Law and Justice

Dalits and Landlessness in India

India’s caste system included 4 major varnas which are Brahmins, Kshatrias, Vaishyas and Shudras. The ones excluded from this social hierarchy were treated as untouchables. They were considered lowest of all and did not have basic human rights. They were meant to live in despair due to poverty forever.

However, times changed and with arrival of democracy and laws were made to protect the fundamental rights of every citizen and abolished discrimination, regardless of caste or religion. Despite this dalits are not in a well doing state. They still have lot of challenges like discrimination which is still there beneath the surface. One of their biggest challenge is landlessness.

Landlessness a Really Big Challenge

Owning a piece of land regardless of the size gives sense of security to a person. This statement holds more value in relation with Indian scenario where economy is mostly derived from the land. For the same reason, it is considered to be a big status symbol in the Indian society and not just here but in most parts of the world.

There are ways to earn with dignity using a piece of land, but dalits really don’t have any land. In the end, they are forced to take odd and menial jobs under other people. In case of most of the dalits this is an unchanging truth for life. The only exceptions are those who manage to crack competitive exams, this option is their only light of hope and unfortunately it is not like education is accessible to all. When we already know well enough that dalit families are struggling as hard as they can to make the ends meet for only the basic needs like food, clothing and shelter then quality education is just additional burden on them. Although government has policies and schemes in place to reach out to them, yet only a handful of them are being able to exercise their rights which include reservations in education and job opportunities. Rest of the others are just putting their children at work as unskilled labour which does no good for them in the long run. 

If we talk in numbers and statistics then here we have some facts to look upon. According to census of 2015-16 only 9% of total agricultural land is owned by dalits. 71% of dalits are landless labourers who work on someone else’s land. In Gujrat, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab and Tamil Nadu 90% of dalit farmers are landless labourers. In rural areas 58.4% of dalit household don’t own any land at all. Haryana, Punjab and Bihar are actually dalit dominated but 85% of them depend on the landlords for their survival.

Possible Solution

It is clear as day that how being landless is making dalits suffer so much or at least the opposite can prove to be a boon for them. It would be a great step if government distributes the land in its possession among them. It has been seen several times that there is adequate land for distribution. A report in 2006 by the Koneru Ranga Rao Committee in Andhra Pradesh and a report in 2008 by the Governors’ Committee set up by first dalit president of India, K R Narayan, are few of several those instances that verified availability of land. Well, of course it can’t be as easy as said and things take time but it seems to be the best possible solution at hand in the long run.