Tuesday, December 29, 2009

[ZESTCaste] Human trafficking & the caste system in India: something's gotta go


Human trafficking & the caste system in India: something's gotta go
December 28, 6:13 PM

Norfolk Human Rights Examiner
Youngbee Kim

Highly developed IT industry, nuclear weapon, and fast developing
economy with rich culture and resources are what one think of, when he
or she thinks of India in 21 century. Also, when reading articles on
Bollywood stars traveling to Africa to fight against human
trafficking, the readers are led to think that the victims are never
Indian themselves, but those who are trafficked from its neighboring
countries. Furthermore, the democracy in India is well established
enough that Indians, including the Bollywood stars, have a great
understanding of a person's fundamental human rights.

Scholars have pointed out corruption, bureaucracy, and high
illiteracy rates as the three main factors causing human trafficking
in India. However, unless one is familiar with the Indian culture and
the society, he or she would have hard time recognizing the connection
between human trafficking and the three causes behind such atrocity in
India. In fact the causal relationship between human trafficking and
the three factors is possible solely because caste system in the
country allows Indians to accept such issues causing human trafficking
as part of the tradition or custom. Further, caste system allows many
Indians to believe that human trafficking of low caste class members
is fact of life, rather than a flawed tradition.

The Castes system & Dalits, the untouchables in India

Until now the Indian reality has been interpreted and articulated
within India and around the world through the worldview of the
dominant castes in larger society. For all practical purposes, the
dominant castes rule, control and articulate the Indian reality.

Dr. Joseph D'souza[1]

According to The Dalit Freedom Network, Dalit people are the lowest
class in the Indian Castes system. The population of Dalit retains
nearly 67% of the entire Indian population, which amounts to 250
million Indian citizens. [2] Though the Indian constitution outlawed
the mistreatment of Dalits solely based on their social status, it has
not officially abolished the cast system from the society as a whole.
Therefore, in practice, their status in the lowest castes class
continues to control their lives with a rare chance of climbing up the
social ladder.

The lives of Dalit people: ?

As castes affect every aspects of a person's life in India, Dalits
have faced all sorts of discrimination against them. In the past, the
society expected them to "use separate water taps, temples and
graveyards in the cities." [3] Their caste class status also affected
their chances of getting a job or finding a place to live. Moreover,
Dalit students were told to arrive earlier to clean the classroom for
other students. They were also expected to sit in the back of the
classroom. [4]

Poverty and slavery of Dalits

Some people say that such extreme forms of discrimination mentioned
above no longer exist. However, the castes discrimination is severe
enough for Indians to justify the modern day slavery. Even if they try
to work hard to rise above the poverty line, their social status
perpetuates the maintenance of their life styles under the poverty

What is hindering Dalits from rising above the poverty line?

Corruption & Bureaucracy

Bribery is a necessary step for any businessman to take when taking up
a part of the economy in India. A scholar provides a great example of
how corruption and bureaucracy hinder poor people or small business
owners from prospering their business. [5] Because of the numerous
unnecessary regulations within the bureaucracy, one can only prevent
delay of any process by bribing the government officials.

For instance, the sugar cane market in India is controlled by the
government agency called "Sugar Cane Society. [6] Supply slips is one
of many bureaucratic regulations, by which the Indian government
controls the sugar cane market. Farmers must apply for supply slips at
the Sugar Cane society in order to enter the market or supply sugar.
[7] Unless the farmers bribe the officials at the Sugar Cane society,
the officials will delay issuing the supply slips that rightly belongs
to the farmers.

Therefore, poor farmers have to borrow money from the wealthy people
in order to stay in the market. However, since the banks in India are
also highly bureaucratic and corrupted, they have to borrow the money
from the wealthy people with an exorbitant interest. Sometimes,
farmers use their children or wives as collaterals for the loan,
which, in turn, encourages sexual exploitation, and child labor
exploitation. [8]

Castes system: in direct contradiction to the principles of democracy

The Indian culture seems to embrace the practice of the modern day
slavery since they are accustomed to enslave some people like Dalits.
Though the incidents of sex trafficking has been greatly decreased in
the country, the U.S. Department of States 2009 reports states that
the bonded labor remain very much rampant in India. Let's face it. The
only ones who benefit from the caste system is the Indian government
officials and wealthy individuals. Needless to say, it not only delays
the development of the country but also justifies all forms of
exploitation of low caste people in the country.


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