Pathways to Reducing Dalit and Scheduled Tribes’ Social Isolation in India

Born in Hong Kong and raised in Europe, Asia and North America, Claire Chauvel is a joint honours degree candidate in History, International Development Studies and Economics at McGill University. Following graduation, Claire plans to focus her career around the intersection of politics and economics, and work to promote economic growth through sustainable and socially inclusive means.

In her essay, Pathways to Reducing Dalit and Scheduled Tribes’ Social Isolation in India, Claire Chauvel argues that the ongoing discrimination against, and exclusion of, India’s lower castes must be overcome through a multi-faceted approach. This could include initiatives such as “appropriate legislation, enforcement, affirmative action, awareness campaigns, community movements, education, and literature.” Efforts like these would help mitigate the social isolation experienced by as many as 300 million lower caste Indians, as well as enhance the level of social connectedness and productivity in Indian society.

Claire writes that the caste system is a “direct impediment to development,” and that focus should be on “people centered development,” which grants rights to, and enhances the capabilities, of each individual. But this alone is not enough. The government, she explains, must allow people the opportunity to make use of them in practice.

Claire then assesses a number of policies and programs that have attempted to eliminate the caste system. First, she reviews the evolution of Dalit and Scheduled Tribe enfranchisement through modern Indian history, explaining that while the government has taken important legislative steps to realize the aspirations of liberty and equality engrained in the country’s constitution, the “pervasiveness of caste identification in India’s political structure is a primary source of continued isolation and inequality.” Second, Claire reviews the reservation/quota system, which, she asserts, has enfranchised many, but has not been properly enforced and has polarized society. Finally, she reviews a number of civil society initiatives, notably Dalit movements and Dalit literature.


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