INDIAN BACKWARD CLASSES

India

 

In the Indian society, the caste system is considered sacred and immutable, becoming the same basis of the society founded on a important principle: all men are different. With the adoption of the Constitution (1950), the untouchability, discrimination based on the caste, ethnicity, gender and religion were abolished. But the ancient doctrine prevails over modern law and the Hinduism (faith practiced by 80% of the population) is law in daily lives of people. In large and complex variety of populations and ethnic groups living today in India, there is little unknown universe, considered by some as a parallel social dimension. These are the tribal people, the ab-origines inhabitants of the territory, long-resident in the most backward areas of difficult access of the Indian subcontinent. It is estimated that the tribal population in India amounts to about 140 million units. For this reason, mainly for the social sciences and anthropology, the study of the tribes is one of the keys to the interpretation of the past, as bearers of cultural heritage. Nonetheless, the tribes population are subject to strong discrimination by the higher caste of the society. In this, it may be read a relation between the complex universe of the tribes and the class of untouchables, that are often incorrectly equated. The Government has intervened with regulations specific to these groups. Such action, however, varied between the isolation of the tribal communities, directed towards a sort of reserve policy, to the forced modernization, i.e. the exploitation of the labor force as a tribal labor at low cost. The Indian government basically provides a kind of special status for the classes of the lower orders, often discriminated against and back to living conditions. In modern times, what were the backward classes during the British colonization, the Constitution were divided into two main groups, namely: the Scheduled Tribes (Adivasi, the tribes) and Scheduled Castes (which includes many untouchables communities). Approximately 80% of the poor of India belongs to these two groups.

The facilities that, theoretically, the government reserves for these groups are generally tax exemption, the works of infrastructure development (often provided on paper and never realized), the so-called policy of reservation, namely the protection of equal opportunities. The National Tribal Policy (NTP), presented for the first time in 2004, has not yet found a permanent legislative form. In 2011, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (Ministry of Tribal Affairs) has prepared a draft for the National Tribal Policy. The objective of the policy is to bring the Scheduled Tribes (ST) at par with the rest of the population in terms of Human Development Index, social and economic conditions and infrastructures and also ensure the conservation of cultural rights and traditional knowledge .

The Draft Law does not inspire confidence to the tribals, who fear the loss of all their cultural distinctiveness in terms of their final incorporation. Sharad Joshi, former member of parliament and leader of the peasant movement Shetkari Sanghatana, said: "A National Tribal Policy should be based on the principle of freedom for each tribal society to opt for a traditional way of life or a modern one, or to be able to access at both”. Despite these and other measures, the discrimination against backward classes continues. To understand the magnitude of this phenomenon, just think that the government had to enact specific laws for offenses committed against the disadvantaged castes. However, laws and regulations have failed to dismantle the foundations of the caste system in a country, India, which is proposed as an example to countries in the developing world, but that still counts among its citizens 160 million untouchables.

As Gandhi said: "The future is in the countryside, in its 500,000 villages." But something still does not work, while growing a strong urban middle class, the vast majority of the population continues to live in poverty. According to the "2011 Report on Rural Poverty", published by the Fund for Rural Development of the United Nations (IFAD), global poverty remains a mass phenomenon and mainly agricultural.

While in urban areas, more anonymous and pragmatic, the caste differences are blurred, in rural areas, however, such disparity is amplified and more evident.

© Copyright 2013 - Simone Nascetti photography. All rights reserved.

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