(GIST OF YOJANA) Social Change among
SCs and Sts
Social Change among SCs and Sts
That certain castes and tribes are privileged in comparison to
others is a well known ‘social fact’. By the same logic, certain other castes
and tribes are dis-privileged or disadvantaged in comparison to their better
socially endowed castes and tribes. It is for this precise social fact, that the
Constitution had recognised the less privileged and more disadvantaged groups
(Scheduled Castes for their structural disadvantage based on ritual status and
Scheduled Tribes for their geographic isolation and disadvantage) for special
safeguards and affirmative measures such as anti-discrimination, anti-atrocity
and positive discrimination laws such as prohibition of the practice of
untouchability (in the case of SCs), protection of right to the land and
habitation (in the case of STs), provision of scholarships and reservations in
education and employment (for both the SCs and 81‘s), and more recently,
ear-marking sub-plans in union and state budgets cutting across various
departments of the Government for improving the lot of both the SCs and STs. In
fact, sub-plan provisions have facilitated creation of an entrepreneurial and
commercial class among the SCs and 31‘s in the past decade or so.
As a precursor to the rising ambitions and aspirations to emerge
as a small fraction of a ‘neo’ commercial class, the country witnessed emergence
of a generation of ‘new’ educated middle class among SCs and STs. Studies have
documented enough of the role that affirmative policies in education and
employment have played in bringing about this change within the hitherto rigid
social structure. Without doubt, one can safely claim that reservations in
higher education and in government employment are the main sources of creating a
‘new’ educated middle class among the Scheduled Castes and Tribes in the
post-independent India. The stricter implementation of reservations in higher
education and in government jobs have even motivated more and more first
generation SCs and STs to break the glass-ceiling of social mobility, thereby
empowering them in all respects social, economic and political.
Firstly, the major effect of social empowerment of the
disadvantaged is that it had increased their aspirations to get good and
relevant education for employment. Irrespective of the region and state, the
levels of literacy among SCs and STs have increased. The enrolments in
elementary education have increased too. The dropout rates came down
significantly and the rates of retention have improved at various levels, though
they continue to remain a cause of concern. The transition from elementary to
secondary and from secondary to higher education has improved, though there is
much to be desired in these transitions.
Higher Education Participation
The process of social and economic empowerment had increased
participation of SCs and STs in higher education, which is a passport to better
life, social status and economic opportunities. The gross enrolment ratios (GER)
of SCs and STs have witnessed tremendous improvement in the past fifteen years.
For instance, SCs have improved their participation by registering a GER of 19.1
percent in 2014-15 in comparison to a mere 8.4 percent in 2005-06 (Table 1).
Similarly, the Scheduled Tribes have improved their GER in higher education from
6.6 percent in 2005-06 to over 13.7 percent in 2014-15.
In fact, these rates were steadily improving from the year
1999-2000 due to increased state policy stress and initiatives that triggered a
second wave of institution building in higher education in the hrst decade of
the new millennium. If we consider the GER of SCs in 1999-2000 (5.09 percent),
the growth is almost quadrupled by 2014-15. In the case of STs, however, the
growth is merely doubled (6.43 in 1999-2000 to 13.7 in 2014-15) (Rao, 2017: 159;
G01, 2016: pages 29 and 31 ). On the contrary, overall, the GERs of all groups
including the non-reserved categories have increased from 11.6 in 2005-06 to
24.3 in 2014-15.
A few inferences may be drawn. The period between the years 2000
and 2015 has witnessed a higher rate of growth of higher education participation
rates for all groups, more so for SCs. Women from SCs and STs too have benefited
tremendously from this boom. For example, the higher education participation
rates among SC and ST women almost tripled between 2005-06 (6.4 for SC women and
4.7 for ST women) and 2014-15 (18.2 for SC women and 12.3 for ST women).
The quantum jump in higher participation rates of SCs and STs
symbolises a new consciousness regarding relevance of education for social and
economic empowerment among these groups. It also means that there has been a
huge induction of first generation SCs and 81‘s into the fold of benefits of
higher education and thus into the process of social empowerment A case in point
is the way the SCs/STs are able to fill in the jobs at the top end of the civil
services and also seeking to transform their representation in once elite
professional courses such as engineering, medicine, law and university teaching.
Subsequently, this has malted in re-structuring the middle class, professional
occupational profile of these castes and tubes in the recent times. However, it
may also be noted that the bulk of Group IV jobs, namely, the lower government
and private sector jobs, are largely populated by the SQ: and STs, reproducing a
sort of a hierarchical pyramid in modern, secular occupations. This may also be
due to the increasing number of early school leavers settling down for lower
services in the formal employment arena. Notwithstanding this pattern, the
transition from low status, traditional to high status, modem occupations has
brought forth considerable social change and dignity among the SCs and 81's.
Another development that is observed in the post liberalisation era is that more
and more educated SC/ ST professionals are going abroad for higher education and
for employment, and are also setting up diasporic groups in their host
countries, which signifies tremendous social and economic empowerment the
disadvantaged have attained. 0n the hip side, within the country, it may be
noted that the atrocities and discrimination continue w come to light even
today, making the gains look a bit meagre.
A Few Concerns
However, a few concerns are striking. The adverse effect of the
growing process of privatisation of higher education on the socially
disadvantaged is significant as it seems to limit social mobility prospects
among aspiring SCs and STs. Two implications may be drawn. First, since much of
the growth of higher education in the post 20008 is in private higher
professional education, it is not accessible to large sections of SCs and STs as
it does not facilitate reservations as mandated in the Constitution. As a
result, a high proportion of entrants into higher education from SCs and STs are
in the general higher education, which means that their chances of employment
are rather bleak. Second, as there are no reservations in private sector
employment where large scale employment opportunities are currently found, SCs
and 81‘s are either left out or become educated unemployed. These twin issues in
a way keep the momentum that the country had gained post independence in
stimulating a process of social change among most disadvantaged tardy.
Moreover, the gender parity among all groups (in particular
among SCs and 81‘s) remains a serious issue. While participation of women in
higher education had increased, it remains far behind men. importantly, SC and
ST women from urban areas fare much better than their rural counterparts, which
means that the bulk of women are not benefitting from the social change that is
occurring through widened access to higher education. What is important to note
is that the urban SC and ST women entering into higher education are largely
from second generation beneficiaries of affirmative policies, which also means
that a large chunk of first generation from all SC/ ST households in general,
women from among these households in particular, are still to be covered by the
policy frame and the scope of opportunities for social and economic empowerment.
To stress this point further, let us examine the condition of rural SC and ST
households within the formal employment sectors.
Therefore, while the lot of SCs and STs has improved
significantly over the past few decades, it remains far more to be improved.
However, the grounds for change are already laid out and the SC and ST
communities are becoming conscious of importance of education more and more,
which then helps in realizing an egalitarian higher education system and
society. It is beyond doubt that access to and retention in good quality higher
education and subsequent opportunities for secure employment are clear means of
social empowerment among these historically marginalized groups.
Government of India (GoI), 2016. Educational Statistics - At a
Glance, Ministry of Human Resources Development: New Delhi, pages. 25, 29, and
31 Accessed at http ://mhrd.gov.in/sites/upload/files/mhrd/flies/
statistics/ESGZOI6 0. df on July 9, 2018, at 3 pm. Ministry of Rural
Development, Socio-economic and Caste Survey 2011, Accessed at http://secc.gov.in,
on July 9th, at 5 pm. Rao, S. Srinivasa. 2017. Transition from Elite to Mass
System of Higher Education in India What does Classification Mean for Equality?
Journal of Educational Planning and Administration, Volume 31, no. 2, pp.