Mr. Bob van den Bos
European Parliament
Rue Wiertz
1049 Brussels

Dear Mr. Van den Bos,

Thank you for your letter addressing the important issue of caste discrimination in India.

The Commission takes the issue of caste discrimination very seriously and has shown a consistent commitment in tacklin this problem through its development programmes.
Projects fighting discrimination against Dalits are eligible for assistance under the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights, with racism selected as one of the four major priorities for 2002-2004. A Call for Proposals was launched on 27 April 2002 under EIDHR to combat discrimination, racism, xenophobia, and discrimination against ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples. It specifically addressed the issue of caste discrimination, with one of the eligibility criteria being "Discrimination based on caste (i.e. membership by birth of a social group considered inferior to higher social groups, even without ethnic differences, and historically subject to forms of social and labour segregation and discrimination)".

The Commission does maintain a regular dialogue with Dalit Groups. For example, the Commission participatcd in an international seminar on "MMainstreaming Minority Rights in European Development Co-operation" in December 2002 in Brussels, organised by Minority Rights Group International. The participants included the representative from the Dalit Human Rights Campaign, India.

The 4th EU-India Summit Communiqué issued on 29 November has reiterated that democracy provides the best safeguard for the protection and promotion of human rights, and has reaffirmed the willingness of both sides to discuss human rights in a comprehensive manner. India has also accepted that democracy and human rights issues should be discussed as an element of Senior Officials and Ministerial Meetings.

The Commission expects that through its co-operation in the social sectors, especially in elementary education, an important contribution can be made to the progressive elimination of caste- and gender-based discrimination in India.

Christopher Patten
Member of the European Commission
B-1049 Brussels

India Committee of the Netherlands / Landelijke India Werkgroep - January 20, 2004