In Indian society, newspapers, TV channels and other means of mass communication are not the only sources of information and knowledge. A more powerful information network exists, which comprises the members of one’s caste and community, and relatives and friends. It is not difficult to guess from where and how a young man of Dalit, OBC or Tribal community gets to know what he should study, how he should look for a job, etc and, more importantly, from where he gets the inspiration to do all these things. One can get a survey done among the Dalits, OBCs and Tribals, the Bahujan, to determine how many of them can or do use the means of mass communication to get essential, encouraging information on partnership in the sociopolitical power structure. Most of them have no access at all to the means of mass communication. Even those who are a little better placed rarely get to read more than one newspaper. There is no rule that only such means of communication to which Dalit, OBCs and Tribals have more access should be used to disseminate information about educational and job opportunities. Thus, the social communication structure becomes very important for securing one’s due share in the society.
If a survey is conducted to find out what kind of education and jobs Dalits, OBCs and Tribals are getting attracted to, the result will display the extent of the imbalance that exists. For instance, it will show that most are gravitating towards a particular kind of education and jobs. Statistics obtained from Delhi’s Mata Sundari Mahila Mahavidyalaya prove the point. In the four-year period from 2007 to 2011, the number of girls admitted to the college was 2,658. These admissions were made in 17 undergraduate and PG courses. Only 33 of these students came from OBCs and of them as many as 30 had opted for a single course: Bachelor of Elementary Education (B.El.Ed.). One each chose MA course in Hindi and Sanskrit. What could be the reason for this limited choice?
The fact of the matter is that those who are associated with the discourse on Dalit, OBC and Tribal communities have their own limitations. There is little scope for enlarging the ambit of this discourse. Seemingly, no effort is being made to build a social structure for providing information and knowledge. Dr Ambedkar’s call to “get educated” has fuelled a mad rush towards schools and colleges. But education does not merely mean studying in schools and colleges. It is as important to determine the direction of education.
I tried to obtain information on the presence of Dalits, OBCs and Tribals in many courses, where, I suspected, they would have limited access. For instance, I put in an RTI query in the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) seeking to know how many students were given JRF (Junior Research Fellowship) in the last ten years in the field of social sciences. I also sought to know the number of OBC, SC and ST recipients of the fellowship in the last five years. To begin with, there is a misconception that ICMR is an institution dealing only in disciplines related to medicine. Thus, the first thing that is important is getting complete and accurate information about an institution. Most of the time, “common sense” is used to draw conclusions in this regard. But in reality it is not common sense but mental inertia. This inertia can be broken only by a social communication structure. The fact is that ICMR gives JRFs to researchers in the fields of psychology, anthropology, sociology, social work, health economics, home science and statistics/ bio-statistics, too.
What is surprising is that of the 1,705 researchers selected in this period, only 57 were Dalits (STs) and 11 were Tribals. The number of women albeit was a significant 682. In 2006, one Dalit and seven OBCs; in 2008, one Dalit and two OBCs; in 2009, one Dalit and three Tribals (STs) and OBC each; in 2010, two Dalits and seven OBC candidates were selected. In the five years, only 29 OBC, Dalit and Tribal researchers were selected. This, when the annual intake was 140, of which 105 were selected through open competition.
Now, we will go a little deeper into these figures. Of the Dalit candidates who were selected, none belonged to Bihar, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh – the states where more than 75 per cent of the country’s population resides. None of the Tribal candidates came from MP, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Gujarat and Jharkhand – the states known for their Tribal populace. Among the OBCs three were from Bihar and one from Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. There was no one from states like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat. Most of the candidates came from Delhi. The objective of this analysis is to underline the importance of social communication structure. There are two important things here. First, that the Dalit, Tribal and OBC communities are not getting their due share in the system. And whatever share they are getting is confined to a certain kind of education and certain kinds of jobs. Those who are talking of partnership, know little or nothing about research. They have nothing new to say. They are just parroting the same old slogans. They do not have the necessary tools for building a new society.
We obtained similar information from National Museum Institute. We asked them that how many OBC, Dalit and Adivasi candidates registered for the MA and PhD courses during the last ten years. In 2001, 20 male and 31 female candidates were selected. Of them, there was only one Dalit and Tribal female candidate each and one Dalit male. Until 2009, only seven OBCs were selected, of which two were women. The total number of admissions from 2001 to 2009 was 432. In this period, only 14 Dalit and 17 Tribal candidates were selected.
These institutes say that they disseminate information about the courses run by them through newspapers and websites. The newspapers are selected by the institutions themselves. As for the internet, it is a relatively new medium and one does not know how long will it take for the members of these communities to have adequate access to websites. It is clear that parliamentary legislation is not enough to give its due share to a sizeable part of the population. Steps need to be taken at many levels and in many ways. And these include language and technology.
Parliament can do away with only one level of deception. But there are many levels of deception. The question is of maintaining one’s dominance. This is often done by changing the form of dominance. And the deception continues.
The social communication structure is associated with a key cultural issue. The structure cannot be built merely by talking big. It demands precise action and a sensitive attitude. The deprived communities may have many representatives in Parliament and state assemblies. But a cultural leader can play a much more important role in bringing about social change because they can raise awareness about the various forms and levels of deception. They can be instrumental in helping the masses see the various links of deception.
Published in the July 2013 issue of the Forward Press magazine