On 31 August 2010 the home minister of India made a startling statement on the floor of the national Parliament, “In my prima facie view using Rs. 678 crores (INR 6.78 billion) out of SCSP to the commonwealth games infrastructure appears to be wrong. ” This statement seemed to be quite innocuous; however, the significance was not lost on the country's citizens. The national and international media picked it up, civil society and human rights groups celebrated a major milestone, and organizations working with the most deprived social group in India, the Dalits, were overjoyed. This is the story of the campaign that led to the government admitting that it had diverted funds earmarked for development away from one of the most deprived and discriminated communities in Indian society. 1. What was the campaign responding to? In India Dalits are "outcastes " who fall outside the traditional four-fold caste system, which consists of the hereditary Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra classes. Because they are considered to be outside of the caste system, Dalits are physically and socially excluded and isolated from the rest of society. 2 They make up 16.2 percent of the population, the majority live in poverty, and 62 percent are illiterate, according to the 2001 Census of India. The explanation behind these statistics is that Dalits are considered “untouchables ” and so they were not permitted to own land for centuries and were barred from education — the scriptures even prohibit Dalits from hearing sacred chants. However, legal protections and policies have been put into place to address these injustices. In order to address the cumulative burden of centuries of exclusion and discrimination, the Constitution of India guarantees the fundamental right against discrimination and declares that the “state shall promote with special care the educational and economic interest of the weaker sections of the people, and in particular, of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation. ”
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