June 17, 2007

life in general: (part 2) "the ripped chest" book

...excerpts from Harsh Mander's "The Ripped Chest" book's Preface continued from my March 20 '07 post:

...There is economic denial, hunger and homelessness. There is deprivation of power even over the circumstances of one's own life, let alone over governance institutions, public officials and an oppressive social order. There is discrimination and social exclusion based on gender, caste, class, ethnic community and disability, which are practised even by institutions of the state, including the judiciary. And at the same time, there is sometimes exceptional courage and human spirit to reclaim the dignity and humanity, of which the wider political economy and social arrangements combine to dispossess them.

In the...book, an attempt is made to look, as with a magnifying glass, at the content and actual working of public policy to combat economic poverty and social inequity in India....Probably the two disadvantaged social groups which have been the subject of the most intensive range of policy instruments for positive discriminations have been the dalits or ex-untouchables or Scheduled Castes (SC); and the tribal or indigenous communities, known as the Scheduled Tribes (ST). It is for this reason that these social groups have been selected for examination, rather than women or persons with disabilities, both of whom have tended to be neglected to a far greater degree by public policy in India.

Positive discrimination for what is the largest historically exploited group, namely women, has not been as centrestage in public policy in India. Policy blindness has been extreme towards persons with disabilities. I intend to return in a later work to a study of public policy in India in relation to these social groups...

..Chapter 2 examines the status of the ex-untouchable dalit community and state interventions.

The chapter concludes that despite growing social and political mobilisation and extensive state intervention, dalits continue to subsist in conditions of abject poverty and illiteracy and are victims to untouchability and atrocities in large parts of the country. The state must intervene in determined activist fashion, with a wide range of measures. These would include legal aid guarantee, reorientation of the law and order machinery, legal literacy and mass mobilisation for legal action, public sector and judicial reform. In addition, there is the imperative for systematically ensuring minimum needs in dalit settlements, general outreach of health and literacy programmes, and breaking finally, the bond between traditional 'unclean' occupations and caste.

The chapter on state policy towards the indigenous tribal people attempts to describe the grave and complex predicament of tribal communities in contemporary India, and the legislative and policy interventions that have been designed to address these problems. It traces how state ownership of forests facilitated unhindered exploitation of natural resources by the state.

... The third part of the book looks closely at official programmes that are designed to address rural and urban poverty... In India's planning process... poverty has been measured and sought to be addressed primarily in terms of economic deprivation, chiefly low levels of income and consumption. The widest battery of public policy instruments have been designed to address rural poverty which is manifested in terms of economic disadvantage and deprivation. Therefore, this once again is the subject of detailed investigation in this book. When examining public policy for rural poverty, it seemed necessary for the sake of completeness also to examine public policy for urban poverty, although our investigation reveals this to be an area of...grave neglect by policy-makers in India.

The chapter on rural poverty...sets out to examine...the objectives...and impacts of major programmes undertaken by the Government...aiming at overcoming poverty, in order to assess in some depth their strengths and weaknesses. It argues taht poverty is a complex and multi-faceted condition that requires not only a much more vigorous thrust, but that it is also a concern that needs to be mainstreamed into the entire gamut of state interventions, especially in sustainable agriculture and the social sectors. It holds that the micro-credit programmes as they are presently designed are fundamentally flawed and need to be severely curtailed and refashioned. On the other hand, rural works programmes, with more effective focus on creating or augmenting livelihoods of the poor, need to be expanded greatly and to include a legally enforceable guarantee component.

In the subsequent discussion, on the state and the urban poor in Idia, it is demonstrated that for women and men, girls and boys who live in poverty in towns and cities, life is extremely hard in many ways. If they have access to shelters at all, these are illegal, insecure, cramped and utterly ramshackle. Otherwise people are compelled to live even in rain and cold under the open sky; their habitat is dehumanised, unserviced and polluted; their livelihoods casual, uncertain, underpaid and criminalised. Most of these are the direct outcomes of state policy...

(more excerpts to follow...)

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