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Analysis

Big business gains from UP’s slaughterhouse crackdown

The crackdown has therefore skewed the market in favour of big companies, which have thus far been engaged in export of buffalo meat.

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UP slaughterhouse crackdown

Kanpur/Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh): Mohammad Shafiq took solace from the large grain container placed in a corner of the room. “This will last six to nine months. At least we won’t starve now,” he said.The 52-year-old, who lives with his family in a small hutment in a graveyard in Kanpur’s Idgah Colony, used to procure meat from the nearby government slaughterhouse and sell it by the roadside.

The 52-year-old, who lives with his family in a small hutment in a graveyard in Kanpur’s Idgah Colony, used to procure meat from the nearby government slaughterhouse and sell it by the roadside.In March 2017, the newly-elected Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) government in Uttar Pradesh (UP) ordered action against slaughterhouses and meat-sellers operating without valid licences and violating environmental and health rules.

In March 2017, the newly-elected Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) government in Uttar Pradesh (UP) ordered action against slaughterhouses and meat-sellers operating without valid licences and violating environmental and health rules.Across the state, numerous shops and slaughterhouses, including government-run abattoirs, were sealed, leading to

Across the state, numerous shops and slaughterhouses, including government-run abattoirs, were sealed, leading to severe shortage of meat and affecting the livelihoods of thousands like Shafiq who made a living by using common government abattoirs for a small fee. Essentially, failure of municipal administrations to upgrade these facilities had destroyed the vast unorganized meat industry, and hundreds of thousands of ancillary jobs.

For a while, Shafiq went back to his ancestral village with his wife and kids. There, he worked as a farm-hand even though his left hand does not function properly. “It was wheat harvesting season. I had never done that work before but with my kids’ support, I managed somehow and got 500kg grain in return,” he told IndiaSpend on a muggy June evening.

Now back in Kanpur, Shafiq hawks churan (tangy powder), tamarind and jamun around town. “Earlier my elder son used to do this work, but he suffers from night blindness. I thought I can put in more hours than him. He has now taken to buying and selling scrap. I make Rs 200-250 a day while he manages between Rs 75-125,” Shafiq said.

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Mohammad Shafiq sells churan (tangy powder) in Kanpur, central Uttar Pradesh. Till three months ago, he used to sell meat that he bought from a government abattoir in Kanpur and earned a profit of Rs 500 every day within three hours. With the closure of the slaughter house, Shafiq now hawks his wares till evening and makes Rs 200-250.

From meat-selling, Shafiq used to earn Rs 400-500 within three hours. “The meat, fresh from the slaughterhouse, would sell quickly. We don’t have refrigeration, so I would only buy as much as I could sell easily. Any leftovers, the family would use,” he said.

‘Illegal’ slaughterhouses: Past governments ignored issue

The Prevention and Control of Pollution (Uniform Consent Procedure) Rules of 1999 list slaughterhouses under the ‘red’ heavily-polluting category with potential to adversely impact public health.

In UP, as in the rest of the country, a range of agencies regulate slaughterhouses. Foremost among these is the state-level pollution regulator, the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB), which gives permission (“no-objection certificate”) for setting up a slaughterhouse after getting a go-ahead from the top district administrator, the District Magistrate (DM). The DM conducts a site inspection to assess compliance with various parameters, including law and order, before granting permission. Once a slaughterhouse is set up, the UPPCB monitors its functioning to ensure pollution control measures are in place.

If the facility is for export, approval is also required from the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA). Slaughterhouses must also follow thePrevention of Cruelty to Animals (Slaughter House) Rules, 2001, as well as obtain a license from the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to ensure all animal-derived food is healthy.

Many slaughterhouses have been accused of violating norms, and the National Green Tribunal (NGT) is hearing a string of petitions seeking their upgradation or closure. In May 2015, hearing one such petition, the NGT ordered all slaughterhouses running without requisite permits in UP to be shut.

When the new BJP government assumed office in UP in March this year, it began to take action on the NGT order.

Both private and government-run slaughterhouses were shut, having failed to upgrade despite the 2015 NGT order, a previous Supreme Court order and reminders by the UPPCB.

In this partial list of 129 industrial units failing to install anti-pollution devices in 2015, 44 were slaughterhouses, 39 of which were run by municipal bodies and nagar panchayats while another was run by the Lucknow Cantonment Board. All four of capital city Lucknow’s slaughterhouses were found not to have proper treatment facilities.

According to the Uttar Pradesh Municipal Corporation Act, 1959, the construction and maintenance of public markets and slaughterhouses is an obligatory duty of the local corporation. The Allahabad High Court upheld this in an ongoing case regarding operation of slaughterhouses.

An amount of Rs 12.5 crore was sanctioned on January 3, 2017, for the modernisation of the slaughterhouse at Lucknow’s Moti Jheel, but the project got stuck when the model code of conduct for assembly elections came into force the very next day.

A similar situation prevails in other cities and towns except Agra, where the municipal corporation runs a modern abattoir.

“The responsibility of previous governments is greater than the current government. They failed to modernise the slaughterhouses for a very long time preparing the ground for the present crisis,” said Irfan Ahmad, the vice-president of the Jamiat-ul-Quresh, an organisation of slaughterhouse owners and meat and beef suppliers in Kanpur.

A comparison of the earnings and expenditures of the Lucknow and Agra municipal corporations shows how the state capital lost precious revenue by failing to modernise its slaughterhouse.

The Agra Municipal Corporation earned Rs 4.26 crore in 2014-15 from leasing out its modern slaughterhouse to a private contractor. The contractor uses the facility for export purposes and also allows individual butchers to use it for a fee of Rs 385 per buffalo. The Lucknow Municipal Corporation, in contrast, was able to charge  Rs 10 as fee for slaughtering of goat/sheep and Rs 25 for buffalo, making Rs 25.33 lakh in all. Spending Rs 44.87 lakh on staff salaries, it reported a loss of over Rs 19 lakh.

Graph1-desktop

Source: Budget documents of Lucknow and Agra municipal corporations

Lucknow: Lucknow Nagar Nigam Budget 2016-17 , Lucknow Nagar Nigam Budget 2015-16

Agra: Nagar Nigam Agra Budget 2016-17Nagar Nigam Agra Budget 2015-16

A crackdown with wide reverberations

UP, India’s top meat producer in 2012-13, has felt the reverberations far and wide.

Of the 77 APEDA-approved slaughterhouses in India, 44 are in UP. In addition to these, municipal corporations and nagar panchayats (city councils) run numerous abattoirs to meet the domestic meat requirement.

UP has a famous, long-standing non-vegetarian culinary tradition, and as per the 2011-12 consumer expenditure survey of the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), an average UP household  reported consuming 0.17 kg of buffalo meat every month, as against the all-India average of 0.10 kg.

Some 30.6% of UP households reported they consumed non-vegetarian food, while 7.95% households reported they consumed beef or buffalo meat. The all-India average was 4.5%.

Beef And Buffalo Meat Consumption
Quantity (Per 30 days) Incidence (Per 1,000 households)
Uttar Pradesh 0.17 kg 7.95
All India 0.1 kg 4.5

Source: Household Consumption of Various Goods and Services in India 2011-12 NSS) 68th Round

While India registered a 3.33% decline in livestock population during 2007-12, UP saw a 14% growth, indicating the economy’s dependence on livestock and allied businesses, IndiaSpend reported on March 29, 2017.

Source: Animal Husbandry Department, Uttar Pradesh

NOTE: *Including meat processing plants

Livelihoods lost

Kanpur’s Bakar Mandi slaughterhouse, from where Shafiq used to buy meat, was one of many government facilities which had not been modernised despite repeated reminders from the UPPCB.

Butchers would pay a small fee (Rs 25 for buffalo, Rs 10 for goat) to use the facility at night and the meat would be put on sale around the city by early morning.

“I support modernisation, but the government should have made an alternative arrangement before closing it down. A gradual phase-out would have helped everyone,” Shafiq said.

Danish Qureshi, 25, of Rampur town was similarly rendered jobless. He now drives a rented e-rickshaw for hire, although he considers meat-selling his family business. “My father had a licence issued by the Municipal Corporation 45 years back. I used to get it renewed every year,” he said, “Why didn’t anybody tell us we were doing business illegally?”

His bigger complaint is that the government is not helping butchers secure bank loans to upgrade their shops, a prerequisite to get FSSAI licenses. “Most of us have little by way of savings,” he said, adding, “Those with money have renovated their shops, but they form just one per cent of the butcher community in Rampur.”

Farmers, associated trades take a hit

At the Sunday cattle market in Tirwa village, about 15 km from Kannauj city in central UP, very few transactions were taking place as farmers were not getting the price they were quoting.

This was largely due to enforcement of the NGT order. The more recent central government ban on sale of cattle for slaughter in cattle markets–currently on hold following a Supreme Court order–is yet to be implemented on the ground.

“Last year it was notebandi, and this year it is meat bandi that has reduced demand,” said Arjun Singh, a farmer from Achanakapur village. He was seeking Rs 50,000 for a young female buffalo, but was getting offers of Rs 32,000.

Since the slaughterhouse crackdown, farmers are unable to fetch good prices even for milch cattle because buyers are worried they will be unable to resell.

“What if a buffalo is unable to breed? No other farmer would touch it. Should we keep spending on its fodder or sell it to a slaughterhouse? Why can’t the government understand this simple logic?” asked a farmer at a cattle market in Chaubepur village near Kanpur.

Brajal Kumar Dwivedi, a young farmer from Jaisinghpura village, wanted to sell a mother-calf buffalo pair for Rs 90,000. He was getting offers of up to Rs 70,000. “I bought it last year for Rs 80,000 from Sakipur mandi, had it fed and impregnated, and am still unable to get the price I paid,” he said. Engaged to be married, Dwivedi needed money for his wedding but said he would wait a few weeks for prices to stabilise, and would sell milk to the local dairy until then.

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Brajal Kumar Dwivedi of Jaisinghpura village in Kannauj district of central Uttar Pradesh wanted to sell a mother-calf buffalo pair for Rs 90,000, but he did not get offers beyond Rs 70,000. He bought the buffalo last year for Rs 80,000, fed it, had it impregnated but cannot get the right price, as demand falls. Engaged to be married, Dwivedi hoped to raise money for his wedding. He has now decided to wait for a few weeks, hoping that prices stabilise.

Jaddunath Singh of Kithwa village was not so lucky–he had to sell a buffalo at a Rs 11,000 loss because he needed money for the treatment of his hospitalised father-in-law.

Those providing ancillary services are also affected. Rajendra Singh, who lets out vehicles to transport animals, was staring at another dull day. “Most farmers are taking their animals back on the vehicles they came on. Only a buyer would hire a vehicle here, but not many deals have come through. This has been the case for the last three months,” he said.

The Pechbagh hide market in Kanpur, the largest in India for buffalo skin, has also seen trade decline over the last couple of years–particularly since the 2015 mob lynching of a Muslim man, Mohammad Akhlaq, and his son, who were suspected of stealing and slaughtering a stolen cow calf, in Dadri in eastern UP.

“Fear of cow vigilantes who beat up transporters even if they are transporting only buffalo skins has scared away suppliers,” said Akhtar Hussein Akhtar, a godown owner at Pechbagh and an office-bearer of the local Hide Merchants’ Association.

Akhtar explained that large, mechanised slaughterhouses sell hides directly to big tanneries, and only those engaged in skinning dead animals sell to merchants in Pechbagh. “[Earlier] most of the supply came from government abattoirs while weekly supply from villages filled the gap.

Now whatever raw material we are getting is from villages and that too of animals who die of natural causes, not slaughtered ones,” he said, adding that supply has gone down from 10,000 hides per month to 500. “We have also reduced our employee strength from eight workers to just one now,” he said.

According to the Hide Merchants’ Association, around 40,000 people are directly engaged in this trade. Membership of the association has reduced by half in the last few years as many have turned their godowns into garment shops.

Big businesses benefit

According to the All India Meat and Livestock Exporters’ Association, UP’s meat industry employs nearly 2.5 million people. But there’s a stark difference between the formal market consisting mostly of wealthy exporters and the informal community of butchers, meat suppliers and those trading in animal byproducts. While the former own mechanised, well-equipped slaughterhouses that usually have the requisite permits, the informal market is dependent on government-run abattoirs, most of which have now been shut down for failing to comply with rules.

The crackdown has therefore skewed the market in favor of big companies, which have thus far been engaged in export of buffalo meat. “Big companies are making tidy profits as the cattle market has tanked due to no demand from butchers. On the other hand, shortage of meat in the market has caused its price to increase. So, the companies can buy animals at a low price and sell meat at a premium,” Dharmendra Malik, general secretary of the UP branch of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), told IndiaSpend.

To combat the meat shortage, the Kanpur DM arranged a meeting of meat-sellers and private companies operating from Unnao, a leather and chemicals hub 15 km from Kanpur. “We are granting no-objection certificates  for meat shops to operate on the condition that they source meat from these companies,” Dr A.K. Singh, the veterinary officer at Kanpur Municipal Corporation.

Similar arrangements have been made in other cities, including Bareilly, Moradabad, Aligarh and Muzaffarnagar. The price of buffalo meat has gone up from Rs 150 per kg before the clampdown to Rs 200 now.

Businesses are happy to tap the market not open to them earlier. “People are not very keen on the frozen meat we supply as they are used to getting raw and fresh meat from the city abattoirs. But that option is not available now. We are currently supplying 3-4 tonnes of buffalo meat per day to Kanpur and hope to scale it up to 30-35 tonnes,” Abhishek Arora, owner of AOV Exports Limited.

Butchers, however, are unhappy at being compelled to buy from large companies. “Around a fourth of our earnings come from selling of waste material from slaughter. Entering into an agreement with the company means to let go of this profit. We would rather close down than hand over our business to the companies,” said Shahabuddin Qureshi, the general secretary of Qureshi Foundation, an association of butchers and meat-sellers in Lucknow.

A way forward?

Many said an ideal solution would be to set up an alternative slaughtering site away from habitation until the government abattoirs are modernised. “When an animal is slaughtered, around 20 people get work. There are the meat sellers, those who trade in animal skin, those selling bones and hooves, and then there are people who process the fat for sale to soap factories,” said Ahmad of Jamiat-ul-Quresh. “Now the meat sellers with licenced shops are the only ones able to do some business. All others have been rendered jobless.”

Meanwhile, illegal slaughter continues in Lucknow, clandestinely and at a smaller scale. “The animal waste which was earlier generated at one place and picked up by the municipal corporation, is now polluting densely populated areas without any proper disposal,” Qureshi asked. “What purpose has been solved with the closure of the government-run abattoirs?”

As workers struggle to reorganise their lives after the mass closure of slaughterhouses, the failure of past and present governments to organise a trade that employed hundreds of thousands is largely overlooked.

“The clampdown was much needed in view of the health and environment concerns associated with ill-equipped slaughterhouses,” said Kamna Pandey, former member of the Animal Welfare Board of India, based in Lucknow, “In fact, I don’t agree with the argument that the action needed to be in phases. But the government should have also been proactive in constructing modern slaughterhouses to avoid public loss.”

(In arrangement with IndiaSpend.org, a data-driven, non-profit, public interest journalism platform. Manu Moudgil is a freelance consultant with India Water Portal. The views expressed are those of IndiaSpend. Feedback at [email protected])

Analysis

56% smart cities prone to floods: Report

More than 2,200 cities and towns in India are located in districts which have witnessed at least 11 floods in the last 18 years.

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Hudhud Storm

As much as 56 per cent of smart cities are prone to floods which are responsible for 77 per cent of all disasters in India, a report said on Friday.

The report, based on disaster data between 2000 and 2017, observed that India has a mean of 11 flood events per district over the last 18 years.

Image result for smart cities floods prone

Following floods, other disaster share was cyclone (22 per cent), extreme temperature (11 per cent), landslides (seven per cent) and earthquakes (four per cent). Drought, however, was only one per cent of all disasters.

“Ninety-eight per cent of India’s 642 districts have received at least one flood event,” stated the joint report ‘Decoding the Monsoon Floods’ by NGO SEEDS and Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) based in the University of Louvain School of Public Health, Brussels.

It said that floods affect over 15 million people every year. Of 15.6 million people affected by floods in India in 2017, over 316,185 were people with disabilities.

“More than 2,200 cities and towns in India are located in districts which have witnessed at least 11 floods in the last 18 years,” the report said.

Further signifying the scale of infrastructure that needs to be secured against the future risks, the findings said that 56 per cent of India’s planned smart cities fall in districts reporting a high number of flood events.

Since 2000, India has faced 215 flooding events both from floods and cyclones. This accounts for 77 per cent of all disaster events.

“Assam is the most flood-prone state, with areas like Lakhimpur reporting over 30 flood events within this period. Even known drought-prone areas of Gujarat and Rajasthan have witnessed more floods than the country’s average in the last 18 years,” said Anshu Sharma, Co-founder and Mentor, SEEDS.

“Unpredictability, urbanisation and invisibility of flood risk are major concerns that need to be addressed urgently,” Sharma added.

Citing the 2015 Chennai floods in Tamil Nadu, the report pointed out how the natural sinks like wetlands, that act as a sponge against floods, had shrunk due to rapid urbanisation, leading to catastrophic results.

“Estimates put the remaining original wetlands of Chennai at just 10 per cent.”

“Concrete encroachment on Cooum River, Adyar River and Buckingham Canal which serve as the main rainwater drains, poorly designed drainage systems and ageing civil infrastructure added to the problem,” the report said.

Debarati Guha-Sapir, Director, CRED, said: “We are witnessing a disturbing trend of a large number of climate induced disasters… The launch of this regional report is a huge step towards better understanding of local nuances of disaster events.”

Suggesting preparations for the 2018 monsoon and cyclone seasons at policy and community levels, the report said that with a scale this huge, informal nature of the losses and limited resources, coping practices at the community level are very beneficial.

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Analysis

Haj 2018 likely to be costlier, but not because of subsidy abolition

Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Tuesday announced the abolition of Haj subsidy from this year.

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Haj 2018

Haj 2018 is likely to be costlier than last year but not because of the abolition of subsidy that the government announced on Tuesday.

The cost is likely to go up thanks to rise in expenses incurred in Saudi Arabia during the Haj such as accommodation, transport, food and the like. Notably, the government subsidy did not cover these expenses and was limited to the airfare.

Haj Committee of India (HCI) Chairman Mehboob Ali Kaiser told IANS that it was bargaining hard with Saudi authorities to keep the cost in check but local factors may result in the rise of Haj expenses this year.

In 2017, the HCI charged Rs 200,000 for Haj with ordinary accommodation (Azizia) and Rs 234,000 for deluxe accommodation (Green), which is closer to the Haram in Mecca.

Image result for haj 2018

“Over the last year, the electricity tariff in Saudi Arabia has shot up three times. Also, the petrol prices have doubled. The accommodation cost is also going up. These factors may result in a hike in the total Haj cost this year,” Kaiser said.

At this point, it is difficult to predict the final cost to each pilgrim for Haj 2018, he added.

“It will be unfair to expect the same costs for everything in Saudi Arabia after a threefold rise in electricity prices and doubling of petrol prices. Secondly, the Saudis are cussed bargainers and we have to really haggle hard with them for every riyal.

“Nevertheless, we are trying our best and bargaining hard with them to ensure that the cost does not go up drastically,” Kaiser said.

Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Tuesday announced the abolition of Haj subsidy from this year.

Kaiser said that the HCI “knew it was coming and were sort of mentally prepared for it”.

“In any case, the withdrawal of subsidy will not affect the airfares from major cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad and Bengaluru — but fares from smaller embarkation points such as Srinagar, Gaya may go up. But people from these states may now embark from any other place from where fares are low, such as Mumbai, Delhi or Ahmedabad,” he added.

However, in the coming years, the Haj cost is expected to come down as the Indian government is already working in the direction of reviving the sea route to Jeddah.

Naqvi said that the government has already taken active steps in this direction and once it is implemented, the fares would come down drastically.

Giving the genesis of the Haj subsidy, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said that it started in the 1980s (when Azad was a member of HCI) when the ships which were used to ferry the Haj pilgrims started ageing.

“The government was not disposed to spend money to buy new ships due to budget constraints. So, it was decided to fly the pilgrims to Jeddah. But the airfares were four times higher than the ship’s fare. So the government decided to cover some of the cost through a subsidy,” Azad said.

The sea route was discontinued in 1995.

(Mohd Asim Khan can be contacted at [email protected])

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Analysis

A cauldron of discontent

Every 18 minutes, a Dalit is attacked in India. However, the conviction rate is only 28 per cent. UP, Rajasthan, Bihar and MP have witnessed a hike in atrocities against Dalits.

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Bhima-Koregaon violence

Politics is a hard taskmaster. Politicians may manipulate public sentiment and reap electoral victories but time has a way of making them accountable. We have witnessed a slew of impressive electoral triumphs of the BJP but recent eruptions of discontent among the relatively prosperous Patidars in Gujarat, Marathas in Maharashtra and Jats in Haryana are ominous, for, historically, upper-caste denominations have consistently supported the BJP. Dalits across the country who have been targeted by a mindset which traditionally has been intolerant of them, have also sporadically expressed their frustration and growing discontent. Added to this is the divisive agenda of both the RSS and the BJP. This is evidence of both the incapacity and inability of this government to make a real difference in the lives of people.

The inability to sustain themselves because of the agrarian crisis is the common thread that runs through the growing discontent amongst Patidars, Jats and Marathas. Pre-independence, they were industrious farmers, hired as tenants and post-independence when tenants were granted ownership rights, they owned large tracts of prime agricultural land. They consolidated their position with the green revolution, advent of new crop varieties and modern farming tools. Prosperity made large numbers migrate to cities and take up businesses. As a result, only 10 per cent of Patidars own more than 10 bighas. The rest are marginal farmers caught in the midst of the agrarian crisis.

The urban Patidars find it difficult to get admission to educational institutions allegedly because of reservations for OBCs. Lack of remunerative prices for their produce and recent groundnut crop failures are reasons for the growing angst among them. The rise of Hardik Patel is attributed to both factors. Demonetisation and the flawed implementation of GST hurt even the most prosperous Patidars. This along with a sluggish economy and lack of job opportunities is at the heart of expressions of discontent and demand for reservations. Similarly, Maratha discontent is deep-rooted. The massive protests and outpourings may or may not be spontaneous but do represent livelihood concerns. Around 80 per cent of Marathas are subsistent farmers.

Lack of access to quality education and job opportunities resulting in massive social protests are symptomatic of the alienation setting in. With prosperity touching only a few, they are unsure of their future and hence they too demand reservations in government jobs. Jats, on the other hand, are regarded as backward in both Rajasthan and UP. But in Haryana, despite being politically dominant, they too clamour for reservations. Comprising around 29 per cent of Haryana’s population, they own three-fourths of agricultural holdings in the State. Jats have never been absentee landlords who lived off tenant cultivators.

However, over the years, their earnings from agriculture have declined along with fragmentation of holdings. A five-acre average holding gives a monthly income of not more than Rs 20,000. These incomes have been further hit because of drought, hailstorms and pest attacks in recent years coupled with a crash in prices of cotton, basmati and guar. Inward looking, they have been slow in adapting to an urban cosmopolitan environment. Not being educationally advanced, they have lagged behind in employment opportunities. Hence, the demand for reservation in educational institutions and employment. Recent violent agitations and destruction of private property in Haryana are also the result of loss of political power, with a non-Jat as Chief Minister.

On the other hand, Dalits, who have been the beneficiaries of reservations, find themselves being targeted. Recent attacks on Dalits are the result of deep-rooted prejudices and caste fault lines. Dominant castes still practice untouchability and the upward mobility of Dalits is not taken too kindly. Rohith Vemula’s tragic end and the response of a prejudiced mindset is a classic reflection of this. This inbuilt prejudice is exacerbated in recent years by lumpen upper caste elements who find an excuse in attacking Dalits for their traditional vocation. The senseless lynching of Dalits in Una exemplifies this. Dalits also become targets of violence if they happen to marry into the upper castes. The burning of Dalit children in Haryana and similar incidents of violence are not uncommon. The recent eruption of anti-Dalit sentiments in Maharashtra evidenced by the outpourings of Marathas who allege misuse of the law by Dalits has sent tremors of unease within the state. The empowerment of Dalits and their upward mobility over the years has led to a churning within the community, which is finding its expression in their recent mobilisation and assertion. They wish to break away from tradition to which they are chained. Yet a majority of them continue to be burdened by the same tradition. This has brought about societal unrest.

Every 18 minutes, a Dalit is attacked in India. However, the conviction rate is only 28 per cent. UP, Rajasthan, Bihar and MP have witnessed a hike in atrocities against Dalits. Rajasthan with 6 per cent of the country’s Dalit population accounts for 17 per cent of crimes against them. Anger and frustration within the community are palpable and the state has failed to protect them.

Minorities in India are equally insecure. Communal situations are engineered to polarise society for political dividends. Increasingly isolated, their traditional vocations are also under threat. Dealing with buffalo meat is hazardous and life-threatening. Many have been targeted and killed. Campaigns of love jihad and ‘ghar wapsi’ have added fuel to the fire.

India cannot be managed by a divisive agenda. An aspirational India is crying for change. This government is clueless about solutions. Without them, electoral triumphs may turn sour.

This article is published in DNA on January 15. 2018

The author is a member of the Rajya Sabha, and a senior Indian National Congress leader. Views expressed are personal.

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