Chapter 13: Confronting Discrimination through Affirmative Action in India: Playing the Right Music with the Wrong Instrument?
Taran Patel Muniyammal Krishnan, a small round 45 year old from Kunvathur, a village near Chennai (formerly Madras) in Southeastern India, has worked as a ‘human scavenger’ since she was a little girl, cleaning the latrines of upper caste villagers. Before there was running water in Kunvathur, she carried away human excrement in a bucket on her head. By birth it is incumbent upon Krishnan to handle feces for a living because, like more than 150 million Indians, she is an untouchable and belongs to the bottom of the Hindu caste hierarchy. (Giry, 2004) Introduction The story of Muniyammal Krishnan, recounted by Stephanie Giry, although shocking, is a reality for over 150 million Indians who are commonly referred to as ‘untouchables’. Despite the outstanding economic development of India in recent years it seems that the benefits of this economic boom have silently circumvented these underprivileged sections of Indian society. In this conceptual chapter we explore some of the discrimination-related issues that plague India today. The first part of this chapter addresses the discussion at the national level. We expose some of the discriminationrelated issues faced by different minority groups such as members of the lower castes of the Hindu religion, minority religions particularly the Muslims who constitute about 12 percent of the Indian population, women, homosexuals and transgenders. Then we discuss the history of the evolution of affirmative action in India and expose its current status in India today. We also expose some of the challenges that Indian society currently...
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