Scheduled Castes or Dalits are those communities notified as per provisions contained in Clause 1 of Articles 341 and 342 of the Constitution and have been defined under clause 24 of Article 366 of the Constitution of India.
The people of these castes were considered out castes and categorized as untouchables, have remained at the bottom of social hierarchy and been socially deprived, discriminated and exploited by the other/upper caste Hindus since time immemorial. This is the result of our rigid caste system which divides the Indian society into upper castes and lower castes based on birth. Mythological superstitions claimed that the people of these castes are born impure, culturally they suffer from social disabilities and occupationally they are linked with impure occupation and above all they are exclusively dependent for their survival on the high castes of the respective villages who have tradition bound attitudes, reflected in the nomenclature, castes etc.
They occupy the lowest rank in the ritual hierarchy of Indian society, suffer from extreme social, educational and economic backwardness arising out of age-old practice of untouchability, lack of infrastructure facilities and remain geographically isolated. The Scheduled Castes are not a homogeneous group and are divided into many castes and sub-castes, as well as by language and geography. Collectively they are best known outside India as “Untouchables”. The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment notifies total number of 1208 castes of Scheduled Castes (as on 23.09.2008). The Government of India has enacted progressive legislation, programmes and schemes for the development and empowerment of the SC’s, being the most disadvantaged socio-economic groups in India.
They were considered as inferiors and are downtrodden and poverty stricken. They lag in all field i.e. educational, health, nutritional aspects. Moreover, the conditions of Dalit women are more pathetic. They experience endemic gender-and-caste discrimination and violence as the outcome of severely imbalanced social, economic and political power equations. The stereotypic nature of Indian caste system declares Dalit women as intrinsically impure and untouchables, which sanctions social exclusion and exploitation. The vast majority of Dalit women are impoverished. The traditional taboos are similar for both Dalit men and women, but women have to bear the burden more often.