Sikhism (0.1 %).
From the above statistics of 2001 census, it is clear that U.P. Dalits (SCs) are quite backward as compared with Dalits at the national level. This is not withstanding the fact that a Dalit Chief Minister is ruling this state for the fourth time since1995 with some gaps in between.
So the question arises as to what has happened to the Dalits of U.P. during all these years of so called 'Dalit Rule'. It is a serious question which needs to be discussed in detail and in depth at some later stage.
The main question which needs immediate attention of all concerned with dalits' plight in U.P. is, the ever increasing number of suicides and hunger deaths among dalits as well as other weaker sections of society especially in the BundelKhand region consisting of Jhansi, Chitrakoot, Jalaun, Lalitpr, Mahoba and Banda districts. The main reason for this situation is the rain failure for the last five years resulting in loss of crops and wages for the agriculture labourers who are predominantly Dalits of Kol and Sahriya castes. Not only higher caste farmers but even dalit farmers are committing suicides due to crop failure and indebtedness. The agriculture labourers are dying of hunger, malnutrion and unemployment. This region has been identified with Vidharba region of Maharashtra where as many as 4,453 farmers have committed suicides during 2006. It is reported that as many as 200 farmers had committed suicides and another 250 had died of hunger deaths in Bundelkhand during the last five years. Out of this Dalits' share is about 30 % among suicides and 70 % among hunger deaths. 80 % Dalits are on the verge of hunger deaths. As many as 12 Dalits in Bundelkhand and 11 dalits in other districts of U.P. committed suicide and as many 25 Dalits died of hunger deaths during the year 2007 only.
In the face of this horrifying calamity the so called Dalit Chief Minister Ms. Mayawati had the temerity to claim during a party rally at Jhansi on 29.01.08 that not a single man had died either of hunger death or had committed suicide in U.P. She also declared that she will scrap the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme (NREGP) when she adorns the chair of Prime Minister at Delhi. NREGP aims at providing 100 days' assured employment to rural labour families. Her claim of 'zero death' and declaration of scrapping NREGP at this juncture is shocking. The need of the hour is to save Dalits and other poor families and farmers by providing succor and relief but she has totally denied the existence of such emergency. In response to her claim of 'No Death', Social Organization like Dalit Mukti Morcha; P.U.C.L; Asha Parivar; Shudra Mahaabha and Ayodhya Ki Awaz have come out with the lists of the Dalits who had died of hunger deaths and had committed suicides during 2007 i.e. during Mayawati's tenure as Chief Minister. This list has been published in a Hindi news paper titled "Daily News Activist" on 3.2.08 published from Lucknow. The interested persons may like to have a look at it. These social organizations had also arranged a Dharna (Protest) before U.P. Assembly on 2.2.08 against Mayawati's apathy towards U.P. Dalits' misery. They also submitted a memorandum to the Governor of U.P; National Commission for Scheduled Castes; National Commission for Human Rights; Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment (Govt. of India) and Minister for Rural Development (Govt. of India) requesting them to get the whole matter enquired by some Independent Enquiry Commission as the State Govt. has refused to take notice of this catastrophe. They have also demanded the honest implementation of various development and public welfare schemes e.g. National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme; Public Distribution System and Pension Schemes for widows, handicapped and old age persons as these schemes have fallen prey to brutal corruption under Mayawati's corrupt misrule.