#India – Dalits stripped of Dignity #Caste #discrimination


Frontline  

WITH the imposing Puthur hillock surrounded by lush green sugarcane fields offering a picturesque backdrop, Vadugapatti in Usilampatti block in Madurai district of Tamil Nadu gives the impression that all is well there. But the humiliation inflicted on a 11-year-old Dalit boy on June 3 and the abuses hurled subsequently at his widowed mother by a caste Hindu youth have unmasked the moral pretensions of the tiny village in the heartland of the Piramalai Kallars.

In a place where footwear is considered a status symbol rather than protective gear, a Piramalai Kallar youth, P. Nilamaalai, forced the Dalit boy, P. Suresh (name changed), to carry his sandals on his head as punishment. His crime: wearing footwear in the caste-Hindu area!

The National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) tooksuo motu notice of the case and held an inquiry in the village on June 11. D. Venkatesan, Director of the NCSC (Tamil Nadu and Puducherry), who was accompanied by A. Iniyan, investigator, confirmed that the incident had taken place. Dubbing it a “heinous crime against a juvenile”, he said that persons guilty of the crime would have to face “serious legal consequences”.

Following a complaint lodged by the victim’s mother, P. Nagammal, a brick kiln worker, the Usilampatti Town police registered a first information report (FIR) on June 6 and arrested Nilamaalai, his brother P. Agni and their father, A. Pathivuraja. The police have registered cases against them under sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.Even 10 days after the incident, Suresh found it difficult to come to terms with the humiliation he had undergone. Narrating his ordeal, he said it occurred when he and two other boys were returning from the Government Kallar High School where he was studying in Standard VI.

All the three boys belonged to the Dalit colony and had gone to the school to find out about the rescheduled date of reopening after the summer vacation. Nilamaalai waylaid them near a tamarind tree. After allowing the other two Dalit boys, who were barefoot, to leave, he upbraided Suresh for violating the ban on Dalits walking on the streets in the upper-caste area with footwear on. Reprimanding him for his mother’s “failure” to teach him the “etiquette” he had to follow, Nilamaalai forced the boy to put his footwear on his head and paraded him up to a platform used to stage cultural events.

According to Nagammal, Suresh stomached the insult and did not say anything about it to her or to his other relatives. However, sensing her son’s abnormal behaviour, she coaxed him a couple of days later into revealing his agonising experience. She took up the issue with Nilamalai’s brother Agni on June 5. But Nilamaalai not only justified his abominable action but also hurled abuses at her and allegedly threatened to eliminate her if she dared to inform the police. Contrary to his belief that the Dalit woman would grin and bear the dishonour, she lodged a complaint with the police. Nagammal said the local police wanted to settle the issue through a “compromise” and she had to approach Dalit activists to ensure that justice was done in the case.

K. Theivammal, coordinator of the Usilai Vattara Dalit Kootamaippu, an organisation working for the rights of the oppressed communities in Usilampatti block, said the police registered an FIR after much dilly-dallying. Though the police arrested Nilamaalai’s brother and father on June 7 on charges of protecting the accused, Nilamaalai was absconding until he was nabbed on June 9. Posters were put up throughout Usilampatti town and in several villages in the area demanding, among other things, the arrest of the main accused.

According to Superintendent of Police V. Balakrishnan, who visited the village close on the heels of reports on the incident, cases had been booked under Section 294(b) (singing, reciting or uttering any obscene song, ballad or words, in or near any public place) and Section 506(1) (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 3(1)(x) and 3(1)(xiv) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Section 3(1)(x) of the Act deals with intentional insult or intimidation with intent to humiliate a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe in any place within public view and Section 3(1)(xiv) pertains to offences such as denying a member of an S.C. or an S.T. any customary right of passage to a place of public resort or obstructing such member so as to prevent the person from using or having access to a place of public resort which other members of the public or any section thereof have a right to use or have access to.

 

 

 

In denial 

Caste Hindus, however, dismissed the incident as an “aberration” in the otherwise cordial relations between the two communities. Vadugapatti panchayat president M. Thavam said both Dalits and Piramalai Kallars lived in harmony in the village. Though the incident was deplorable, it should not be blown out of proportion as it would harm the peaceful coexistence of the two communities, besides bringing disrepute to the village, he said.

The headmistress of the local school was also in denial. Nothing should be done to precipitate the issue, she cautioned. Of the 166 pupils in the school, which was established in 1921, 90 were Dalits and no discrimination was shown to them, she claimed.

However, Nagammal, who has not yet fully recovered from the shock, feels that the government should intervene immediately to ensure protection to her and her son. She wants the authorities concerned to shift her son to another school so that he can continue his studies without fear. Though the school reopened on June 10, the boy did not attend classes fearing reprisals from some persons belonging to the dominant community. She has also urged the government to allot a housing plot in a safer location so that she can live peacefully. Her demands have the backing of Dalit organisations, including the Usilai Vattara Dalit Kootamaippu.

The NCSC has urged the district administration to help the victim to find admission in a government school and hostel in Madurai town. The boy needs counselling and relief, the commission said.

Dalit residents of the village say the June 3 incident has brought to the fore various problems faced by them. According to Theivammal, different discriminatory practices prevailed in all the six villages—Vadugapatti, Ramanathapuram, V. Kallipatti, Kongupatti, Puthur and Vilarpatti—that come under Vadugapatti panchayat. Dalits describe the peace meeting held in the village by the Deputy Superintendent of Police and investigating officer on June 9 as a knee-jerk reaction by the authorities.

M. Jayakumar, Suresh’s maternal uncle, said the practice of insulting members of the oppressed community for wearing footwear in front of caste Hindus occurred every now and then. Only recently was a girl student of the local government school, M. Malarvizhi (name changed), beaten with a broomstick for walking with footwear on a street in the caste-Hindu area, he said.

K. Mangayarkarasi (name changed), a brick kiln worker, said her son was taken to task by caste Hindus for wearing footwear while crossing a street last month. Dalits are not even allowed to ride two-wheelers in caste-Hindu areas. There is no proper pathway to the burial ground used by them. According to some residents, non-Dalits had warned them also against complaining to visiting government officials and activists of human rights organisations about the discriminatory practices.

 

 

Stressing that the Vadugapatti episode should not be taken as an isolated one, M. Thangaraj, organiser of the Madurai district unit of the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF), listed the discriminatory practices: segregated dwelling units; separate burial grounds for Dalits; denial of access to places of worship, common meeting place, village squares or community halls; ban on the use of footwear in front of caste Hindus; and the two-tumbler system in tea shops. In many villages in Usilampatti block, B.R. Ambedkar’s picture was not to be found in government offices and schools, he added.

As in the case of several villages in the region, the Dalits of Vadugapatti are farmhands and have to depend on the dominant community for their livelihood. They have been working as manual labourers in brick kilns or as agricultural workers in land belonging to caste Hindus. In Vadugapatti village, there are around 220 Dalit families and 500-odd caste-Hindu families. With the monsoon playing truant in the past several years, Dalit youth have migrated to the northern States seeking jobs in snack-making or fast food units.

“As many as 120 brick kilns are located in Usilampatti and Chellampatti panchayat unions. They are owned by caste Hindus. Almost 90 per cent of the workers involved in brick-making are Dalits brought from the western and northern districts of Tamil Nadu. Most of them are treated as bonded labourers,” Thangaraj said.

The TNUEF is planning to launch an agitation shortly to ensure that Dalits in Vadugapatti walked on the thoroughfares in the village wearing footwear, he said. Thangaraj asked the authorities concerned to take stern action against those who practised untouchability in any form. Strong action from the government in one village would send a warning signal to the forces of oppression in the entire region, he opined.

Director of the NCSC Venkatesan said the villagers had been told that discriminatory practices against Dalits and various forms of untouchability not only were inhuman but were against the law of the land. Expressing concern at the escalating incidents of atrocities against Dalits, he said these would be taken up at the State-level review meeting of the NCSC slated for July.

Significantly, discrimination against certain communities insofar as wearing footwear has a long history in Tamil Nadu. The senior archaeologist C. Santhalingam said there was historical evidence to show that using footwear was treated as an exclusive right of certain groups in ancient Tamil land, though footwear might have been originally treated as something to protect the feet, particularly in tropical climatic conditions. A 12th-13th century A.D. stone inscription in the Kongu region speaks of a decision by the Kongu Chola administration to lift the ban on wearing footwear by Kammalars (artisans) and Idayars (cowherds), he said.

 

#India – Women in search of work being kidnapped #Vaw


जहाँ काम खोजने आए मजदूर होते हैं अगवा…

सलमान रावी

बीबीसी संवाददाता, भद्राचलम (आंध्र प्रदेश) से

 मंगलवार, 18 जून, 2013 को 07:13 IST तक के समाचार

छत्तीसगढ़ में सुरक्षा बलों और माओवादियों के बीच हो रही हिंसा के कारण बड़ी संख्या में दक्षिण बस्तर के रहने वाले आदिवासी रोज़गार की तलाश में दक्षिण भारत के विभिन्न राज्यों की तरफ रुख कर रहे हैं.

मगर इनके लिए रोज़गार की तलाश भी उतनी आसान नहीं है क्योंकि संगठित गिरोह अब इनका अपहरण कर रहे हैं और इन्हें बंधुआ मजदूर बनने पर मजबूर कर रहे हैं.

 

बस्तर से बसों में बैठकर आन्ध्र प्रदेश जाने वाले इन मजदूरों को भद्राचलम के सरकारी बस स्टैंड से 15 किलोमीटर पहले ही संगठित गिरोहों द्वारा जबरन उतार लिया जाता है.

उसके बाद इनके ना चाहने के बावजूद तमिल नाडु, गोवा, कर्नाटक जैसे राज्यों में इन्हें ईंट भट्ठों, खेतों या फैक्टरियों में काम करने भेज दिया जाता है वो भी औने पौने पारिश्रमिक के साथ.

इस समस्या नें अब इतना विकराल रूप धारण कर लिया है कि आन्ध्र प्रदेश की सरकार नें एक टास्क फ़ोर्स के गठन का निर्णय किया है. भद्राचलम के सब कलक्टर भरत गुप्ता का कहना है कि दल में सामाजिक संगठन के कार्यकर्ताओं के अलावा, श्रम विभाग और पुलिस के अधिकारी शामिल होंगे.

मन में डर

सुबह का वक़्त है और आन्ध्र प्रदेश के भद्राचलम के सारपाका बस स्टैंड पर छत्तीसगढ़ के दंतेवाड़ा से आए कुछ आदिवासी इंतज़ार कर रहे हैं.

ये लोग अपने एजेंट की राह देख रहे हैं. जो उन्हें वादे के मुताबिक मजदूरी दिलवाएगा.

कई सौ किलोमीटर के सफ़र के बाद भी थकान इनके चेहरों पर नज़र नहीं आती.

इनके सफ़र से ज्यादा तकलीफदेह वो ज़िन्दगी है जिसे वो अपने पीछे दंतेवाडा जिले में अपने गाँव में ही छोड़कर आये हैं.

मगर इस जमात में शामिल नौजवान, औरतें और बुज़ुर्ग डरे हुए हैं.

इनमे से कोई कुछ बताना नहीं चाहता.

मुझे बताया गया कि ऐसा इस लिए है क्योंकि ये सब लोग एजेंटों की कड़ी निगरानी में हैं.

‘जबरन कब्ज़े में’

कुछ ऐसा ही भद्राचलम के आंबेडकर चौक के पास का नज़ारा है जहाँ एक दूसरा समूह सुकमा से आई बस से उतर कर इंतज़ार कर रहा है.

मगर भद्राचलम का सरकारी बस स्टैंड आज आम दिनों की तरह नहीं है.

यहाँ वो मजदूर नदारद हैं जोक्लिक करें छत्तीसगढ़ से भद्राचलम होते हुए दक्षिण भारत के दूसरे राज्यों में भेजे जाते हैं और वो एजेंट भी लापता हैं जो इन्हें जबरन भेजने का काम करते हैं.

आंध्र प्रदेश स्टेट रोडवेज ट्रांसपोर्ट कॉरपोरेशन के इस बस स्टैंड में तैनात अधिकारी विजय बताते हैं कि इन एजेंटों को हमारे पहुँचने की खबर मिल गई है.

वो कहते हैं, “इन लोगों को पता चल गया है कि बीबीसी के लोग यहाँ आए हैं. इस लिए कोई भी एजेंट नज़र नहीं आ रहा है. हम यहाँ रोज़ इस बस स्टैंड पर तमाशा देखते हैं. छत्तीसगढ़ से आने वाली बसों का एजेंट यहाँ बैठकर इंतज़ार करते हैं. जैसे ही बस आती है ये लोग उनपर टूट पड़ते हैं और आने वाले आदिवासियों को जबरन अपने कब्जे में ले लेते हैं.”

‘मोटा कमीशन’

रोज़ की तरह एजेंट तो ग़ायब हैं मगर मैंने पता लगाते हुए कुछ एक एजेंटों के ठिकाने पर जाकर उनसे मुलाक़ात की तो इस पूरे मामले से पर्दा उठने लगा.

एजेंटों ने नाम नहीं बताने की शर्त पर यह बताया कि छत्तीसगढ़ से आए क्लिक करें मजदूरों का भद्राचलम से अपहरण कर लिया जाता है और फिर उन्हें बंधुआ मजदूर के रूप में काम करने को मजबूर होना पड़ता है.

भद्राचलम तक बस लेकर आने वाले एक ड्राईवर ने नाम नहीं उजागर करने की शर्त पर बताया, “अगर आपको लगता है कि भद्राचलम के बस स्टैंड पर इन्हें उतारा जाता है तो आप ग़लतफ़हमी में हैं. भद्राचलम बस स्टैंड पहुँचने से पंद्रह किलोमीटर पहले ही ये एजेंट और इनके गुर्गों से बसों को जबरन रुकवा लेते हैं और उनमे सवार आदिवासियों को उतार लेते हैं. फिर इन्हें दूसरी गाडी से वहां भेज दिया जाता है जहाँ के लिए इन्हें मोटा कमीशन मिलता है.”

‘डरा धमकाकर’

शहर के एक प्रमुख स्थान पर मौजूद मजदूर सप्लाई करने वाली एजेंसी के संचालक नें बीबीसी से बात करते हुए बताया कि कई महीनों तक मजदूरी करने की बाद कुछ मजदूरों को तो घर लौटने के लिए भीख तक मांगनी पड़ती है.

उनका कहना है कि मजदूरों की मजदूरी भी मालिकों से एजेंट ही ले लेते हैं ये कहते हुए कि जब वो काम कर वापस घर लौटेंगे तो उन्हें पैसे मिल जायेंगे. मगर जब मजदूर वापस लौटते हैं तो इन एजेंटों का कोई अता पता नहीं होता. अपने आपको ठगा हुआ महसूस कर ये आदिवासी बस संचालकों से फ़रियाद कर किसी तरह अपने गावों वापस लौट पाते हैं.

वहीं ‘सितारा’ नाम के एक जन संगठन से जुड़े डाक्टर शेख हनीफ का कहना है कि मजदूरों को डरा धमका कर उन्हें दूसरी जगहों पर मजदूरी के लिए भेजने वाले लोग संगठित होकर काम कर रहे हैं.

मजदूरों की मंडी

हनीफ का कहना है कि कुछ दिनों पहले उन्होंने कई मामले पकड़े और पुलिस की मदद मांगी.

वो कहते हैं कि उनके संस्था के हस्तक्षेप के बाद पुलिस ने कार्रवाई भी कि. मगर अहिस्ता अहिस्ता ये एजेंट फिर से मज़बूत हो गए क्योंकि ये लोग बहुत संगठित होकर काम करते हैं.

खम्मम जिला प्रशासन को अब लगने लगा है कि एजेंट भद्राचलम को मजदूरों की मंडी की तरह इस्तेमाल कर रहे हैं.

क्योंकि यहाँ ओडिशा और छत्तीसगढ़ से बड़ी संख्या में आदिवासियों का आना जाना होता है.

मानव तस्करी पर रोक

भद्राचलम के सब कलक्टर डाक्टर भरत गुप्ता नें बीबीसी को बताया कि प्रशासन नें इस तरह की गतिविधि का संज्ञान लिया है और जल्द ही एक टास्क फ़ोर्स का गठन किया जा रहा है जो इस तरह की मानव तस्करी पर रोक लगाने की दिशा में काम करेगा.

कहीं क्लिक करें माओवादी छापामारों का फरमान तो कहीं सुरक्षा बलों की हलचल से परेशान छत्तीसगढ़ के क्लिक करें आदिवासी ये सोच कर अपने आशियानों को छोड़ कर निकल रहे हैं कि उन्हें एक बेहतर ज़िन्दगी मिलेगी.

लेकिन मानव तस्करों के बड़े संगठित गिरोहों ने उनकी जिंदगियों को और मुश्किल में डाल दिया है.

इनके लिए तो ये ऐसा है कि मानो आसमान से गिरे तो खजूर पर जा अटके.

(क्लिक करें बीबीसी हिन्दी के क्लिक करें एंड्रॉएड ऐप के लिए आप क्लिक करें यहां क्लिक कर सकतें हैं. आप हमें क्लिक करें फ़ेसबुक और क्लिक करें ट्विटर पर क्लिक करें फ़ॉलोभी कर सकते हैं.)

 

#RIP – Mourning Reingamphi Awungshi, 21 year old from Manipur #Rape #Vaw


JUNE 11, 2013
This is a guest post by PRATIKSHA BAXI:  Kafila.org

imagesWhen the police found Reingamphi Awungshi, a twenty-one year woman from Ukhrul district in Manipur brutalised, assaulted and dead in her rented apartment in Chirag Delhi on 29 May 2013, they did not file an FIR. Rather, the Malaviya Nagar police station, a site of anguished protests, began by designating her death as suicide, even as they waited for a post mortem report! Although the family argued that the state of her bloodied and injured body clearly indicated sexual assault and murder, the police ended up filing an FIR, after three days, as a case of abetment to suicide.

It seems very clear that the aftermath of the Delhi gangrape protests have not made a dent in practices of policing—it should not take hundreds of protestors to ensure the registration of a police complaint. Nor is it reasonable for the police without thorough investigation and competent medical examination of the body to conclude that the death was a suicide rather than murder; and that the injuries on the body, the outcome of substance abuse rather than assault. This is evidence of bias, rather than an impartial investigation.

But for protests, the case would not have been transferred to the Crime Branch, nor an FIR filed for murder.

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Image from Justice for Reingamphi Awungshi

The police’s initial stance that this was suicide illustrated bias. The dead woman’s character was maligned to generate a motive for suicide. The police claimed it was suicide since the door of her room was locked from inside, ignoring the fact that her room led to another door opening into the landlord’s house. The police concluded that she overdosed herself without forensic analysis to determine whether or not the medicines found in her room, if consumed, could have led to toxicity. The police concluded that rodents nibbled her face and other parts of the body leaving her eye and nose in a bloody mess, without waiting for forensic analysis to establish rodent bites. The police assumed that this young woman who had shopped for her next breakfast would kill herself and then rodents in a reasonably well-kept room would assault her. Thereafter, the scene of crime was not secured and it is not even clear whether forensic samples were collected from the scene of crime.

The second post mortem, while the histological reports are awaited, after five days by a three-member panel of forensic experts, concluded that opinion of death could only be offered after the analysis of the viscera by chemical analysis and histopathology report. The PM report further held that two-fingers could easily pass through the vagina, hence the dead woman was habituated to sex—making it impossible to determine whether she was raped, without other forensic tests. Yet again the Delhi protests failed to persuade doctors that while clinical findings of whether or not the vaginal passage is distensible in a dead survivor may have very limited evidentiary value, such a victim cannot be characterised as a habitué. To characterise the victim as a habituated to sex, especially when she is dead, is to assume that the vagina can be examined as if it were a record of past sexual history of consensual sex. Surely it is equally possible that the vagina is a record of past sexual history of sexual violence. To characterise the victim, as a habitué is not only unconstitutional, it prejudices investigation and the framing of charges, if any person is ultimately held responsible for sexual assault.

Surely it is reasonable for Reingamphi’s family and supporters to suspect sexual assault and murder. It is reasonable to suspect the landlords’ relative who was stalking this young woman for over a month. It is reasonable to be suspicious because the family was not informed when the landlord called the police to break into the dead woman’s room. It is reasonable since sexual assault; stalking and/or murders of women from the North East in Delhi are a statistical high.

Why is there such toleration of violence against women from the North–East in Delhi? The fact is that sexual harassment of women from the North East is both sexist and racist. It is also a social fact that women from the North East are targeted as sexual objects. They are subjected to a racist and sexist gaze, which positions them as vulnerable “outsiders”. Branded, stigmatised and caricatured, they are extremely vulnerable to violence, in particular, to sexual assault.

Such forms of targetted violence of tribal women in Delhi is sufficient to declare Delhi a scheduled area or zone of emergency on the grounds that targeted atrocities against tribal women by non­–tribal men is routine. A provision permitting such declaration is available under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 which specifies that the state government is under obligation to identify ‘the areas where the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes are likely to be subjected to atrocities’ and adopt ‘measures so as to ensure safety for such members’.

However, the police almost never mobilises this law to protect Naga, Manipuri or Mizo tribal women from the discrimination they face in the city. Surely the police know that as a form of historic discrimination, such forms of violence have been classified in the law as atrocity. They should also remember that as per Section 4 of the PoA Act ‘whoever, being a public servant but not being a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe, wilfully neglects his duties required to be performed of duties by him under this Act, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to one year’. Non-registration of an FIR in sexual offences is also an offence, by virtue of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013.

Let alone do their duty under these laws police officers routinely treat a complainant from any North–Eastern state as an exceptional and abject subject. It is as if the zone of exception—dramatized by the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act—lives in the heart of our city in everyday and ordinary ways.

The impunity and immunity bestowed on men who think that a Tangkhul Naga woman’s life can be exterminated without any investigation, prosecution, or without inciting a collective demand for justice has been permitted by our legal system. Our politicians too permitted this by ignoring the powerful protests against the AFSPA—a demand to recognise citizenship and justice—instead of repressing populations and suspending constitutional law. Our city permits this by creating zones of sexual exceptionalism where some cases find horrified publicity and others do not produce similar public anguish.

Our city does not experience the same horror today, as it did months ago, at the painful and brutalised death of this young woman—perhaps the details of brutalisation are not titillating enough! Perhaps most of us do not identify with a woman whose identity seems so far removed from what we know as familiar? Perhaps it is less disturbing to believe the police version of suicide?

Yet even as we recall every painful instance of violence that was called out, in the aftermath of the December protests, we must remember than Tangkhul Naga women struggling to make the city their home also want azadi from violence. Tangkhul Naga women also protested with us to make Delhi safer.

As we mourn for Reingamphi Awungshi, we must also continue to raise our voices against violence against women, especially sexual assault. Yet, should we also now not reflect where we failed? Fact of the matter is that far from creating prevention of violence and increased safety for women, the forensic detailing of what men do to women’s or girl’s bodies in the media, even though their names were withheld, acted as public pedagogy of what men can do women. Sadly, rape cultures thrive despite the protests, and some may argue, because of the voyeuristic representations of the protests.

Alas, change is a long way away. The cry for transformation demands the sustained energy of the Delhi protesters, who should not be satisfied with increased punishment in the statutes. The aspiration for freedom demands that minimally we say to Reingamphi Awungshi, we are desperately sorry.

Pratiksha Baxi is Assistant Professor, Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University

 

 

 

India – Grain bank movement is saving farmers from starvation in Odisha


An Insurance Against Hunger

The grain bank movement is saving farmers from starvation and the cycle of debt and desperation
Baba Umar

BABA UMAR, Tehelka

May 31, 2013

Illustration: Vikram Nongmaithem

Illustration: Vikram Nongmaithem

NOT MANY summers ago, only tamarind seeds, wild berries and mango kernels stood between the tribals of Ranjagoda village and death by starvation. However, activist Achyut Das found that there were no starvation deaths in the neighbouring villages in ’s Rayagada district, which had set up . “The concept, though, had never reached Ranjagoda,” says Das.

Until recently, Ranjagoda’s tribals had to part with most of their produce to pay back moneylenders. “Debt bondage was the root cause of starvation,” says Das. “With interest rates as high as 200 percent, most villagers lost their mortgaged land and productive assets. Many were forced to work as bonded labour for the moneylender, sometimes over generations.”

To help the villagers break out of the cycle of debt and starvation, Das mobilised them to form self-help groups. A local grain bank was set up with all 50 families of Ranjagoda contributing 9 kg of ragi, the local staple.

“Unlike rice, ragi can be stored for almost three years,” says Das. “So the villagers, who couldn’t afford to buy food in the lean summer months, could now borrow, say, 5 kg of ragi from the grain bank, and put back 25 percent more within five months.” It has been a decade since the initiative took off, and today Ranjagoda is able to loan grain and seeds to other villages.

The grain bank experience has been a boon for India — a food-surplus nation that has, paradoxically, always performed poorly in terms of the  (GHI). It has been placed below Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Nepal in 2012 by the International Food Policy Research Institute.

As a way to battle hunger, the Centre announced plans to set up grain banks for the first time in 1996. So far, 21,751 village grain banks have been sanctioned across 20 states. “These can be set up in drought-prone areas, deserts, tribal areas and inaccessible hilly areas that remain cut off because of natural calamities. Foodgrain will be loaned to BPL families at one quintal per family under the scheme,” said Union Food Minister KV Thomas in October 2012.

In some cases, like at Pyallayaram village in Andhra Pradesh’s Medak district, the grain banks also offer seeds and chemical inputs like fertilisers and pesticides to impoverished farmers. “The grain bank has helped the villagers get rid of both moneylenders and seed-sharks,” says Girdhar Babu of Deccan Development Society, one of the NGOs behind the grain bank initiatives in the state.

Poverty and food insecurity caused by prolonged drought and loss of traditional varieties of seeds had broken the back of Pyallayaram’s local economy, forcing many villagers to migrate. Those who stayed back were utterly destitute and malnourished. “That was 20 years ago. Relying solely on government relief schemes had encouraged a culture of dependency,” says Babu. “That changed when 34 women of the village took things into their own hands and started growing their own food.”

Subsequently, the villagers established a grain bank for poor farmers to ensure a steady supply of quality seeds by preserving the traditional varieties and restoring cultivation on marginal lands. “We have repeated the same experiment with self-help groups in 85 other villages,” adds Babu.

 

#India – Dalit headmistress alleges caste discrimination in Mangalore


STAFF CORRESPONDENT, The Hindu

A Dalit headmistress in a government school, who claimed to have been harassed by upper-caste teachers on the basis of caste, alleged that the police inaction led to the case being closed due to “lack of evidence”.

Airing her grievance at the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes meet held at the Police Commissioner’s office here on Sunday, Kamalakshi, who is the headmistress of Government Higher Primary School in Panelabarike near Konaje, said there was discrimination and harassment by a Brahmin couple, who teach at the school.

“They have shouted swear words at me several times. They do not cooperate in the decisions I take. They have even said that because the government gives us Dalits so many schemes and provisions that we have become arrogant. The two have also pressured the SDMC (School Development and Monitoring Committee) to expel me, so they could drive me out of the village,” she claimed.

Though she has been working in the school for six years, the harassment started after the husband-wife duo joined the school in 2011.

After entreaties to the Block Education Officer went in vain, Ms. Kamalakshi filed a complaint against the two at the Konaje Police Station on February 22. However, a week ago, the police eventually filed a B-report in the case. “How can there be no evidence when the SDMC can testify to the insults and threats?” she asked Police Commissioner Manish Kharbikar who chaired the meet.

Though Mr. Kharbikar said there “could be no wrongdoing” on the part of the police in closing the case, he assured the headmistress that the case would be looked into again.

Another allegation of the police bucking to bribes and pressures from influential persons came from Dalit leader Srinivas Shetty, who said the Bajpe police had done little to arrest the main accused in a reportedly illegal sand-mining case.

The accused, who is the president of the Gram Panchayat Chandrahas Shetty, is alleged to have abused fellow member Hariyappa Muthoor, who is Dalit, for having opposed the sand mining.

“Chandrahas Shetty used foul language and even threatened to kill Hariyappa. We filed a complaint with the police on May 18, and an atrocities case was filed. But there have been no arrests. In fact, we hear that the police are in constant touch with the accused,” said Mr. Srinivas Shetty. Mr. Kharbikar assured a “detailed probe” into the matter.

 

Rs 4,500 cr under Scheduled Castes Sub Plan (SCSP) plan alleged to be not used


 

The state government is accused of not fulfilling its commitments under the Scheduled Castes Sub Plan (SCSP). Chamar Mahan Sabha president Paramjit Singh Kainth on Thursday submitted a memorandum in this regard for the governor to deputy commissioner Arun Sekhri here. “Under the SCSP, post-matriculation scholarship was planned for students of the category but the government’s performance on this account was nil,” Kainth, later, told the media. 

The plan included awareness camps at villages to educate the Scheduled Caste women about livestock management, diseases, feeding, vaccination, and de-worming. None of these was done. There was also the unfulfilled promise of providing landless and marginal families with hand-driven chaff-cutters and giving pre-selection training to youth for enrolment in defence, paramilitary forces, and the police.

“Contrary to the plan, no computer training was given to poor boys and girls after Classes 10 and 12,” said Kainth. “No equipment and raw material were supplied to 24 training-cum-production centres of the welfare department.”

Computer training to educated unemployed Scheduled Caste youth was to happen at the Ambedkar institutes and Bhawans at district headquarters. It did not happen. Kainth accused the state government of failing to spend the entire money allocated to the SCSP in the 11th Plan (2007-2012).

“Out of the total allocation of Rs. 11,573.83 crore, the government had spent only Rs. 7,085.34 crore,” said Kainth. “The unutilised money amounts to Rs. 4488.49 crore. Even the amount shown as utilised has been diverted to building roads, over-bridges and projects for general category.”

Rs 1 crore allocated for coaching to the SC students for competitive examinations, and more money that was to be given to unemployed SC youth for professional airhostess, travel and hospitality management, hotel operation, and vocational training courses was also unspent, Kainth has said, quoting from official figures of the directorate of the SCSP.

On Friday, the Chamar Mahan Sabha will submit a memorandum to the administration in Jalandhar, demanding an inquiry by the comptroller and auditor general (CAG), or if there is a fraud involved, the central bureau of investigation (CBI).

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Punjab/Patiala/R-4-500-cr-under-SC-plan-alleged-to-be-not-used/SP-Article1-1057602.aspx

 

 

Half of India’s dalit population lives in 4 states- UP, West Bengal, Bihar and TN


 

B Sivakumar, TNN | May 2, 2013, 06.14 AM IST
CHENNAI: Four states account for nearly half of the country’s dalit population, reveals the 2011 census. Uttar Pradesh stands first with 20.5% of the total scheduled caste (SC) population, followed by West Bengal with 10.7%, says the data released by the Union census directorate on Tuesday. Bihar with 8.2% and Tamil Nadu with 7.2 % come third and fourth. Dalits form around 16.6% of India’s population.

The 2011 census recorded nearly 20.14 crore people belonging to various scheduled castes in the country. As per the 2001 census, the number was 16.66 crore. The dalit population showed a decadal growth of 20.8%, whereas India’s population grew 17.7% during the same period. “Though there is an increase in the population of dalits in the country, many states with a considerable number of dalits don’t have any legislation to protect the interests of the community. Dalit empowerment is very poor in many states,” said former Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) MLA D Ravikumar.

Many scheduled caste families don’t own land or any other property, said Ravikumar. “Many dalits are landless and efforts to empower them by giving free land have not been successful in Tamil Nadu. Unlike Punjab, which has a considerable number of dalits as industrialists, here there is hardly any industrialist from our community,” the leader of the dalit party said.

There are around 9.79 crore women among the total SC population, and the sex ratio works out to 946 females per 1000 males. Nagaland, Lakshwadeep and Andaman and Nicobar islands have no scheduled castes among their population. Though UP has the largest chunk of the total SC population, Punjab has the largest share of dalits in its population at 31.9%. Himachal Pradesh and West Bengal follow Punjab with 25.2% and 23.5%. In Tamil Nadu, dalits account for about 18% of the population.

The state budget should also allocate funds for creation of assets for dalits, said Ravikumar. “Instead of distributing freebies, the state governments can set aside a portion of the total allocation for dalits. In many cases, funds are being diverted and dalits lose whatever is due to them,” he said. The states with considerable number of dalits in their population must pass a separate legislation on the lines of Andhra Pradesh, which has passed the SC/ST Sub Plan Act, said a dalit activist.

 

Professor’s casteist remark invites SC panel wrath


, TNN | Apr 20, 2013,

AMRITSAR: An assistant professor of Patiala‘s government medical college (GMC) is in the soup for allegedly passing casteist remarks against an MBBS student in a classroom.Turning the heat on the professor, the SC/ST commission on Friday asked the Patiala police to register a case against him.

Commission vice-chairman Raj Kumar, who belongs to Amritsar, said that he ordered an FIR after an inquiry report held the professor guilty of the charges.

The probe was conducted by a three-member committee comprising Dr H S Sandhu, Dr Manjit Singh Bal and Dr Anita Gupta.

According to the inquiry report, the incident happened on April 9 during a class of Harsimran Singh, an assistant professor in the ophthalmology department of GMC, Patiala.

Harsimran passed the casteist remarks against Amolpreet Singh after the student fumbled while answering the roll call.

The report states that Harsimran was taking attendance when he called for roll number 18

and Amolpreet whose roll number was 80 answered it which enraged the professor who remarked, “You bespectacled chap, stand up and get out. I am sure that only you are capable of this nonsense.”

The report says that the professor had

denied making any casteist remarks against

the student.

Raj Kumar said as many as 26 students, belonging to different castes, of the class had filed a complaint against the professor alleging that he had also asked Amolpreet about his category, PMT rank etc.

The students’ complaint quotes professor telling Amolpreet that “I have recognized you. Only an SC can do something like this.”

The commission VC said that he has also directed the Patiala police to hold an independent inquiry into the incident.

When contacted, Patiala SSP Gurmeet Singh Gill said that he has marked the inquiry to a committee headed by a police officer of the rank of DSP.

“We will take action after receiving the report,” said the SSP.

 

Haryana- Dalits flee Haryana village after upper caste attacks


, TNN | Apr 16, 2013, 0

Dalits flee Haryana village after upper caste attacks
More than 100 Dalits fled a small Haryana village after being chased by upper caste goons, angry that a Dalit man had dared to marry one of their girls.
KAITHAL: As politicians and administrators in many northern Indian states were preparing to celebrate Dalit icon B R Ambedkar’s 122nd birth anniversary this weekend, more than 100 Dalits were fleeing a small Haryana village after being chased by upper caste goons, angry that a Dalit man had dared to marry one of their girls.

Meena and Surya Kant of Pabnama village in Kaithal were in a relationship for the past two years and they tied the knot on April 10. But their happiest moment in life turned tragic for the entire village. The marriage – with Meena, from a community called the Rods and Surya, a Dalit – led to a bloody clash on Saturday that forced Dalit men and women to flee, fearing violent reprisals. Members of the Rod community attacked Dalits, injuring 10 people, including seven cops.

The couple has been living in a Kaithal town under police protection following instructions from the Punjab and Haryana high court last week.

Even two days after the violence, Dalits are still in a state of shock and not ready to return to the village. Except a few youths and elders, no women and children were present in the village. Several have gone to their relatives’ places and a few are living in dharamshalas in Kurukshetra.

Ram Swaroop, a Dalit, said, “We agree that the marriage was against social norms. But why is the family of the groom and the entire community being targeted as we have no role in their marriage?”

He said it had become difficult for their families to return to the village under the circumstances as they could be assaulted again.

However, peace brokers were trying to calm things down. The two communities have formed separate committees to hold talks to sort out the differences and to restore peace in the village. Realizing that the couple could not be separated, the villagers on Monday started compromise talks.

Sarpanch Husan Singh told TOI, “As the couple remained firm on their decision to stay together, the villagers, including their family members, have left them to their fate. Members of both the communities held peace talks and I am hopeful that both would reach a compromise soon,” he said.

A villager, who had talked to the couple, said both of them ruled out any possibility of parting ways even though the Rods had been pressuring them to break off. During a meeting of village elders, 20-year-old Meena, a student of BCom final year in Kaithal College, made it clear that “she would prefer to die rather than separating from her husband.”

The sarpanch said it was impossible for the couple to enter the village as they did not abide by the sentiments of the villagers. Recalling the violence on Saturday, he said, “Some youngsters have attacked Dalit houses in a fit of rage but the village elders have sorted out the issue now.”

However, a Dalit youth, Lakhmi Chand, alleged that there was pressure on the Dalits to strike a compromise and not to press for arrest of the attackers.

“Both the communities have formed peace committees which met today to discuss the issue. The Rods are persuading us to withdraw the cases and assured that our security would be ensured in the village. But we are still unsure and our women and children are still away,” he said.

Kaithal SP Kuldeep Singh said the situation was under control on Monday and police personnel were deployed in the village. “The villagers from both the communities are making efforts to sort out the issue. The administration is cooperating with them in this initiative,” he said.

 

#India- Cop to woman: Who will rape you at your age? #Vaw #WTFnews


, TNN | Mar 23, 2013, 03.47 AM IST

A Dalit woman, who petitioned a senior Uttar Pradesh Police officer seeking registration of her rape complaint, was told that her’s was not an age to be raped.

Caught on camera: UP cop insults rape victim

Caught on camera: UP cop insults rape victim
LUCKNOW: An additional superintendent of police (ASP) in Deoria district refused to entertain the rape complaint of a housewife merely because she was over 35 years of age. To add to the insensitivity, the officer said: “Who would rape such an old woman?”

Coming at a time when Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav is struggling to counter mounting pressure from all quarters over the deteriorating crime scene in the state, the incident has touched a new low. DGP A C Sharma expressed regret over the conduct of his subordinate and IG (crime) RK Vishwakarma said an explanation had been sought from the officer within 48 hours. “Action will be initiated for making such unwanted and ridiculous comments,” said Vishwakarma.

On Wednesday night, a housewife was allegedly assaulted and knocked unconscious by a local villager while she was going to the farm fields to relieve herself. When she regained her senses, she found that she had been raped. She reached home and informed her husband about it.

Early next morning, the couple when to the local Bankata police station in Deoria district to register a complaint against a local youth Santosh Singh. Allegations are that the couple returned home after being informed that the senior officers will contact them once the preliminary inquiry into her complaint was completed. “When no one came, we decided to approach the cops at the police station once again because I wanted them to get my wife medically examined to secure any possible evidence of crime. We were shown the door at the police station,” said the victim’s husband.

The couple then approached Deoria ASP Keshav Chandra Goswami at his office. They were made to wait for more than three hours before the officer finally agreed to meet them while he was walking out of his office. The victim’s husband tried to brief the ASP about his complaint when he was interrupted by the office: “How many children does she have?” he questioned her husband. When he said that they had three children, the officer asked him “What is the age of her eldest child?”

“Her eldest child—a daughter—is around 15 years of age,” the victim’s husband said. “Now, who will rape such an old woman? There must have been some other dispute behind the whole story…we will get it inquired,” the ASP said and instead of directing the Bankata police to register a case on the victim’s complaint and initiate action against the accused, got into his official vehicle and left, apparently unaware that the entire conversation had been recorded by somebody standing nearby.

Once the incident was aired by a local news channel, the police top brass in Lucknow took note of it. On the directions of the DGP, the IG (crime) directed the Deoria police to register a rape case while the ASP was asked to explain his conduct.