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Jonathan Portes - NIESR report did NOT present reliable evidence on the Prevalence and severity of Discrimination

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The Alliance of Hindu Organisations has long argued that the research by National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) in December 2010 on caste discrimination, upon which much of the pro-legislation lobby's arguments were based, was limited in scope and flawed. In a recent statement to the AHO by Jonathan Portes, Director of NEISR, the Alliance's argument has now been confirmed.
 
Portes said: "The report was qualitative research, limited in budget and scope" and went to on to say it "was not designed to establish reliable and robust evidence on the prevalence and severity of such discrimination." 
 
In addition, Portes said: "You are therefore correct in stating that the report, in itself, does not present reliable evidence on the prevalence and severity of caste discrimination, and whether discrimination is reducing or increasing over time; more broadly, given the scope and complexity of this topic, and the inherent limitations of this type of research, it is far from being the definitive last word on caste discrimination in the UK.  You are also entirely entitled to argue - and as a research organisation with an interest in these issues, we would of course assent - that further research would contribute to a better and more informed debate."
 
This is consistent with the independent OCHS report, led by Professor Gavin Flood, which argued NEISR's report contained "a number of methodological problems. For instance, the report is based on research drawn from 36 interview and would require a much larger sample to be representative of the respective community. . The report also acknowledges that some of the evidence is inconclusive...It is not clear if the cases of discrimination presented in the report cannot be dealt with under current legislation about religion and race." It also states: "even the primary association of caste with Hindu communities needs to be scrutinized as the NIESR report mostly cites cases of caste discrimination among Sikhs and Muslims." The report is available on the Alliance website at http://mycasteishindu.org/images/OCHS-report-on-caste-legislation-Final-June-2013.pdf.
 
Portes now agrees, and stated to the Alliance: "It is certainly legitimate for you to highlight, in the public domain, that the report did not present reliable evidence on prevalence or severity; nor did the report highlight particular religions." The NEISR report also says: ""The percentage that experiences caste discrimination and the frequency of discrimination is unknown. Only a major programme of research could establish this. Similarly, we could find no evidence on whether there has been any change in the extent of caste discrimination."
 
In the Alliance's view, this is further evidence that the basis upon which caste discrimination legislation was passed was flawed, and deeply offensive to Hindus, as much of the debate in the House of Lords was focused on alleged caste discrimination evidence in the Hindu community from the NEISR report.
 
However, the Alliance is very pleased that the Rt Honourable Helen Grant, Minister for Equalities has taken the time to meet with them and has also invited them to submit their views to the ongoing consultation into the implementation of the new law on caste discrimination. The Alliance is confident that the Ministers' very sensible and entirely reasonable open approach towards full and thorough consultation with the affected stakeholders, and with those grassroots citizens who are directly affected by this legislation, is entirely appropriate and in this, the Minister has our full support.

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