The 2011 census recorded nearly 20.14 crore people belonging to various scheduled castes in the country. As per the 2001 census, the number was 16.66 crore. The dalit population showed a decadal growth of 20.8%, whereas India’s population grew 17.7% during the same period. “Though there is an increase in the population of dalits in the country, many states with a considerable number of dalits don’t have any legislation to protect the interests of the community. Dalit empowerment is very poor in many states,” said former Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) MLA D Ravikumar.
Many scheduled caste families don’t own land or any other property, said Ravikumar. “Many dalits are landless and efforts to empower them by giving free land have not been successful in Tamil Nadu. Unlike Punjab, which has a considerable number of dalits as industrialists, here there is hardly any industrialist from our community,” the leader of the dalit party said.
There are around 9.79 crore women among the total SC population, and the sex ratio works out to 946 females per 1000 males. Nagaland, Lakshwadeep and Andaman and Nicobar islands have no scheduled castes among their population. Though UP has the largest chunk of the total SC population, Punjab has the largest share of dalits in its population at 31.9%. Himachal Pradesh and West Bengal follow Punjab with 25.2% and 23.5%. In Tamil Nadu, dalits account for about 18% of the population.
The state budget should also allocate funds for creation of assets for dalits, said Ravikumar. “Instead of distributing freebies, the state governments can set aside a portion of the total allocation for dalits. In many cases, funds are being diverted and dalits lose whatever is due to them,” he said. The states with considerable number of dalits in their population must pass a separate legislation on the lines of Andhra Pradesh, which has passed the SC/ST Sub Plan Act, said a dalit activist.
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