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Panchayat Raj and Empowerment

June 18, 2012
Constitutionally empowered Act

SOURCE: THE HINDU
Twenty years have passed since the Act on new Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI) was put in place by the Constitution 73rd Amendment (1992). There were high hopes of empowering rural India’s two long-neglected sections of society — women and Dalits — through reservation of seats in elections to panchayat bodies. The reform was seen, understandably, as a major step in the direction of Dalit liberation.

Yet after two decades of its functioning, many feel that nothing much has come of this exercise. The reasons are not far to seek. From Day One, hard-core caste Hindu opponents of Dalits seemed bent on making the system non-functional inasmuch as it benefited Dalits. The 1992 constitutional amendment introduced systematic reservation of political positions for Dalits (besides women) in institutions of governance at the grass-roots level. This was the first time this was happening in the long history of local bodies in the country — something large sections of caste Hindus could hardly digest.

On the margins of the margin

June 20, 2012
On the margins of the margin

SOURCE-THE HINDU
Badri Narayan

Dalit politics must embrace less powerful caste groups

When Kanshi Ram emerged on the political scene, he developed himself as a leader of all Dalits as a whole and tried to create a homogeneous identity for the diverse Dalit castes who comprise the lower castes of the social system. He ensured that each and every Dalit caste had respect by providing representation to them in democratic power. Through his efforts, a large section of Dalits, who were earlier excluded from the democratic processes of the country, have succeeded in obtaining political empowerment in Uttar Pradesh through the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). However out of the 66 Dalit castes, only four including shoemaker (cobbler) caste — called Ravidasi or Harijan in some parts of India — Pasi (watchman of feudal lords/toddy tappers/some of them tame pigs), Dhobi (washerman) and Kori (weaver) have become visible in democratic politics. The rest are invisible. Even among the more visible Dalit castes, the cobblers and Pasis have grabbed most of the space.

Disempowerment

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