Friday, October 7, 2011

[ZESTCaste] More reserved seats do not mean empowerment

More reserved seats do not mean empowerment
Padmini Sivarajah, TNN Oct 5, 2011, 12.17PM IST

MADURAI: Dalits are coming out in large numbers to contest the civic
election in reserved constituencies. However, activists say the
numbers can mislead if we interpret them as a sign of the community
asserting its social and political rights.

There are 12,524 village panchayats in Tamil Nadu of which 3,242 has
are reserved in the SC/ST category. Of these, 3,136 seats are for the
schedule castes and 156 for the schedule tribes. The rotating system
under the 73rd and 74th amendment to the Constitution (1992) and the
Tamil Nadu Panchayat Rules (1995) specifies that the post of president
should be allotted to dalits in the reserved constituencies. The
rotating system changes only after a dalit has held the post for 10

However, this reservation by rotation is detested by non-dalits in
many caste-ridden villages in and around Madurai. In villages
including Pappapatti, Keeripatti and Nattamangalam, many dalit
candidates were forced to withdraw their nominations and those who
braved the threats, contested and won the election, had to resign
immediately on assuming office. It's only in the last five years that
dalit presidents have been able to hold office. They need to hold the
post for another five years for the roster to change the status of
these sensitive villages.

A Kathir, executive director of Evidence, an NGO, said reservation for
dalits in panchayat bodies have been enhanced to 25% from the earlier
19%, a welcome move. "But, there is a long way to go before they can
really be called empowered, because if you go into the current
nominations by dalits, you will see that they are being backed by the
more dominant non-dalits, who want to get rid of the stigma, by just
posting a puppet president who will act on their command," Kathir told

Almost echoing Kathir's views, P Periyakaruppan, president of
Pappapatti, told TOI that he has got the nod of the village bigwig,
Chellakannu Thevar. "I was an ordinary coolie, who has now become
confident in the system and has decided to contest for the second
time. But at the same time, my own people are opposing me and are
contesting against me," he said. There are six other dalits who are
opposing Periyakaruppan. M Baluchamy, Periyakaruppan's counterpart in
Keeripatti, too has a similar problem in hand. Karuppu, a dalit from
one of the reserved constituencies, told this reporter that it was a
common sight to see the dalit panchayat president working in the
cattle shed or fields of the non-dalits after the election. "It is a
disheartening sight," said Karuppu.

Increasing reservation, according to a dalit who didn't want to be
identified, isn't serving the cause of dalits. "Making a dalit the
president in a non-dalit region only increases caste feelings. The
non-dalits make an obedient dalit the president and wrest the powers
from him for the non-dalit vice president," he said.

One clear change, according to R Pandiammal, district secretary of the
Viduthalai Chiruthaikal Katchi, a Dalit political outfit, is that more
dalits are willing to contest the reserved constituencies. "Most of
them came forward on their own without any effort on our part compared
to last year. But I am still apprehensive as to whether they will go
on to discharge their duties without fear, as the AIADMK government is
not committed to our cause," she said. "They should last a full term
because they have been able to overcome the fear of fighting the caste
fanatics," she said. That's easier said than done.
Ads by Google

Do You Own a Business?Help Your Business Be Found Claim Your Free
Google Place Page!

Stat for graph

* Among the 385 village panchayat unions, 91 have been reserved for
dalits with 87 for SCs and 4 for the schedule tribes

* There is a 22.5% reservation for them in the 31 district panchayats
in the state and 16% of the 529 town panchayats have been allotted to

* One out of 10 corporation mayor posts is also for them

Recent Activity:
Get all ZESTCaste mails sent out in a span of 24 hours in a single mail. Subscribe to the daily digest version by sending a blank mail to, OR, if you have a Yahoo! Id, change your settings at

On this list you can share caste news, discuss caste issues and network with like-minded anti-caste people from across India and the world. Just write to

If you got this mail as a forward, subscribe to ZESTCaste by sending a blank mail to OR, if you have a Yahoo! ID, by visiting

Also have a look at our sister list, ZESTMedia:

Stay on top of your group activity without leaving the page you're on - Get the Yahoo! Toolbar now.



No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive