Category Archives: Uncategorised

DSN-UK’s Annual General Meeting 2021

19th November 2021

This year’s AGM was a relatively quiet affair, though that’s not to say that there wasn’t plenty to be dealt with. Apart from the usual matters of adopting the proposed Annual Report and Accounts for 2020/21, we were delighted to welcome Dr Prerna Tambay to our Board of Trustees. Prerna is an active leader in the Dalit movement, and already a long-standing member of DSN-UK, having contributed to past AGMs. Her specialisation is digitalisation and mobilisation, and she has a particular interest in women’s issues. We were also pleased that Corinne Lennox (Chair), Kate Solomeyina (Treasurer) and Ramani Leatherd were re-elected to the Board, so that the transition period between Directors can continue smoothly.  

Our membership numbers have continued to increase, although raising awareness of all aspects of caste discrimination is an ongoing issue, and we are often preaching to the converted. However, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Dalits has been working hard to keep caste on the agenda. Members have tabled parliamentary questions and debates, including one on Human Rights in India, following the new bilateral trade agreement.   

Unfortunately, our Everyday Casteism project hasn’t been as successful as we would have liked, so DSN-UK is currently working on direct outreach to Higher Education Institutions. Meanwhile, our work on Human Rights and Business remains as important as ever, and through IDSN we have a great relationship with a lot of the UN Rapporteurs, ensuring that casteism is considered in global supply chains.  

The AGM had the pleasure of listening to M. Savio Lourdu from India discussing a litigation case that he is working on, which highlighted the problems of reservation in local elections, and how power is still being abused by the ‘dominant’ castes in communities. Furthermore, he asked the network to ensure that in any discussions between India and the UK, we make sure that our voices are heard over ongoing human rights abuses.  

While the pandemic has affected funding for many charities, it is important to remember that at the grassroots level, Dalits have suffered disproportionately. DSN-UK is proud of our achievements over the last year, and the support of our trustees, patrons, funders and members has been invaluable.  

If there is one thing you can do to help the movement, please remember to use the term ‘safe distancing’ rather than ‘social distancing’. Dalits have experienced several thousand years of ‘social distancing’ already! 

A virtual screening of ‘I Am Belmaya’ with a unique Q and A session

12th October 2021

On Wednesday 6th and Thursday 7th International Dalit Solidarity Network, along with Tideturner Films, organised a virtual viewing of ‘I Am Belmaya’: a documentary made by Sue Carpenter and Belmaya Nepali about Belmaya’s journey to become a film-maker, centred mainly in Nepal.

Belmaya is both female and Dalit, and the intersectionality of these two aspects have held back her progress in life. Her father died of cancer when she was young, her mother of suicide sometime later, and she ended up in a children’s home. Her education was cut short by the lack of empathy towards her, with the teacher accusing her of having a head full of cow dung. Consequently, she married early and soon had a daughter to raise. Doing back breaking work in construction, unhappy in her marriage and desperate to ensure that her daughter had a good education, Belmaya took the opportunity to learn how to make films after experiencing the joys of photography whilst in the children’s home.

The story of how she became the role-model she wanted to be for her child, and her newfound ability to tell the stories of those who are most marginalised in Nepalese society, make for a wonderful and incredibly moving film. Mentored by Sue Carpenter, the film’s co-director, and other teachers later in life, it is clear that Belmaya has been given an opportunity that few in her position are offered.

The audience were treated to a unique Q and A session with Sue and Belmaya, assisted by translator, Bishu. The range of questions were wide – covering what she still has to learn as a film-maker, the difficulties over her poor education, Nepalese society’s view of women and her hopes for the future. Perhaps most heartening was the potential offer of work from those participating in the Q and A, giving Belmaya the chance to increase both her skills and her earnings. Sue has obviously been an incredible source of strength during this time, working hard to make sure that Belmaya and the film get the recognition that they deserve.

It was a genuine pleasure to see ‘I Am Belmaya’, a film which gives a heartening glimpse of how caste and gender can be overcome with determination and the right help. To find out more about the film, go to: I AM BELMAYA – Taking the Camera and Power into Her Hands.

The Californian Democratic Party adds ‘caste’ as a protected category

7th September 2021

The Californian Democratic Party has set a precedence on the issue of ‘caste’ by adding it as a protected category to their Party Code of Conduct. Despite heavy opposition from a number of Hindutva organisations in the US (including the Hindu American Forum), activists have succeeded in persuading the Party that caste-based discrimination is a genuine cause for concern and that action should be taken to ensure that victims have access to justice.

Caste hit the headlines in the US back in 2020, when the State of California took Cisco Inc. to court over the discrimination that one of its engineers had suffered in the workplace. It wasn’t long before a host of complaints from employees of other Big Tech companies in Silicon Valley was brought into the public domain, consequently shining a light on this hidden issue. Twenty-two campuses from the University of California decided to add ‘caste’ as a protected characteristic earlier this year, which seems to have propelled a political interest.

Amar Singh Shergill, a California Democratic Party Executive Board Member and Progressive Caucus Chair, announced: ‘With the addition of caste protections to our Party Code of Conduct, the Democratic party recognises that California must lead in the historical battle for caste equity and ensure we acknowledge the need for explicit legal protections for caste-oppressed Americans. We understand that protection from caste-discrimination may be accessed under pre-existing categories of ancestry, religion, and race, yet many caste-oppressed people do not report discrimination because this explicit legal protection is not yet widely recognised. Like previous struggles to add protections for gender identity and sexual orientation, we believe adding caste protects all Americans. We are ensuring the most vulnerable know we value their rights. We hope our additional will inspire other institutions to bring remedy to the issue of caste discrimination in the US, and urge all other state Democratic Parties to follow.’

Amnesty International USA, Equality Labs and the Indian American Muslim Council have all come out in support of this addition, along with a host of Ambedkarite organisations and human rights groups.

Undoubtedly, this is great news and indicates the first political recognition of casteism within the US. However, time will tell if this will be an effective launching pad for both ideological and legislative change. One would hope that New Jersey, also a Democrat-held State, will soon follow suit, considering its own problems after a recently built BAPS Hindu Temple was found to have employed Dalits as forced labour. Yet reacting to a problem on your own doorstep is never as efficient as preventing one. It would be a remarkable step forward if other political parties from all over the US would enact this type of change before it was actually needed. This would send a clear message that caste-based discrimination has no place in American culture, and that other countries should follow suit.

The UK House of Lords debate on India and Human Rights

13th August 2021

On 22 July 2021, Lord Harries of Pentregarth (Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Dalits) opened a debate in the House of Lords on India and Human Rights. Whilst expressing his enormous admiration for those in India, and appreciating their long history of discussion and debate, he also raised his sadness over the rise of nationalism and increasing denial of fundamental human rights.

Aside from the lack of academic freedom, Lord Harries mentioned the targeting of journalists; human rights groups who have had bank accounts frozen and been denied travel visas; Muslims who have suffered attacks stemming from an anti-Muslim Hindutva policy and their lack of inclusion in the new terms of the Citizenship Amendment Act; Christians who have tried to escape the stigma of being ‘untouchable’; and Dalits. Lord Harries was keen to point out that while the Indian constitution is in many ways admirable, including its emphasis on equality for all, being born into ‘untouchability’ is worse than slavery and requires more than legislation to remove it. Dalits suffer disproportionately by every indicator, and as many are bonded or day labourers, they are particularly vulnerable to abuse and a lack of access to justice. Currently there are 24 Dalit activists being detained under anti-terrorism laws, and this is unacceptable.

India is on the UN Human Rights Council, and as such, it must be held to certain commitments. He urged that submissions should be made at the highest level to encourage change.

Lord Parekh and Baroness Verma both acknowledged that there were some issues that still needed to be considered, including the treatment of Dalits, but warned that with such a large population, incidents were inevitable and that the situation should not be exaggerated. Lord Parekh pointed out that while independent India has adopted positive discrimination, there is still a long way to go and that there needs to be a greater sense of urgency. However, while India welcomes critical advice, it should be accompanied by humility and based on a sympathetic understanding of India’s culture. Baroness Verma added that over the last seven or eight years the government has embedded policies to improve equality, particularly for women, including protection from the Muslim Triple Talaq divorce law. However, she argued that the UK has a habit of ‘lobbing charges into India without contextualising the progress that has been made’, and that when pointing fingers, we have our own prejudicial barriers. Baroness Verma criticised the number of commentaries coming from the House of Lords without providing evidence of the accusations being levelled, and voiced her concern that many of the comments were inflammatory.

Lord Hussein agreed that the current human rights record ‘paints a very dark picture’ in some areas, with daily life for Muslims and Christians becoming a daily struggle under the Hindutva far-right influence. The violence against the Dalit community never seems to end and he questioned why India has not been mentioned in the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s latest report on Human Rights. Lord Singh added that under the current government, with its desire to become a Hindu state, Muslims and Dalits continue to suffer brutality.

The Earl of Sandwich, Lord Cashman and Lord Collins of Highbury expressed that it was important that as friends of India we should be able to speak out much more often and more loudly. Despite the deterioration of Human Rights, India has shielded itself from international criticism due to its economic prospects and the desire of other countries to solidify trade agreements. Lord Cashman in particular wants reassurance from the UK government that when strengthening its ties, it ensures that there are human rights clauses included within any agreement, while Lord Collins asked what would be done to end violence against Dalit Women.

Lord Alton quoted Dr Ambedkar, one of the founding fathers of India’s constitution: ‘If I find the constitution being misused, I will be the first to burn it.’ Again, the denial of rights to Dalits, despite this constitution, and the dubious sedition laws being used to arrest and detain opposition voices was mentioned. Though he praised the British High Commission project to provide legal training for women his concern was that the high levels of rape perpetrated against them was not given enough significance. Furthermore, Covid has had more impact on Dalits as bonded or daily labourers, further deteriorating their well-being. This was also cited by Baroness Northover, along with her concern that the FCDO has not taken this into account when looking at funding. It was also noted that Freedom House has downgraded India to being only ‘partly free’.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State for the Commonwealth and United Nations at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, responded to the questions by stating his credentials as both the minister responsible for relationships with India and the Minister for Human Rights. He agreed with Lord Parekh and Baroness Verma about the UK’s relationship with India and its importance, and stated he has engaged in candid discussions with his counterparts. At the G7 partners committed to tackle all forms of discrimination, and media freedom plays an important role in that. However, everyone recognises that human rights work is never done. This month the 2020 Human Rights and Democracy Report from the FCDO was published and the UK has stepped up its efforts all over the world, including in its close collaboration with India to provide oxygen during the Covid pandemic. He added that just because a country is not specifically mentioned in the Human Rights Report, it doesn’t mean that these issues are not raised with the relevant countries. Furthermore, the Foreign Secretary has raised a number of issues, including the position of Kashmir, minorities communities and religious communities. They have also asked for Amnesty India’s funds to be unfrozen in order for them to continue their crucial work. Meanwhile the government’s ‘recent project work with the Dalits has included the provision of legal training for over 2,000 Dalit women to combat domestic violence and the creation of the first ever network of Dalit women human rights defenders trained as paralegals.’ Lord Ahmad concluded by assuring the other members that the UK government would continue to engage with India on various issues, including trade, of which human rights will remain a central part.

Online Caste-Hate Speech – A Growing Concern

6th April 2021

On 22 March a side-event to the 46th Session of the UN Human Rights Council highlighted the impact of caste-hate speech on-line and what could be done to combat it. The keynote speaker was Dr. Fernand de Varennes, UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, who argued that ‘Dehumanization of minorities such as Dalits through use of hate-speech is a precursor to violence.’ The event was also used as a launching pad for IDSN’s excellent report on Caste-hate speech researched by Dr Murali Shanmugavelan, with support from the IDSN team.

In the UK we are well aware of the impact of hate speech on social media, the effects of bullying and the consequent mental health problems that can arise. But one of the issues that needs to be confronted globally is how platforms deal with this kind of behaviour, regardless of whether one is in India or Great Britain. While traditional media are liable for harmful consequences, social media is not held up to the same standards. Bigotry can grow exponentially when groups of like-minded people find each other in an anonymous setting, having their opinions reinforced and leading to groupthink that can have devastating real-world consequences. And this can often happen with complete impunity.

As part of the general movement to end hate-speech in all its forms, focus on casteism requires a particular response – namely involving those in moderation roles from the affected communities, who understand the nuances of what is being said. While many in South Asia would be aware of what counts as a casteist slur, in the UK few outside the Diaspora would understand, and therefore much of what is posted online raises no red flags.

In the UK we have enough difficulty getting the government to take caste-based discrimination seriously – the repeal to include ‘caste’ in the Equality Act is intended, but has not gone through yet. Consequently, social media companies have no legislation to adhere to and therefore no necessity to take down caste hate-speech when it pops up online. Don’t think that it’s happening here? Just as an example, those in the UK expressing support for the Farmers’ Protest in India have received a disturbing amount of abuse online, and as many agricultural workers are Dalits, you can imagine the sort of language that is being used.

Nevertheless, we would encourage anyone who encounters caste-hate speech on-line to report it both to moderators and to DSN-UK via our Report Everyday Casteism form. Unless we hold social media companies responsible, we are unlikely to see change.

ARISA Hosts a Session on Caste-Based Discrimination

4th March 2021

‘Caste-based discrimination, an Invisible Issue in the Garment Industry in South Asia’ was presented by IDSN, READ (India), ETI (UK) and Advocating Rights in South Asia (ARISA, Netherlands) on 25th February, with our Director Meena Varma amongst the line-up. There were participants from the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Norway, India and the UK, consisting of both NGOs and companies from the garment industry, ably hosted by Sandra Claassen from ARISA.

Kicking off the proceedings, Meena introduced the issue of caste-based discrimination and why it needs to be addressed. She emphasised the key labour rights issues arising from caste discrimination, including bonded and forced labour, no rights to freedom of association, hazardous and poor working conditions, child labour, low pay, longer working hours, gender discrimination and sexual harassment. Some disturbing figures were given, including that in the carpet industry 20% of all workers are children under the age of 14. Of particular worry right now, following on from the pandemic, is that some states in India have sanctioned extensive relaxations of key labour laws, citing the need for economic recovery – but without considering the increased discrimination against Dalits. Meena stressed how important it was to address the situation, and that companies should adopt solutions from the ETI Caste in Global Supply Chains Guidance document.

This presentation was followed by Karuppasamy from READ (a former DSN-UK project partner), who gave case studies from a Survey on Caste-Based Discrimination in the Textile Supply Chain. Focusing on textile workers in Tamil Nadu, he highlighted how women are facing intersectional discrimination, and are recruited through multiple exploitative schemes: only 40% of workers in the industry are permanent. Karuppasamy emphasised that as soon as a caste name is given, Dalits are treated differently, and many workers have to apply multiple times for a job. Indeed, 68% of workers believe there is caste discrimination in the industry, with 72% suffering abuse by management on the basis of caste and 78% claiming that there is discrimination amongst co-workers. ‘Lower’ caste workers say that overtime and target completion disproportionately fall on them, with little ability to question management, as they are voiceless. Untouchability practices are common: Dalits can’t drink from the common drinking system and must bring their own bottles from home and eat separately from other workers as so-called ‘upper’ caste people consider that sharing food and drinking water with Dalits is a curse. Disturbingly, 90% of lower caste workers are not part of a committee (chosen by management), so that the interests of Dalit workers are completely ignored. Wages differ based on caste, as do promotions, and on industry transportation Dalits must not touch ‘upper’ caste workers or sit next to them on buses, often leaving them to travel standing up. Lastly, 61% of lower caste workers say that they don’t have the same access to accident compensation, and often there is only first aid treatment in government or private hospitals, but for other treatment they must bear the medical expenses themselves.

Glenn Bradley from Hardscape UK presented next, giving a personal insight with ‘My Journey to Understanding and Addressing Dalit Rights and Caste-Based Discrimination in our Supply Chains’. He took the audience through his journey of discovery while working in the natural stone sector, and the difficulties in convincing his suppliers to treat Dalits equally after witnessing the levels of discrimination. Despite being involved in the industry since 1999, it wasn’t until 2012 that he saw real change as the ETI base code was rolled out and ETI’s Rajasthan Sandstone Working Group was set up. This began a process to educate, inform and support, identifying who were Dalits within the staff and ensuring that they had PPE and equipment on the same level as other workers. A process of training people, not just Dalits, of their rights and the importance of participation took place, aiming to change the attitudes of the entire staff on equality. Glenn stressed that there were six steps necessary to resolve the problem in the industry: education and training; political lobbying; mark 1 eyeball in supply chains; pressure for honesty; teach Indian suppliers that this is a human rights violation; and not purchasing from suppliers where discrimination was still evident. He finished by stressing that if a company wants to call themselves ethical, they need to go past the gimmicks and consider human rights to bring about meaningful change.

Finally, Peter McAllister from ETI UK presented ‘Key Messages for Businesses on how to address Caste in Global Supply Chains’. He argued that applying the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights means identifying salient risk. Due to the high numbers of migrant and seasonal workers, and particularly Dalit workers, there is considered to be a high risk of caste-based discrimination in South Asian supply chains. Although companies may carry out audits on their suppliers, they are typically blind to the presence of caste-based discrimination, and unaware that Dalits, particularly women, are vulnerable to abuse, discrimination, long hours, sexual harassment, child and forced labour. Therefore, it is essential to assume that caste is a potential risk factor and enhanced due diligence is needed. Regular social audits are not enough, and instead it is important to increase internal awareness by working with local experts to help promote change in the workplace. Peter was keen to point out that companies tackling caste-based discrimination shouldn’t expect problems to be solved in a year, and that it requires commitment and hard work.

All in all, it was a highly successful session, with a varied group of speakers that went beyond the theoretical and into real-life experience. ARISA and the participating groups hope that the companies who attended will start to consider caste-based discrimination with greater intent to make change.

Casteism in the US: Entrepreneurs and a new report on Indian American attitudes

19th February 2021

We continue to cover stories of the South Asian diaspora across the globe. And in America, there have been a couple of interesting articles that have come out over the last week.

As is well known, many US companies employ Indian immigrants to work in technology and, as has only recently been revealed, casteism seems to follow them. The statistics suggest that less than 2 per cent of the Indian immigrants that make up senior executives in the US are from ‘lower’ castes. At junior levels, when an employee’s caste is discovered, they may be ousted from social circles, have their work criticised where previously there were no complaints and have difficulty getting promoted. However, it seems that some have taken advantage of immigration to the US by setting themselves up as entrepreneurs, free from the hierarchy of ‘caste’, where there is the belief that business trumps all. Yet despite this, some who have reported on their success as an entrepreneur prefer not to be named, as even a surname can denote one’s caste and leave one open to criticism.

The other article of note discusses how significant the impact of Indian Americans is on government and policy. Making up the second-largest migrant population and just over 1% of the total population of the US, Vice-President Kamala Harris, whose mother is Indian, is probably the most high-profile example of Indian Americans holding a political position. Consequently, it has become increasingly important to gather information on the concerns and beliefs of South Asians.

The research was carried out by the Carnegie Endowment for National Peace, and covers a wide range of subjects. Interestingly, the issue of casteism was rated 7th most concerning in the list of top issues in India, behind Government Corruption, Economy, Religious Majoritarianism, Healthcare, China and Terrorism, but before Education, Income Inequality, Environment/Climate Change, and Sexism/Gender Discrimination. It was the first issue of concern for just 6% of Indian Americans, the second for 11% and third for 9%. The low figures perhaps reflect the proportion of so-called ‘higher’ caste members within the diaspora, to whom caste is of little relevance – as discrimination does not affect them – backed up by associating the figures for the level of support for Modi, the BJP and Hindu nationalism.

The report provides some very interesting information, but it also highlights that there is still a lot to do in terms of raising awareness of casteism amongst these US citizens.

Caste discrimination continues its journey – now within the Australian diaspora

11th February 2021

It was great news to hear that Australia, back in 2018, passed a motion to urge the government to take action on fighting caste-based discrimination. It requested that, amongst more international aims, the government considered interventions in inclusive recruitment practice and management practice in all business partners.

ABC National Radio recently broadcast a programme about caste-based discrimination amongst the South Asian diaspora in Australia. Disturbingly, there were many echoes of the forms that caste-based discrimination manifests here in the UK. As academic and filmmaker Vikrant Kishore says, ‘caste goes where South Asians go… Australia is no exception’. And while some South Asians in Australia take great pride in their ‘dominant’ caste – such as personalising their car license plates – others find the obsession with finding out people’s surnames (and thus their caste) deeply uncomfortable.

There are, of course, the typical stories that we’ve come to recognise throughout the diaspora, such as being evicted from rental apartments after their South Asian landlord found out the occupant was a Dalit, or refusing to let Dalits enter their house or eat food that they have touched. And much as with the dating app Shaadi.com in the UK, an Australian dating app called Dil Mil allows filters to match within ‘dominant’ castes but has no options for ‘lower’ caste groups. Even in the big cities, casteist slurs can be heard.

Perhaps one of the saddest stories is that of a man from Cairns whose father-in-law passed away. They were unable to find a priest to conduct the last rites, and certainly not one that would enter the house. In the end they found someone from Adelaide who gave directions over the phone as to how to perform the ritual. Even in death, casteism shows a disturbing lack of humanity.

Yes, this was a damning report on the situation in Australia, but what should give us hope was that the documentary maker herself came from an upper middle-class Asian background and had come to the realisation that her privileged position had made her blind to the casteism that surrounded her.

Recently we at DSN-UK have been approached by and are talking to others in the UK, previously caste-blind, now making strides both to educate themselves and raise awareness. We look forward to the day when rather than denying that caste-based discrimination exists, ‘dominant’ castes accept that they have been lucky enough to avoid the suffering that Dalits have endured, accept their role in its persistence and start working towards its abolishment.

The Hindu American Foundation file against the County of Santa Clara in the Cisco case

2nd February 2021

There are some stark parallels with the actions of the Hindu American Foundation in the US and those of the Hindu lobby here in the UK, who argue that inclusion of caste as a discriminatory factor in the Equality Act 2010 is a ‘hate crime’ against Hindus!

So to hear that the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) has filed to intervene in the case is deeply disturbing and indicates a lack of willingness to even discuss that caste-based discrimination exists. In amongst the wording of the case brought against Cisco, the State argues that caste is ‘a strict Hindu social and religious hierarchy’. This would contravene the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of all Hindu Americans according to HAF’s Executive, Suhag Shukla, by attempting to define Hindu religious doctrine. The HAF has openly stated that they are anti-casteism, but their actions undermine the importance of the Cisco case by attempting to deflect the issue on to something else.

For those who are human rights activists, the decision by the State of California to sue tech giant Cisco for allowing caste-based discrimination to occur unchecked was a major breakthrough. It felt like there was finally some sign of responsibility taken by a government to tackle the issues of casteism imported by the South Asian diaspora, and that such behaviour would no longer go unnoticed. Most importantly of all, it was widely covered by a number of news outlets and raised awareness of the insidious nature of caste-based discrimination, and the ‘real life’ effects on individuals.

In effect, the HAF is accusing California of Hinduphobia. This, sadly, is a claim that activists have come up against repeatedly in the UK. During the Public Consultation on Caste-based Discrimination in the UK, the Hindu Forum repeatedly accused pro-legislation activists of trying to put blame on all Hindus and create a schism. It was erroneously claimed that DSN-UK was a Christian organisation (despite the fact that our Director was up for an award for Secularist of the Year) and that the concept of caste played no role in Hindu teachings. It is a moot point as to where casteism originated: the fact is that it is still taking place across the world, and our work is to end it, regardless of whether it affects or is perpetrated by Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs or Christians – or indeed those of no faith.

It is nigh on impossible to have an open discussion about casteism today – those who are anti-legislation are immediately on the defensive as soon as the subject is mentioned. The fact of the matter is that, like any discrimination, it is perpetrated by individuals; what is unacceptable is that certain institutions (whether cultural or religious) allow it to happen and then go on to paint the perpetrators as victims. Until both sides join forces to eliminate it as a cultural norm or legislation provides adequate protection for victims, progress will continue to be slow.

The Impact of the UK’s Decision to reduce Foreign Aid

12th January 2021

Much has been made recently of the UK government’s decision to reduce the Foreign Aid budget to 0.5% of gross national income from its usual level of 0.7%. While times are indeed hard due to the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic (and potentially due to get harder as a result of Brexit), this holds for nearly every country in the world at the moment. However, hardship for the UK is on a different level than hardship for countries in the developing world. We are fortunate enough to live in a place where we are both able and willing to fund our Public Borrowing. Other governments are not as well set up or lack the political desire to support those most in need.

According to the World Economic Forum, under the Principled Aid Index, the UK is the second most generous nation from the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee. So what impact will this 0.2% reduction have on tackling caste-based discrimination? While it’s difficult to quantify, we can put it in perspective. The top recipient of Foreign Aid from the UK in 2019 was Pakistan, while Bangladesh lay in 6th position and India in 17th – countries where the Dalit community requires the most help.  Consequently, there is no doubt that a drop in foreign aid will mean that life will get most difficult for those most in need.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (a member of the APPG for Dalits), recently asked what assessment the government made of reports that minorities are being persecuted in India, which has increased during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the marginalisation of the Dalit community. In response, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon said that the human rights situation is continually assessed, and that in 2016-18 they funded a project in Uttar Pradesh empowering 400 Dalit human rights defenders to challenge discrimination and violence against Dalit women. It is devastating to think that projects such as these risk being cancelled because of the cut in foreign aid funding.

Previously we were among the few countries that have hit the UN’s target of 0.7%, but we are also in an exceptionally fortunate position: we have unemployment benefits for those laid off, as most workers are registered and on contracts of one sort or another, and we have a number of incredible charities that provide shelter, food banks and clothing for those most in need. Of course, it’s not perfect, but in the UK you rarely hear of people starving to death, dying because of poor sanitation or being denied access to help just because of their caste. The same cannot be said of those countries where caste-based discrimination occurs – they are the most vulnerable at the best of times, and suffer the most at the worst of times. One can only hope that the government’s reduction in Foreign Aid will be very, very temporary.