Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ground Report.

Hello everybody,

Its election time and as a Sovereign, Democratic, Republic India has the responsibility to bring its citizens encompassing individuals of all faiths, castes, creed and cult under one roof so as to lead the nation towards progress from all standpoints: Social, Political and Economic .

The following is a report prepared by me on the Dalit community in India's capital.

Go through it and comment.
I dedicate this post to one of the stalwarts of Development journalism in India, Ramnath Goenka awardee,2009, The Hindu's , P.Sainath.

Sociopolitical conditions of Dalits in the run up to the 2009 elections.

Gautam Nagar 20 April: The Dalit community in India’s capital are mainly engaged in professions as Rickshawpullers, Masons, Madaris (Monkey-tricks artist), sweepers referred to as Chamaars and so on.

India’s Social fabric is predominantly caste - ridden. The Profession wise categorization that existed from the Brahmanical and Kingly ages turned rigid with the passage of time.

Dalits, generally considered untouchables are a low caste community in the Hindu social order of the nation. They are skeptic of the governments that rule them. This can be assumed from the state of affairs as far as the community’s settlements are concerned in areas as Khichripur, East Vinod Nagar and Seemapuri among the many other areas inhabited by this underprivileged class of India.

Khichripur, one of the resettlement colonies conceived as a brainchild of late youth Congress leader, Sanjay Gandhi has a considerable Dalit population.

Rahul Kumar, 40, a mason in the area originates from Himachal Pradesh. He states “lack of feasible opportunities to sustain his family brought him so far to the capital.”

“There is no special heed paid to the intricacies and complexities of politics, it is more than enough if we get two square meals a day”, he adds. Elaborating on their socioeconomic conditions he goes on to explain that they basically are a community living hand to mouth. When enquired about the constituency’s MLA’s regard for their plight, he says that no MLA has ever ventured to their area.

He has no other qualms except an earnest request for the administration to grant him and many other families a conducive place to settle down.

Ravindar, a rickshaw pulling lad 24 years of age who barely earns Rs. 100-150 per day while saving nothing for himself states that the pool to be constructed on the highway of the area is to soon deprive them of their last hopes - the makeshift houses they live in.

The municipality is asking them to leave as soon as possible, sans any deadline, for the construction work to take place and extension of the road to be carried out.

Saraswati, an elderly woman in the area who lives along with her husband, Ram Bharose
and family states “I am deeply disturbed, am not able to sleep because of our lack of proper housing.” On enquired about the education privileges granted to their children, she said that as far she knows there was no such offer for children of the 10 families living in the area.

The colony presents a sorry picture of gross ignorance and negligence from concerned authorities. There, with the din and grime of dust and littered garbage sans proper sanitation facilities, one is bound to fall prey to contagious health risking diseases. Saraswati adds “We do not avail medical facilities as such.”

Grim Social barriers running on Caste lines comes to the fore when Hardas, a lame old man says, “We are not allowed to take the running water from the supply water line tap.”

“People drive us away from taking water, we manage from some place far away” Hardas adds. He informs, “No MLA or MP visits us to look into our state of affairs.”

The area of east Vinod Nagar is worse and cannot be described in mere words. There is one whole field where garbage, human excreta is dumped and herein the larger amount of Dalit population resides sans proper roofs on their unprotected heads.

There, one comes across refugee tent - like establishments which houses an average of 5 members of a family, without any electricity. One can witness their girl children picking up matter from the dumped garbage and putting them inside their sacks which they would sell to some scrap dealer.

There a mason Deshraj and daily wage labourer, Kamlesh are disillusioned as they do not avail any benefits from the government. They ask that will they ever get some incentive package from authorities. Amidst the din and squalor, one comes across Chatur, a Monkey artist along with his monkey inside one of the tents; he is a bit positive about things and tends to carry a happy go lucky attitude about him.

He says in an interesting strain, “what is to there be so much bothered about in this short life? It is better we give in some amount of happiness to others and also remain happy ourselves in the process.”

Daya, a daily wage labourer 38 years of age and father of two girls says that “when our stomachs are empty. we cannot help to think about the ongoing polls.”

Hari, a sweeper 25 years of age says that he is tired of the poverty and malnourishment seen among his near and dear ones and is depressed and frustrated at the futility of the authorities to improve their conditions.

He says that he will vote for such a political party which stoops down to the level of the social barriers and approaches each problem and issue of not only Dalits but other underprivileged castes of the nation.

“There has been talk about removing the area’s Dalit population regarding the Delhi Development Authority’s move to construct flats”, he informs.

The area of Seemapuri has also to its credit a considerable population from the Dalit community. They too live in literally pathetic conditions with no proper sanitation or water facilities. Raju, 25, a sweeper hailing from Jhansi, UP and an inhabitant of the area says that “it would surely be a miracle if some government really takes up the cause of Dalits in India genuinely by not politicising matters and making their work speak for itself.” He interestingly adds, “then votes of a certain community will not get divided and wasted and people of all communities, castes and creeds will fully be able to participate in the nation’s political process.”

This Schedule caste community ignored, is to be brought under the Indian mainstream quickly, even if it means going against some age old rigid practice involving categorisation of people, to generate a potent working force for the nation and ensuring equilibrium in human resource development

Thank You all,

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