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Abstract from

Compensatory Discrimination and India's Untouchables

Oliver Mendelsohn

In one form or another compensatory discrimination has been practised in India for the whole of the 20th century, though the present great edifice has been constructed almost wholly in the period since India gained Independence in 1947.  The beneficiaries of the scheme belong to several distinct social categories: the Scheduled Castes (better known as the Untouchables), the Scheduled Tribes and the ‘Other Backward Classes’. Now women too have been added as a category of preferential treatment for certain public positions. The discussion here is mostly directed to the experience of the first of these categories, the Un-touchables, since this is the largest – there are some 150 million Untouchables – most complex and most significant example. What follows from the next section, then, is a short case-study of the Indian scheme of compensatory discrimination so far as it affects the Untouchables. The purpose is not to focus primary attention on the divisions surrounding the scheme but rather to plot just what has or has not been accomplished for the categories that are the objects of preference (that is, not merely the actual individual beneficiaries).

(1998) 15(2) Law in Context 51

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