(GIST OF YOJANA) Social Change among SCs and Sts [AUGUST-2018]

(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.

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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. 141-156.

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