Problems of Mulnivasi Bahujans

 (Reference numbers are given in the brackets & references are listed at the end of the document)

 

If we trace the typical life course of a Mulnivasi Bahujan in 21st Century India, we will realize that most of us face similar problems.

Majority of Mulnivasis are from rural India and are poor; (there are around 13.34 crore households in rural India which live on a monthly income of less than Rs. 5,000. Of these, 2.76 crore are SC households and 1.7 crore are ST households and the remaining 8.87 crore households which live on less than Rs. 5,000 per month (1) are likely to be OBC though this is not currently declared). Such low income results in improper nutrition of mothers even during the days of pregnancy resulting in the delivery of low birth weight and under-nourished babies. Many mothers die during the child delivery process, as they cannot afford high-cost medical facility, which is often run by Brahmins and Vaishyas. When a pregnant mother visits a Government hospital, she is often discriminated and mistreated owing to her caste. Now as the child starts growing her/his intellectual faculties do not grow adequately as its parents can ill afford the nutritional requirement of the child due to their acute poverty. With stunted growth, the child starts schooling where it is often made to sit separately and or told repeatedly about the so called inferior caste it belongs to. This breeds inferiority complex and drags the child into a whirlpool of low self-esteem, low confidence and consequently below average performance. So, more than often, the child drops out of school joining the ever increasing bandwagon of child labour working mostly for Brahmin-Kshatriya-Vaishya (BKV) establishments as unskilled, over-worked and underpaid worker. Studies show that, there are between 10 Lacs to 3 Crores child laborers, almost all of whom belong to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, and Muslims (2). 

 If at all the child survives the humiliations in school and poverty at home, then s/he passes the higher secondary (12th) and joins millions of students aspiring for premier educational institutes for higher education. Here s/he faces stiff competition from the beneficiary caste children riding high on ego/confidence boosted by socialization that taught them overtly and covertly their “natural claim to superiority”. Moreover, these beneficiary caste children have had the best of the education and nutrition. So, most of the Mulnivasi students get defeated in this competition of un-equals and fail to enter Government-funded premier institutes. Those of our students who get into these institutes primarily due to the benefit of reservation often encounter a predominantly Brahmin-Kshatriya-Vaishya hostile faculty that is apathetic to our socio-economic status. During the course of education in these institutes our students are made to feel unwanted, non-meritorious and undeserving members of the “elite” fraternity of these institutes (for example the way Mulnivasi students were expelled recently in IIT-Roorkee and the way some students had to commit suicides in other premier institutes in recent past).Those who fail to get into better colleges either give up or settle for inferior private institutes which are  often owned and managed by Brahmin-Kashtriya-Vaishyas. Meanwhile, the beneficiary caste students taught by better faculty and funded by taxpayers’ money come out better skilled in the job market. So, they bag all the prime jobs in the Industry and Academics; Government and Private sector. Some of the Mulnivasi students from these institutes enter Government sector or Academics through reservation. However, they rarely move to the leadership position in these organizations (for example, a look into the list of top leaders of the  Ministries, Departments, PSUs, IITs, IIMs, etc. will reveal that almost no one is a Mulnivasi Bahujan).

Meanwhile, majority of our mulnivasi students having spent a fortune on higher education (that went to BKV managed institutes) is again at the mercy of BKV employers for employment as most of the companies are BKV owned or managed (especially so since Liberalisation, privatization and Globalisation which has led to huge reduction in Government sector and expansion of Private sector).

Table 1: Caste-wise Distribution of Indian Corporate Board Members, 2010 (3).

Caste

Numbers

% to Total

1 Forward caste

8,387

92.6

Of which

(a) Brahmin

4,037

44.6

 

(b) Vaishyas

4,167

46.0

(c) Kshatriya

43

0.5

(c) Others#

137

1.5

2 Other Backward Classes

346

3.8

3 SC/ST

319

3.5

4 Total (1 to 3)

9,052

100.0

 

And in private sector-especially in skilled and managerial jobs-Mulnivasi candidates face discrimination both in access to jobs and in salary (4).

As the parents of Mulnivasi students have already spent their lives’ saving on education, they are left with no surplus to establish a business for their son/daughter even if they want to. A very few of these manage to get some fund and start their own business. As they enter into business they encounter the BKV or more specifically Vaishya network almost everywhere; be it logistics company, wholesaler, raw material supplier, etc. This network is supportive of only their fraternity thereby leaving the Mulnivasi entrepreneur isolated in a network overwhelmingly dominated by BKV. Consequently their business often fails to breakeven leaving the entrepreneur bankrupt. The evidence on discrimination against Mulnivasis in economic market which is dominated by BKVs, is now available in public domain (5).

As most of us are landless (latest Social Economic and Caste Census, SECC data shows that 30 percent rural households are landless and live off manual labor (6)), we cannot go back to cultivate our own farms and end up in becoming cheap laborer in the market and the poverty continues. Even if we have some land and we are successful in agricultural production we will not get due return for our produce. We get a minuscule fraction of the price of our agro-products when they land up at the consumers’ plate as the middle man (again BKV) corners a lion’s share. How would they otherwise justify the presence of and investment in commodity exchange? Why food storage, processing and transportation network are not beefed up to support the agriculturists? Why is there no substantial support from the policy makers to increase agricultural productivity? Why not more investment in making agricultural markets more equitable and efficient and why information asymmetry on pricing is not broken, on which middle man thrives? The answer is simple, because all these initiatives would empower the Mulnivasis by ending their dependence on BKV.

Meanwhile the BKV executive drawing premium (high) salary is flush with funds and supported by the family (as they have not spent a huge sum on education) and Caste networks jumps into the business. Any further shortfall or assistance in funds and other factors of production is met by venture capitalists and other business owners that are often from BKV community. So, supported by their fraternity (7), they establish businesses that sell products to the consumers who mostly (85% of population) are poor Mulnivasis with minimal purchasing power and become richer. So, we remain the helpless consumers who fuel the economy but do not prosper. Thus though “fortune lies at the bottom (85%) of the social pyramid, it is exploited by the top (15%) of the pyramid” (8). However, in these business ventures we participate as the low paid, over-worked, blue collar workers working as delivery boys or sales men or factory workers who are hired and fired at will.

While the BKV owners of the businesses build palatial homes in posh locations (For example, Antilla of Ambani or Mittal's London home) we continue to populate the slums of cities across India (e.g. Dharavi in Mumbai). Almost every city has slums/Jugghis on the outskirts, whose population is predominantly Mulnivasi. Experts estimate that the informal sector is responsible for the overwhelming majority of India’s annual economic growth and as much as 90 per cent of all employment. The informal economy exists largely outside government oversight and, in the case of slums like Dharavi, without government help or encouragement (9). The public amenities including school, hospital, etc. in their neighborhoods are either absent or inadequately staffed. Unavailability and non-affordability of electricity affects the studies and day to day life of the Mulnivasis living there. It also forces the inhabitants to use biomass as a fuel which causes lung ailments to mothers and children as they spend most of their time in the proximity of the Chullha (fire wood stoves). The quality of water and sanitation in these areas is so poor that inhabitants suffer from plethora of diseases very early in life and so their general wellness and life expectancy is low as compared to others. For example, Sion Hospital, which is on the periphery of Dharavi, treats 3,000 patients every day, many from Dharavi, often children who are malnourished or have asthma or diarrhea. Premature tooth decay is so widespread in children that doctors call them dental cripples (10). Even living in such sub-human conditions is not assured; very often our people are driven out of their homes when greedy eyes of BKV land sharks fall on these areas as the demand for land keeps on rising with urbanization. As the policy makers that include predominantly BKV bureaucracy and political leadership have shunned our brethren living in these areas, no “effective” poverty alleviation programme has been designed. Even if it is designed then the executives with Casteist mindset ensure that the same is not executed in true spirit (e.g. diversion or non-utilisation of budgetary allocation of SC/ST fund). These factors impact both intellectual and physical ability of the Mulnivasis adversely, which perpetuates their poverty and deprivation. It will not be an exaggeration to say that this poverty is an enforced one and the enforcer is the Brahminical force through perpetuation of Caste system (11). This is the story of most of the mulnivasis in the urban setup.

Meanwhile in rural India violent form of caste atrocities continue unabated. News of rape, murder, social boycott and other caste based crimes pour in from every part of India everyday. The violence is not limited to physical dimension; it is also psychological. A Mulnivasi is still not allowed to ride a horse in his marriage procession or get educated or wear a pair of chappals or sport a moustache or dine with others; all aimed at trampling his/her self-esteem and at continuing servitude. On the path of economic empowerment of Mulnivasi rural folk, the biggest obstacle is this Brahminical force of BKV. Let us examine how. Most Mulnivasis do not own land or at best are marginal landholders. So, they are either laborers or marginal farmers. While working as laborers they are either paid only food or wage adequate to meet only the bare minimum need for sustenance. So, when faced with any medical exigencies or societal obligation like marriage of daughter etc. they take loan from money lenders (12) who charge exorbitant rates(as high as 100% p.a) pulling them into permanent debt trap, often resulting in their working as bonded labour to money lenders or other rural sharks. According to official survey, moneylenders provided 69.7% of total rural credit in 1951. This proportion fell to 16.9% in 1981 before climbing back to 29.6% in 2002 (13). Moreover, Brahminical forces fiercely oppose demands for wage hike or attempts to seek alternative employment. So, any violation of the rules of socio-economic engagement set by the Brahminical forces invite their wrath (e.g.: Massacres of Bathani Tola, Karamchhedu, Laxmanpur Bathe, Khairlanji and countless others). Perpetrators of such heinous crimes often go scot-free and such outcomes of the justice delivery system abet more crimes against the Mulnivasis.  Even the enactment of SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act has proved a naught, as the conviction rate is a minuscule 1.5% of all cases registered. How can perpetrators of injustice be brought to book if everyone in the justice delivery system: Police, Lawyer and Judiciary; mostly fail to rise above the Caste and communal line? If you have a vigilant eye then you will notice that in overwhelming majority of caste atrocities including rape and murder, custodial deaths, life imprisonment, capital punishment and police firing on protestors, the victims are Mulnivasis (14) due to the caste poison created and propagated by Brahminical forces.

When we move from these overt forms of physical and psychological violence unleashed by Brahminical forces to more strategic impediments, we see a well-crafted design for our perennial subjugation and impoverishment. Health, education, housing and infrastructure (especially transport, water, sanitation & electricity) are keys to human development and it is now an open secret that Mulnivasis lag on all these aspects of quality of life. Once the data on Caste Based Census is released, break up will become clearer. Most of the Mulnivasis cannot afford to go to private hospitals. But there is no universal Public health system in India, as the BKV dominated national parties never gave due importance to it during the policy formulation. Any such policy coupled with appropriate budgetary allocation would have benefitted the Mulnivasis most, as we Mulnivasis make up the lion's share of rural population. The result is, household (by Mulnivasis from their own pocket and not by Government) expenditure on health accounts for a major share of about 70-80 per cent of the total health expenditure in India. As a percentage of income, households spend about 5.40 per cent while the government spends only about 1.09 per cent in rural India, according to the 1993-94 data (15). 

On education front, rural India has mostly Government-run regional language medium primary schools (Municipal or Panchayat) and Urban India has English medium both private and Government run schools. As per one recent statistics around 22 Crore children are studying in primary schools. Out of this around 18 crore children (most of whom are Mulnivasis) are in Government schools and suffer from problems of high student-teacher ratio, teacher in absentia, untrained or apathetic teaches. Consequently the students have low academic skill and so cannot withstand the competition from rich-urban BKV students. If we had one syllabus, English medium (with provision to build on the mother tongue of children as is done in the US where there are many students from non-English mother tongue background going to English medium schools) common Government owned and managed school system for all, then it would have given a level playing field to all, benefitting crores of Mulnivasi students and it would have been major step in making Indian society equal and just. The fact that there is rarely any innovation or product coming out of our labs(our academic/research  institutions) being used world over in last 500 years or so points to the inability of a micro talent pool (mostly BKV) in these institutions. As per 2001 Census, India has only 5% of its population who are graduates and most of whom are BKVs. As the majority population (Mulnivasi Bahujans) of the second most populous nation in the world is “effectively” denied access to premier research institutions due to evil-defined parameters of merit and performance set by Brahminical forces, there are hardly any noteworthy innovations benefiting the masses.

This is the life and background in which problems of the Mulnivasi-Bahujans have to be understood and their permanent solutions have to be found.

 

References

  1. Socio-Economic and Caste Census 2011 http://www.secc.gov.in/staticReport
  2. Siddharth Kara, Harvard University, http://www.dw.com/en/poverty-and-caste-fueling-child-labor-in-south-asia/a-17995553.
  3. D Ajit, Han Donker and Ravi Saxena, Corporate Boards in India Blocked by Caste, EPW.
  4. Paul Attewell and S Madheswaran, Caste Discrimination in the Indian Urban Labour Market: Evidence from the National Sample Survey, 2007, EPW.
  5. Sukhadeo Thorat and Katherine S. Neuman (edited) Blocked by Caste: Economic Discrimination in Modern India, Oxford University Press, India, 2012.
  6. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/secc-findings-reveals-30-of-rural-households-landless-live-off-manual-labour/article7384145.ece?ref=relatedNews.
  7. Harish Damodaran, India's New Capitalists: Caste, Business, and Industry in a Modern Nation,Permanent Black, 2009.
  8. C.K Prahalad, Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits, Dorling Kindersley, 2006.
  9. http://www.deccanherald.com/content/216254/dharavi-self-created-special-economic.html.
  10. Ibid
  11. Vani K. Borooah, Dilip Diwakar, Vinod Kumar Mishra, Ajaya Kumar Naik & Nidhi S. Sabharwal, Caste, inequality, and poverty in India: A re-assessment, Development Studies Research, 2014.
  12. http://www.wsj.com/articles/indias-bid-to-liberate-poor-from-illicit-moneylenders-yields-mixed-results-1427295915.
  13. http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/DWfIAqBjETkHQ2sD0eiY5J/Return-of-the-moneylender.html.
  14. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Muslims-dalits-and-tribals-make-up-53-of-all-prisoners-in-India/articleshow/45253329.cms.
  15. NCAER Report, 2003-http://www.ncaer.org/publication_details.php?pID=74.

 

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