Fewer dalits personal land in 10 yrs, take to agri jobs
CHENNAI: The number of farmers has declined between the 2001 and 2011 censuses, while there are many more from the community now who are working mainly as , census data recently released shows. The data also shows that there’s been a dramatic rise in the number of dalits working in the construction industry and in hotels and restaurants over the decade-long period.
Data on “main workers” – those who find work for more than six months in the year – among dalits shows that nearly half of them were employed either as agriculture labourers or construction workers in 2011. Interestingly, while the number of dalit agricultural workers rose by 22% over 2001, the number of “cultivators” fell by 12%. This suggests many from the community have been dispossessed of their land and have to work on others’ fields.
In the construction industry, the number of dalit workers has increased by 79% between 2001 and 2011. Similarly, the “accommodation and food services” sector has seen a 90% rise in the number of regular dalit workers, thought the numbers remain relatively small.
“Many cultivators must have sold their land as the return on investment must have been less. Many dalits own only marginal land and after selling their land they must have migrated to urban areas. Landless dalits are mostly employed as agriculture labourers and it has not changed over several censuses,” said Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chairman Milind Kamble.
On the number of dalit construction workers increasing, Kamble said many dalits have promoted themselves as sub-contractors and contractors over the years. “After finishing BE, I started as a sub-contractor and later became a contractor. There are several such dalits who are contractors and sub-contractors apart from construction workers. Dalits who migrate from villages are employed as construction workers,” said Kamble.
D , a former MLA from the (VCK), a Tamil Nadu party with its base primarily among dalits, offered other reasons for the number of agriculture labourers increasing. “The data clearly shows that dalits have sold their land either under pressure from local persons or due to industrialisation,” he said.
He said dalits in rural areas are employed mostly as agriculture labourers and if the same person migrates to urban areas, he or she will be employed only as construction worker. “Dalits from villages are not skilled and have been working in the fields. If they migrate to urban areas, there is no sector other than construction in which they will get employment,” said Ravikumar.
The pattern of dalits being employed primarily in agriculture or construction, however, does not hold true in all states. Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and are all states with large dalit populations. But there is a wide variation in the pattern among them. Nearly 70% of main workers among dalits in Andhra Pradesh are employed as agriculture workers or construction workers. At the other extreme, just 11% of dalit main workers in Tamil Nadu are in these sectors.