Sunday, July 17, 2011

[ZESTCaste] Nepal: Social equality

Social equality

The path to economic prosperity

Added At: 2011-07-14 9:51 PM

Last Updated At: 2011-07-14 9:51 PM

The Himalayan Times - Saved Articles(s)


The government has been implementing a number of programs against
caste and gender discrimination for more than a decade. The
effectiveness of these programs is evident in the villages where
discrimination is high

During my visit to a few villages of Sarlahi district last year, I
noticed Yadavs as the majority population. The Yadavs are normally
more sensitive as regards their traditions and customs. The villages
feature in both the economic and social discrimination chart across
different castes. However, social discrimination is much more intense
than economic inequality, with a deeply-rooted caste system. The
people of the lower caste are particularly known as Dalits or
untouchables. Most of them work on the land that belongs to the upper
caste villagers, either on wages or on lease. This way they share the
crops with the landowners, and make a living. This tradition is found
all over the country. Even after the implementation of the relevant
law, the Dalits are not allowed to participate in any social
activities. I experienced one peculiar and amazing event when I was in
Sisautia VDC. A woman of about 50 bowed in front of me, and then held
my feet and put her head on it. I was too startled to understand the
peculiar gesture. On being asked for her action, she said that it was
the tradition of greeting new people in the village.

Gender bias is more extreme. Females between the age of 12 and 35
cover their faces by a cloth similar to women in the Muslim community.
This is a widespread practice. Moreover, the women of this age group
are not allowed to go outside their houses. At their most productive
age, they remain idle. If a girl of this community attends school, she
would most likely lose her social status. But, on the contrary, boys
are admitted to schools from all the households of the upper caste.

Despite the traditional impact, the economic status of both Dalits and
non-Dalits is changing gradully. Dalits who had worked as agricultural
labor for the upper class for a nominal wage now work in the
transportation, private and public offices, and the industrial sector.
Even in agriculture, they cultivate a variety of crops by leasing the
land of the upper class on a crop-sharing basis. This transformation
has improved the price of their labor, from their traditional pattern
of nominal wage rate to crop-sharing. This is because of the
opportunities that have enhanced the bargaining power of agricultural
laborers. Unlike the economic status of lower caste people, the social
status has not yet improved. Until their social status is restored,
the economic status alone cannot bring them dignity, respect, status
and empowerment in the society.

On my other visit to a few villages of Sindhupalchowk district, I
witnessed equal economic status of the villagers irrespective of the
caste they belonged to. There is no wide income gap between rich and
poor. Higher inequality exists because of the highly skewed
land-holding patterns, educational level, skill development training,
opportunities etc. In such s case, there exists fewer social problems.
Dalits themselves have reported that their social well-being has
improved even faster than their material well-being. And,, their
social respect and dignity is rising. There is no discrimination. The
children of the Dalit households also attend school. A goldsmith,
locally known as "Kami", has reported that they have respect, dignity,
and social status in the community as the upper class people have.
But, there is no practice of Dalit girls marrying boys from the upper

In recent years, the upper caste people have accepted the view that
caste discrimination is outdated and illegal. People of the higher
caste respect the lower caste members, and sit and have meals
together, something unimaginable even a decade back. The Dalits can
participate in any event, whether it is religious, social, economic or
political occasion. People of the upper caste frequently participate
in funeral processions of the lower caste. The gap between male and
female discrimination has narrowed down to the minimum over the years.
The girls of school-age of both Dalit and non-Dalit families are
admitted to school along with their counterparts.

Though it is very early to generalize my experience, it at least
indicates that the social status of women and Dalits in the hills is
improving over time, in comparison to that of in the Terai. Social
equality is more marked and noticeable in the hills than in the
plains. Women in the hills are equally treated at work. Opportunities,
political activities and empowerment in decision-making either in
household matterd or related issues have equal status of the women.
Nowadays, women and Dalit participation has become vital in economic,
political and social activities. But, in the Terai, women and Dalit
participation in these activities is still disappointing. The
tradition of dowry system is one of the worst. Many women are
punished, tortured and even put to death for inadequate dowry.

The government has been implementing a number of programs against
caste and gender discrimination for more than a decade. The
effectiveness of these programs is evident in the villages where
discrimination is high. It is high time that the government weighs the
effectiveness and improve programs in the areas of low effectiveness


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:! Groups Links

<*> To visit your group on the web, go to:

<*> Your email settings:
Individual Email | Traditional

<*> To change settings online go to:
(Yahoo! ID required)

<*> To change settings via email:

<*> To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:

<*> Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to:

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive