Bihar unveils special package most backward Dalits

April 15th, 2008 - 12:32 am ICT by admin  

Patna, April 14 (IANS) Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar Monday announced a special package of Rs.3 billion ($76 million) for the socio-economic development of the poorest among Dalits. Kumar said the state government has decided to launch the special package under which various schemes would be initiated for their development over the next three years.

“We know that Dalits are most deprived and marginalised section of the society, but Maha Dalits are yet to taste the fruits of development,” said Kumar at a conference organised to mark the 117th birth anniversary of B.R. Ambedkar at the historic Gandhi Maidan here.

Kumar sent a strong political message ahead of the next parliamentary elections when he said he would pursue the ideology of all-inclusive growth and also ensure that the most neglected among Dalits get their share of the economic development.

Kumar set up a commission in August last year for the welfare of certain Dalit castes, which are socially and educationally more backward than others.

Bihar was the first state in the country to constitute a commission to study the status of the neglected sub-castes among Dalits and to suggest ways to uplift them.

The commission in its first interim report to the government a few months ago painted a bleak picture of these Dalit sub-castes. The report said there were no high school teachers or senior officials from these castes in the state despite reservations in government jobs for them.

Dalits constitute nearly 15 percent of Bihar’s population of 83 million. The commission has identified 18 of the 22 Dalit sub-castes, including Musahar, Bhuiyan, Dom and Nat as the most backward of Dalits. They constitute 31 percent of the Dalit population in the state.

The commission has not included four Dalit castes - Paswan, Pasi, Dhobi and Chamar - in this category. These four constitute 69 percent of the Dalit population in the state. The 186-page report said the literacy rate among the Mehtar sub-caste is only nine percent, while it is six percent among the Musahar and less than one percent among the Nat.

In educational institutions too, the children of these Dalits were discriminated against and a majority of them dropped out of school. As a result, the literacy level among those castes was abysmally low. Most of the men and women belonging to these castes worked as bonded labourers, the report said.

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