Development Model of India – A Dalit Perspective


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Does the development model that India is following lead everyone to a better place?

Kamala was born in a Dalit family of manual scavengers in Nalgonda district of Telangana. Since childhood, she helped her mother in her work of scavenging while her brothers were sanitation workers. She was also married to a sanitation worker who died of asphyxia in the sewer, which is prevalent among scavengers.

She was dependent on her in-laws as she was widowed. She had to foster her daughter and could not be economically independent and faced neglect. Her brother helped her to migrate to Hyderabad. For the first time, she travelled by bus and was exposed to a large city like Hyderabad. After a while, the same city which attracted her with its buildings, roads, avenues and facilities and amenities disillusioned her. With the greater familiarity of the city, she could comprehend the paradoxes.

The jhuggi and slum clusters, traffic jams, congestion, crimes, poverty, small children begging at traffic lights, people sleeping on footpaths, polluted water and air revealed another face of development. She could find no work except sweeping the city roads. She finds it difficult to eke out a living while educating her only daughter in a Public school. In this context, the question arises whether development and under-development coexist? Whether development helps some segments of the population more than the other?

It is believed that “development is freedom” which is often associated with modernization, leisure, comfort and affluence. In the present context, computerization, industrialisation, efficient transport and communication network, large education system, advanced and modern medical facilities, safety and security of individuals, etc. are considered as the symbols of development. Every individual, community and government measure its performance or levels of development in relation to the availability and access to some of these things.

But, this may be the partial and one-sided view of development. It is often called the western or Euro-centric view of development. Thus, for India, development is a mixed bag of opportunities as well as neglect and deprivations. There are a few areas like the metropolitan centres and other developed enclaves that have all the modern facilities available to a small section of its population. At the other extreme of it, there are large rural areas and the slums in the urban areas that do not have basic amenities like potable water, education and health infrastructure available to the majority of this population. The situation is more alarming if one looks at the distribution of the development opportunities among different sections of our society. It is a well-established fact that majority of the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, landless agricultural labourers, poor farmers and slums dwellers, etc. are the most marginalised lot.

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A large segment of the female population is the worst sufferers among all. It is also equally true that the relative, as well as absolute conditions of the majority of these marginalised sections, have worsened with the development happening over the years. Consequently, the vast majority of people are compelled to live in abject poverty and subhuman conditions.

Relook at Development Model

Based on the above experience, it is clear that the present development model in India has not been able to address the issues of social injustice, regional imbalances. On the contrary, these deprivations of marginalised communities are never discussed & never made part of development policy. Can we admit that this model of development is the prime cause of the social distributive injustices, deterioration in the quality of life, ecological crisis and social unrest? Have we ever thought, any form of development could create, reinforce and perpetuate these crises? Is it not the time to believe that it can?

Author – Sowmya

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Nation Divided on Castes Cannot Stand and Walk, Forget Development

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