84-year-old tribal rights activist Jesuit priest Father Stan Swamy, arrested by NIA under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 in October 2020, died on 5th July 2021 in Mumbai waiting for interim medical bail in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case. The bail pleas of a man who had devoted his life to help remote tribal people and had no criminal records were rejected continuously. Of the 7840 UAPA cases registered from 2015 to 2019, the conviction rate is just 2%. In this period, the annual number of UAPA arrests has risen by 72%. The Economist states that his death is considered as an institutional murder by an inhumane state. The acquittal rate and death of undertrial poses a threat to human rights in India.
The report by Oxfam India titled “India Inequality Report 2021: India’s Unequal Healthcare Story” highlights sharp inequalities on most health determinants, interventions and indicators, and shows that the “general category is better off than the SCs and STs, Hindus are better off than Muslims, the rich are better off than the poor, men are better off than women, and the urban population is better off than the rural population”. The report also dispenses data on women’s literacy rates, non-shared sanitation facilities in households, share of institutional deliveries, immunisation in ST households, and life expectancy based on wealth across various social groups in India.
The writer Rama Srinivasan expresses her opinion on why most Indians aren’t free to choose who they marry. Religion aside, caste, class and patriarchy have deeper impacts for this resistance. The survey data by Pew Research indicates that a majority of Indians do not prefer inter-faith and inter-caste marriage even though India has a strong law that allows that facilitates such practice. The bureaucracy, which is responsible for facilitating unions, is known to create obstacles and seek the opinion of parents although the latter is immaterial. Also, choosing a wedding under the Special Marriage Act instead without opting for religious conversion still remains dubious. In spite of the fact that all adults have a fundamental right to life and liberty, free choice on the question of marriage does not still exist – even on a decision to not get married.
Recent data released from U-DISE, Management Information Systems on School Education, reveals that nearly a quarter of tribals and a fifth of Dalits dropped out of school in classes IX and X in 2019-2020 compared to just one in nine among ‘general’ category students. Assam and Bihar were the only two states where more girls than boys dropped out at this level. Among the larger states, Assam, Odisha and MP, followed by Jharkhand and Bihar had the highest proportion of scheduled caste students dropping out at the secondary level. Odisha had the stark difference between general category students and the rest.
After the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs said that the Government of India is not to enumerate caste-wise population other than SCs and STs in census, there have been demands for a caste census. Every census in India until 1931 and from 1951 to 2011 has published data on SCs and STs, but not on other castes. In 1941, caste-based data was collected but not published stating the costs during World War II. Even when there are estimates reported by Mandal Commission and National Sample Survey data on the population of OBCs, there is no actual data.
The full-fledged Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC) in 2011 finalised and published data on socio economic status of households excluding the caste data. Even there are so many speculated vexed questions around the caste census, NCBC recommends it. There are also sections from the upper castes who oppose the idea as a caste-based census is against the idea of a casteless society envisaged by leaders like Babasaheb Ambedkar in the Constitution and will weaken ongoing efforts to create social harmony. A few of them are not against registering categories but oppose registering castes.
Suraj Yengde writes that education is the top asset for upward mobility to get rid of the tradition-imposed enslaving jobs and this can’t be denied. The Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) of SC and ST students at the undergraduate level stands at 23% and 17.2% respectively, which is below the national average of 26.3%. These students are aiming to develop their skills and be part of new ideas, research and innovation, but often get stuck in seeking guidance on overseas higher education and in raising funds. He emphasizes the need to prepare the next generation of SC, ST, OBC leadership, which is educated and socially responsible and not limit the opportunities to only elites.
Considering the talent and energy pool that will be added to the engine of India’s new growth story, and for the nation to stay relevant in the world, he ascertains it is the duty of the State to help SC and ST aspirants navigate their way through the cobweb of the overseas admissions and that it can’t keep happening through people’s charity.
Researchers from Ashoka and Heidelberg Universities have found that the illegal, but widespread, practice of Untouchability is positively associated with height gaps between ‘Upper caste’ and Dalit children after identifying five important categories of factors that affect child height. India is home to nearly 1/3rd of all stunted children in the world. Also, the average incidence of stunting in India is higher compared to the average of 30 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) that are poorer than India. Child height is typically negatively correlated with poverty, as stunting is one of the manifestations of chronic malnutrition.
The study that analyses data classifying them across four major social groups in India: the Upper caste Hindus, Scheduled Castes and Tribes, Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and Upper caste Muslims (UC-Muslims, i.e., Muslims that don’t identify themselves as SC or OBC) accounts for the two key cleavages in Indian society: caste and religion. Variations also exist across regions. The results moreover suggest a role for discriminatory practices in affecting service delivery to pregnant and nursing mothers from stigmatized groups and consequently the health outcomes of lower caste children.