Published: 01st July 2021
Meet the Egalitarians, a web-based anti-caste group that's using RTIs to expose reservation gaps in India's IITs, NITs
Formed in 2020, the Egalitarians has until now unearthed data that shows the low representation of SC and ST communities in IITs
They are a group of 62 people. Some of them are students, others are UPSC aspirants and a few more have already completed their education and started their careers. Even though most of them are from Tamil Nadu, not all of them have met each other in person. Despite fighting for a common cause, they got together only a year ago, after COVID wrecked life as we know it.
They call themselves the Egalitarians — named after the course that they have united for. "We want to create a casteless society," says a member, who wishes to remain anonymous. The Egalitarians are the same group of people who recently exposed the data on the low number of SC, ST and OBC PhD scholars and faculty across IITs. The data didn't actually come as a surprise, but it nevertheless caused a lot of uproar in the last couple of months.
In a year, the group's member tells us, they have filed over 60 RTIs, seeking data on the degree of representation in various higher education institutions. The next step is to act on that information, "We are now planning to file a PIL seeking implementation of reservations in IITs. In fact, over the past few days, we have been filing 4 to 5 RTIs a day," she says. The responses to all the RTIs have been made public on their website. "We are now collecting data on all the National Institutes of Technology (NIT). Not all RTIs have been successful though. Some of them did not yield a response," she says.
The group's inception story dates back to January 2020, when a student of a Madurai college died by suicide, allegedly owing to caste discrimination that she faced in the college. "Most of us are alumni of this college and this was quite shocking for us. So we thought that we must do something to end this societal evil," says the member.
Soon, the lockdown began, which allowed them time to connect with other like-minded people in the country, to fight for a common cause. "Even though most members are based out of Tamil Nadu, we also have a presence in IIT Delhi and IIT Gandhinagar," says another member, who adds that the group has no leader. To join them, anyone can submit an application form through their website. "If 2/3rd of the existing group supports the application, that person gets selected," he adds.
Apart from the higher education sector, they are also focussing on the data on prisons and the distribution of land. "This will help us understand more about the status of Dalits, Adivasis and Transgender people in our country," says a member. But are they stopping their work there? Definitely not, the member explains. "We are doing all that we can to help these communities. As part of it, we will soon start a fellowship to fund the coaching and training of a UPSC aspirant from a Dalit or Adivasi community or a transgender person."