Monday, November 28, 2016

Dalit Manifesto of AAP

An Open Letter of an AAM AADMI – Dalit Manifesto of AAP

November 28, 2016
Dear Voters of Punjab,

It is in continuation of my open letter of November 21 in which I said that the AAP has arrived. All the parties are burning mid-night oil to impress the people of Punjab with their credentials. The
election manifestos are being readied. As said earlier, dalit vote bank with more than 32% share, obviously, holds the key to enter the portals of power in Chandigarh and as such no party can afford to ignore this ground reality. The traditional parties have been befooling dalit communities in the successive elections by their policy of ‘Divide and Rule” either through the community Deras or by exploiting the inherent weaknesses of dalit political outfits by throwing the crumbs of small positions and other fringe gains.

AAP is the first party to come out with its dalit agenda in form of a Dalit Manifesto which was released on November 25 by the Convener of AAP, Arvind Kejriwal at an impressive public meeting at Gorayan in Jalandhar. I also voluntarily contributed to the Punjab Dialogue – a process to make the manifesto by a committee appointed for the purpose. Both the AAP’s Dalit Manifesto and a Non-paper submitted by me are appended to this letter as
Annexures for the ease of readers. Though it is a good beginning to bring about some focus to the issues and concerns of dalits of Punjab yet I regret to say that the much talked about document has fallen short of my expectations. It has failed to catch up with the imagination of dalit masses particularly the educated youth. It seems that the Punjab Dialogue was short of time and bereft of ideas and attention to address the dalit issues and concerns. I also communicated directly with Chander Suta Dogra, a prominent member of the manifesto committee and forwarded my submissions to her. This cursory approach to handle the important subject, it seems, would not prove to be helpful. The Tribune of November 27, 2016 has rightly observed in a story, “The AAP on Friday tried to touch all issues relating to the dalit community in Punjab in its 19 point Dalit Manifesto released specially for the scheduled castes but fell short of presenting itself as a party having different approach for the age old issues of the scheduled castes.” AAP has yet to convince the dalit community about its credentials. Its opponents, the Congress Party, Akali Dal, the BJP and also the BSP, are all geared up to exploit the fears of alleged anti dalit policy and conduct of the AAP, both real and instigated. The issued Dalit Manifesto of AAP is not enough, to be frank as a well wisher and a humble member of the AAP. There may be some political and practical compulsions but a course correction is needed, to my mind.

Nevertheless, it is satisfying to note that perhaps the top leadership of the party is aware of the ground realities. They would address the issues otherwise in the process of the election campaign itself. Arvind Kejriwal has already taken the initiative by declaring that, when they would form the next government in Punjab, a dalit would be made the Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab. It is appreciable as it is for the first time that any party has made such a commitment. But let me add hastily that this announcement has received a mixed reaction from the dalit intelligentsia on one hand and political circles on the other, if one goes by the media particularly the social media. Obviously, in a democracy numbers count and rightly so. Many people have commented that why Deputy CM and why not CM, if SC’s make a good contribution to the AAP’s kitty of MLAs. At the Dalit Manifesto release both the National Convener Arvind Kejriwal and the Punjab Convener Gurpreet Ghuggi invoked Babasaheb B.R. Ambedkar and Babu Kanshi Ram to fill in the gaps and holes in the manifesto by stating that as dreamed and desired by these dalit icons the AAP would share power as Baghidari with dalits. It has been appreciated in dalit circles but more needs to be done.

Coming to the dalit manifesto, as I said it is a good initiative and must be appreciated. Now it will require skillful marketing among the dalit masses particularly the dalit youth. There are some common points which the traditional parties have been saying and promising over the years but could not deliver. It is said that the proof of pudding is in its eating. Let us hope that AAP will give more impetus and implement the promises made in the 19 point manifesto. The point on distribution of common land among the dalits is a good point and would make a real difference to the economic empowerment and well being of the marginalized sections of the society. Clearance of backlog of reserved vacancies in government jobs, provision of a loan of Rs. 2 lakh to dalit small businesses and setting up of a SIT to review and investigate the cases, allegedly false and discriminatory, against dalits are some of the good points and should go down well. It would have been better if the core issue of reservation finds a mention specially the issue of implementation of the 85th amendment of the constitution to allay the fears of dalits. Though Arvind Kejriwal in his speech on April 14, 2016 at Talkatora Stadium candidly addressed these issues yet some instigated and falsely floated fears remain. He also reiterated that he and the AAP fully support reservation as provided in the constitution in his speech at Konica Resort in Jalandhar in May, 2016. Again, I repeat, more needs to be done to clear the air on the reservation related concerns of the community. Other praiseworthy and good points in the manifesto are: Provision of pucca houses to the needy dalits, more powers and bite to the SC Commission, Special Cell to oversee the post matric scholarships and more importantly reservation in the boards and commissions of Punjab government as in the government departments. If implemented in right earnest, it would greatly help the community to stand and go hand in hand with the main stream of the society.

The purpose of this open letter, as stated earlier, is to support AAP and put the things in right perceptive from the point of view of an Aam Aadmi. There are certain points which could have made a good dent in molding the dalit opinion about the AAP. I suggested in my submissions to make special training programmes for the dalit educated youth to enroll them in the armed forces and also para military organizations not on the basis of reservation but to compete with others on the basis of suitability and selection on merit. No such arrangements exist at present, according to my information. It will go a long way in empowering the dalit youth. Yet another point which I made in my submissions is to satisfy the ‘Identity Urge’ of the community by providing for due recognition of dalit religious and spiritual icons namely Guru Ravidass, Bhagwan Valmik, Satguru Kabir and also social and political icons like Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Babu Kanshi Ram among others. The successive governments have been doing cosmetic and adhoc exercises in this regard which could not serve the purpose and attract association and affiliation of the dalit masses. I made another thoughtful proposal which entailed no financial and other costs but a considerable potential to satisfy the increasingly getting assertive dalit youth. It is my proposal made to the Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and also to PM Narendra Modi to make a demarche to the UN to declare April 14, birthday of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar as the International Day of Equality. The proposal has duly been acknowledged both by MEA and PMO. Forum of SC Parliamentarians and Legislators adopted it and submitted to PM Narendra Modi in a Memorandum in November, 2015. The Chief Indian delegate to the celebration of 125th anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar at the UN Headquartes at New York in April, 2016, Punjab Speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal, duly took up the matter in his speech. He subsequently included this proposal in a report submiited to PM Modi in May, 2016 and requested him to approach the UN in this regard. The matter rests at that. I urged the Punjab Dialogue of the AAP to include the proposal in the party’s Dalit Manifesto by supporting it and saying that if AAP comes to power after the 2017 elections, the Punjab Cabinet and the Punjab Legislative Assembly would pass a resolution and forward it to the MEA and PMO with a request to officially take up the proposal with the UN appropriately. I still hold that it could have caught up with the imagination and goodwill of the vast majority of Ambedkarites throughout India and the world at large irrespective of their party affiliations. I will not be surprised if some other party comes forward and owns up the proposal in one way or the other.
In conclusion, I must say that AAP has really taken good initiatives to address the concerns and issues of dalits in its Dalit Manifesto. I am confident that the remaining gaps will be filled in due course by the leadership in their verbal and written announcements and commitments in the run up to the elections to invite and attract the dalit support, a large chunk of the electorate which has the potential to make or mar.

With regards,

Yours Truly,

(Ramesh Chander)
Ambassador – IFS (Retired)

तू पहले बात फिर बात  का अंदाज़ पैदा कर ;
फिर जमानेमें तुझे  कोई नज़र अंदाज़ कर नहीं सकता!

 Annexure - 1
 What Dalit manifesto promises
·         Low-cost housing scheme for Dalits; pucca houses for all community members
·         Village common land reserved for Dalits won’t be up for auction for persons of other castes
·         Crop failure: Farm labourers to get compensation of Rs 10,000 for every month of loss of work
·         Shagun scheme amount to be increased to Rs 51,000; old-age pension, widow pension and handicap pension to be increased from Rs 500 to Rs 2,000
·         Free education for underprivileged Dalit girls up to Class XII
·         Punjab Scheduled Caste Commission to be empowered
·         Provision for reservation in state boards and corporations for Dalits on the pattern of government departments
·         Special cell to monitor proper implementation of post-matric scholarship scheme
·         Special SIT for atrocities and false cases registered against Dalits in past five years
·         Committees in each department to identify and fill job vacancies for Dalits
·         Social security scheme for all Dalits
·         ollateral free loan of Rs 2 lakh for small businesses or village-based enterprises for poor
·         Mandatory complaint office to deal with discrimination against Dalits in all educational institutions, offices and NGOs
 Annexure- II

Non-Paper by Ambassador Ramesh Chander, IFS (Retired)

Some random issues of interest and concern to dalit communities of Punjab – Submissions before the AAP’s Punjab Dialogue on SCs

Education and Empowerment – Education and empowerment is an important issue not only for Scheduled Caste communities but also for all other weaker sections of the society. Obviously, provisions for good and affordable educational facilities, comparable with the private schools, should be made available in government schools where most of the SC and other poor students go for schooling. The cardinal principle is ‘Empowerment flows through Education’.
·       Private schools and colleges run by SCs should be given financial, managerial, academic and consultancy support to make them stand up to and compete with general schools. It will give and impart a sense of empowerment to the SC investors and players in the field of education. It will also tend to inculcate a feeling of ‘Yes, we can also do it’. It will go a long way in removing the existing inferiority complex among the SCs and will lead to their empowerment to join the mainstream of the society.
·       The Pre and Post Matriculation scholarships given to SCs need streamlining and proper execution. It is one of the often and much discussed issues of concern to the SC students. There is no solution in sight. As per the reports, SC students suffer and are harassed on one hand and the educational institutions complain of financial and other difficulties with governmental agencies. It is the egg and chicken situation. Rules say that schools and colleges will not charge fees from SC students and the government will pay directly to the schools and colleges. The schools and colleges claim and blame that they do not get due reimbursements in time. In turn, they start harassing students. The central government blames the state government and the other way round. As a result, the poor students suffer not only educationally but psychologically too. The problem generates avoidable worries for the poor parents. The very purpose of these scholarships gets defeated. Our suggestion is as under.
·       The governments, both central and of state, should open an “ESCROW Account” in one of the public sector banks. On getting the requisite information and data from the schools and colleges, routed through the competent Education Department authorities of the state government, should transfer, twice in a year, the due and requisite amounts in the ESCROW Account maintained for the purpose along with documentation pertaining to the scholarship. The school and colleges will claim and get the due amounts from the concerned bank. It should be done in a time bound manner failing which the schools and colleges will be entitled to claim an interest of 10% on the amounts due. It will end the blame game. The poor students will be saved from harassment and highhandedness by the educational institutions.

Education/Training and Employment – Education and training should result in good employment and vocation. SC youth and also the other weaker sections certainly need some additional care in this regard. Some of our suggestions are:
·       Intake of SCs in the armed forces is negligible. This anomaly should be corrected. More and more SC young people should be encouraged and motivated to join the armed forces including reservation of seats in Sainik Schools and also other educational and training outfits. There should free training and coaching for the educated SC youth, graduate and below graduate levels, to compete at the CDS and IMA examinations conducted by the UPSC and other relevant organizations. The Sainik Boards may be engaged for the purpose. This action will not only provide employment to the SC youth but also empower them to join the mainstream of the society as dignified partners. Another aspect of this is that it will set right the dwindling share of Punjab in the armed forces.
·       Special training arrangements for SC educated youth to join para-military and armed police forces are needed. Apart from non-officer levels, there is a great need to encourage and train SC youth to sit in examinations conducted by the UPSC and other recruiting agencies for direct recruitment at officer levels in various para-military and armed police forces. As of now, there is hardly any intake from SC communities in these organizations. With this, a much needed sense of space and share of SC communities in the power structures will come which will be good for a healthy society.

Dignity of Labour – Dignity of labour is an essential ingredient of a healthy work culture. It also contributes positively to establishment of just and an egalitarian order as stipulated in our constitution. The AAP’s election symbol of Jhadu (broom) duly signifies this.

·       The practice of cleaning sewerage manually by going down the manholes should be immediately dispensed with. It is not only inhuman and below human dignity but also unhealthy and physically dangerous. These services should be maintained by mechanical methods. With view to watch the interests of the work force engaged in such jobs, there should be special training modules to engage them in operating machines deployed to such jobs. Since such jobs are generally done by SCs of Balmiki community, willing or unwillingly, it will a go long way in providing these safai karmcharis much relief and a sense of dignity of labour.

Recognition and honouring of dalit icons – The dalit icons, spiritual, social and political, should be duly recognized and honoured with a view to establish an inclusive culture and society.
·        Religious and spiritual icons like Guru Ravidassji, Satguru Kabirji, Bhagwan Balmikiji, Bhai Jiwan Singhji should get befitting recognition and honour spreading their message of love and passion for the benefit of the society at large. The holy sites, like, inter alia,  Khuralgarh in Hoshiarpur pertaining to Guru Ravidassji, Ramtirth Mandir in Amritsar pertaining to Bhagwan Balmik and appropriate sites belonging to other dalit icons should be developed and handed over to the community and the society.
·       Social and political icons like, among others Babasaheb Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Udham Singh, Babu Kanshi Ram should be recognized and honoured befittingly. It will go a long way in assuaging the ruffled feelings of dalits.
·       In the contemporary context, the life and mission and also the contribution of Dr. Ambedkar to the country and society should be included in the school and college curricula. It will not only cheer his followers but also provide the much needed information and knowledge to the youth of India about the greatest son of India and inspire them to become better citizens.
·       Of late, Babu Kanshi Ram played an important role in creating and generating immense awareness and energy among the dalit masses about their political right and succeeded in establishing a distinct entity in the political firmament of India. His successors headed by Kumari Mayawati under the banner of BSP have lost track and abandoned the legacy of Babu Kanshi Ram. It has not gone well with the awakened dalits. They are looking for an alternative. Perhaps, the AAP may consider owning the legacy of Babu Kanshi Ram. It will throw additional benefits and advantages to the AAP. Some institutions may be named after Kanshi Ram. An annual lecture on the contribution and role of Kanshi Ram in bringing about awareness in the dalit psyche may be instituted.

Economic empowerment – Besides, social and political development and well being of the SC communities, economic power is the crux and is instrumental in bring about level playing field. Incidentally, the dalit community in Punjab is better off than their counterparts in the other states. But still traditional mindset of oppression and highhandedness by the landed peasantry in villages does exist which requires to be shattered.

·       Dalit share in agricultural land is negligible. The nazul and surplus land in villages is generally allotted or contracted to non-dalit peasantry because of their social and economic superiority. It is a sheer injustice which should be stopped. The poor dalits, sons of the soil and actual tillers, should get their share in the common land. It will certainly help the poor dalits in the villages not only in earning their bread and butter but also tend to minimize the tensions in the society.
·        In the sports industry in and around Jalandhar, the labour force traditionally belonged to SC communities migrated from Sialkot in the wake of partition in 1947. Same is the position in some pockets of Gurdaspur and Pathankot. The business is owned and controlled by the upper castes. Even after 60-70 years of independence, the ruling masters did not pay any attention to the fate and condition of the labour class in the sports industry. There is hardly any labour welfare mechanism in place as corporate responsibility. The norms of minimum wages, stipulated in the law, are observed more in breach rather than implementation. The exporters are making profits without passing on its share to the labour. These problems need to be addressed in the light of the existing laws and if need be make new laws. Government may consider floating cooperatives in which the labour also gets its share and stake. It has been told that it has been done in Pakistan, a major competitor in the field, successfully. The case of Pakistan may be studied, if required.

Honouring Ambedkar and respecting Equitable World order – April 14, Dr. Ambedkar’s birthday to be declared as International Day of Equality - Dr. B.R. Ambedkar is the greatest son of India. His contribution and relevance has been duly recognized, of late, not by India but also the world at large. His 125th birth anniversary was officially celebrated at the UN in New York in April, 2016 for the first time.
·       After the government of India decided last year, 2015 to celebrate the 125th birthday anniversary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, I wrote in July/August, 2015 to EAM Sushma Swaraj and FS Dr. S. Jaishankar to make a demarche to UN to declare April 14 as the International Day of Equality. My letters were duly acknowledged by the JS(UN) in MEA. I wrote to PM Narendra Modi to include this suggestion in his speech at the UNGA in September, 2015 and simultaneously approached MPs and MLAs to endorse the proposal. Forum of Schedule Caste MPs and MLAs which is headed by Speaker of the Punjab Legislative Assembly, Charanjit Singh Atwal, to whom I also wrote on the subject, took up the matter in their Memorandum submitted to PM Narendra Modi in November, 2015. In the celebrations at the UN on April 13, Charanjit Singh Atwal in the presence of India’s PR at the UN, Syed Akbarudin, made a demarche to UN in his speech to declare April 14 as the International Day of Equality. Subsequently, in its report to PM Modi, Speaker Atwal wrote on 3rd May, 2016 and requested the Government of India to take up the matter with UN officially. The matter rests at that.
·       My submission in this regard is that the AAP should look at the proposal, made by one of its humble workers Ambassador Ramesh Chander, and consider endorsing it. It will go a long way in winning over the millions of followers of Dr. Ambedkar the world over and reap good political dividends in the days to come. After coming to power, which is almost certain, the AAP may promise to pass Cabinet and Assembly resolutions of request to GOI to take up the matter with UN officially to declare April 14 as the International Day of Equality.


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