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About the Author

Ladislav Kudlacek
Education project manager (Czech Republic)

Political Scientist and Economist. I worked for human rights and humanitarian NGO in India and for international NGO People in Need based in the Czech Republic as a Programme Manager for Afghanistan. In present time I work as an Education Manager. I studied Economics in Tomas Bata University and Political Science in Masaryk University in the Czech Republic and in the University of Delhi in India and Humanitarian and International Law in Helsinki University in Finland.

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The Economic Growth Also Helps the Poor Majority of the Untouchable

Published 23rd June 2010 - 4 comments - 1381 views -

The Economic Growth Also Helps the Poor Majority of the Untouchable

Being an untouchable (a member of the lowest Hindu caste) means not only to get on the margin of Hindu society but also to be exposed to such treatment that one has to fear for their life. Castes hinder these people to live normally. Dividing people to ‘good’ and ‘bad’ according to their origin may sometimes lead even to tragic ends.

Even a doctor would not touch

For instance In Indian media there was a case of an infant Majee Devi born in Kanpuru in the state Uttar Pradesh. This newborn boy died after the hospital’s decision not to give him and his mother the necessary care. The doctors prohibited the woman to deliver in their department and the newborn baby was refused attendance. The mother was taken to intensive care department but at the end she also died.

All this happened because of their belonging to the caste of the untouchable and the doctor’s decision, based on traditions, to leave them on their own. “It is a killing in fact. Astonishing is especially the fact that also doctors - as highly educated people - follow these appalling prejudices,” comments this sad incident doctor Shiam, who belongs to the untouchable.

This case is alarming but unfortunately not unique. Being affected by low caste origin means to languish. The statistics show that every hour two of the untouchable are attacked, every day three women are raped, two people are killed and two houses of the untouchable are set on fire. These numbers indicate the hatred which the untouchable must be coping with. And the situation actually might be much worse. The police and local administration often support this caste system, because most often they are members of higher castes themselves.

“The untouchable do not trust the local administration and they are afraid of it. After all as a child I was being beaten and bullied by my contemporaries. Nobody espoused me. Teachers knew about it but they were overrode it mostly. That is the destiny of the untouchable,” says Shiam.

Even my name reveals me

The Indian government has been trying to solve the problems of castes and the untouchable since the declaration of independence in 1947. Since 1950 dividing people to caste has been prohibited by constitution. The government has set out for the way of positive discrimination and reserved places in schools and jobs for the untouchable. But the achievements were reached only partly.

Only this decade has finally brought changes thanks to the growth of cities and economy.The untouchable have been gradually being involved in government and also various areas of Indian economy. They are opening their own shops and slowly getting rid of stigmas, which they have been labeled by for centuries.
 
But they have not won yet. Many Indian companies are still choosing new employees according to their social rank. “My name, which is typical for my caste origin, reveals me already during the interview. People despise me because they know where I belong. They do not care that positive discrimination did not help me and that I had to work harder than they did, says with anger doctor Shiam. “The untouchable and people from unprivileged castes cannot afford private schools, so they send their children to state ones. Even that they finish the university, the others take them for stupid. These people think that the untouchable get the degree only thanks to positive discrimination. However, they do not realise that they must struggle much more compared to others,” adds Shiam.

Education is the only way though how they can get a good job and become attractive for supranational companies in cities. Foreign companies that is to say do not care about the castes compared to the Indian ones. They are interested in what people know not who they are,” ends Shiam.

Uncle from a higher caste

Although the present Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh shows his opinion that this behaviour is a form of apartheid, the Indian society is not yet prepared for a complete change.

India must yet go through a long way to caste equality. But thanks to it watching the shifts to better situation, though seemingly tiny, is even more encouraging. It relates for example to addressing: whereas fifty years ago the untouchable had to address members of higher castes “my lord”, they can use now “uncle” or “brother”. Thus the same as members of higher castes address themselves.


Category: Equality | Tags:


Comments

  • Carmen Paun on 23rd June 2010:

    Interesting story Ladislav. I am wondering if your Indian bloggers on the platform can give us some more background information on the Untouchable.


  • Radka Lankašová on 23rd June 2010:

    It is hard to imagine being untouchable knowing what your destiny is going to be….


  • Iwona Frydryszak on 24th June 2010:

    I am following your post and I like them very much - they are short and concrete and new topic for me.


  • Sylwia Presley on 24th June 2010:

    The class system is very interesting indeed. Its remainings are still visible in the UK and personally I find it a bit difficult to manage. Sometimes it becomes a bit difficult to move between different layers of society to achieve ones goals.


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