Annual Lecture

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SAMATA Annual Lecture I (2012 )
Designing Affirmative Action for Nepal: A Tour of the Choices and Problems  Professor Marc Galanter

Affirmative action tells us what the nation envisions itself to be. It indicates the bonds that Nepalese want to build with each other. In a way, affirmative action programs, when effectively implemented along with other policies ranging for economic development to mentoring, contribute to building our imagined community. Who gets access to what opportunities is central to defining who we are as a nation. The two-day event revealed that dialogues on affirmative action, especially with policy-makers must be continued. The justifications explained by Professor Marc Galanter have provided us a framework to work with and contextualize. Prior to formulating policies on positive discrimination, the state must recognize and accept the accumulated historic discrimination against Dalit community. Without recognition of past and on-going caste based discrimination, appropriate policies cannot be formulated. Acceptance of historically accumulated discrimination against the Dalit community will also contribute to a thorough understanding of the Dalit identity. Dalit are usually grouped together with other marginalized groups when in reality their experiences of discrimination are very different. Policy-makers must be conscious of the complexities involved in the Dalit identity. Sub-groups, hierarchy and discrimination within the Dalit community add to the complex nature of Dalit identity and need to be constantly kept in mind when devising affirmative action policies. From the dialogues, it is evident that affirmative action on its own will not reach the bottom to distribute power, wealth and educational opportunities. Affirmative action needs to be implemented in tandem with other economic and political policies. Land reform is one of the policies at the nucleus of economic and political development. As the Dalit movement has demanded, land reform will bring real change to Dalit community’s economic development only if they are given first priority during land distribution and are given land for free by the government. Another key economic policy to be considered and suggested during the discussions is modernizing, professionalizing and industrializing the traditional skills and occupations of Dalit. While favorable economic and political environment will augment the impacts of affirmative action, changes in cultural practices and attitudes towards the Dalit are also necessary for social transformation. The discussions revealed that it is necessary to focus on the strengths of the Dalit community instead of focusing on how oppressed and ‘backward’ the community is. The state and the civil society should work together to build the confidence of Dalit community and change attitudes held by the non-Dalit towards them.

Acknowledgement: This SAMATA Annual Lecture I has been published in collaboration with International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), supported by Royal Embassy of Norway and Government of Finland. In addition, National Endowment for Democracy [NED], Foundation Open Society Institute [FOSI], Commission for Educational Exchange between the United States and Nepal [The Fulbright Commission] and Action Aid Nepal had provided technical and other supports to organize this annual lecture.

SAMATA Annual Lecture II (2011)
Carrier of Social Justice in India: Implications for Affirmative Action Programs in Nepal
Professor Gopal Guru

Gopal Guru in his lecture and presentation provided conceptual differences between reservations, affirmative action and protective discrimination. He said that affirmative action is a precondition for reservation, which in turn, is a precondition for protective discrimination. He also laid out the necessary conditions – constitutional democracy and an innovative state – for effective implementation of affirmative action and reservation policies. He repeatedly mentioned that although affirmative action is a pre-condition for reservations, the two policies have to go in tandem. Moreover, he emphasized that the Dalit population had to be ascertained properly because the number would be essential when designing affirmative action policies. Based on the discussions that followed Professor Gopal Guru’s presentation among Dalit political and civil society leaders, it can be concluded that more discussions are necessary to philosophically ground the understanding of affirmative action and reservations among the Nepali Dalit community. While there are demands for special rights for Dalit, which have been so far positively received by the government as well, the Nepali Dalit community needs to be engaged itself in intense discussions on the modalities of providing special rights. These discussions also need to be taken into consideration; the various conditions are necessary to implement affirmative action policies as Professor Guru explained. Having presented in the Indian context, Professor Guru provided an excellent opportunity to comparatively assess the Dalit movement in India and in Nepal. While the debate of which perspective is more useful continues, what is evident is that affirmative action policies should be designed with awareness to both caste and class dynamics of the Dalit problem.In conclusion, the discussion was successful in laying out the fundamental differences between affirmative action and reservations, and the conditions necessary for implementing affirmative action policies. Also, the discussion revealed that more work is needed in terms of Dalit leaders engaging in the details of implementing affirmative action policies. For example, concepts of carry forward and reservation in the private and non-profit sector need to be thought through.
Acknowledgement: This SAMATA Annual Lecture II has been published in collaboration with International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), supported by Royal Embassy of Norway and Government of Finland. Moreover, Foundation Open Society Institute [FOSI] and National Endowment for Democracy [NED] had provided technical and other supports to organize this annual lecture.


SAMATA Annual Lecture iii
Affirmative Action and Private Sector by Professor Ashwini Deshpande
Affirmative action (AA) means to tackle. AA consists of a set of anti-discrimination measures intended to provide access to preferred positions in a society for members of groups that would otherwise be excluded or under-represented. It provides a mechanism to address contemporary exclusion, to de-segregate elites but it does not lead to a redistribution of wealth. It simply alters the composition of elite positions in society. In other way around, it is not meant to be an anti-poverty measure, although it could lift families of some AA beneficiaries out of poverty. It is also not an employment generation measure; it only changes the distribution of existing jobs across social groups. AA provides the communities with voices that get heard among decision-makers.
Dalit continue to suffer from a "stigmatized ethnic identity" due to their untouchable past and remained mired in corresponding social backwardness. There are factors that results in gruesome violence against Dalits. Inter-caste marriages are not very common. Dalit has to face violence and injustice on an everyday basis. Prof. Deshpande highlights the urgent need of some affirmative action measures in the private sector. The market economy is also not free of discrimination so dalits should be included on favorable terms. Extension of quotas in private sector is also favorable for the dalits community. According to Deshpande, today, the caste-based discrimination on non-dominant caste perpetuate in new form along with the changing societal context. With the ever changing nature of economy, socio-culture, technology and legal factors etc, the features of discriminations have also changed.
In her lecture, she explains how Dalit job seekers face job discriminations, wage discrimination even though Dalits are equally qualified as any other non-Dalits.  According to her Nepal has many things to learn from India and the discourses are very important in Nepal for the rights of dalits. She stresses on affirmative action as a "quota plus" policy which will be beneficial for the much larger section of dalits.

ANNUAL LECTURE  IV
Unraveling Inclusiveness in North East India: lessons from the experimentations of Indian Gorkhas by Mahendra P lama
Indian Gorkhas contributed immensely in building modern India. Their tolerance even after being excluded from the mainstream political development and their struggle to get a permanent constitutional and legal solution for their national identity is praiseworthy. Professor Mahendra P Lama in his lecture insists Nepal's marginalized group to learn from the experiences of Gorkhas in inclusion and proportional representation. He provides the sample of Darjeeling and focuses on the caste system. In his lecture he highlighted on caste system of Darjeeling which was identified as a backward classes that suffers from two serious contradictions. First, the socially and educationally backwardness syndrome and the second the castes like Chamling and Kharga which was enlisted as a only two sub- castes out of many major castes. It naturally raised questions of acceptability, efficacy and coherency.  He urges the injection of caste consciousness would only mean a regressive inducement to the pluralistic character.  He gave an example of a situation of people in famous tea garden. Those people working there could not afford to remain in a caste based cocoon and compartmentalized social structure as they have to fight for higher wages and better living conditions to reach higher economic graph. These situations made the Indian Gorkhas to come out of the rigid discriminatory practices in terms of castes within the community. This made them rise above individual caste identity, language and cultural practices. They had to fight at the state and the national level. They experimented with local (All India Gorkha League, Gorkha National Liberation Front, Gorkha Janamukti Morcha, regional (Communist party of India (Marxist) and national parties (Indian National Congress).
In the context of Nepal, the Maoists movement made substantive contribution at least in raising and highlighting the issues related to the extremely alienated and marginalized population of Dalits, Janajatis and to a large extent on Madhesis in Nepal. Even though, Nepal needs a real debate and long term vision on this crucial issue of marginalized, deprived and alienated communities.

 

 

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