Dignitaries on the Dias and off the Dias, ladies and gentlemen, media friends, Vanakkam.

At the outset I thank the organisers of today’s function Samruddha Bharat Foundation for organizing this very important conference on a subject close to my leader Mr MK Stalin heart. It is a great privilege to be part of a gathering of tall leaders, political and academic luminaries and warriors for social justice.

Mother Teresa once said “We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked, and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for is the greatest poverty.”

While I was arguing the case relating to OBC reservations in Medical seats in All India Quota before the Hon’ble Supreme Court, through which our DMK party secured every year 5500 Medical seats for OBC Students across India, I understood that many people in this country genuinely do not know the difference between economic backwardness and social backwardness. They think that those with a government job or money have uplifted themselves permanently from social backwardness. This myopic vision has been propagated by the right wing that espouses the cause of the forward classes. Their end game is that by claiming that when people from SC, ST & OBC communities earn a certain amount per year, they can be erased from the socially backward category, they hope that social justice measures like reservation will be slowly eradicated.

The horrors of racial discrimination and segregation in the Western countries pale in comparison to the inhuman caste discrimination that prevailed in this country for centuries. The framers of our constitution were keenly aware of the historical injustice and discrimination meted out in the name of castes in Indian society. It is an indisputable fact that the caste system, legitimised by religion, had treated a vast majority of citizens as “lower” only because of the circumstances of their birth. Hindus born to “lower castes” were not allowed into temples, educational institutions, jobs in which “upper castes” worked, public spaces and even streets. The horror of the caste system was such that the “Shudras” were punished if they as much as drank water from a well meant for upper castes. Such horrific division of society has not been witnessed in any other country. Apart from the inhuman caste system, there was also discrimination of women on the basis of religious dogma.
Mere economic upliftment of one generation does not wipe out this systemic injustice.
The Younger Brother of our Hon’ble Chief Minister & DMK President Thiru M.K. Stalin, our beloved Hon’ble Thiru. Rahul Gandhi, MP and former President of the Congress has been vocal for the empowerment of SC, ST, OBC and the speech given by him in Parliament for our cause is still reverberating in my ears.

He asked a simple question “OBCs constitute 50% of the population. Show me how many OBC, Dalits, Adivasis work in top companies in India today? Of the 90 IAS officers stationed at the Centre, there are just three OBC officers who have been given small departments. Dalits constitute 15% and Adivasis 12%. Still, they continue to be underrepresented in the BJP regime. On what basis is the Modi government claiming that it is working for OBCs, Dalits, tribals? Why are they not part of the power sharing process? The BJP and RSS are the biggest threat to INDIA since independence. There are 30 lakh central government vacancies which are vacant for very long time because then the other Backward Classes would have to be accommodated if they are filled. This government doesn’t want to do it.” I can say that millions across India echo this sentiment.

You can tell that in every move, the BJP and RSS seek to undermine social justice. They undermine reservation policies. Recently, the Prime Minister attacked those who eat non-vegetarian food. As per a recent census, only 20% of India are vegetarian and 80% eat non-veg. The non-veg eaters are predominantly from OBC, SC & ST communities. Can you now see how in each aspect of our daily lives, the BJP and RSS brings in their agenda? Whose agenda is this? Is it the agenda of the OBC, SC & ST communities? I don’t think so.

A report by Sweden’s famous V-Dem institute which categorizes countries on the basis of democracy terms India as one of the worst in terms of democracy and puts us in the bracket of electoral autocracy. This means people still get to vote but the country is run only by one group which has complete power.

This election is all about an ideological battle. On the one side is a fascist party, with no regard for equality or social justice and on the other side is the INDIA alliance, which is fighting to save democracy, save Constitution, save social justice, reservation system and fighting for the empowerment of SC, ST, OBC.

Empowerment of Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), and Other Backward Classes (OBC) is a multi-dimensional process that requires addressing various socio-economic, educational, and political aspects.

Presently, only 9 per cent candidates admitted to the PhD programmes in Delhi Universities are from the SEBC categories. I have heard horror stories about discriminatory attitudes of teachers towards students belonging to the OBC, SC & ST communities. Such a situation can only be remedied if more teachers hail from the backward communities.

To my shock, a total of 25,593 reserved category students from the Schedule Castes (SC), Schedule Tribes (ST), Other Backward Classes (OBC), and other minority groups have dropped out of central universities and the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) over the last five years and more than 60 students have committed suicide in these institutions due to caste discrimination.

A high level committee across all universities for students, faculty members and staff dedicated to issues related to caste-based discrimination and oppression of minorities should be constituted with committees comprising of equal representation from SC/ST, OBC.

To empower and improve the conditions of the backward classes in the country, there is a need to increase political representation and include them in the decision-making process. There is need to reserve seats according to the population share of SC, ST and OBC’s not only in local bodies but also in the Legislative assemblies and Parliament.

Further, I would suggest that periodic evaluation of social and economic conditions of the scheduled castes/Schedule Tribe and OBC’s should be done and it is required that if any caste group has not shown improvement in its socio economic criteria despite of reservation and other welfare schemes then some special steps to be taken for empowerment of that caste.

I urge the leaders of the INDIA alliance to also further financial inclusion by providing special access to banking services and promoting financial literacy among SC, ST, and OBC communities.

Employment opportunities can also be created by encouraging entrepreneurship among SC, ST, and OBC youth.

Ladies and gentlemen, my personal experience has been that only the INDIA alliance has been fighting for Social Justice in the past decade. Our Leader MK Stalin has been doing much for the SC/ST/OBC’s in our state and all his policies are followed in other states.
Caste census if undertaken will not only capture the depth of caste-based inequalities but also expose the opportunities and access to public and private resources of downtrodden communities. Though DMK is against creamy layer system, the income ceiling limit from 8 lakhs has to be increased to 25 lakhs as demanded by our leader MK Stalin.

Further there should be a separate department for SC/ST and OBC and separate Ministers in the Central Government to empower each of them.

Our INDIA alliance is a beacon of hope for those who dream of achieving social justice. Key highlights like nation-wide Socio-Economic and Caste Census, constitutional amendment to raise the 50 per cent cap on reservations, EWS reservation for all castes, not just forward castes, filling all the backlog vacancies in posts reserved for SC, ST and OBC within a period of one year, institutional credit to SC and ST for home-building, starting businesses and purchasing assets, reservations in private educational institutions for SC, ST and OBC, SC ST helpline all make use believe that only INDIA is for social justice.

I conclude by humbly urging all brothers and sisters from all OBC, SC and ST communities to come together for INDIA. Our vision for INDIA is “Everything for Everyone” .Thank you, Vanakkam .

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