The SC/ST Act and the many land legislation acts too fall in this category.
Indian is known for a country with very many outdated legislation from the British era. In the Independent India too we have enacted some legislation in the time of many in justices and inequities in fast changing socio-economic times. Times have changed. But not the mindsets of politicians and other vested interests.
It is only right when you really want to create a liberal and open society you have to relax the earlier rigour and restrictive practices. The recent Supreme Court observation on how we treat inmates of jails like animals. In the 1,300 prisons across India over-crowding of unfortunate prisoners are dumped, overcrowding is well above 150%, in one prison it is as high as 609%!
So, irrespective of vested interests within the society, why even in the excising political parties, we have to progressively allow the natural justice a due role and a rational debate in place too.
And the changed rural socio-economic realities!
The political environment seems to be becoming more and more distorted. Parliament does not function for over 20 days in a stretch.
The budget and finance bill are passed without any debate!
The most powerful department of the government, namely, the Finance Ministry, is in the news for all the wrong reasons. The big scandals in the PSU banks, the role of the Reserve Bank of India and the latest the fake news order where the PM seeme3d to have acted faster, are all making headlines but not much comment or light from the sections of public perceptions and public opinion-making institutions. The media is under fear and insecurity and at the same time there is widespread fear and a sense of confusion in the ranks of the public.
The ruling and the Opposition parties are almost not on speaking terms. The AP Chief Minister was in the capital and at the Central Hall of Parliament, the PM and the CM walked past without greeting each other!
Where is the country heading?
These are some uncomfortable questions.
As a media mainly concerned with the rural issues and much else we are very much engaged in the very same dialogues about the current issues of SC/SC (atrocities prevention Acts) and also at the same time we are equally committed to see that the rural development issues are not very different from what the SC/AT Acts and the various states-level agricultural land reforms acts. The land tenancy protection and also land ceiling acts are also about what developments take place or more correctly what land related acts impede agricultural prosperity under the existing land legislations.
Now, the Dalits constitute very powerful vote-banks and as such no political debate is possible without taking into account the newly awakened Dalit voices.
In all the states, the regional political parties have some at least exclusively committed to the Dalit voter population.
Some parties are purely casteist outfits and some of their political activities are outspokenly, sometime, violent and leading to many undesirable methods and ends.
We have to restrain from stating many of the obvious news, sometimes sensational and many times, they, the Dalit vote banks, make for breakthrough news on the various TV news channels. Yes, there are any number of atrocities against the oppressed sections of the bottom end of the population and yet, there are also cases where we read that some of the members of these very exploited sections are also detained under the Goondas Act where there is no bail and so too there is this counter response in the current SC/ST Act where there is no provision for anticipatory bail for the alleged exploiters.
You see these are all very sensitive issues and the current violence that saw the death of some 11 and more people speaks volumes about the sensitivities involved in this very important segment of the people.
We are also concerned here the exploitation of the poor farmers who under the current oppressive and exploitative legislations, widespread corruption that govern farmers’ lives that the old tenancy and ceiling laws are also leading to tension and the farmers suicides are also related to the oppressive land legislation provisions.
Farmers, as we often say in these columns, are first a debtor and second a litigant and finally an expendable commodity when it comes to the administrative solutions that are sought to be used to settle the rural distress issues.
Dalits are the large number that are still engaged as labour in the farming activities. How far the Dalits have prospered, benefitted by the various rural development welfare schemes of the governments, both the State and the Central governments?
This is an again a ticklish issue.
So, too the Dalits as a vote bank! Another equally ticklish issue!
The winning of elections is now paramount for the various parties and the caste politics is tied up with the Dalit welfare policies.
The Prime Minister in his latest response to the Dalit protests over the SC Order alluded that the government had done the maximum honour to BR Ambedkar. But it is only pertinent to point out here that the public perception and public opinion today seems to be veering around to see the ruling party as high-caste oriented and as such anti-Dalit, right?
We are not sure how far the mainstream media is treating these otherwise non-glamorous segments of society. The mainstream media, we mean the print and the TV media are only after the sensational events, like violence and deaths and for all practical purposes, the visual media is almost tabloid and there is no way to reform and re-orient the media. Now, the fake news controversy and the PM’s direct intervention to rescind the Information Minister’s order and give some sort of a seeming autonomy is to be seen how the new order plays out.
Violence, communal and caste violence are also increasing, we have to admit.
Of course it is not one man or one institution is alone responsible for the communal and caste violence.
We need wider discussion and also expert opinion how to reform the polity and society towards a more open approach, a more objective approach towards a more peaceful and accommodative way.
As for the rural distress, we have to also note the latest socio-economic realities in the rural areas.
Just now, we read in the Karnataka media that in the Assembly elections, the incumbent Chief Minister Mr.Siddaramiah is contesting in a Mysore rural constituency.
The media reports that the adjoining villages on the outskirts of Mysore city, the agricultural lands are all sold out to real estate companies and the lands are parcelled out into house plots.
There is also migration of people from outside, belong to newer castes and communities and as such the traditional castes are also disturbed and distributed and election outcomes, the media reports indicate, might not be on the traditional concentration of castes.
The dominant communities are no more intact and so too the distribution of other castes, including the Dalits.
These are the newer rural socio-economic realities.
In this changed or fast changing times, village farmers too, that too small and marginal farmers are no more do farming as the old land and tenancy legislation assumed.
The tenancy and other land reform laws are now inhibiting farming and the farmers are in big debts, litigation and to own agricultural land today is becoming a great liability! Land ownership is no more so prestigious as was assumed by land reformers.
So too our scepticism about the Modi government’s claim they would double the farmers’ incomes in the next five years!
How is that possible, given the current rural realities?
The PM might be well-intentioned. But how do we know about his grip on the rural India?
We find that in Gujarat, in the interior areas, humans are used as cattle to pull the ploughs!
Is it any indication that farming is modernised, as we find in some advanced states? Even in TN, in remote locations, there is opposition to the use of farm mechanisation to harvest such crops like paddy.
There is also a great deal of interstate migration of labour.IN TN there is much migration, from Assam and North East.
There is a need for much relaxation of land laws to make farming viable.
Also, reforms in agricultural education and training. Most agri universities are cut off from what they are doing!
Now every political party, the major and regional ones, every political leader, from the top to the lower-down segment., talks of these issues not in an objective, empirical manner but try to browbeat the opponents with their own tall claims to promote the Dalits, as people, more the Dalit icons, from Ambedkar to the other ones like Babu Jagjivanram.
We are sorry we don’t have enough facts but we can only observe that in all cases of Dalit leaders and their parties or groups, it is the very same socio-economic and cultural prototypes operate. Dynastic politics too permeate in these sections also.
Also, in the accumulation of wealth and seeking funding for their parties, the same habits, the same mindset, resort to illegalities in seeking funding for their parties, the same ailments, the parties, with no distinction for the social and economic class and status.
Parties when they come to operating in a secular democracy like that of India’s every political party, the Dalits too are today feel emboldened and also empowered to call the shots, so to say, like all other parties and their agendas.