Quantum jump in Dalits compensation may be counter-productive
Lucknow: Bhartiya Janata Party president Amit Shah’s new love for Dalits and recent lunch with a Dalit family sounded a alarm well to the ruling Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh. Acting quick the party has decided to make a quantum jump in compensation for atrocities against them.
The state government lost a very little time, less than a fortnight, to announce a higher compensation, sensing that delay could cost the party dearly in the forthcoming assembly elections. The government machinery moves at a snail pace, normally, but this case was exceptional and, therefore, its treatment had to be different.
The BJP or the SP action may or may not help either of the two in the coming polls but it has benefitted the Dalits enormously. Compensation for atrocities ranged from Rs 75,000 to 85,000 in the pre-Amit Shah’s lunch period. This has now gone up to as high as Rs 8.5 lakhs. The compensation for smaller crime which was fixed at the lowest level of Rs 75,000 has increased to Rs 7.5 lakhs.
This largesse may be exceptional. Normally, a small raise is given but this has not happened in case as it is special -- Dalits account for nearly 22 per cent of the total electorate. The ruling party can ignore them to its own peril.
Besides stopping the BJP from making any major dent into the Dalit population, the decision is aimed at winning away the fence-sitters who are not committed to the Bahujan Samaj Party. The latter largely depends on the support of Dalits and any change in their voting pattern can damage its electoral prospect.
The SP faces main challenges from these parties, Erosion in the vote- base of the BSP and sizable Dalit support to the party can help it give a severe beating to the BJP.
However, there is a risk involved in this decision too. While it will be pleasing to the Dalit, it will cause much resentment among the upper castes. Rape and other atrocities are not limited to Dalits. Other castes have suffered and may still suffer on this account . With limited resources and mainly depending on the Centre to meet its expenditure, the state government will not be in a position to provide similar relief to other castes and community.
This may bring non-Dalit castes, at least a good many of them, together and upset the party’s calculations. The question uppermost in many minds is : was it worth taking?oHo