02 June, 2005
30 million Dalit and Adivasi children are enrolled in thousands of primary
schools. Out of them, 49.35 per cent drop out before joining junior
high school. As a result, a large number of Dalits and Adivasis are
unable to take up more respectable jobs and are forced to slog as labourers,
who earn as little as Rs 40 a day.
Around 67.77 per cent Dalit and Adivasi children drop out before joining
Class IX. What kind of work would these children be able to do when
they grow up? Most of them will forever toil as labourers and earn a
measly Rs 45 a day, which is less than $1.
Government statisticians, however, list these children as 'literate',
and celebrate the report.
All attempts to arrest this mammoth dropout rate, despite offering mid-day
meal as incentive, have failed miserably. Parents of these children
live in utter poverty, but they want their wards to see better days.
That's why they get their children enrolled in Government schools despite
financial hardships. But after a few days or months, they realise that
their children are needed more at home so that they can contribute to
the family's income.
These children, nearly three fourth of all Dalit and Adivasi children,
remain wage earners all their life.
The Government has shown no interest in giving these children Rs 8 or
Rs 10 per day, a constant demand of the Dalit Diary.
The money will be an attractive incentive for parents to let their children
study in school. If these children manage to get a high school degree,
it will enable them to make better use of their life.
The Dalits and Adivasis have suffered for ages, and a majority of them
are still suffering.
Now let's relate the subject with the Indian economy. To an amateur
economist like me, it might be a shock to learn that Mexico's economy
is bigger than India's. Mexico's population stands at 106 million and
has a GDP of $474.9 billion. Brazil is not just about carnivals and
Its 186 million people have created a GDP of $760.3 billion. Compare
these figures with India's whose GDP is worth $459.7 billion despite
the country boasting of over a billion people. The Chinese economy is
three times bigger than India's.
Those familiar with even a rudimentary knowledge of economics would
understand that India still has a long way to go as far as wealth creation
When a farmer produces food grains worth Rs 100, he contributes the
same to GDP's growth.
When a singer charges Rs 100 for a song, he creates wealth valued at
Rs 100 and contributes to the GDP. Similar is the case with a Dalit
rickshaw-puller who earns Rs 50 a day.
While a high-school pass Dalit rickshaw-puller demands Rs 5, another
Dalit rickshaw-puller may settle for Rs 3 for the same distance if he
has just received primary education.
Similar is the case of a Dalit driver. If he speaks fluent English,
he may demand a salary of Rs 5,000 from his boss.
If he is high-school pass, he may settle for Rs 3,000 for the same job.
The same logic applies in all fields, be it agriculture, industry, or
the service sector.
Thus, if the Centre spends Rs 8 a day on a Dalit or Adivasi student
and continues to invest the amount for eight years, he will create wealth
of Rs 100 a day for the next 68 years. This means, more than a 100 per
cent jump in the national GDP and a much more fruitful contribution
from the Dalits.
Fortunately, India's Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh is an economist
himself, and so is his deputy Dr Montek Singh Ahulwalia who heads the
Planning Commission, a task he has taken upon himself to re-craft the
It's sheer business sense to invest in people, upgrade their skills
so that they can earn more for the country.
The Dalits or Adivasis are largely out of the education system not by
choice. They are economically crippled not because they have committed
They are backward because of the man-made social order which required
that they be excluded from the education system. The fact that almost
every Dalit or Adivasi child is being enrolled in schools shows the
community is keen on getting educated.
How can the economy grow if we exclude one-fourth of our workforce from