Millennium Post

Battle generic ailment

Remembering BR Ambedkar on his 51st death anniversary, the Centre amended the existing 'Dr Ambedkar scheme for social Integration through inter-caste marriage, 2013' by removing the ceiling that providing support to those families whose total annual incomes were less than five lakh per annum. This support is provided to those couples where one spouse belongs to the Dalit category. In a new order to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, the Centre directed that no such income cap would be maintained and the existing limit of five lakh will be scrapped. It is indeed a welcome move by the Centre to encourage and support those that are facing the brunt of society's evil traditions; yet, even now, inter-caste marriage, especially to a Dalit remains numbered. According to the National Family Health Survey, inter-caste marriages still constitute only 11 per cent of total nuptials. The numbers are still appalling. 70 years since Independence, we are still shackled by an imaginative division that has torn apart our society and restricted the development of a certain section only because of their supposed status. Despite the Centre supporting Dalit marriages and encouraging citizens to move beyond the shackles of such primitivity, this year has witnessed an extreme outbreak of violence against Dalits—especially in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Bihar. Since 2012, there has been over 29 per cent increase in cases of violence against Dalits—whether under the suspicion of smuggling cows, carrying beef, consuming beef or sharing resources belong to the upper castes. The Dalits in our country have been fated to live a tumultuous life in the margins, with limited access to escalation within the system. Ambedkar had said repeatedly during his time that inter-caste marriages would be the only way to overcome this barrier, yet, even today, we do not see a proliferation of this practice. This is primarily because, under most circumstances, there is a stark difference in the lifestyle and livelihoods of Dalits and the upper-caste. Caste mobility has still not filtered through our society. They are under most circumstances restricted to petty jobs of cleaning roads, removing garbage, skinning carcasses, working on funeral grounds, servicing sewage systems, among more. The ascribed status at birth has translated into their achieved status, as limited resources have paralysed their upward mobility. Even now, only numbered Dalit men and women are married into higher castes. In the way of providing monetary compensation, the Centre might have extended a helping hand, but the prevailing mentality will not be undone by whisking off a few notes. Caste is a generic disease fatalising our entire nation. It is worsened by caste politics, whose leaders continue to reaffirm their existing position for political gains without looking for social upliftment, as status quo sustains their identity gains.

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