Mayawati’s Idolization and quest for Dalit Emancipation
By SR Darapuri
July 18, 2009
The author is a retired Indian Police Service (IPS) officer (former Inspector General (IG) of Police), Vice-President of People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), UP, fellow of Citizen News Service (CNS) Writers’ Bureau, and also represents the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) and Lok Rajniti Manch (People's Politics Front). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
During the Assembly elections 2007, the people of Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) India and especially the Dalits voted Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) to absolute majority. They expected that this time with a stable government she will be able to take U.P. out of the quagmire of underdevelopment and backwardness. They also hoped that now she will work out a development agenda for the State as well as for the Dalits and implement it faithfully. During her previous three stints as Chief Minister she took the plea that due to her dependence on other parties for support she could not act independently. As such she needed a government with majority to give her a free hand in running her government. But even this time Mayawati did not come up to the people’s expectations. Neither she neither worked out development agenda nor stopped wasting public money on installing statues, creating memorials and making parks.
If judged from the point of view of development, at present U.P. is the one of the most backward states of India. As per 2001 Census Repot it has the largest population (16.16 crores) which stands as 16.16 % of total population of India. According to development parameters the total literacy rate of U.P. is 56.30 % (Male 68.8 and Female 42.2 %) whereas at the national level it is 68.84 % (Male 75.26 and 53.67 %). The sex ratio of U.P. stands at 898 whereas the national ratio is 933. According to available statistics the per capita income in U.P. during 2005-06 was Rs. 13,316 which is the lowest in the country excepting Bihar (Rs. 7875) whereas at the national level it is Rs. 25,716. During this period the per capita power production and consumption in U.P. was 113 and 167 K.W.Hour as compared with 563 and 372 K.W.Hour at the national level.
From the Public Health angle the birth rate, death rate and child mortality rate for U.P. were 30.4, 8.7 and 73 respectively whereas the national rates were 23.8, 7.6 and 58 respectively. As per the findings of NFHS-III, 2005-06 the infant mortality (number of infant deaths per thousand live births in the last five years) rate at national level is 57 whereas for U.P. it is 73. In India, 46 per scent children under three yeas of age are underweight whereas in U.P. it is 47 percent. Almost 38 % children (under three years age) are stunted (too short for their age). In U.P. their percentage is 46. Almost 79 % of children (6-35 months) and 56 % of women in India are anemic. In U.P. the figures are 85 and 51 percent respectively. From the employment angle during 2001 in U.P. only 23.78 % of total workers were Main Workers and 66 % were engaged as Agriculture Labourers. At present 32 % of U.P. population is living below poverty line against the national average of 27.5 percent.
From the above details it is clear that from the development point of view U.P. is one of the most backward states of India. In such a situation, not only Mayawati but every government is expected to utilize all the resources of the State for the development of the people. But it has not happened for last many years. According to Sudha Pai “There is evidence that the conditions of the poorer sections in U.P. which include the major chunk of the Dalits have become worse during the 1990s. The National Human Development Report (NHDR) has pointed out the poor conditions of life in comparison with many other states. The State’s position in terms of Human Development Index was 29th in 1981 and has fallen to 31 out of 32 states (NHDR 2001:140-41). Similarly the Monthly Per Capita Consumption Expenditure registered a fall in the State between 1993-94 and 1999-2000; that this is due to a drastic reduction in the consumption expenditure on food between two periods clearly suggest deterioration in the standard of living. This down slide took place when the B.S.P. supported by B.J.P. was in power in U.P. for the most part (National Herald, Lucknow May 1, 2002). Despite the fact that the BSP. had formed a government twice during the 1990s and was again in power with the support of the Bhartiya Janta Party, the conditions of Dalits have not improved according to the draft proposals of the Tenth Five Year Plan (Jha, 28 December, The Times of India, New Delhi-2002). The BSP did not put forward any policies for improving the socioeconomic conditions of the subaltern sections of the Dalits. The emphasis has been on political empowerment only.”
It is well known that Mayawati did not take up any development agenda during all her tenures of Chief Minister ship. During the elections BSP never came out with an election manifesto. This was done purposely. Because declaration of an agenda being about the responsibility of implementing it and failure to do so invites public wrath. Mr. Kanshi Ram, the mentor of Mayawati, attracted Dalits by promising to fulfill the incomplete mission of Dr. Ambedkar but cleverly he never defined it in writing. “First capture political power and then any work” was the promise given by BSP. In the beginning, Dalits were instigated against higher castes by raising emotional and non-material issues but later on all sorts of unprincipled and opportunistic alliances were made to get political power. All the principles of Ambedkarism were thrown to winds and dalits were exploited emotionally in the name of caste. Personal ambitions were pursued in place of Dalit issues. This unprincipled, non developmental and corrupt politics has resulted in poverty, unemployment and backwardness of the people of U.P. and the Dalits at large.
Now it will be pertinent to see on what items the budget money was spent during this period. It has been found that major part of budget was spent on non-development projects. It is noticeable that 90 % of Cultural Department and about 40 % of Public Works Department budget was spent on parks, memorials and statues. What ever money was spent on welfare programmes, a major apart of it was eaten away by corruption. As such the poor were deprived of any benefit there of. The main cause of it has been the personal greed and corruption of Mayawati which may land her in jail in the near future. She has spent a major portion of state budget on installing statues, making parks and creating memorials. Along with the statues of Dr. Ambedkar and some other Dalit icons she has installed her own statues along with her mentor Kanshi Ram. She seems to have taken inspiration from North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Ill. She has made history by installing her own statues as a living person. According to available information she has spent more than 3,000 crores of Rupees on statutes and parks. These statues and memorials are so grand and costly which can put any king or queen to shame. According to one German scholar Maren Schempp, “Mayawati is building her own Rome.” Another scholar has labeled it as a criminal waste of public money.
Now Mayawati is ruling the State for the fourth time and she proclaims to be the savior of Dalits. In the face of this claim it will be proper to see what she has done to for the upliftment of Dalits of U.P. According to 2001 Census Report the population of Dalits in U.P. is 3.51 crores which is 21.2 % of State population and is the largest in whole of India. Ordinarily it is expected that in a state where a Dalit Chief Minister has occupied the chair for the fourth time, the Dalits of that state might have benefited much from her rule. But the ground reality is totally to the contrary. At present U.P. dalits are the most backward in whole of India leaving aside the Dalits of Orissa and Bihar. According to 2001 Census Report the Male- Female sex ratio of U.P. dalits is 900 whereas the national average of Dalits is 936. Similarly the literacy rate of U.P. Dalits is 46.3 % (Male 60.3 and Female 30.5 Percent) against the national average of 54.7 percent (Male 66.6 and Female 41.9 %). According to above Census report out of 1.33 crore children between the age of group 5-14 yeas only 58.3 lacs ( 56.4 % ) were going to school.
According to above census Report among total workers U.P. has got 42.5 % dalits working as Agriculture Labourers against the national average of 45.6 %. The percentage of U.P. dalits below poverty line is about 50 %. In U.P. Work Participation Rate of Dalits is 34.7 % which is lower than the national average. Being a dominantly agriculture based society land is an important source of production. In U.P. the number and size of land holdings with dalits is very small but land reforms have not been given proper priority in the State. What ever land was given to the landless, most of it is under illegal possession of higher castes and Mayawati cannot afford to annoy them as they form an important part of her Sarvjan (all included) followers.
On account of feudal social set up caste discrimination and practice of untouchability are the main factors behind atrocities against Dalits in U.P. Their number is highest in whole of India. A decrease in atrocities and prompt action against the offenders is the general expectation from Mayawati but the reality is totally otherwise. During 2001 Mayawati in order to keep her crime figures low issued a written order suspending the use of Scheduled Cases and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities ) Act but was forced to withdraw the same in 2003. This had a very adverse effect on dalits. The atrocities continued to be perpetrated but their cases were not being registered by police. Besides this, the practice of untouchability is quite prevalent in midday meals in Primary Schools, Anganwari Centres and government hospitals but very little action is taken at government level. Thus Dalits continue to suffer under Mayawati’s rule. They have not experienced any empowerment material or otherwise.
“The statues serve as a source of inspiration for dalits” is the argument put forward by Mayawati for justifying her idolization. But this argument is quite contrary to the philosophy of Dalit icons. Let us see what Dr. Ambedkar said in a letter published in Bombay Chronicle in 1916. Following the death, in 1915, of Pherozeshah Merwnjee Mehta, one of the founders of Indian National Congress, and of Gopal Krishana Gokhle, another Congress leader and founder of Servants of India society, Ambedkar notes: “The memorial for Gokhle is to take the form of establishing branches of Servants of India Society at various places, while that of Sir P.M. Mehta is to stand in the form of a statue before the Bombay Municipal Office.” While appreciating the memorial for Gokhle, Ambedkar records his dismay over a statue for Mehta being “very trivial and unbecoming.” He is “at pains to understand why this memorial cannot be in a form that will be “of permanent use to posterity.”. He suggests that the memorial should be a public library named after Mehta. Drawing from his experience at “one of the biggest universities in the U.S., Ambedkar laments how we have not yet “realized the value of the library as an institution in the growth and advancement of society.”
Later, Dr. Ambedkar acted on these principles when he had the opportunity. He was driven by the belief that education was the greatest weapon for advancement. He founded “People’s Education Society” in 1944; three branches of Siddharth College beginning 1946; and Milind Mahavidhyalya in 1950. With a view to benefit the maximum number of students he established colleges in Bombay and Marathwar which is the most backward area in Maharashtra.
It is true that statues serve as source of inspiration but this role is very limited. The lasting inspiration comes by following their ideals and propagating their philosophy. But Mayawati has done hardly any thing in this direction. If the money spent on statues had been spent in establishing educational institutions in the name of dalit icons, it would have brought a qualitative change in the society.
From the brief above discussion it transpires that the emancipation of dalits can be achieved not by installation of statues but by working out a Dalit development agenda and implementing it honestly. In stead of spending crores on the statues, establishing educational institutions, hospital, libraries and useful institutions in the name of Dalit icons will be a true honour and memorial to them.