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Education as equaliser

(This interview was published in OneWorld South Asia in February 2010)

For inclusive growth, there is need for dual policy with share of benefit reaching to the poor and minorities, says Prof. Sukhadeo Thorat, Chairman, University Grants Commission, New Delhi. Breaking hierarchy and establishing a common public educational system with effective policy against discrimination will benefit everybody, he argues.

skthorat_copy_copyIn conversation with Anna Nath of OneWorld South Asia, Prof Sukhadeo Thorat points out that while social discrimination and exclusion still persist, there have been gains from policies such as reservation. There is more to be done, however, and education as a provider of opportunity, is a good place to start.

OneWorld South Asia: Could you tell us about the pervasiveness of social exclusion in India, 60 years after it adopted its Constitution?

Prof. Thorat: In India we recognised the problem of social exclusion as early as the 1920s. In the 1930s, Dr.Bhimrao Ambedkar launched active movements against untouchability and discrimination, first in Maharashtra and then throughout the country.

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Scripting change

'As a writer I can't help being objective about myself or the workings of caste' P.Sivakami

( This interview was published in The Hindu in August 2009)

Subash Jeyan

sivakami_1She stands at the confluence of many personal interests and currents in contemporary public life. One of the pioneers of Dalit writing in Tamil, she published her first novel in 1989, and has since published three more highly acclaimed novels (two of which have been translated into English and published by Orient Longman and a third one will soon be published in an English translation by Penguin) and written numerous short stories in Tamil. She was also a member of the Indian Administrative Service, having held important posts, including Secretary, Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare Department. She also edits and single-handedly brings out a monthly journal, Pudhiya Kodangi, dealing with Dalit and women's issues. And, it wasn't really a surprise to those who have read her books or followed her interests when she quit the Services in 2008 to join active electoral politics as a member of the Bahujan Samaj Party, contesting from the Kanyakumari constituency in the recent Lok Sabha elections. Though she lost, she has no regrets. She is again actively involved in the Dalit Land Right Movement which she helped start years ago and is trying to put together a women's front in politics that would address and voice the needs of women. Excerpts from a conversation...

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Politics of representation

Gopal Guru

(Published in Seminar magazine in December 2001)

THE UN conference on Race, Xenophobia and Other Related Forms of Discrimination was recently held at Durban in South Africa. A central issue that assumed 'flaming' importance both before and during the conference was whether caste should be included in the formal agenda of the conference. The NGOs, led primarily by dalits, tried hard to force the government to accept their demand, which the latter opposed by all the means at its disposal. While one appreciated the efforts of the dalit camp and their friends in achieving a certain amount of visibility to the issue of caste discrimination, both at national and international level, conspicuously missing from the debate was the question: Who is entitled to talk about the caste issue and represent it in Durban?

gopal_guru_copyIt was suggested by some that since India is a democratic state which believes in equality, it should represent the dalits at the Durban conference. The government itself suggested that it was only Hindu dalits who had the right to speak on behalf of the dalits. Still others argued that all those who believed in equality could speak about the caste question at Durban. But most dalits felt that they alone had the natural right to speak on behalf of the dalits anywhere and everywhere in the world. Unfortunately, this question of representation got relegated to the background; it was overshadowed by the central issue of whether caste could be included in the agenda of the conference. Since the question of representation is both complicated and of enduring importance for our understanding, it will be worthwhile to discuss it in some detail.

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The private sector's turn to deliver

Sukhadeo Thorat

The government's decision to set aside a 20 per cent quota for SC/ST vendors in its purchases, if accepted by every sector on a wider scale, has the potential to make growth pro-poor and inclusive.

skthorat_copyThe Central government has finally announced a policy reserving 20 per cent of its purchases for micro and small enterprises run by entrepreneurs belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. The new procurement policy will cover 358 items to be purchased by Central ministries, departments and public sector undertakings. The 20 per cent purchase norm will become mandatory after three years. This is in line with the policies that have been pursued for some time by Mukul Wasnik, Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment; the final approval came from the Prime Minister's Office.

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Ms Bedi, how dare you?

Kancha Ilaiah

Team Anna has been arrogant and self-righteous ever since it launched the Jan Lokpal movement. Its Jantar Mantar hungerstrike yielded quick results, as the Congress government itself gave the team a boost by constituting a committee to draft a bill and by including five members from the team in it. Among them was former cop Kiran Bedi, who behaved as if she were an angel and all others in the country either corrupt or of no consequence. But now this angel has been caught for fraud and cheating organisers that invited her to speak at their functions.

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Why reservation is necessary

Sukhadeo Thorat

skthoratWITH a rapid scaling down of our tiny public sector due to privatisation and increasing withdrawal of the state under the impact of liberalisation, serious concern has been expressed about the fate of the present public sector reservation policy. Because of indirect and backdoor de-reservation, there is a growing demand for some sort of affirmative action policy for the private sector which so far has remained outside the purview of any kind of anti-discriminatory measure and in which more than 90% of dalit and adivasi workforce is engaged. The issue found a place in the election manifesto of political parties and in the Common Minimum Programme of the present government. Drawing from theoretical and empirical literature on the issue of economic discrimination, I will try to provide reasons for a reservation policy for the private sector as a remedy against discrimination in labour, capital and other markets and indicate general guidelines for framing such a policy.

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