The fact that some sixty years after Independence the dalits continue to be marginalized in our country cannot be disputed. It is not so much a question of debating the undeniable progress during this period, but of measuring these against where as a free and democratic nation we ought to be, not where a colonial state once was on this issue of untouchability and its very subtle and more violent manifestations that are still prevailing. Why have these not yet been effectively redressed with an inclusive politics? The political elites who have ruled this country all these years have not as yet successfully implemented even the minimum programme that would effectively bring some minimal inclusion to the marginalized in the development process of this much vaunted economic boom of ‘shining India’. Achieving universal literacy, eradication of night-soil being carried on the head are good examples of promises made repeatedly and predictably betrayed.
Why do policies and programmes designed to benefit these masses not get the kind of priority they deserve, while policies that advantage the rich and powerful get more than their due share of consideration? Are these people part of our common destiny or must they search elsewhere? Is this a new internal colonialism that we are getting accustomed to live with? These are some of the searing questions that this book implicitly raises, questions that won’t go away no matter how we try to obfuscate them with an identity politics of community and religion, or region and caste that perpetuates intra-group hierarchies even as they pretends to level inter-group ones.
This volume is another significant contribution by Sukhadeo Thorat, a man known as much for his clarity of analysis as for his commitment to the cause of the last and the least, especially the dalits in this country. As an economist his focus has been on the material situation of these marginalized people and ways and means to redress this. This book is best addressed to those who drag their feet on the dalit causes, often using the supposed paucity of data as an excuse.