A United Nations anti-racism committee has sharply criticized the Indian government for its failure to prevent discrimination based on caste.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination deplored the widespread abuse perpetratedagainst India's so-called "untouchable" caste, also known as Dalits.

The report found more than 165 million Dalits continue to face segregation in housing, schools, and access to public services.

It also said many are forced to work in degrading conditions and are routinely abused by police and upper-caste community members who enjoy the state's protection.

Ruth Manorama, president of the National Federation of Dalit Women in India, told CBC News that discrimination against the Dalits is taking place even though the caste system is abolished in the Indian Constitution.

"Formerly, we have been called untouchables; if someone touches us, they get polluted," she said.

"They cannot fetch water from the common wells and the common taps … they are not allowed."

According to government statistics, there were 110,000 registered cases of violence, murder, rape and other atrocities committed against Dalits in 2005. Few cases ever get to trial.

In December, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh acknowledged there is still social discrimination against Dalits in many parts of the country, even after 60 years of constitutional and legal protection and state support.