According to Ambedkar, in early India, they were known as, 'Broken Men' or 'Outcast'. The British described them as 'depressed classes'. In 1931's Census, they were classified as an 'Exterior Caste'. Mahatma Gandhi designated these classes as 'Harijans'- the children of God. The educated persons among the untouchable caste did not take this statement kindly as they thought that, to single them out as the Children of God merely means that attempts were being made to make their conditions tolerable rather than destroy the system which bred inequality. The framers of the Indian Constitution also adopted the term coined by the Simon Commission.
Today, there are 13.82 Crores people belonging to the Scheduled Caste in the country. This constitutes 16.48% of the country's total population. the states of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh account for more than 50% of the Scheduled Caste population with Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal having more than 20% of its population from the Scheduled Castes. Members of the Scheduled Caste earn their livelihood either on land belonging to others or in occupations less ventured in by the others. More than 3 quarters of the Scheduled Caste are engaged in primary occupation and the proportion of those engaged in the Tertiary sector is nearly half the National average. In the field of literacy, as against the national average of 52% the literacy rate is around 37%.
Among the Scheduled Caste women, more than 3 quarters are illiterate. Moreover, the dropout rate in formal education is very high. Scuh factors put the community at disadvantage. Most of them live Below Poverty Line (BPL) and are the victims of social and economic exploitation. In theory, untouchability might have been abolished but in practice, these people continue to be subjects of discrimination. T. N Majundar summarized the position of the depressed caste in 1940 by maintaining that, these caste maybe depressed in one area but may not be suffering from any social or political disability. A Caste maybe depressed but individual members of the Caste who have succeeded in life and who are wealthy and on property have been admitted to a higher social status, and even have wives from the Rajputs.
The fact is that, the attitude of people towards the untouchables even today has not changed. Wherever efforts have been made by the Organs of the State or State supported non-official agencies to implement the welfare programmes and adopt remedial measures, there has been social sabotages by the dark forces of society. For instance, some schools giving admissions to the members of Scheduled Caste segregate them in separate benches. In a sense, the Scheduled Caste and the Caste Hindu students were living in the same hostel but they were segregated in different rooms.
Article 338 of the Indian Constitution oversees the implementation of various safeguards provided to Scheduled Castes.
Article 46 provides "The State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interest of the weaker sections of people and in particular the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation".
Article 17 decleares, "Untouchability is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden. The enforcement of any disability arising out of untouchability shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law".
After attaining Independence, our national leaders were confronted with the tribals' problems. It was emphasized in the debate of the Constituent Assembly that, the tribals have long suffered from exploitation and subjugation of the High Caste Hindus. they needed to be given special protection. The government's policy of Tribal Transformation revolves around two important objectives: Identification and ascertaining of the actual size of tribal population and To bring the tribal populace within the field of national mainstream.
In 1960, the scheduled tribe condition was set up under the chairmanship of U. N. Thebar to wrk for the advancement of the tribals. After the Fifth Five Year Plan, the tribals' planned strategy was designed in 1980 which constituted of two things:
(i) Socio Economic development of the Scheduled Tribe
(ii) Protection of tribals against exploitation.
In order to achieve this objective, elimination of all forms of exploitations of tribals particularly in land, money-lending, mal-practices in the exchange of agriculture and forest produce was given high priority. The Tribal sub-plan envisaged total physical and financial efforts for integrating developments of the tribal areas. Development programmes undertaken includes, agriculture and allied sectors, irrigation, marketing and co-operation, education etc. the most backward groups among the primitive tribes are given special attention by preparing separate plans for them. However, till now much still needs to be done in various areas to make them at par with the national mainstream.
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More articles: India tribe
Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled castes etc., are ok for reservation purpose etc., but repeatedly publishing about the castes etc., where the government and others are telling no caste deviation should be there. The Government offices itself asks about caste certificate. It is puzzling!