India’s government on Tuesday introduced a law that it hopes will end caste-based discrimination against Dalits in government and private sector.
The law is part of a wider government push to stamp out caste-linked discrimination and discrimination against minorities.
It was signed by Chief Minister K.S. Antony and the Union Minister for the Status of Women Rajya Sabha Member Anand Sharma on Tuesday.
According to the government, the legislation aims to eradicate caste discrimination and protect the rights of minorities, particularly Dalits.
It does not prohibit discrimination based on caste but it will be applied on a case-by-case basis and not to eliminate the existing discrimination.
The legislation also makes it easier for minorities to register their grievances and file complaints.
The government also said the bill would be a model for other states to follow.
Under the new legislation, the civil service will have to register with the department of human resource development (DHR) any employer, government institution or non-government organisation that discriminates against Dalit workers.
The DHR will also have to act on complaints made by Dalits or any other aggrieved person.
The legislation also seeks to end discrimination against women in government, private and non-governmental organisations.
Under it, any government entity, including educational institutions, universities and colleges, will have two years to investigate and report back to the DHR.
The ministry of women and child development has been instructed to formulate and implement a mechanism for ensuring fair and equal treatment of Dalits and other minorities.
The new law was passed on a petition by a Dalit activist and other petitioners, including women’s rights activist and human rights activist Shaina Rajesh, who is the president of the Indian Council of Social Service Employees’ Federation.
India has a long-standing caste system which was imposed by the British after it was annexed to India from India in 1947.
Dalits, who are considered to be the lowest caste in India, are traditionally the most marginalised.