Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cucumber City Bulletin/October 29, 2009

In today’s editions, the leading newspapers of Kerala made no mention of the discharge of three injured Dalit women from the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College Hospital yesterday under pressure from the police and the Shiv Sena.

The newspapers had reported in yesterday’s editions that seven women were admitted to various hospitals after a sword attack in Thoduve colony of Varkala the previous night.

The three women whom the Shiv Sena took out of the Medical College Hospital and dumped in Thoduve colony last night were able to move out this morning to seek treatment. They are now in a hospital at Vamanapuram.

When they showed the discharge certificate issued at Thiruvananthapuram, the doctor at Vamanapuram asked why they had refused treatment at the Medical College hospital which was better equipped.

They told him that they were discharged forcibly from the Medical College Hospital. He informed them that the certificate says they were discharged as they did not want to be treated there.

Malayala Manorama, in a report from Thiruvananthapuram, said the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes Coordination Committee demanded a comprehensive inquiry into the continuing violence in the Dalit colonies after the recent murders in Varkala.

The meeting, presided over by P. K. Sukumaran, demanded tracing of the anti-social elements responsible for stripping and assaulting two innocent Dalit women after B. R. P. Bhaskar’s visit to Thoduve colony and for the sword attack on about eight women who had participated in the dharna organized by the Dalit Janadhipathya Munnani outside the Varkala police station.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Shiv Sena spirits away injured Dalit women from Medical College Hospital

Under pressure from police and Shiv Sena, Thiruvananthapuram Medical College authorities today discharged three of the four women who were brought there with injuries following last night’s attack on Dalit residents of Thoduve colony in Varkala.

According to reports published this morning, eight Dalit women were injured in the attack by Shiv Sena men. The police and the media, following the practice of the past five weeks, scrupulously kept the Shiv Sena's name out of the reports.

According to the police story, the attack in which swords were used, was a clash between two groups over drawing water from the spring.

From early today the Medical Collehe Hospital came under pressure from the police to send out the four women who were admitted there, apparently to lighten the gravity of the case that has been registered. The pressure became intense after Shiv Sena men converged on the hospital.

Initially the doctors resisted the pressure but eventually they buckled. They said one woman was not in a fit condition to be moved but agreed to discharge the others.

The Shiv Sena men took the women away in a hired vehicle. They told friends and relatives of the injured that they would be admitted to the Chirayinkeezh hospital. This was a matter of some relief inasmuch as it meant that they would not go without treatment. However it turned out to be a false hope. Instead of taking the women to the taluk hospital, the Shiv Sena men dumped them in their Thoduve colony homes.

When the women tried to leave for the hospital on their own late in the evening, the police, who have been posted in the colony after yesterday’s attack, stopped them, saying it was unsafe for them to go out of the colony. They are now hoping to be able to move out in the morning.

This report is based on information conveyed by Dalits of Thoduve as well as human rights defenders who are in touch with them. Bits of information were posted in network sites as and when received.

Concerned over Varkala developments?

Some Facebook friends and Twitter followers, responding to my accounts of Varkala developments, have voiced their concern on those social networks.

I wish to inform them that voicing their concern in these forums may not serve any useful purpose since those who have the power to curb the atrocities are not among our friends in these networks. They must convey their concern to those who the power to act You may take your pick from the following:

The Chief Minister: fax 91-471-2333489

The Home Minister: fax 91-471-2327016

The Director General of Police:

CPI-M State Secretary:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Dalits stage peaceful, orderly protest outside Varkala police station

About 1,000 Dalits, mostly women, staged a dharna outside the Varkala police station this afternoon to protest against the police-Shiv Sena assault on Dalit colonies.

The dharna was under the auspices of an umbrella organization called Dalit Janaadhipathya Aikyamunnani (Dalit Democratic United Front).

The protestors marched through the main road, raising slogans, before converging in front of the police station. Both the march and the dharna were peaceful and orderly.

The preponderance of women in the demonstration is easily explained. The Dalit men are hiding fearing arrest and torture.

A notice distributed by Aikyamunnani says, “Sivaprasad, an ordinary person, was killed while on a morning walk in Varkala. Whoever committed this inhuman murder, democratic society has to condemn it. Also, the culprits must be brought before the law and punished. But following the murder the leaders and workers of Dalit Human Rights Movement (DHRM) have been jailed. They have even been refused bail. Besides, under cover of the Varkala incident, the entire Dalit community is being portrayed as terrorists. They have even coined a term Dalit Terrorism. What are the facts that prompt them to do this? It is nothing else. All across Kerala today the message is spreading that Dalits are no longer willing to drink the bitter juice of neglect and remain as slaves. The stamp of terrorism is put on Dalits in order to nip these awakenings in the bud. The Savarna strategy of mobilizing the entire society against Dalits is also behind it. The ruling establishment had earlier fabricated the false equation Muslim equals Terrorism. Today, through the Varkala incident, it is being extended to the Dalits.”

I inaugurated the dharna. PUCL state secretary Advocate P. A. Pauran and several Dalit leaders addressed the meeting. Pauran and I took the opportunity to reassure the Dalits that in the state and the country there is a civil society which understands their problem and is with them in their struggle for equality and equal opportunity.

During the weekend the Aikyamunnani had put up posters announcing the dharna. The posters had said I would be inaugurating the dharna. This provoked the Shiv Sena to launch a poster campaign of its own. Its posters called for investigation of my links with “NDF extremists”, the sources of my finances and the presence of “an ISI spy” during my visit to Dalit colonies as a member of a fact-finding team on October 18. I was for ignoring the Shiv Sena’s silly campaign but some young activists thought the vicious campaign needed to be countered. It was their effort that resulted in a joint statement by some prominent persons deploring the campaign of communal fascists.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Political contamination of state service is showing

Gulf Today

TWO controversies that rocked Kerala last week provide fresh evidence of political contamination of the official machinery, affecting its ability to discharge its functions impartially.

One controversy related to the enrolment of bogus voters in advance of the Assembly by-elections scheduled for Nov.7. The other related to the inclusion of a question that betrays political bias of teachers.

The first controversy grew into a messy affair before the Election Commission of India intervened and provided partial relief. The possibility of its erupting again after the polling cannot be ruled out.

The second controversy ended quickly with Education Minister MA Baby graciously acknowledging the mistake.

The Assembly by-elections in Kannur, Ernakulam and Alappuzha were necessitated by the election of their representatives to the Lok Sabha. All the three seats were held by the Congress, which heads the opposition United Democratic Front.

The outcome of the by-elections will not affect the stability of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government, which has a comfortable majority in the Assembly. However, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), which heads the coalition, is eager to grab at least one seat to boost its sagging image.

The party considers Kannur its best bet. Although Kannur town has been out of its hands for more than three decades, Kannur district is its stronghold. It also happens to be the home district of party state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan.

The Congress's decision to put up AP Abdullakutty, a former CPI-M member of the Lok Sabha, as its candidate in Kannur was a taunt which the party could not ignore. It fielded MV Jayarajan, a close lieutenant of Pinarayi Vijayan and architect of many successful electoral strategies.

K. Sudhakaran had won the seat in 2006 by a margin of 8,376 votes over his CPI-M rival KP Sahadevan. The Congress party alleged that the CPI-M had enrolled about 10,000 new voters with the help of pliant officials to offset its winning margin. It also charged that several hundred Congress voters had been dropped from the electoral rolls.

The CPI-M claimed it was the Congress which was guilty of enrolling bogus voters. It said the party, sensing defeat, was levelling false charges.

Media reports highlighted several instances of irregular enrolment. They pointed out that some of the addresses given by the new voters were non-existent.

The CPI-M may not be the only party which resorted to illegal enrolment but its involvement is clear from the fact that scores of newly registered voters are shown as living in premises under its control.

The revised rolls published last Wednesday shows an increase of 9,357 in the electorate. According to the electoral rolls officer, a total of 12,631 applications had been received.

The Congress took its complaints against the revised voters list to the Election Commission. The party asked that District Collector VK Balakrishnan, who was acting in collusion with the CPI-M, be removed.

The Commission directed the state government to replace the Collector but rejected the Congress demand that the by-election be postponed or held on the basis of the earlier voters' list.

The Commission's inability to ensure the elimination of all ineligible voters points to its limitations in the context of widespread political contamination of the official machinery.

The controversial question set for the half-yearly higher secondary examination cited a newspaper report on the death of Mercy Ravi, wife of Union Minister Vayalar Ravi, as an instance of the media giving undue importance to rich and influential persons and asked the students to write protest letters to the editor against the excessive coverage.

A former legislator and nationAl level leader of the Mahila Congress and the Indian National Trade Union Congress, Mercy Ravi was a public figure in her own right.

When the LDF is in power the task of setting question papers is entrusted to the pro-CPI-M Kerala State Teachers Association.

After the minister conceded that the question was inappropriate, KSTA general secretary C. Usman claimed the organisation was not aware of the contents of the question papers, prepared by the academic councils constituted by it.

Over the last decade several instances of government employees holding membership of the CPI-M in violation of the service rules have come to light.
The posts they occupy range from those of college professors and executive engineers to those of policemen.

It is almost certain that other political parties, too, have attracted government employees through service organisations under their control.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Varkala: a month later, political links are coming in the open

Responding to a YouTube video on the atrocities committed against Dalits in Varkala in the wake of a murder, a young Facebook friend asked, “but, why did they kill him?”

Sivaprasad, a senior citizen with no known political affiliation, was killed while on a stroll on the morning of September 23, 2009. The local police quickly pinned the crime on Dalit Human Rights Movement, an organization which was working among Dalits in the state for a few years but had attracted little public attention. It said DHRM had committed the murder to proclaim its strength.

The Facebook friend’s question did not surprise me. It is a question decent human beings have been asking one another since the media reported the police theory and embellished it with insinuations of Dalit extremism. After I visited Varkala as a member of a fact-finding team and wrote in my Malayalam blog about facts suppressed by the police and the media, a veteran journalist and good friend asked me the same question, “but, why did they kill him?”

Another senior journalist and friend, commenting on the collusion between the police and Shiv Sena, to which I had referred in the blog post, said it was difficult to believe that all media would knowingly spread the same lie. In response, I reminded him that all media had joined hands to spread the same lie in the ISRO espeionage case. The primary source for that lie, too, was the police, which was ably assisted by two Central intelligence agencies.

Another friend put his finger right on the middle class mind. “We may have differences about the perpetrators of the crime, the plotters, abettors, police, politicians and media. But what about the victim -- that middle class malayali, guilty of enjoying the leisure of a morning walk? All the inquiries should start from him --because he is you and me.”

The real question, indeed, is how safe are you and me amidst plotters, abettors, police, politicians and pliant media persons.

One FB friend found my reference to collusion between police and Shiv Sena not very convincing. He asked, “Do you mean there was not one single cop available to reveal the foul-play or the nexus? Do you mean all the cops in this state are hopeless? I am sorry sir, … I have seen enough number of cops with strong spine, regardless of innumerable punishment transfers.”

I presume this good friend believes Varghese was not killed in the Wayanad forest, Rajan was not tortured to death in the Kakkayam camp and Udayakumar did not die in the Fort police station, because no cop with strong spine revealed the foul play.

I am not overlooking Ramachandran Nair, the cop who spilled the beans about the fake encounter in Wayanad. He did confess to having pulled the trigger on Varghese. That was years after the event. He is no more. A case registered on the basis of his confession is still pending, with the prosecutors apparently waiting for the surviving accused also to die so that they can close the case and live happily ever after.

This FB friend voiced two other criticisms about the video, which was taken by a member of the fact-finding team. One is that there are no men in sight. The other is that the women refer to RSS, not Shiv Sena. The answer is simple. No men are in the video because they are all in police custody or hiding to avoid arrest and torture. The women mention RSS because they lack the sophistication needed to distinguish between different elements of Hindutva.

One month after the murder, political interests which were not visible until now have started surfacing. What has prompted them to come out is the intervention of the State Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, a body which has a mandate to look into the problems of Dalits and Adivasis.

On Wednesday, October 21, the Commission’s Chairman, Dr. P. K. Sivanandan, went to Varkala with some other members to study the situation in the Dalit colonies. They visited the Thoduve colony and the Ambedkar colony at Vadasserikonam and took evidence from a number of Dalits.

The next day, the Chairman of the Varkala Municipality, K. R. Biju, in a statement, accused Dr. Sivanandan of adopting a stance helpful to murderers. He said Dr. Sivanandan had visited the house of the accused and taken evidence in a partisan manner which was not consistent with the Chairman’s status. The other members of the Commission did not act in the same manner, he added.

Biju, who is an advocate, has either a poor understanding of the law and the mandate of the SC/ST Commission or his partisanship overruns his legal knowledge. The Commission is charged with the task of bettering the lot of Dalits and Adivasis. It visited Varkala not to investigate the murder but to look into complaints of atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis. Registration of a murder case against Dalits does not cut out the Commission’s jurisdiction over Dalit affairs.

Biju’s attempt to put the Chairman and members of the Commission on different planes is significant. The Chairman is a former IAS officer. The members' posts are political sinecures.

The State Committee of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Aikyavedi (united front), in a statement issued in Thiruvananthapuram, demanded the Dr. Sivanandan's removal from the chairmanship of the Commission. It alleged that he had visited the houses of murder case accused. It further accused him of scolding police officers in the presence of criminals.

The major media institutions did not cover the Commission’s visit to Varkala, although they had prior knowledge about it. That, however, did not inhibit them from playing up the statements critical of the Commission’s visit. There was nothing to indicate that they had sought the Commission’s response to the allegations.

Incidentally, Malayala Manorama and Mathrubhumi which have consistently ignored the police’s month-long Dalit hunt, found time to pursue the appearance of mysterious white drawings at the site of Sivaprasad’s cremation. The latest police theory is that it is the work of a person of unsound mind.

The statements against the Commission’s visit and the personal attack on the Chairman reveal the convergence of various vested interests in Varkala. The Municipal Chairman belongs to the CPI-M. The SC ST Aikyavedi is an outfit of the Hindutva camp. Their statements bear out their common interest in protecting the police which has let loose a reign of terror in the Dalit colonies.

Dr. P. K.Sivanandan, who is a trained engineer, holds a Master’s degree from the University of Sussex, M. Phil from the Jawaharlal Nehru University and Ph.D. from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. Political riff-raff may be forgiven for not being able to appreciate his credentials.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Kerala's lukewarm approach towards rural employment scheme

Gulf Today

KERALA's political establishment, particularly the Left, has demonstrated considerable skill in adapting various centrally-funded projects to local needs, often giving them an indigenous look and enhancing their usefulness.

The Kudumbashree project is an example of such adaptation. It was conceived by the Centre as a micro-finance venture to help the weaker sections, especially women, and organised on self-help basis with institutional support from commercial banks.

Kerala transformed it into a multifaceted poverty alleviation programme, wider in scope than the Self-Help Group (SHG) schemes in other states.

With many Kudumbashree units in the state coming under the sway of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), which dominates the panchayat scene, the Congress party launched an SHG network of its own, styled as Janashree, early this year. Finance Minister TM Thomas Isaac recently voiced the state government's annoyance at the Centre's support to Janashree as a micro-finance venture.

Strangely, the state government has not evinced due interest in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), which has emerged as the country's main poverty alleviation programme, although the CPI-M constantly reminds the public that the Centre had taken it up under pressure from the Left while it was supporting the United Progressive Alliance government from outside.

Launched in February 2006, NREGA initially covered only Palakkad and Wayanad districts in the state. Both the districts had witnessed deep agrarian distress. Indebtedness had driven a large number of farmers in Wayanad to suicide.

Palakkad is important as it accounts for the bulk of the areas still under paddy in the state.

Officials said 616,309 rural households in the two districts, including 57,810 below- poverty-line (BPL) families were eligible for assistance under the scheme. As many as 2,27,057 persons sought registration and 2,25,615 of them were given job cards.

Under NREGA, every eligible person is entitled to 100 days of work in the year at wages fixed by the government.

In October 2006 the Centre called for information from the states on employment provided under the scheme. Kerala did not reply.
Meghalaya was the only other state which defaulted.

The Centre had released Rs 217.9 million to the state by that time. As the government failed to provide the relevant figures, it was not known how much money was actually spent and how many families had benefited.

Kerala faces certain difficulties in the implementation of the scheme. One stems from the different yardsticks adopted by the Central and state governments to identify BPL families. Another arises from the fact that the wages fixed by the Centre are far below the minimum wages prevailing in the state.

Early assessment of the progress of the scheme showed that in several of the 200 districts across the country, where it was introduced in the first instance, its implementation was marked by corruption and leakages. There is room to suspect that Kerala withheld data to hide the shortcomings in its implementation.

NREGA now applies throughout the country. Data released by the Centre indicates that last year members of 3,57,252 families in the state were provided 8,141,429 person-days of employment under NREGA. The expenditure incurred was Rs764.1 million.

The state government's lackadaisical approach to the scheme is borne out by its failure to make effective use of the funds allocated by the Centre. It did not spend even one-third of the sum of Rs2.4 billion made available by the Centre under the scheme.

Figures released last month show that members of about 396,000.families have been provided 6.41 million person-days of employment so far this year. The amount spent was Rs987 million. This indicates that this year, too, much of the funds may remain unspent.

A harsh fact emerging from the data is that employment provided under NREGA falls far short of the promised 100 days of work in a year.

The data reveals the extent of feminisation of poverty in Kerala, especially at the bottom of the social heirarchy. Women constituted 85 per cent of the NREGA beneficiaries. In no other state did women form such a large proportion of the beneficiaries.

The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, who constitute 10 per cent and one per cent respectively of the state's population, accounted for 21 per cent and seven per cent respectively of the beneficiaries.

At the instance of the Centre, the state government is now planning a social audit of the scheme and considering the appointment of an ombudsman to ensure transparency. –Gulf Today, Sharjah, October 18, 2009.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Higher women's quota in local bodies may benefit CPI-M

Gulf Today

THE Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), which has enjoyed an edge over the other political parties in the elections to local bodies since long, is well set to improve its position by reaping the benefit of increased representation for women.

Women have had one-third reservation in local bodies throughout India under the 73rd and 74th amendments of the Constitution, passed in 1993. President Pratibha Patil, in her address to parliament in June, announced the Central government plans to raise women's quota in local bodies to 50 per cent.

Even before the Centre initiated legislation for the purpose, the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF), headed by the CPI-M, directed the Kerala government to set the ball rolling.

The state assembly, at a special session last month, enacted legislation providing for 50 per cent reservation for women not only in the local bodies but also in the elective posts under them.

Currently there are more than 20,000 elected representatives in the three levels of local self-government in the state, about 7,000 of them women. The number of women members will go up by about 4,000 when elections are held next year.

In the elections of 2005, the LDF secured control of more than 700 out of 981 gram panchayats, 118 out of 152 block panchayats, 11 out of 14 district panchayats, 34 out of 52 municipalities and all of five city corporations. The CPI-M dominated at all levels.

The number of LDF-controlled went up from about 540 in 2005 to more than 700 mainly because the CPI-M bagged a number of reserved seats by fielding young, educated women, who had come close to the party through its student, youth and women's affiliates.

Thanks to the increased quota, 496 out of 991 gram panchayats, 70 out of 152 block panchayats, seven out of 14 district panchayats, 26 out of 52 municipalities and three out of five city corporations will now be headed by women.

A demand for one-third reservation for women in Parliament and the state assemblies has been discussed at the national level for several years.

While there is a consensus in favour of it parties which want separate reservation for women belonging to the backward classes have blocked the constitutional amendment necessary to implement the proposal.

What prompted the Central government to increase the women's quota in local bodies was the perception that one-third reservation has helped to empower women and needs to be carried forward.

While announcing the decision in this regard, a Union minister said, "Enhancing reservation for women in panchayats will facilitate more women to enter public sphere. This will lead to further empowerment of women and make panchayats more inclusive institutions, and improve governance and public service delivery".

Academic studies do not fully endorse the government's appraisal.

MS John, a researcher of the Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, who interviewed 27 members of the Vaikom block panchayat in 2000, said in a report that while women members had acquired the knowledge and skills needed to perform their duties many felt frustrated as they were not able function independently or in a non-partisan manner.

He stressed the need for a woman-friendly political environment, especially in cadre-based parties "who, in the name of party discipline, tend to adopt means of patriarchal domination to control women panchayat members".

Patriarchal domination was actually easy as most of the women drafted for public service were wives and daughters or other close relatives of party leaders.

However, there were instances of women who took their role as elected representatives seriously and faced the wrath of party bigwigs.

In 1997, CPI-M leaders at Puthige in Kasergode district destroyed the house of panchayat president Fathima Suhra who had refused to bow to their diktats.

Fathima Suhra, a teacher by profession, held out bravely for six months, saying her first loyalty was to the people of the panchayat. Eventually, however, she succumbed to pressure and resigned.

Many young women were waiting for jobs when they were persuaded to contest the elections and became members of local bodies. Most of them quit when they got the jobs they had applied for.

One woman gave up the insecure elective post of president to take up the job of sweeper in the same panchayat. That certainly is a sad commentary on women's empowerment.--Gulf Today, October 12, 2009

Monday, October 5, 2009

Dalit militancy reports raise disturbing questions

Gulf Today

WHEN India's political parties were ready to make a Dalit the president of the republic, Kerala offered an eminently qualified candidate in KR Narayanan. More recently, the state provided the country its first Dalit chief justice.

But the emergence of a president and a chief justice from the Dalit ranks does not mean oppression and discrimination are things of the past. The long drawn out agitations of Dalits and Adivasis for land are stark reminders that their struggle for the right to live is not over.

Last week the police reported that Dalit Human Rights Movement (DHRM), a militant group, was responsible for a murder and an attempted murder at Varkala in Thiruvananthapuram district.

A section of the media, weary of the Muthoot murder case, found the police account of Dalit militancy a good diversion. Its formal denial by DHRM received little attention.

Soon there was a debate on whether Dalits were forsaking mainstream political parties and taking to the path of extremism.

Sivaprasad, a senior citizen, was killed on Sept.23 while on a morning walk in Varkala. Asokan, a tea stall owner, was attacked not far from the site of murder a little later.

The police, who took up investigation, said the next day both the attacks were the handiwork of DHRM activists. The assailants, who had no personal enmity towards the victims, had committed the violent acts to demonstrate the organisation's strength and create scare, it added.

The police said many DHRM activists were involved in the murder conspiracy. It also dropped hints about some extremist elements helping the group.

Director-General of Police Jacob Punnose, who visited Varkala and reviewed the progress of the investigation, was more circumspect than the local officials. He said whether DHRM as an organisation was involved in the murder and whether it was receiving assistance from extremists were matters under investigation.

Even as the police raids were continuing, young DHRM activists, men and women, wearing black T-shirts and blue trousers, staged a peaceful protest outside the Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram.

The quick swoop on Dalit colonies across the state suggests the police had prior information about the DHRM network. The quick convergence of uniformed protestors in the state capital suggests DHRM has disciplined cadres.

The material made available by the police and other sources so far is insufficient to form any judgment about DHRM beyond that.

DHRM chairman Selvaraj and legal adviser Asokan are among the seven persons taken into custody in connection with the murder.

Reacting to reports of Dalit militancy, Electricity Minister AK Balan urged political parties to summon the will to address the problems of the community. In a subsequent comment, he said some people were trying to wean Dalits away from the mainstream.

Dalit disenchantment with the political parties in which they had placed their faith stems from the realisation that they were giving them a raw deal. During land reform, farms were transferred from landlords to tenants, bypassing the tillers, most of them Dalits.

While KR Narayanan and KG Balakrishnan exemplify the community's ability to progress through education, instances of discrimination persist.

M. Kunhaman, a Dalit professor with Left leanings, quit after being repeatedly bypassed by the Left-dominated bodies of Kerala University.

Official statistics show that Scheduled Castes (Dalits) and Scheduled Tribes (Adivasis) lag behind the rest. Only 19.52 per cent of the state's population depends upon agriculture for livelihood. The corresponding figures for Dalits and Adivasis, most of them landless, are 31.09 per cent and 54.79 per cent respectively.

According to the findings of the National Sample Survey, Dalits and Adivasis, who constitute 10 per cent and one per cent of the population respectively, account for 19 per cent and three per cent respectively of those below the poverty line.

The Planning Board's latest annual economic review says, "The incidence of deprivation among SCs and STs is 45.5 and 57.9 respectively while that for the total population is only 29.5."

Thiruvananthapuram is among the four districts where the SC population has a deprivation index of above 50. The Dalit colonies where the police is hunting for militants are miserable islands of poverty.

Clearly the problem is not that the Dalits are moving away from the mainstream but that they are yet to be brought into it. It is well known that political intermediaries siphon off much of the funds earmarked for the welfare of the poor. -- Gulf Today, October 5, 2009.