What is caste discrimination

The Commission is aware of the many cases of caste discrimination which unfortunately persist in modern India. However, great progress has already been made. For example, in India's most populous state (Uttar Pradesh) there is a Dalit Prime Minister, which would have been unthinkable not so long ago.

As the honorable Member rightly points out, the joint press release from the EU-India summit in Copenhagen in 2002 reaffirmed the commitment of both partners to maintain a human rights dialogue. This is already being done in all high-level meetings between the EU and India.

However, it should be remembered that India is a democratically governed constitutional state and has a free and active press. The domestic political debate is the main engine for change in this area. In addition, India has the largest and oldest positive discrimination program in the world. Not only are government jobs or university places reserved for people based on their caste, but 85 of the 535 seats in parliament are also reserved for Dalits.

From a more pragmatic point of view, the Commission funded numerous projects in India under the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights, several of which target Dalit and other groups without civil rights.

In addition, the Commission is making a major contribution to the Indian education system with a grant of € 200 million. The Commission is firmly convinced that Dalits will end up having better chances for positions at all levels of Indian society if India is supported in the realization of its Millennium Development Goal of providing continuous basic education, especially for the "hard-to-reach" groups such as Children of Dalit or children from certain tribes.