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BHOPAL: The ‘Bhopal document’ to be released on the occasion of the first state-sponsored convention of Dalit intellectuals at the end of this week makes it quite clear that solutions beyond reservations would have to be sought to improve the lot of the country’s 250 million Dalits.

 

Brought out by the Madhya Pradesh government in consultation with a prominent Dalit ‘scholar’, the document says that schemes such as poverty alleviation or empowering the community through micro loans for cow, goat, or pig-rearing or opening small roadside shops had not resulted in any thing substantial. Dalits, therefore, continued to rely on reservations as their principal tool of survival. But this had over the years proved to be a mirage.

 

Since the SC and ST quota in most departments remained unfulfilled, Dalit betterment has remained a pipe dream. Efforts, says the document, would thus have to be made to understand the limited role which reservations in government jobs have in the overall emancipation of Dalits.

 

Statistics show that more than 17 crore people would remain outside the job market even if reservations were extended to the private sector. Guaranteed jobs in the organised sector would ordinarily have given employable Dalits the required job security, better wages, provision to protect right, better living and working conditions.

 

But since the size of this sector is much too small at eight per cent, the only alternative lay in pressing for a ”total democratisation” of the unorganised sector which comprised mainly agriculture and related activities.

 

The authors of the document admit that given the dynamics of development in the country, changes cannot be abrupt. The key to Dalits’ long-term prosperity would thus necessarily depend on their ability to carve out a share in the political power structure and create conditions where no SC/ST is identified by his/her traditional occupation.

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