Dalit and Adivasi students prepare to fight: National Dalit and Adivasi Students' Parliament

Note on the

National Dalit and Adivasi Students' Parliament

to be held on 9th December, 2013, Jantar Mantar, New Delhi

~

Abhay Xaxa, Prachi R Beula and Babita Negi

In the words of Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar, education is milk of the lioness which will empower everyone who drinks it. History stands witness to the fact that education has been used as a weapon of oppression by the Brahmanical forces to enslave the Dalits and Adivasi communities by denying them fundamental human rights and thereby pushed them to the margins of socio-economic development.

dalit adivasi chhatra sammelan

ऐ दोस्त !
सिमटे से हुए शिक्षा के इस दायरे के
अंदर-बाहर
हाशिये पर धकेल दी गईं तुम्हारी चाहतें, ज़रूरतें
कौन कौन से फ़र्ज़ी कलंकों का
जाने कब से - जैसे
जुर्माना अदा कर रही हैं!

तुम्हारी इज़ज़त
तुम्हारे अधिकारों का फ़लसफ़ा
जाने कितने वेदों की साजिशी इबारतों तले
जाने कब से कसमसा रहा है

जिस शिक्षा ने
फैलना था तुम्हारे जीवन में
पहुंचना था ज़हन की कोशिकाओं में
शादाब इक मंज़र लिए
जिन संसाधनों पर
कुदरती-मौलिक तुम्हारे हक़ो-हुक़ूक़ के साथ
लिखी जानी थी
तुम्हारे भी
मनुष्य होने की इबारत
सब कुछ तो जैसे, आज भी
ख़तरनाक़ तौर पर, वीरान है

प्राकृतिक तो छोड़ो......
तुम्हारे कानूनी अधिकारों को उन्होंने
रियायतों के रंग में रंग दिया है
छात्रवृतियों में सेंध लगा रखी है
बहुतेरे छात्रवास कागज़ों में ज़िंदा हैं
और जो हैं भी दरअसल
उनमें और कब्रिस्तान के सन्नाटों में
क्या फर्क है बता दोस्त !!
कल का एक अदद भविष्य
हमारे आज के ज़हन की पोटली में
क्या रखा है, देख रहा है
टटोल रहा है

देख रहा है हमारी ओर
और क्या हम
आने वाली अपनी पुश्तों के
पैरों में
देखना चाहते हैं
यथा-स्थिति वाला वही सफ़र
मजबूरियों के अन्धकार में ढला
ऊबड़ खाबड़ ?

उनके पैर
छालों भरे तलवों के साथ ??

ऐ दोस्त, जो सूरते-हाल ये है
क्यूँ न अपने ज़हन का आज
मंज़र बदल दें
एक कदम आगे बढ़ें
इक साथ हम - और कह दें
हाँ ! शिक्षा, संसाधनों और सभी
सवैधानिक हक़ों समेत
इस मुल्क की हिस्सेदारी में
मेरे हिस्से का मुल्क
अब मेरा है
और अपना हक़ हम ले के रहेंगे !

कि ज़िन्दगी कोई सस्ती शै नहीं होती !!

ऐ मेरे युवा दलित-आदिवासी दोस्त
तुम्हें भी क्या यही लगता है ??

~ Gurinder Azad.

From Ekalavya to Balmukund Bharti, Anil Kumar Meena and just now, Madari Venkatesh, history is full of discrimination towards Dalit and Adivasi students. On the other hand Dalit and Adivasi communities have used education as an instrument to assert their dignity and rights. The two communities have understood the importance of education for their path to development. Perhaps, therefore, the Dalit and Adivasi communities have a strong desire for education. The testimony of this fact can be seen in the increasing number of SC/ST students' enrolment in primary education, increasing literacy level among the two communities and their presence in higher education. The will power for education among SC/ST students has always emerged as a challenge to casteist mentality which considers SC/ST students as a threat to the Brahmanical supremacy.

Therefore, government's educational schemes for Dalit and Adivasis, are not implemented properly. The rights to equality and anti-caste discrimination laws, enshrined in the Constitution are violated by the power holders, everyday. The educational rights of Dalits and Adivasis are safeguarded in the Constitution in Articles 15 (A), 21 (A), 29 (1) and 350 (A), however, these rights remain frozen on sheets of paper.

The government figures indicate that enrolment of Dalit and Adivasi children in primary schools is more than one hundred percent. However, in reality a huge proportion of Dalit and Adivasi children, drop out of school even before they can reach grade 5th. The greatest difficulty is in obtaining Caste and Income certificates, because corrupt officials force the poor parents to give bribes for getting the certificates. The Dalit and Adivasi students do not get government schemes like books, stationeries, uniform etc, on time and most of the times the quality is of low grade. The students do not receive their scholarships on time. Moreover, the meagre amount of scholarship is not enough to access educational benefits.

It is often seen that, government schools are constructed in upper-caste areas where Dalit students often face discrimination. During the distribution of Mid Meals at schools, Dalit students are made to stand in separate queues and are last to be served food. Even in the classrooms they are forced to sit on the last benches, they face multiple discriminations at the hands of teachers and fellow classmates. Speaking of Adivasi students, their condition is not any different. Adivasis suffer from lack of basic educational facilities. In many places schools have not been constructed and the existing schools are in pitiable conditions. Many schools in Dalit and Adivasi areas are not assigned teachers for years together. Wherever, such schools are operation, the quality of education is an important issue. These schools lack basic facilities like blackboard, furniture, toilets, playgrounds etc.

Most of the textbooks are written from a Brahmanical viewpoint. The Dalit and Adivasi communities are portrayed in a negative light within these textbooks. The revolutionary icons of the two communities, who have played a historic role against the Brahmanical-Casteist societal structure, do not find a mention in the school textbooks. Perhaps that is why Dalit and Adivasi children are unaware about the contributions of Savitribai, Jotiba Phule, Periyar, Birsa Munda, Ambedkar, etc. and therefore they are struggling with the lack of confidence. If we speak about Adivasi education, then the problem becomes more acute. The education system has rejected the many languages and dialects of the Adivasi communities.

Till today, the Indian education system has not brought out any textbooks in the local dialects of Adivasi people. Due to this many of the Adivasi communities are about to forget their histories and languages. This betrayal of Adivasi community is only pushing them towards the margins of education but is also keeping them away from opportunities for development. Dalit and Adivasi students have to pay a heavy price due to the contemporary hypocritic educational system.

While on the one hand, rich and middle class children study in private, convent or corporate, English medium schools; on the other hand Dalit, Adivasi and marginalised children are forced to study in low quality, Hindi medium schools and colleges. The provision for promoting students upto 10th grade and the new grading system has given just another excuse to provide low quality education to Dalit & Adivasi students. This policy was intended to prevent Dalit and Adivasi students, however, the casteist mentality has shaped the policy in such a way that Dalit and Adivasi students do not get quality education.

Furthermore, the existing programs and policies for SC/ST students are in a deplorable condition. In order to avail the benefits of such schemes, income and caste certificate are a pre-condition. Although, it is agreed that these certificates are irreplaceable, the casteist bureaucracy has complicated and corrupted the process for obtaining these certificates to such an extent that Dalits and Adivasis have to spend a considerable amount of time and finances on procuring these certificates. After running from pillar to post, if there remains any will power among the parents, for getting the children admitted in schools, it gets drained away in this struggle. The paltry amount of scholarships is also not disbursed on time, thus the rationale behind these scholarships is lost. Further, the SC/ST hostels are in miserable conditions, untouched with basic facilities.

Due to all these reasons more than half of Dalit and Adivasi students are not able to study beyond secondary education. In the absence of any effective law against discrimination at school level, Dalit and Adivasi students are harassed in different ways. Until these issues are resolved, the talk on Right to Education is a farce.

If Dalit and Adivasi students are faced with discrimination at the school level, then the condition in higher education is adverse. First and foremost, there are no colleges and universities in Dalit and Adivasi areas, which forces the students to migrate to cities and incur heavy costs. In higher educational institutions, reservation policy for admissions and recruitments is explicitly violated. The Dalit and Adivasi students have to pay the price for it. Privatisation of education has led to increase in the number of educational institutions; however, there has been no increase in the number of reserved seats.

The country's contemporary educational policy is totally against Dalit and Adivasis, the recent Four Year Undergraduate Program of Delhi University, is a case in point. Due to this system, the Dalit and Adivasi students will be forced to dropout midway from under-graduation. Moreover, in various Medical and Engineering colleges like IITs, IIMs, AIIMS etc, Dalit and Adivasi students are vulnerable targets of discrimination. Such extreme level of discrimination has forced several Dalit and Adivasi students to commit suicide.

There is an acute shortage of Dalit and Adivasi centric schemes in higher education. The value of Post Matric Scholarship awarded to Dalit and Adivasi students is insufficient to sail smoothly through education. There is no provision for books, laptops, laboratories, etc for Dalit and Adivasi students. The present system of higher education is representative of the Brahmanical mindset where the potentials of Dalit and Adivasi students are exploited. The Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship is awarded to Dalit and Adivasi students in the Post Graduate and Ph.D level, however, the scholarship is fraught with corruption and irregularity.

Usually, it has been observed that government gives excuses of lack of resources in the case of Dalit/Adivasi educational development issues. However, in reality their share in the budget has never been allocated. The analysis of the last five years budget indicates that Scheduled Caste Sub Plan (SCSP) has never received allocation beyond 8.1% which in reality should be 16%. Similarly under Tribal Sub Plan (TSP) 8% of budget should be allocate, when it is presently only around 4.5%.

The funds of Rs. 95266 Cr, which was supposed to be allocated for the development of Dalit community, has been diverted. Likewise, the amount of Rs. 43709 allocated for the development of Adivasi communities has not reached them too. It is shameful that even after 65 years of independence the discrimination and violation of rights of Dalit and Adivasi communities is rampant across the country. If we look at the educational budget allocated for Dalit/Adivasi communities, then the Ministry for Human Resource Development has received Rs. 18896.41 under SCSP/TSP, which is comparatively more than other ministries. However, it very unfortunate that only 5% of this allocated budgeted is spent on the scholarships that are directly beneficial for Dalit and Adivasi students. Rest of the money is spent under the head of general allocation and asset building. For instance, in 2011-12 the U.G.C. spent only Rs. 63.36 Cr. on educational schemes for Dalit students out of Rs.780 Cr., allocated from SCP.

Similarly, under TSP only Rs.24.03 Cr. was spent on educational schemes for Adivasi students, out of Rs. 386.11 Cr. allocated to UGC. Under the present 2013-14 SCP allocation to MHRD, only Rs. 60 Cr. out of Rs. 2431.51 Cr. has been spent upon the scholarships for Dalit students. Under the TSP, the amount of Rs. 1219.59 Cr has been released for Higher Education but a mere sum of Rs. 30 Cr.

It is most unfortunate that most of the funds from SCP/TSP are spent on general allocations like constructions of public halls, asset building, and salaries of government employees, etc. The scholarships of Adivasi students are not released for years together on the excuse of lack of funds. It is very common to see that the teachers in Adivasi belts stop to teach the Adivasi children under the pretext that they have not received their salaries.

The funds from TSP which should be used for Adivasi community development are used for building jails and police stations. In most of the Adivasi areas, the students have to walk several kilometres to reach the school while the government has spent crores of TSP funds for building stadiums and swimming pools. Many of the hostels built for Adivasi students have been turned into police camps. One of the ideas behind TSP budget was to develop curriculum in the Adivasi languages and dialects, but instead the government is involved in displacing Adivasis, forcefully acquiring their lands, rivers and forests.

It seems that the government practices a kind of planned exclusion of Dalit and Adivasis by depriving them of their educational rights. It is the government's responsibility to ensure that the educational facilities are provided in Dalit/Adivasi areas but instead the government has privatised education, to add to their woes. The increasing numbers of private educational institutes which charge enormous amount of fees in the name of world class education are a proof of increasing privatization. Due to the acute lack of government colleges/universities, Dalit/Adivasi students are forced to take admissions in private institutes by taking financial loans.

In this age of privatization, it has become impossible for Dalit/Adivasi students to access higher education. In view of these various problems, Dalit Adivasi Shiksha Adhikar Abhiyan, in collaboration with SC/ST student unions all over the country has drafted the below demands for development of Dalit/Adivasi educational status:

1. We demand a comprehensive educational reform which includes educational development policy addressing specific issues of Dalits and Adivasis. The educational development policy for Dalit and Adivasi students must clearly spell out remedies and mechanisms for a non discriminatory and inclusive education, setup clear deadlines and measures for implementing reservations as guaranteed by the constitution in admissions, appointments, promotions and granting entitlements.

2. We demand that a White Paper should be issued by the government on all educational issues of Dalit/Adivasis.

3. Discrimination and violence against Dalit and Adivasi students is prevalent across schools, colleges and universities. We demand that discrimination should be dealt with strictly and the perpetrators should be punished.

4. We demand that at least 40% of the total SCSP & TSP funds be planned, allocated and implemented specifically in educational development programs through which, direct benefits are given to Dalit and Adivasi students.

5. We demand that all the educational institutions should implement the reservations safeguarded in the Constitution. The vacant seats in these educational institutes should be filled immediately.

6. We demand that privatization of education should be stopped with immediate effects. The educational rights of Dalits/Adivasis should be ensured.

7. We demand that the amounts of Pre Matric and Post Matric Scholarship should be increased immediately. A separate scholarship scheme should be introduced for Dalit/Adivasi girl students. The Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship should be given to all Dalit/Adivasi students in higher education.

8. We demand that world class schools and colleges should be built in Dalit and Adivasi areas, all over India.

9. We demand that within five years 10 Ambedkar universities and 5 Adivasi universities should be established. These universities should teach the issues of Dalit/Adivasis and encourage research on these issues.

10. We demand that the recommendations given by the 'Thorat Committee' should be implemented in every university.

11. We demand that, world class hostels for Dalit/Adivasi students should be be established in all the major towns and cities of the country. Coaching classes should be conducted in these hostels for training the students for higher education and competitive exams.

12. We demand that special educational schemes for Dalit/Adivasi girl students should be introduced and implemented.

13. We demand that Dalit/Adivasi students should be provided sports scholarship.

14. We demand that textbooks should be printed in Adivasi dialects and Adivasi languages should be given importance.

In view of these above demands, Dalit Adivasi Shiksha Vikas Adhikar Abhiyan in collaboration with various Dalit/Adivasi student unions, has organised a National Dalit and Adivasi Students' Parliament on 9th December, 2013 at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi.

The main aim of this Students' Parliament is to have a discussion on educational issues of Dalit/Adivasi students and to submit the Charter of Demands to the government. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar had given a call to Dalits to Educate, Organise and Agitate to fight for their rights. We call upon the Dalit/Adivasi students to unite and fight for their educational rights.

We Will Educate! We Will Fight!!! We Will Win!!!

~~~

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