Scheduled Castes In India
The Term “Scheduled Castes (SC) ” is the constitutional name given to the Dalits in India who have occupied the lowest status in Indian society.
After independence, legislation was passed making discrimination on the basis of caste and untouchability an offence.
Further, at the same time, the Dalit communities are recognized by the Indian Constitution to be especially disadvantaged because of their past history of backwardness and deprivation, and are therefore given certain preferential treatment. Benefits for them are refered to as 'SC Reservation'.
The Scheduled Castes in India are not an homogenous group and are divided into many castes and sub-castes. They are also divided into various language groups and geographical location. Collectively they are now known as “Dalits”.
Members of the Scheduled Castes are found all over India. In some areas they comprise over 25% of the population. With total numbers of over 170 million, they form the largest minority group anywhere in the world.
During the first half of the twentieth century, the British Indian government began to make efforts to better the lives of untouchables and depressed classes. Their special situation was recognized by the government by ascribing the the term “Scheduled Castes” to them.
The schedule of these castes is promulgated by the Prersident of India.
Afetr independence, Article 341 of the Indian constituion authorized the President of India to specify “castes, races or tribes which shall for the purposes of this constitution be deemed to be Scheduled Castes”.
The First Amendment to the Constitution passed in 1951 also permitted the state to make special provision for advancement of socially and educationally backward segments of the Scheduled Castes.
Almost 90% of the Dalit Scheduled Castes still live in rural areas and economic exploitation remains their most acute problem.
They are largely marginal farmers or landless labourers by occupation. Large numbers of Dalits also migrate to cities or towns to work as casual laborers , which is one of the reasons for increasing urban population in India.
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