During the partyless Panchayat era there were no
specific development issues. There was a blanket approach to
improving people’s living standards. Formation of NGOs and interest
groups were prohibited.
was only after the nineties the issue and problems of Dalit started
to surface and the credit goes to Save the Children US and USAID that
carried out first ever research study in six districts of Nepal to
understand the situation of Dalits. That study clearly highlights the
problems faced by Dalits that need to be addressed systematically,
not just through a blanket approach. Save the Children, with the
support from USAID, again started an endowment fund to provide
scholarships to Dalit students starting from primary to high school
education and launched BELE (Basic Education for Least Educated) in
15 districts of Nepal in partnership with Nepal’s one of the oldest
Dalit organisations Nepal National Depressed Social Welfare
Organisation (NNDSWO), which is the first Dalit organisation to
launch targeted development programme for Dalits. The same tradition
was followed by Dalit Welfare Organisation again with the support of
Save the Children US.
Nepal international aid comes through three categories of international
agencies. 1) Multilateral agencies such as World Bank, Asian
Development Bank, UN agencies, European Union etc 2) Bilateral
agencies such as USAID, DFID, JICA, CCO, NORAD, DANIDA and FINNIDA.
3) INGOs such as Actionaid Nepal, Plan International, Save the
Children alliances, CARE Nepal, Lutheran World Federation and list is
more than 100. Many of these INGOs have agreement with the Social
Welfare Council and with some ministries.
Nepal’s development budget is largely dependant on International aid,
loan and grant which is evident even in the current fiscal year’s
annual budget where the government expects to receive 60 percent of
its development budget from loans and grants. The reality is that out
of the 96 billion rupee budget 50 percent goes to general
administration, which is largely raised through tax.
stated earlier, issues of Dalits started to receive attention only
after the mid-nineties. Therefore, not all development organisations
are sensitive enough to understand and translate the issues into
their development programmes. Under the leadership of Dr Jagadish
Chandra Pokhrel, the Dalit NGO Federation carried out a study to
understand the current scenario of development and the socio-economic
status of Dalits.
of time constraints only 40 agencies of all three categories were
given questionnaire. Out of 40 agencies, nine said they did not have
any Dalit-specific programme. Out of 31, only 18 responded formally.
The study found that the average money spent directly or indirectly for
Dalits stood at 250 million rupees which are spent through support
organisations and according to their own plan document ~ ~
was interesting to note that these agencies prefer to use neutral
terms such as disadvantaged groups (DAG), real poor, ultra-poor,
rights holders, and more recently excluded community to describe
agencies have their own country-specific strategy that directs
investment in Nepal; they use different strategic themes to make
their programme and projects pro-Dalit. These themes include
“pluralism and diversity protection”, “inclusive programme design”,
“targeted programme”, mainstreaming”, thematic approach”, democracy
and good governance”, “combating discrimination.”
is interesting and encouraging to note that they are sensitive to the
issue of caste and ethnic representation in their staffing structure.
Another interesting feature of the study is that most of these
agencies do not have Dalit segregated data and they use the rule of
thumb to come up with a figure of 10 percent of their total support
going towards Dalit. They claim that they have reached the Dalit
communities through support organisations but are not sure to what
extent their support has been effective in addressing the issues and
problems of Dalits.
Dalit community of Nepal makes 13.38 percent of total population and
their literacy rate is 23 percent against the national average of 54
percent. Life expectancy stands at 50.8 years against the national
average of 59 years. Their per capita income is Rs. 4940 against Rs.
7673 national average.
Dalit civil society claims that out of 38 percent population living
below the poverty line, the majority are Dalits. Therefore, one can
strongly argue that the Dalits of Nepal should come to the forefront
of any development agenda of both government and international
agencies. Unfortunately, both at national and international
development forums, the issues of Dalits have not yet received the
attention they deserve. The Millennium Development Goals of Nepal do
not spell out programme for Dalits.
study also indicated that international agencies working in Nepal
have been found to be getting sensitive towards the problems and
issues of Dalits but majority of them have not dared to include them
as target groups. Therefore, through this article I would like to ask
the Dalit civil society to create more pressure on the government and
international agencies to make the uplift of Dalits as one of the
millennium development goals, and urge all development agencies to
include Dalits in their development agenda. Failing to do so may
flare up the ongoing conflict in Nepal.