Inclusive India: Bridge the Development Divide

Sushma Verma, a Dalit activist from Jhansi, Bundelkhand, U.P, part of the Bundelkhand Shiksha Abhiyan ( Bundelkhand Education Programme). She Speaks at the Voices forum about her efforts to educate Dalit and other marginalized community about the importance of sending their children to school.

On the occasion of the death anniversary of the prestigious Indian jurist and political leader, Chairman of the Drafting Committee of Indian Constitution, Babasaheb B.R. Ambedkar; 20 men and women from Dalit and other excluded communities spoke about their struggles and successes in raising their voices against discriminations and injustice. This was part of a 5-day National Conference  being organized by  the National Confederation of Dalit Organisations (NACDOR) from December 4th-8th, 2012.

These men and women spoke about their struggles in accessing basic essential services and entitlements under various schemes of the government. Some of the personal stories also showcased the success of the people from excluded communities, highlighting their struggles and ability to rise above the odds. The day focused on the challenges and opportunities to bridge the development gap between social groups in the context of the Millennium Development Goals.

The stories of these 20 men and women is part of the Voices Forum initiative of the United Nations, which puts the focus on the narratives of the poorest and most excluded communities, told in their own voices and from their own perspectives.

While the framework of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has made a huge impact in the lives of billions, there is still much more to be done to address extreme poverty. While accelerated actions must continue for the world to deliver on the Goals, the UN has initiated a worldwide open and participatory process to develop the roadmap for the period after 2015. The Voices Forum is a strategic initiative in the context of the ongoing discussions and consultations worldwide on the Post-2015 development framework, which will be developed through an intensely consultative process at the regional, national and local levels. Inputs from these people-led consultations across youth, women, civil society, socially excluded groups will feed into the High Level Panel reports, recommendations from which will form the basis of the post-2015 development agenda.

The Declaration to Bridge the Development Gap between Dalits and non-Dalits was adopted for presentation to the government, key demands of which included:

  1. The government should allocate a proportionate share to different social sections in all resources including land, capital, technology, business and employment in proportion to their population in the country.
  2. Enact a law which ensures proportionate participation/reservation for the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes in employment, vendor services, supply and materials and dealerships in the private sector.
  3. Scheduled Caste Sub Plan and Tribal Sub Plan must be created within each department and Ministry and the monitoring of this cell be directly under the concerned Minister.

Inputs from the sessions will also feed into the National Dalit Development Agenda which will be released at the end of the 5-day conference, focusing on issues related to Dalits including access to essential services, nutrition, women, reservations and a fair share in the economy. This will be shared with the President of India, the Prime Minister, political parties and various arms of the government.

The day’s proceedings ended at the Ramlila Grounds, where poets, writers, journalists and literary figures from across the communities gathered together to celebrate Dalit literature.