CHANDIGARH, March 17(Manoj Godara) A National Seminar organized by Geography Department, Panjab University on ‘Socio-Economic and Political
Transformation of Dalits and the State in India: A Geographical Appraisal’ was inaugurated today, 17th March, 2008, by KUMARI SELJA, Honorable Union Minister of State (Independent charge), Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, Govt. of India. In her inaugural address she reminisced about her student days at the Panjab University by saying that though she was a part of the English Department, she spent most of her time at the Geography Department. She went on to recall the oppression faced by the Dalits in India who were not even considered to be a part of the varna system of the Indian caste structure. She emphasized the relevance of education, legislation and social awareness in elevating the status of Dalits. Selja recalled her journey as a Dalit to her present position and lamented the fact that several of her brethren still live as marginalized sections of society.
Earlier welcoming the dignitaries, Professor R.C. Sobti, Vice-Chancellor, Panjab University, identified the problems faced by the Dalits in society and urged the academicians and policy makers to take steps to redress their situation. He went on to give details of the illustrious alumni that the university has produced and of the developments taking place in the university with respect to academics and sports. The Vice-Chancellor added that the University is sensitive towards the environment and is a smoke free and plastic free zone.
Prof. K.D. Sharma, Coordinator SAP, Department of Geography, introduced the theme of seminar by stating that the transformation of the situation of the Dalits has to be through a multifaceted effort and the role of the State is very important. He also presented a life profile of Prof. R.P.S. Gosal, in whose memory this seminar is being held. The theme of Dalits was a major focus of the academic work done by the late Professor.
Dr. P.S. Verma, Formerly Professor & Head, Department of Political Science and Director, Academic Staff College, Panjab University, while presenting the key note address highlighted the role played by Dr. Ambedkar in the upliftment of Dalits in India. He stated that the Dalits enjoy a measure of political consciousness but this has not resulted in any significant change in their overall position in society.
At the end of the inaugural session, Prof. Surya Kant, Chairperson of the Department of Geography and the Convener of the Seminar, presented the vote of thanks.
In the afternoon session deliberations took place on the them of seminar. The eminent scholars who presented their views included Professor Surinder S. Jodhka, JNU; Prof. Sudesh Nangia, JNU; Prof. Himanshu Roy, University of Delhi; Dr. Ronki Ram, PU; Prof. S.K. Sharma, HPU, Shimla.
The seminar concludes tomorrow according to Dr. Karanjot Brar, Reader, Department of Geography, PU.