Millennium Post

Dalits still live under a harsh sun

Dalits and tribals in Madhya Pradesh face discrimination in almost every walk of life. According to an exhaustive study done by a rights group, Dalit children across rural Madhya Pradesh face some 70 types of grim abuses. The study, supported by Action Aid, reveals that Dalit children in schools are forced to eat mid-day meals in marked out plates and asked to sit in the back rows of their classrooms.

The findings fly in the face of Madhya Pradesh’s image as one of India’s fastest growing states, showing that the winds of change have maybe bypassed much of its socially backward pockets. Caste discriminations were recorded in all the surveyed villages with abuses being the worst in the Bundelkhand region.

For instance, in Dahi village of Dhar district, Dalit school kids are told that they would get their scholarships amount only after they produce photographs of family members skinning dead animals, considered their traditional occupation.

Another macabre practice was reported from Kathara village of Chhatarpur, where children are divided along caste lines before mid-day meals are served to them. Some of the other outrageous forms of discrimination include preventing Dalit children from drinking water from common facilities in schools or touching mid-day meals, as well as being referred to their caste identity by school teachers.

Reacting to the survey, Gyan Singh, the state minister for SC/ST welfare, said:”We, especially the Chief Minister are very sensitive toward the issue...Whenever any incident comes to notice, we immediately direct strict action. We would be discussing the issue of discrimination in-depth during a meeting scheduled on December 11.”

The survey, carried out by Dalit Adhikar Abhiyan, an umbrella organisation of about half a dozen local groups working for scheduled caste rights, covered about 62,500 people in 30 villages of 10 districts across the state. In all, 412 Dalit families and 61 panchayat representatives and government servants of the Scheduled Caste category were covered in the survey, which was funded by Action Aid and conducted between January and August this year.

The surveyed districts were Khandwa, Harda, Hoshangabad, Narsinghpur, Morena, Bhind, Rewa, Satna, Sagar and Chhatarpur. Of the 70 kinds of discriminations, 54 are practiced in Bundelkhand. “Once Dalits challenge the authority of the so-called higher caste people, who are also economically stronger, discrimination turns into atrocity and violence is perpetrated commonly,” said Rajendra Bandhu, one of the authors of the study.

In June 2014, Manoj a Dalit bridegroom of Sadwa village in Chhatarpur district was beaten up along with others in marriage procession for daring to ride a mare. Caste discriminations are also affecting the education of children with 31% children surveyed regularly staying away from schools and 55% of the surveyed families saying that their children could not study properly. About 46% of Dalit children cannot muster the courage to ask questions to the teachers.

Abuses were also reported in Anganwadi functioning, delivery of health services and distribution of subsidised ration. According to the National Crimes Record Bureau report of 2013, the state recorded the fifth highest incidents of atrocities against Dalits in the country.

Besides schools and other walks of life, various backward communities are also discriminated by the State Public Service Commission. A popular newspaper carried a detailed report about the discrimination practiced by the Public Service Commission, while holding interviews for various government jobs. According to the report candidates belonging to the general category are asked first to appear before the panel holding interviews.

After that candidates belonging to backward communities are called. Then comes the turn of tribals and Dalits. Discrimination is practiced not only via preferential treatment for upper caste students in the interview procedure for state civil services, but also while giving marks on the basis of their performance. The report cites instances in which candidates from general category are given marks in a liberal manner, while candidates from backward communities, Dalits and tribals get less marks irrespective of their performance. The State Public Service Commission holds examinations and interviews for various officer-level posts. They include the post of Deputy Collectors, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Assistant Collectors Sales Tax, District Excise Officers, District Registrars, Women and Child officers, Assistant Supt. Jails and Naib Tehsildars.

A spokesman of the Public Service Commission however denied the allegation made in the report. Manoharlal Dubey, Secretary of the Commission, said that it has been following this procedure for many years. He challenged the newspaper to produce evidence to substantiate their charges. IPA
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