India’s attempts to reduce infant mortality rate has been insufficient according to International standards. According to a report brought out by the International Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health an organization comprising about 240 members such as UNICEF, WHO and Save the Children that tracks the progress made by 68 priority countries which accounts for 97% of maternal and child deaths worldwide only 16(24%) were on the track to meet the Millennium Development Goals compared to 7 of 60 (12%) in 2005.India is however is not one of them. India’s average annual rate of reduction of child deaths between 1990-2006 has been just 2.6%.
India’s progress towards MDG target in child mortality in the report “The Countdown to 2015:Maternal,Newborn and Child survival published in the medical journal ‘Lancet’ has been found to be insufficient and its level of maternal mortality has been termed high.
Over 80 forms of untouchability have been identified, many of which are apparently free India’s additions to the list. From time immemorial Dalits have been deprived of their right to education and the right to possess land and other forms of property. Left with nothing but their physical labor to earn their livelihood they have all along been forced to do the toughest and most menial jobs for survival.
Apart from the denial of access to public roads,tanks,temples and burial/cremation grounds there are other forms of untouchability.Segregation of Dalits is seen almost everywhere in Tamil Nadu’s villages. But nothing can perhaps beat the high wall 500 meters long that has been built at Uthapuram in Madurai district as a barrier between Dalits and caste Hindus.
While untouchability is still rampant and is taking new forms particularly in villages, the constitutional ban and compulsions of modernity and development have to some extent blunted its rigor. Rail transport has been unifying forces in society. Yet the Railways have been among the worst offenders in respect of the law against manual scavenging.Dalits constitute a significant portion of its workforce of manual scavengers along railway lines.
Although all state governments claim that they have abolished manual scavenging reports reveal that this practice is very much alive in many places. Postmen have also been found to practice untouchability.A study conducted in Tamil Nadu noted that in two villages in Madurai district postmen did not deliver postal articles to Dalit addressees.Dalits were required to collect the articles at the post office. There are also road transport related violations of the law against untouchability.Among them is the unwritten rule that gives caste Hindus priority over Dalits in boarding buses in many areas, buses not stopping in Dalit areas, transport employees picking quarrels with Dalit passengers without provocation and Dalits not being allowed to use bus shelters. State government still follows a traditional procedure of making announcements in villages by beating a drum and for that they deploy Dalits.
Worse still are the roles of schools and teachers in perpetuating untouchability and sowing the seeds of caste-related discrimination in young minds. The Dalit children are