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 Full text 
Thursday, 13 December 2012 - Strasbourg Revised edition

Caste discrimination in India

  Paul Murphy, author. − Mr President, the caste system is a reactionary, medieval remnant that has been used as a divide-and-rule tactic by the various ruling classes in India throughout the centuries. It was used by British imperialism, and since independence has been used by the ruling Indian capitalist class. Caste discrimination is indeed banned under the Indian Constitution. However, laws are one thing and reality is another.

The laws against caste discrimination and manual scavenging are regularly ignored. Hundreds of thousands of female Dalits are engaged in manual scavenging, and Dalit and Adivasi women have a literacy rate of only 24%. The torching of almost 300 houses in Dalit communities at the end of November, with no action taken by the police, illustrates the victimisation and attacks that they face.

The caste system facilitates and legitimises conditions that allow the most grotesque and barbaric exploitation of workers. Many EU-based multinationals profit from that system through the exploitation of cheap labour. There are up to 200 000 bonded labourers in Tamil Nadu working in the garment industry making clothes for many well-known Western brands. Rural poverty, which is hitting the most marginalised and poorest sections of India, is a growing problem. In the last 15 years, we have seen 250 000 farmers commit suicide as a result of the destruction of their livelihoods. There is an urgent need for radical land reform in India, including the distribution of land to small farmers.

The growth and development of the Indian economy that we have seen in recent years is only benefitting a minority of the Indian population. In the past 20 years since the onset of aggressive neo-liberal reforms, millions have been pushed further into poverty and destitution. The proposals for foreign direct investment in multi-brand retailing will be a profits bonanza for the world’s major retail giants, but these profits will be made on the back of the destruction of the small retail sector, a sector that employs 40 million workers. Marginalised groups such as the Dalits will be particularly hard hit.

I therefore fully support the 48-hour general strike in India this coming February, and I urge the Indian workers and trade union movement to call for the complete revocation of FDI in all sectors and mobilise the opposition to other neo-liberal counter reforms.

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