Being untouchable has no place in our world.
With its many different facets, there is no single solution to the plight of
Dalits. However, Dalits plead for their cause to resonate worldwide, like
apartheid in South Africa.
‘Untouchability’ was banned in India’s Constitution, but as
Dr B.R. Ambedkar, architect of India’s constitution and Dalit icon, once
said, “It will take more than a law to remove this stigma from the people
of India. Nothing less than the aroused opinion of the world can do it”.
The Indian Government has taken some remedial measures to address the
social exclusion of Dalits, and the current political leadership has
repeatedly stated its commitment to combat caste-based discrimination.
However, much more needs to be done.
Global corporations investing in India can play a role, by implementing
the ‘Ambedkar Principles’, which set out how to comply with the
UN Global Compact with special sensitivity to caste. Corporations must
ensure all their supply chains are entirely clear of labour exploitation, for
demand increases supply, and Dalits are the most susceptible to labour
exploitation. They should take responsibility in hiring practices, to ensure
Dalits are not excluded from employment because of the structural
disadvantages faced by their communities.
India’s global partners can play a role. The UN has charged the Indian
Government with demonstrating clear progress to tackle the many
different forms of caste-based discrimination, and this message needs to
be reinforced by fellow UN member states.
Foreign aid and development policies, too, should specifically tackle the
structures that support social exclusion, especially caste-based discrimination.
It is up to us to see that this happens. Don’t forget the Dalits.
Above: Devamma was our host when we visited her Dalit community. She cooked for us and allowed us to use her home as a base during our stay. Devamma has lived with leprosy for more than 40 years. Kalyan, Maharashtra.