A rising India is standing by its migrant workers, caste has no role to play
The scientific and intrinsic legacy of India’s spiritual culture and its values are emerging from the shackles of the medieval practice of casteism. A changing India has begun exfoliating the stains of a thousand yesterdays. Your article “Caste Aside” on May 17, highlighted with some visuals, does not correctly portray the actual situation. It wrongly gives the impression of negativity and gives your readers a view of a static India rather than a rising one.
Firstly, the issue of migrant workers has been twisted into a caste issue. Discrimination against Dalits has seen remarkable dilution, as opportunities have been thrown open to all castes and communities.
For example, in the western part of India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, the proportion of Dalits owning their business jumped from 9.3 per cent in 1990 to 36.7 per cent in 2010; and the number of those working in non-traditional professions, as masons, tailors or drivers, had risen to 42 per cent. In a 2011 interview in The New York Times, leading Dalit intellectual Chandra Bhan Prasad said: “This is a golden period for Dalits.”
“Because of the new market economy, material markers are replacing social markers. Dalits can buy rank in the market economy. India is moving from a caste-based to a class-based society, where if you have all the goodies in life and your bank account is booming, you are acceptable.”
In contrast, the Brahmins of India have been sidelined for privileges given to other castes and minorities. A Chugh Publications survey in 2007 reported that 55 per cent of all Brahmins lived below the poverty line, below a per capita income of Rs 650 (US$8.65) a month. That is pretty dismal.
Indian migrant workers walk home amid coronavirus lockdown
Secondly, the evacuation of so-called privileged Indians stranded abroad was undertaken without any consideration of caste, social rank or religion. Many returnees had to pay for such services.
The problem of migrant workers anxious to return home has been variegated and intense, due to alarming numbers, and have been handled by the government to the best of its ability, with buses and train services arranged.
The generous and compassionate people and institutions of India also set up stalls offering free cooked food and rations to departing labourers or those stranded without a job.
Dayal N. Harjani, Ho Man Tin
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Courtesy : SCMP