ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Safai Karmis of Uttar Pradesh

Caste, Power and Politics

A study of the operation of the Safai Karmi Scheme of the Uttar Pradesh government reveals the apparent weakening of the age-old link between caste and occupation, with Other Backward Classes and even upper castes competing with Scheduled Castes to secure the job of a sanitation worker in villages. Another significant fact which comes to the fore, is the struggle for power in the safai karmi unions between OBC and the numerically superior SC workers, with the former trying to establish their dominance, reflecting the nature of caste politics at play in the state.

Introduction

Lewisian transformation suggests transfer of excess rural/agricultural labour to urban/industrial sector. This mobility has been considered as a necessary condition for development and structural transformation of hitherto stagnant economies and societies. In a way, mobility of labour across sectors (horizontal as well vertical mobility) is a precondition for development. Here the question asked is how far this mobility has been restricted by the caste system. It is true that post-independence India has witnessed a social churning facilitated by the constitution, the legal framework, policies and economic growth.

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