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21st June 2005

Dalit Solidarity Network (UK)

Report demands UK companies act on caste discrimination

A report launched yesterday at the AGM of the Dalit Solidarity Network (UK) urges UK companies currently outsourcing to India to address the crucial issue of caste discrimination. The introduction by DSN Chair Revd David Haslam and the former UNISON General Secretary Rodney Bickerstaffe draws parallels with investment in South Africa during the apartheid hears. It says if there is a discriminatory system, unless there is active intervention then investors are inevitably contributing to such a system. Rodney Bickerstaffe said ‘This is an issue which all UK companies operating in South Asia should address, and the trades unions active in those companies should be pressing them to do so’.

A second speaker at the meeting, held at Portcullis House Westminster, Jean Lambert MEP stated that the European Parliament could consider opening a dialogue with such companies, on a European basis, asking them how they are addressing caste discrimination in South Asia. She also said the Parliament was seeking to monitor any discrimination in the post-Tsunami reconstruction work and that she is in dialogue with the Human Rights Office in the Parliament and the EU about their monitoring role in India and the other countries of South Asia.

Jeremy Corbyn MP, a third DSN Trustee, said he would be putting down an Early Day Motion in the UK Parliament referring to the Ambedkar Employment Principles, which all companies, Government agencies and international NGOs working in South Asian countries should sign. These are aimed at combating caste discrimination in employment, and are based on race equality principles originally drawn up in the UK. Mr Corbyn would also be seeking an adjournment debate. DSN Trustees Professor Mary Grey and Rt Revd John Gladwin, Bishop of Chelmsford, gave messages of support.

The report ‘Caste Discrimination and the Private Sector’ follows a Seminar held last Autumn which was attended by three of the major UK banks outsourcing to India. It gives information about initiatives also taking place in Denmark and the Netherlands. The main article is by Professor S.K. Thorat of the Delhi-based Indian Institute for Dalit Studies, who is giving a DSN-sponsored Seminar on this topic at the School of Oriental and African Studies on Thursday, 30th June at 11 am. The report is available from the DSN at the address below. The meeting also agreed a new management structure for the Network, which is now a registered charity.

For further information: Revd David Haslam, (020) 7274 6633 & 07963 254828 and Gina Borbas (020) 7501 8323

DSN (UK), Thomas Clarkson House, The Stableyard, Broomgrove Road, London SW9 9TL, e-mail:

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India Committee of the Netherlands / Landelijke India Werkgroep - June 22, 2005