Paragraph on Scheduled Caste in India!
At the bottom of the social ladder is the niravasita meaning “excluded” or the “exterior’ castes, so called “casteless”, officially “scheduled castes”.
Since the Government of India Act of 1935, they have been listed in special official schedules for administrative and representational purposes.
Article 341 of the Constitution provides that the President may, with respect to any State or Union territory, specify the castes, races or tribes or parts of groups within castes, races or tribes which shall for the purposes of the Constitution be deemed to be Scheduled Castes in relation to that State/Union territory. In pursuance of these provisions, the lists of Scheduled Castes are notified for each State and Union territory and are valid only within the jurisdiction of that State or Union territory and not outside.
It is important to mention here that under the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950, no person who professed a religion different from Hinduism was deemed to be a member of a Schedule Caste in addition to every member of the Ramdasi, Kabirpanthi, Majhabi or Siraligar caste resident in Punjab or Patiala and East Punjab States Union (PEPSU) were in relation to that State whether they professed the Hindu or Sikh religion.
Subsequently in September, 1956, by an amendment, the Presidential Order of 1950 and all subsequent Presidential Orders relating Scheduled Castes, the population professing the Hindu and the Sikh religions were placed on the same footing with regard to their inclusion as Scheduled Castes.
Later on as per amendment made in the Constitution (Schedule Castes) Order 1990, the Hindu, the Sikh and the Buddhist professing population were placed on the same footing with regard to recognition of the Scheduled Castes. Their occupations are unclean (with respect to upper castes) which include disposal of the dead, flaying of dead animals, menial work, cleaning, etc.
Many of them are agricultural labourers, cultivators of small land holdings, petty labourers and industrial workers. To the upper castes, they are “untouchables”. The practice of untouchability started with their original “unclean” occupations, and physical contact with upper castes was prohibited. They are forced to live in segregation particularly in rural India.
It is clear from the above description that Scheduled castes have been a deprived, neglected and exploited lot in Indian society since the introduction of caste system in the country. It is, therefore, necessary to make a thorough study of these castes. Scheduled Caste is a heterogeneous group consisting of 542 castes.
As regards their social and economic status vis-a-vis the rest of the population, they are homogeneous to some extent. Majority of them are poor, live in rural areas (81.28 per cent) and are engaged in agriculture. They provide substantial support to agriculture which is the backbone of Indian economy.
Scheduled castes constitute an important segment of Indian population. It has been increasing steadily since 1951, not only in numbers but also in proportion to the total population. Scheduled Castes population was 64 million in 1961 which rose to 80 million in 1971,105 million in 1981, 138.2 in 1991 (excluding Jammu and Kashmir where 1991 census could not be held) and 166.6 million in 2001. The share of Scheduled Castes population has been growing almost consistently since 1951 at the rate of 1.1 per cent to reach 16.2 per cent of the total population in India in 2001.