New Delhi, Feb 4: As the suicide of Rohith Vemula puts the focus back on the contentious issue of Dalit rights, former IAS officer and author P. Sivakami says that the community is denied even the minimum human rights. The critically acclaimed author and former bureaucrat said she quit in 2008 after being treated like an untouchable. Sivakami, who was in the Indian Administrative Service for 28 years, told IANS that her decision was fuelled by the realisation that Dalits have no place in tion-building. With more than eight books to her credit, Sivakami is among India’s most prominent Dalit writers. Her first book, “In The Grip of Change”, had created a stir as it questions patriarchy in the Dalit movement.
“Both the political class and bureaucracy work together against the Dalits. During my service, though my position was next to the minister in the state I was serving in, I had to struggle for basic rights for tribals. I was dubbed as a person who belongs to the community when I was working for their welfare. It amounted to untouchability. I realised that there was an unwritten law against people from the lower community,” said Sivakami, whose last posting was secretary of the Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare Department in Tamil du. Many times, funds allocated for the tribal community were siphoned off for other projects and filling even a post of a teacher in a school for tribal children needed permission from the cabinet, which never listed it as a priority.
“To fill vacancies, I had to get approval from the cabinet and it was never a priority for them. When I demanded to fill the posts of teachers in tribal schools, I was accused of running a parallel government. The funds meant for tribals were used for other projects,” she said, adding that no Dalit has held secretary-level positions in the home or fince departments in the last six decades, which she deemed significant.
“The post of secretary in the industries, fince or home ministry is considered a key position. No Dalit has been given these posts for the last 60 years. The discrimition is felt in all levels,” Sivakami said, adding it was her father who inspired her to become a civil servant. Disillusioned with the system, she quit the service and joined the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in 2009. A year later, she floated a political party, the Samuga Samathuva Padai to become the voice of the voiceless and the oppressed. Discrimition, according to Sivakami, is pervasive - whether in educatiol institutions or the bureaucracy. (IANS)