[Voice of Dalit International (VODI), Email: email@example.com , Web: www.vodintl.org.uk]
‘RESPONSE TO CASTE & DALIT POVERTY IN INDIA’
[DALITAID–INDIA - 2 DAY CONFERENCE - 5th and 6th December 2014. National Biblical Catechetical and Liturgical Centre (NBCLC), Bangalore]
By lightning the lamp Mr. Roshan Baig, Honourable Minister for Information Technology, Government of Karnataka inaugurated the conference. His Excellency Rt. Rev Dr. A. Neethinathan, Bishop of Chingleput, Chairman, Department of Dalits, Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) and Patron of DALITAID-India on the Dias with DALITAID office bearers, Professor Mary John [Chair], Ms. Maglin Jerry, [Treasurer] and Mr. V.J. George, [General Secretary].
‘Dalit Struggle for Equality needs recognition’ Says Mr. Roshan Baig, Minister for Information Technology, Karnataka State.
‘Dalits in India are struggling for equality and development and it is high time that society gives them the deserving recognition and acceptance that they need to be brought to the mainstream of Society. Their acceptance must come from the hearts of the civil society members’, said Mr. Roshan Baig, Minister for Information Technology, Karnataka State, India
He was inaugurating a 2 Day National Conference on ‘Response to Caste and Dalit Poverty’, organised by DALITAID-India, at the National Biblical, Catechetical, and Liturgical Centre [NBCLC]) Bangalore held on 5th and 6th December 2014. The conference was attended by 150 delegates from Dalit led NGOs and movements across the country.
Most Rev. Dr. A. Neethinathan, Chairman of the Department of Dalits, Catholic Bishops Conference of India [CBCI] and Bishop of Chingleput, gave the keynote address. He said there is a strong correlation between Caste and Poverty of Dalits. Dalit poverty is caused mainly by caste and the Development agencies must have Dalit sensitisation to address the issue of caste, while attempting to reduce the poverty of Dalits. Prof. Dr. M. Mary John, Chair, DALITAID –India, giving the opening remarks, said that the conference sought to address the issues of Dalit development by focusing on the right share of development resources, which are reaching the wrong hands. The conference unleashed deliberations for the strengthening of the stake of the Dalit led NGOs for the involvement in the development processes.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr. V.J. George, General Secretary, DALITAID India, said that the main reason for the Millennium Development Goals being off-track was due to neglect of the Dalit sector and the conference gave strong warnings to the Development agencies, National and Global, that Dalit poverty needs to be addressed through Dalit led NGOs.
Ms. Maglin Jerry, Treasurer of DALITAID India gave the Welcome speech and Mr. Alfred Culas, Director, DALITAID India made the Vote of Thanks. The Conference discussed paper presentations by experts on various sections, subjects included, ‘Dalits among Global Poor’, ‘Impact of Caste on Dalit Poverty’, ‘New Understandings of Dalits and Poverty’, ‘Struggles within Struggles’, ‘Struggles for the Equal Rights of Dalits’, and ‘Dalit Development oppositions’. 24 papers were presented and discussed during the two days. The Conference deliberated and approved a ‘Bangalore Declaration’, which forms part of the news release.
Prof. Dr. Mary John (Chairman)
Mr. V.J. George (General Secretary)
Ms. Maglin Jerry (Treasurer)
Mr. Alfred Culas (Director)
150 Dalit activists, Dalit Rights workers, Dalit led NGO leaders, members of Research Institutions, Training, Development and Human Rights organisations, leaders of Faith communities and Human Rights activists gathered from different states of India during 5th – 6th December 2014, at the National Biblical, Catechetical and Liturgical Centre [NBCLC], Bangalore for a 2 day National Conference on ‘Response to Caste and Dalit Poverty’ and have unanimously adopted this Declaration on this 6th day of December 2014.
1.That the definition of Dalits shall be based on ‘untouchability’; those communities and their posterities who suffered untouchability in the past are to be considered as Dalits, irrespective of their religion.
2.That there is a positive correlation between caste and Dalit poverty; as the poverty of Dalits is due to the caste system and all the backwardness inflicted upon them by the caste system.
3.That the development sector should coin right terminologies to describe caste discrimination, in the place of using traditional terminologies which glorify and reinforce the caste system.
4.That Dalits in India form 1/3rd of the Global poor (444 Million) and hence Dalits deserve a legitimate share of 1/3rd of the Global resources which are set apart for addressing poverty.
5.The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) failed to achieve the desired targets on Dalit poverty reduction, mainly due to the fact that they completely ignored a major chunk of the Global poor; i.e. Dalits who form 1/3rd of the Global Poor.
6.That the National and International Aid agencies, Governments, and the Corporate Social Responsibility of the Corporate sector must address the root cause of poverty rather than continuing and content with treating the symptoms of poverty.
7.That the Cannon of Equity shall be followed by the Aid Agencies in sharing resources, specifying ‘Dalits and Caste Discrimination’ as a thematic area, as against inequality and other similar jargons.
8.That the aid agencies must re-define their ideas of empowerment of Dalits. They must insist on disaggregated information for stopping caste discriminatory practices in their Monitoring and Evaluation methods, additional to the current trend of empowering people for their civic entitlements.
9.That the aid agencies must follow similar/ parallel Dalit affirmative policies of respective countries where they work and follow the principle of inclusion of people and personnel from the Dalit background in their international development departments and as country heads in South Asian Countries where 90% poor are Dalits. They must have Dalit Experts in their International Offices also.
10.The Aid agencies and International NGOs working in South Asia must review: the caste composition of their staff and their partner NGOs in South Asia and; their capacity to absorb the target population within its decision making circles, including who own the properties bought with aid money, who operate the bank accounts and who take the decisions.
11.That the International Aid Agencies working in India should support Anti- Caste Discrimination campaigns internationally and support the Global campaign against Caste Discrimination, as caste discrimination is practiced in 132 countries, including 110 countries, where South Asians have migrated to, such as the UK which has passed anti- caste Discrimination laws.
12.That the Overseas Governments with their India Offices and international Aid Agencies having their Indian country offices, should all have their country coordinators from Dalit backgrounds or trained in Dalit studies, as 90% of the poor in India are Dalits
13.That resources for the development of Dalits shall be routed through NGOs owned, managed and run by the Dalits themselves, in the place of the existing trend where these resources are cornered by NGOs run by Caste Perpetrators, who claim Dalits to be their target groups. Aid agencies must take mainly Dalit led NGOs as their partners while addressing Dalit poverty.
14.That, as the platform for Dalit led NGOs, DALITAID India shall be accepted by the Aid agencies and Corporate Social Responsibility Departments of the Corporate bodies and shall be promoted with priority.
15.That the National Model Community Development Project (NMCDP) which DALITAID-India has proposed and to be implemented in Odisha, shall be supported by Aid agencies, Church and Dalit-led NGOs.
16.That the rights of all Dalits, irrespective of religion, for equal rights and opportunities for development shall be accepted by the Aid agencies and governments, when addressing Dalit development.
17.That the Churches in India shall be more inclusive in their approach to Dalits and ensure Dalits get equal opportunities for inclusion in the various hierarchy of Church, leadership positions and educational and employment opportunities.
18.That the Central and State Governments in India shall take very strict measures to abolish the Bonded labour in the Textile Industry and other sectors, where victims are mostly Dalits.
19.That discrimination to Dalits in the educational opportunities and institutions shall be addressed effectively by the government and private educational institutions run by Churches and Church based institutions. Different forms of caste humiliations in higher education shall be addressed seriously.
20.We endorse the Motion adopted in its 2014 AGM by the British Overseas NGOs in Development [BOND] – Europe’s largest NGO network: that “This house recognises that caste and discrimination based on ‘work & descent’ actively contribute to the structural causes of poverty and inequalities among Dalits and other excluded communities. It calls for BOND members to express solidarity and work towards addressing this problem as appropriate”.
21.We call upon all NGOs and their networks around the world to implement the above BOND Motion and urge the UN to include Caste and Dalit poverty in all its deliberations on Global poverty and development, particularly in its forthcoming September 2015 Summit to declare ‘Beyond 2015’ development targets.
….At all times, you must continue tomake certain that special attention is given to those belonging to the lowest castes, especially the Dalits. They should never be segregated from other members of society. Any semblance of a caste-based prejudice in relations between Christians is a countersign to authentic human solidarity, a threat to genuine spirituality and a serious hindrance to the Church's mission of evangelization. Therefore, customs or traditions that perpetuate or reinforce caste division should be sensitively reformed so that they may becomean expression of the solidarity of the whole Christian community.”(Underline by VODI) Papal Address to the Bishops of India (VATICAN CITY, NOV. 17, 2003 (Zenit.org)
Who are Dalits?
Dalits are ‘the historically broken people’ of the Caste System, which determines the fate of individuals and communities in the society – their profession, food, dress, housing, health, education, social status etcetera. They are also called the ‘Untouchables’/ ‘unseeables’ / ‘backwards’ and ‘lesser humans’. They are prescribed to be ‘slaves’ and destined to do the menial and dirty jobs in the society. Caste Laws were the laws of the land - South Asia, particularly India, until Independence. However centuries of caste practices have shaped the morality, ethics and general mindset of individuals and communities based on caste discrimination. British Parliament has defined ‘Caste as an aspect of race’ (Equality Act 2010 – Section 9(5) a). According to Department for International Development, UK (DFID), ‘caste causes poverty’ and ‘gets into the way of poverty reduction’. It ‘causes the poverty of a particular people leading to higher rate of poverty among the affected groups’. It ‘reduces the productive capacity and poverty reduction of a society as a whole’. It ‘deprives people of choices and opportunities to escape from poverty and denies them voice to claim their rights’.
There are 1.5 billion caste affected people living in 132 countries, including 110 countries where South Asians have migrated. Only 15 % of them profit from the caste system, while 85% are victims. 25% of the total are acute victims and treated as outcastes (Dalits). 400 million Dalits, of different faiths are living in extreme poverty in India today. Many of India’s constitutional provisions, including Freedom of Faith, are denied to Dalits, Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims. Dalits constitute 1/3rd of the Global poor and are generally sidelined by national and international developmental efforts.
Despite Dalits constituting 1/3rd of the Global poor, not even a fraction of international development resources are earmarked for addressing their cause of poverty, which is due to caste, is intergenerational and enforced. Although Dalits may benefit from certain development projects and thematic areas, without specific development policies by international development actors, to address the caste caused poverty of Dalits, the benefit from these projects are short lived. According to DFID ‘poverty reduction policies often fail to reach socially excluded groups,’ Dalits ‘unless they are specifically designed to do so’. To date, no international aid agencies have made any ‘specifically designed’ integrated development policies for Dalits. Dalits continue to be unaffected by the non stop developmental work of these agencies and Governments. Their aid systems continue to treat only the symptoms and not the root cause, which is caste. Leaving ‘caste caused poverty’ untouched sustains Dalit poverty and results in them being the single largest section (1/3rd) of the global poor.
The majority of people living in extreme poverty and hunger, the landless, illiterates, child/ bonded labourers, unemployed, slum/ pavement dwellers, without shelter, malnourished, victims of child / maternal mortality, HIV/ Malaria, human trafficking are from Dalit communities. However these thematic areas are treated in isolation, without taking into account of the historical context of Dalit communities and their caste cause of poverty, offering fertile fields and reason d’être for international NGOs, development/ charitable agencies and their South Asian partners, most of whom are caste beneficiaries.
Who is DALITAID?
What does DALITAID do?
[LFSC 2012 Students at their graduation ceremony with course organisers, staff and VODI Trustees. LFSC is jointly organised by VODI, Catholic Association for Racial Justice (CARJ) and Maryvale Institute]
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Voice Dalit International (VODI) is a Charity formed in 1999 in the UK to internationalise the discriminatory practices of caste, which is ‘hidden apartheid'.
This is also termed as the ‘modern form of slavery', with ‘overtones of racism', affecting 400 million people of different faiths in different countries including in the UK and more particularly in India.
They are called ‘Dalits', meaning the ‘historically broken people', the ‘Untouchables' and the outcastes of the Indian Caste system, which is sanctified by religion and reinforced by political forces.
Dalits constitute 1/3rd of the global poor and the poverty is intergenerational and caused because of caste reasons. International development efforts are yet to address the cause of Dalit poverty, but busy addressing its symptoms.
Caste discrimination is practiced in 132 countries around the world, including Great Britain and the Parliament of UK legislated on ‘Caste as an aspect of Race’ in the Equalities Act 2010 to address caste discriminatory practices amongst the UK Asians.
VODI aims to bringing awareness amongst the western aid agencies, western public and their governments about the developmental and human right issues of Dalits.
"The world owes a duty to the untouchables (Dalits) as it does to all suppressed people to break their shackles and set them free. The problems of slaves, the Jews and the Blacks are nothing in comparison to the problems of Untouchables.”
"Dalits have faced a unique discrimination in our Society that is fundamentally different from the problems of minority groups in general. The only parallel to the practice of untouchabiliy was apartheid”.