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Achieving MDGs for Dalits and Muslims

Mar 30, 2010

The National Confederation of Dalit Organisations organised the National Consultation on Strategies for Achievement of the Millennium Development Goals for Dalits and Muslims to discuss the challenges and strategies for achieving the MDGs for the socially excluded.

The accomplishment of MDGs for Dalits and Muslims when looked through various quantifiable goals shows a very depressing picture. The first MDG goal which targets to halve the number of poor in the world is the most important indicator. However, Dalits show the highest incidence of poverty with Muslims placed next. 

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A consultation on Strategies for Achievement of the Millennium Development Goals for Dalits and Muslims in India was jointly organised by the National Confederation of Dalit Organisations (NACDOR) and Tehreek-e-Pasmanda Muslim Samaj (TPMS) in the capital recently.

With only five years left to achieve the Millennium Goals, 2010 marks the year of reflection and assessment. With an aim to build national consensus, The National Consultation, suggested strategies, ideas and plans to the Government for the achievement of these goals.

The consultation was attended by about 175 representatives from NGOs with Muslim and Dalit leadership, activists addressing the issues of Muslim and Dalit rights who had come from different states of India like Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, UttarPradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu & Kashmir, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh. Besides these participants, several eminent speakers from diverse backgrounds addressed the consultation and took part in healthy and positive debate and discussion.

The different issues that were discussed and debated during the consultation were context of MDGs, MDGs and status of Dalits & Muslims, recommendations and suggestions for achieving MDGs.

Talking about the challenges standing in the way of achievement of MDGs Paul Divakar, convener, National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights said,” Firstly, there is no clear planning regarding the entitlements and if there are no proper entitlements, the various economic schemes and government policies don’t reach these communities. Secondly, the budget allocations for these groups are as it is very low and within the allocation itself, there is no innovation”

The objective of this consultation was therefore, to discuss what steps we need to take in this complex structure in order to take this to a higher level, he added.

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Stating the problems faced by Indian Muslims in achieving the MDGs, Sardar Anwar, President of TPMS said, “Indian Muslims are one of the most backward communities in India today. The budget allocation for them is also very nominal. Therefore, in such a scenario, monitoring of Government plans becomes very important to see if the minorities are benefiting from them or not.”

He explained that poverty in Dalits and Muslims manifests as lack of income, hunger and malnutrition, ill health, limited access, and lack of access to education and other basic services. Women are the most affected lot.

Due to lack of participation in decision-making and in civil, social and cultural life, these communities find it difficult to voice their concerns at the higher levels of governance.

Providing a possible solution Divakar says,” The budget is in written form. Its allocations and uses are all documented. We therefore, need to make use of RTI to get access to the information regarding the allotments and schemes.”

The last session was especially engaging, with activists from different states sharing case studies related to the plight of Dalits and Muslims in their respective areas.

In his concluding remark, Mr. Ashok Bharti shared,” The government is talking about inclusive economy but all its policies are focusing on exclusion. Only elite classes are benefiting out of it. If the government considers us as a part of this country our share in the economy has to be confirmed.”

“It is a very laudable, noble objective of people coming together and resolving to remove poverty” said Amitabh Behar, convener, Wada Na Todo Abhiyan.

There is no doubt that attempts are being made by the central and state governments to focus on the issues of Dalits and Muslims. They have made specific programmes for these communities and also some provisions in the budgetary allocations. But it is yet to be seen how adequate these allocations and supports are in achieving their objectives.

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