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Dalits and TAMIL NADU


South India, a vast triangle of land, widely opened to the outside, long remained protected from Northern influence. This region, more ancient and less visited than the North is deeply marked by a millenary Dravidian culture. South India is chiefly composed of three states: Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

Tamil Nadu is the biggest of South Indian states. Its scenery is varied: from the coastal plains of the East to the high plateau of the West. The eastern coast ports welcomed strangers from before the Christian era thanks to commerce with Rome, Greece, China, Indonesia and Indochina. All the Tamil sovereigns encouraged maritime trade and the riches thus acquired financed the construction of many beautiful a temple. Tamil Nadu has always been strongly attached to its values and its language. Today Tamil Nadu, though largely agricultural, is the most industrialised state in South India.

   Size: 130 058 km square
   Population: 55 800 000 inhabit.
   Capital: Chennai
   Languages: Tamil (official language), English
   Literacy rates: 62.66% (Men: 63.78%, Women: 44.6%)

Population :

The Tamil, like the inhabitants of other southern states, speak a language said Dravidian: Tamil. Tamil is the national language of Tamil Nadu. This language does not belong to the Indo-European groups and was very little contaminated by Sanskrit. It is the most ancient language alive today. Tamil poetry was at first dedicated to the themes of love and war. From the 6th century it spoke of religious epics and southern India played an important part in the elaboration of Hinduism.

   Religion : 88% of the population is Hindu, the rest is Christian, Muslim…
   Society : the cast system is very strong in Tamil Nadu and traditional distinctions are more pronounced than in the rest of India. The Brahmin community is very fervent here and they wear a distinctive white mark on their forehead.

Geography :

   The climate is mostly tropical (April and May being the hottest months with a 40 degrees Celsius average)
   44% cultivated land
   17% forest

Towns :

   Chennai : 5.7 million inhabitants, capital of Tamil Nadu, 4th city of India
   Pondicherry, 580 000 inhabitants lays 150kms South of Madras. This city was the first French counter in India.
   Madurai : 1.2 million inhabitant is situated at the southern end. This city was founded around 500 AD It is one of the oldest cities in India and a renowned place of pilgrimage. Madurai is very representative of the Dravidian culture since it was the seat of the legendary Tamil literary academies, the Sangams. From morning till night, the city bustles with activity.

Economy :

    Agriculture : principle sector of activities.
     70% of the population works in the agricultural sector
     Food cultures : mainly rice, corn
     Transformation cultures : cotton, sugar cane, coffee, tea, oleaginous grains, peppers

    Industry :
      Textile industry (cotton manufacturing), chemical plants (compost), paper factories, printing, diesel motor fabrication, sugar industry, cement, tin …

    Energy :
      Hydraulic energy plants
      Nuclear energy complex

    Exports :
      Leather and leather goods
      Cotton clothing
      Tea, coffee, spices, tobacco…

    Transport :
      Roads 4113 km
      Railroad tracks that link Madurai, Horoville, Pondichery
      Maritime transport by cargo
      International airport in Madras

Culture :
   Music : Carnatic music.
   Dance : the Baratanatyam of Tamil origin, the most famous and the most respected of Indian traditional dances.


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The DACA is situated in the suburbs of Madurai in the State of Tamil Nadu at the extreme South of India. Its activities are concentrated in the area around Madurai, Theni, Tirunelveli, Dindigul, Ramanathapuram and Tuticorin aiming at the Rural Dalit population since it is they who are the most subject to discrimination and social and economic injustices..


A few numbers :

There are 11 million Dalits in Tamil Nadu,

Which represents 20% of the regions' population

50% of the Dalits live below the poverty rate

Activities and Ownership :

  • 72% of Dalits are land workers,

    7% of the land only belongs to them,

    90% of Dalits own no land.

  • 18% of Dalits are construction workers in building sites or roads.

These activities are season activities which encourages debts towards land-owners that run across the generations as well as child labour. As far as child labour is concerned, the region of Madurai ( where DACA is based) is famous for its match industry and fire-works industry that employ children for their agility (from the age of 8).


Infant mortality :

Infant mortality in rural areas is of 86.7 ‰ for the global population.

It raises to 104.2 ‰ for the Dalit community.

Literacy and Education Rates :

90% of Dalits in rural areas are illiterate whereas only 10% of the non Dalit community are. Women are especially concerned by this problem.

The situation of Women :

Doubly submitted to the burden of social structures because of their untouchability and their gender, the women Dalit are a group the DACA is paticularly concerned with. A number of programs are reserved for them (agricultural cooperatives, formation to become teachers or secretaries) so as to give them the means for a certain autonomy. Experience shows that they often reveal themselves to be very good managers and team leaders, unlike the men who are often prey to alcohol problems.


Chief Minister :

Selvi Jeya Lalitha .

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