Issues relating to Dalits

Issues relating to Dalits


 1.0 Low Income of Dalit households .

1.1   Monthly income of 83.55% Dalit households is less than Rs 5000 per month.  11.74 % households have income above Rs 5000 but less than Rs 10,000 per month.  4.70 % have income more than Rs 10000/ month.

            Households having income less than Rs 5000/ month lives in semi starvation condition and utter poverty. They cannot afford to educate their children. Households having income above Rs 5000 and below Rs 10,000 may afford three meals a day and with govt assistance may aspire to send their children to school.  but cannot afford pucca dwelling, and health care. Only 4.70 % house holds having income above Rs 10,000 /month may afford to send their children to school, construct dwelling and afford health care.

2.source of income

2.1 Manual and casual labour.    67.27 % Dalits households earn their livelihood by manual labour. They have to search job almost daily. Employment is not regular and depends on several factors viz, law and order, weather, season etc. During sickness no job no earning. No job security. No old age pensions.

2.2. Cultivation.  18.36 % house hold depend on cultivation. Their plight is almost same as manual labourer fixed working hours, no regular wages. No security, no old age pension

2.3. Part time/full time domestic labour constitutes 2.28%.Rag  pickers, beggars, charity, others etc. constitutes 1.71%.

    Total Dalit households who do not have regular employment and regular source of income is 89.62% (2.1+2.2+2.3).

2.4. Salaried income. 7.39% households have salaried income as detailed below:

  1.   Govt jobs.     3.95%

ii   Public sector under takings   0.93%

  1.   Private sector    2.41 %

2.5 Non agricultural, / own account enterprises. 1.05% house holds owns their own shops or enterprise. 


 Above data indicates that 83.55% Dalit house hold have income less than Rs 5000/month. 89. 62 % Dalit house are engaged in manual labour and farm labour.   Enforcement of labour laws and land reforms are vital to improve the condition of Dalits.

 Labour laws in India are quite elaborate but Implementation is tardy. Most Dalits are not aware of their rights. Even if they know, they cannot get these enforced because administration is lethargic, corrupt, indifferent and unfriendly to cause of Dalits. Legal system is very costly, time consuming and is heavily skewed towards rich and powerful.

.Some extracts of labour laws which may be useful for general information are reproduced below:


3. Indian labour laws.


Indian labour laws refers to laws regulating labour in India. Traditionally, Indian governments at federal and state level have sought to ensure a high degree of protection for workers, but in practice, legislative rights only cover a minority of workers. India is a federal form of government and because labour is a subject in the concurrent list of the Indian Constitution, labour matters are in the jurisdiction of both central and state governments; both central and state governments have enacted several laws on labour relations and employment.

3.1 History of labour laws.

Indian labour law is closely connected to the Indian independence movement, and the campaigns of passive resistance leading up to independence. While India was under colonial rule by the British Raj, labour rights, trade unions, and freedom of association were all suppressed. Workers who sought better conditions, and trade unions who campaigned through strike action were frequently, and violently suppressed. After independence was won in 1947, the Constitution of India of 1950 embedded a series of fundamental labour rights in the constitution, particularly the right to join and take action in a trade union, the principle of equality at work, and the aspiration of creating a living wage with decent working conditions.

3.2 Constitutional rights.

In the Constitution of India from 1950, articles 14-16, 19(1)(c), 23-24, 38, and 41-43A directly concern labour rights. Article 14 states everyone should be equal before the law, article 15 specifically says the state should not discriminate against citizens, and article 16 extends a right of "equality of opportunity" for employment or appointment under the state. Article 19(1)(c) gives everyone a specific right "to form associations or unions". Article 23 prohibits all trafficking and forced labour, while article 24 prohibits child labour under 14 years old in a factory, mine or "any other hazardous employment".

Articles 38-39, and 41-43A, however, like all rights listed in Part IV of the Constitution are not enforceable by courts, rather than creating an aspirational "duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws”. The original justification for leaving such principles unenforceable by the courts was that democratically accountable institutions ought to be left with discretion, given the demands they could create on the state for funding from general taxation, although such views have since become controversial. Article 38(1) says that in general the state should "strive to promote the welfare of the people" with a "social order in which justice, social, economic and political, shall inform all the institutions of national life. In article 38(2) it goes on to say the state should "minimize the inequalities in income" and based on all other statuses. Article 41 creates a "right to work", which the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 attempts to put into practice. Article 42 requires the state to "make provision for securing just and human conditions of work and for maternity relief". Article 43 says workers should have the right to a living wage and "conditions of work ensuring a decent standard of life". Article 43A, inserted by the Forty-second Amendment of the Constitution of India in 1976, creates a constitutional right to co determination by requiring the state to legislate to "secure the participation of workers in the management of undertakings".

3.3 Contract and rights


Indian labour law makes a distinction between people who work in "organized" sectors and people working in "unorganized sectors". The laws list the different industrial sectors to which various labour rights apply. People who do not fall within these sectors, the ordinary law of contract applies. India's labour laws underwent a major update in the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947. Since then, an additional 45 national laws expand or intersect with the 1948 act, and another 200 state laws control the relationships between the worker and the company.


3.4 Wage regulation.


The Payment of Wages Act 1936 requires that employees receive wages, on time, and without any unauthorized deductions. Section 6 requires that people are paid in money rather than in kind. The law also provides the tax withholdings the employer must deduct and pay to the central or state government before distributing the wages.

3.5 The Minimum Wages Act 1948

Minimum wage act, sets wages for the different economic sectors that it states it will cover. It leaves a large number of workers unregulated. Central and state governments have discretion to set wages according to kind of work and location, and they range between as much as ? 143 to 1120 per day for work in the so-called central sphere. State governments have their own minimum wage schedules.

3.6 The Payment of Gratuity Act 1972

This act applies to establishments with 10 or more workers. Gratuity is payable to the employee if he or she resigns or retires. The Indian government mandates that this payment be at the rate of 15 days salary of the employee for each completed year of service subject to a maximum of Rs 20 lakhs

3.7 The Payment of Bonus Act 1965, which applies only to enterprises with over 20 people, requires bonuses are paid out of profits based on productivity. The minimum bonus is currently 8.33 per cent of salary.

3.8 The Workmen's Compensation Act 1923 requires that compensation is paid if workers are injured in the course of employment for injuries, or benefits to dependents.

3.9 The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) A CT, 2013.   The act seeks to protect and provides a mechanism for women to report incidents of sexual harassment at their place of work.

3.10 The Employees' Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1952 created the Employees' Provident Fund Organization of India. This functions as a pension fund for old age security for the organized workforce sector. For those workers, it creates Provident Fund to which employees and employers contribute equally, and the minimum contributions are 10-12 per cent of wages.  

every factory engaged in any industry specified in Schedule 1 in which 20 or more persons are employed.

every other establishment employing 20 or more persons or class of such establishments that the Central Govt. may notify. Any other establishment so notified by the Central Government even if employing less than 20 persons

3.11 Employees' State Insurance Act 1948. Employees' State Insurance provides health and social security insurance.


3.12 Unorganized Workers' Social Security Act 2008

This act was passed to extend the coverage of life and disability benefits, health and maternity benefits, and old age protection for unorganized workers. "Unorganized" is defined as home-based workers, self-employed workers or daily-wage workers. The state government was meant to formulate the welfare system through rules produced by the National Social Security Board.

 3.13 The Maternity Benefit Act 1961, creates rights to payments of maternity benefits for any woman employee who worked in any establishment for a period of at least 80 days during the 12 months immediately preceding the date of her expected delivery.  Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017 provides for 26-weeks paid maternity leave for women employees.

3.14 Interstate Migrant Workmen Act 1979.

This act provides protection to inter state migrant workers.

3.14 Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976, abolishes bonded labour, but estimates suggest that between 2 million and 5 million workers still remain in debt bondage in India.

3.15 Child labour in India is prohibited by the Constitution, article 24, in factories, mines and hazardous employment, and that under article 21 the state should provide free and compulsory education up to a child is aged 14. However, in practice, the laws are absolutely not enforced.

3.16 Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) of Children Act 2000

3.17 Child Labour (Prohibition and Abolition) Act 1986


3.18 Fair dismissal.

Some of India's most controversial labour laws concern the procedures for dismissal contained in the Industrial Disputes Act 1947. A workman who has been employed for over a year can only be dismissed if permission is sought from and granted by the appropriate government office. Additionally, before dismissal, valid reasons must be given, and there is a wait of at least two months for government permission, before a lawful termination can take effect.

A permanent worker can be terminated only for proven misconduct or for habitual absence. The Industrial Disputes Act (1947) requires companies employing more than 100 workers to seek government approval before they can fire employees or close down. In practice, permissions for firing employees are seldom granted. Indian laws require a company to get permission for dismissing workers with plant closing, even if it is necessary for economic reasons. The government may grant or deny permission for closing, even if the company is losing money on the operation.

The dismissed worker has a right to appeal, even if the government has granted the dismissal application. Indian labour regulations provide for a number of appeal and adjudicating authorities – conciliation officers, conciliation boards, courts of inquiry, labour courts, industrial tribunals and the national industrial tribunal – under the Industrial Disputes Act. These involve complex procedures. Beyond these labour appeal and adjuvating procedures, the case can proceed to respective State High Court or finally the Supreme Court of India.

3.19 Redundancy


Redundancy ,Pay must be given, set at 15 days' average pay for each complete year of continuous service. An employee who has worked for 4 years in addition to various notices and due process, must be paid a minimum of the employee's wage equivalent to 60 days before retrenchment, if the government grants the employer a permission to lay off.


4.0 Land reform in India

 Land Reform refers to efforts to reform the ownership and regulation of land in India.

4.1 Goals

Land title formalization has been part of India’s state policy from the very beginning. Independent India’s most revolutionary land policy was perhaps the abolition of the Zamindari system (feudal land holding practices). Land-reform policy in India had two specific objectives: "The first is to remove such impediments to increase in agricultural production as arise from the agrarian structure inherited from the past. The second object, which is closely related to the first, is to eliminate all elements of exploitation and social injustice within the agrarian system, to provide security for the tiller of soil and assure equality of status and opportunity to all sections of the rural population.” (Government of India 1961 as quoted by Apus 1996)

4.2 Categories


There are four main categories of reforms:

  1.                     Abolition of intermediaries (rent collectors under the pre-Independence land revenue system);
  2.                   Tenancy regulation (to improve the contractual terms including security of tenure);
  3.                A ceiling on landholdings (to redistributing surplus land to the landless);
  4.                 Attempts to consolidate disparate landholdings; encouragement of cooperative joint farming; settlement and regulation of tenancy.

 4.3 History


Since its independence in 1947, there has been voluntary and state initiated/mediated land reforms in several states with dual objective of efficient use of land and ensuring social justice.  Land reforms in states of West Bengal and Kerala were successful to some extent. Other than these state sponsored attempts, there was attempt to bring changes through Bhoodan initiated by Vinoba Bhave. It met with only limited successmovement

 in 1977, (CPI(M)) initiated gradual land reforms, such as Operation Barga. The result was a more equitable distribution of land among the landless farmers, and enumeration of landless farmers.

 In Kerala, state administrations have carried extensive land, tenancy and agrarian labour wage reforms.  land reforms have been successful only in pockets of the country. As govts lacked political will to implement these reforms; Land owning communities, with the connivance of administration and politicians    were able to find loopholes to circumvent the laws and prevent transfer of land to Dalits.

4.4 Land reforms to identify the surplus land and distribute surplus land to land less Dalits is very important reform which can bring about huge change in the lives of Dalits. In democracy winning elections is the main aim of any political party. Land reforms may win votes of Dalits but votes of land owning communities will be lost surely. Even politicians from scheduled castes do not peruse   this issue vigorously because for winning election they need votes of general category as well. No political party is likely to stick their neck out, fearing wrath of powerful land-owning communities. Dalits have to fight their battle alone to get the surplus land. Land reforms if implemented will result in big boost to the economic condition of Dalits.


5.0 Housing needs of Dalits.

Shelter from sun and rain is the basic need of all living creatures.  Traditionally Dalits did not have right to property. They were paid wages by society, just enough for survival. Therefore, most of them were shelter less. Even after 70 years of independence despite several constitutional safeguards 46.62% Dalits do not have proper shelter. They live in mud houses. Govt should implement land reforms on priority and distribute the surplus land to Dalits to build shelters .

6.0 Education

6.1 Education can bring about dramatic change in lives of Dalits. It is the biggest hope of a family to come out of vicious cycle of poverty. After independence, govt schools were main source of education for poor and Dalits.  These schools had reasonably good standard of education. Slowly education standards deteriorated to dangerously low level. Lot of good private schools have come in to existence but the poor cannot afford high tuition fees charged by private schools.  Majority of Dalits house holds falls in low income group and cannot afford to send their children to private schools.  Govt should improve infrastructure and management of govt schools. More govt schools should be opened in Dalit settlements.

6.2  83.55 % Dalits have income of less than Rs 5000/ month. 11.74% have income above Rs 5000 but less than Rs 10,000. With this level of income families can not afford to educate their children. Govt is providing monetary help by way of pre-matric and, post matric scholarship etc.  present rates of scholarships are as under:

a. Pre - matric scholarships

To be eligible for Pre-matric scholarship for students studying in class ix and x, Parental annual income ceiling is Rs 2.00 lakh. Rate of scholarship per month is as under:


Day scholar


  1. Scholarship Rs per month for 10 months

Rs 150


  1. Books & adhoc grants once in a year

 Rs 750

 Rs 1000


b. Post- matric scholarships


To be eligible for post matric scholarship annual income parents should not exceed Rs 2.50 lakhs Rates of scholarships are as under:


Group of education

Day scholar.

Scholarship in Rs per month


Scholarship in Rs per month


Degree, and post-graduation in Engineering, medicine etc.

Rs 1200 per month

Rs 550 per month

Group II

Diploma in engineering, medicine management etc.

Rs 820 per month

Rs530 per month

Group iii

All graduate level courses not covered in group I

Rs 570


Group iv

Post matric non-degree courses




c. Other allowances.:

I. Study tour (one time) up to Rs 1600.

II. Thesis, typing, printing. Upto Rs 1600

iii. Book grant for correspondence course Rs 1200.

Iv Book allowance:



Sharing criteria one set for 2 students

Ceiling per set or actual cost whichever is less

Degree, medical/engineering


Rs 7500

Degree in vet


Rs 5000

Degree in agricultural


Rs 4500




Post graduate in medical engineering, MBA etc.

One set per student

 Rs 5000



6.3 The scholarship amount covers only a part cost of education.The scholarships are paid to students at the end of the session or quite late. The parents have to pay the school fees  and incur  expenditure.  They have to wait  for months to get   part refund in the form of scholarship. As brought about above 83.55% Dalit households earn less than Rs 5000/ month.89% households earn their lively hood by manual labour and do not have regular source of income. This income group cannot afford education expenditure. Therefore, scholarship  should cover full cost of education and should be paid regularly.


7.0 Judicial system:

7.1 Judicial system is slow and, costly. Although this judicial system is hurting all poors, but Dalits are worst sufferer. They cannot afford lawyers and pay bail amont. Therefore they are not able to fight their cases and languish in jails.

7.2 Many are victim of caste prejudices. Practice of untouchability is still prevalent. Caste discrimination and caste prejudices are widely practiced. judges are   from our society only. Their attitude, and behavior is bound to be affected by social atmosphere of society. National commission for scheduled castes have submitted report to govt in 2016 where in they have recommended representation of scheduled castes in judiciary. Representation  in judiciary will help   instilling more  sense of confidence  in the judicial system

7.3 Speedy and affordable judicial system will be in the interest of all poor including Dalits. Govt passed Gram nyalya act 2008 in order to expedite disposal of petty civil and criminal cases arising at village level. The act has not been enforced properly and only few courts are functional. Stated reasons for the poor enforcement are financial constraints, reluctance of lawyers, police and govt officials.

 It takes decades to get justice. Lakhs of cases are pending in courts. It will take years to clear the backlog. Govt seems to be in no hurry to wipe out the pendency and improve the justice delivery system. Various estimates suggest that large number of under trials are in jails.  No of jailed undertrials are more than convicted prisoners. Most of such under trials are poor Dalits who are illiterate and can not afford legal assistance and bail money. Judicial reforms are very essential for creating healthy democratic society.



Resolution of above four issues is necessary to up lift Dalits. All efforts should be to find ways to: -

  1.       Implement existing labour laws and create administrative machinery to ensure effective implementation.
  2.       Implement land reforms.  
  3.      Education is single important factor to change the life of a family. Expenditure on education is most profitable  to individual, society and nation. Education is essential to harness full potential of young children. Govt has failed miserably to harness this potential fully. It is important for all of us to make the govt realize their responsibility and use all available forums to persuade the govt to ensure that every child get quality school education and all aspiring boys and girls get professional and higher education. Economic condition of the family should not be the hindrance.
  4.      Delivery of timely justice at affordable cost is essential for everyone. Although we keep hearing in media about govt concern about pending cases in courts and govt intention to speed up the justice delivery system. But no dramatic results have been achieved so far. The way vacancies in higher judiciary remain unfilled for months together and the backlog of cases still being unacceptably high indicates that judicial reforms are not priority item of govt. Politicians and powerful are beneficiary of lethargic and slow judicial system. Therefore, political parties are not likely to raise the issue of judicial reforms vigorously. Social organizations and  enligtened citizens  have to come forward  and do the needful.