Call for a Dalit Bahujan Telangana

Visakhapatnam, May 18: The newly-formed Dalit organisation, Dalita Bahujana Sureedu has said that the proposed Telangana State should be Dalit Bahujan in character.

Addressing a press conference here on Friday, DBS State steering committee convener V Krishna Swaroop said that the DBS had resolved to extend support to the demand for a separate Telangana. He also wanted that the Union government permit a discussion on casteism at the United nations meet against racism to be held in South Africa in August this year.

He demanded that the government make public the Justice Punnaiah Commission report on caste-based discrimination in the State. He demanded that the State and the Central governments take effective steps to curb attacks on the depressed castes and minorities.

He said the Dalits were subjected to various forms of untouchability in rural areas. He said the Punnaiah Commission which studied the problem in depth has submitted its report, but it was being kept under wraps.

Krishna Swaroop said the processes of privatisation, globalisation and liberalisation were causing extreme hardship to the poor, especially the Dalits.

He called for reservations to be implemented in the private sector too and felt a massive campaign was needed to get the demand accepted.

The DBS leader said though there were about 47,000 Scheduled Castes and 18,000 Scheduled Tribes backlog posts in the State, the Telugu Desam government was doing precious little to fill them.

He said the quota percentage should be increased and the Dalit Christians should also be included in the list.

Referring to the question of tribal land alienation, he said there was a well-oiled nexus between the political class, police, forest and revenue officials and the tribal protests were ruthlessly suppressed. He alleged that the Chandrababu Naidu government was bent on amending the Act so as to permit the entry of private parties for mining in the Agency tracts. Swaroop said the DBS steering committee, which was formed recently, consisted of members from organisations like Dalit Mahasabha, Dalit Bahujana Sakthi, Dalitha Bahujana Vidyarthi Samithi and SC, ST, BC, Minorities Aikya Vedika..

A basketful of hopelessness for them

Hyderabad, May 18: If you pass by the road towards Afzalgunj, you would find, beside the river Musi, between the Isamia bazaar and Chaderghat, basket weavers immersed in basket making. These are the weavers, belonging to the tribe of Erukulas, who are a forgotten lot.

Erukulas, marked in the Scheduled Tribe category, hail from the Mahbubnagar district, and have been living on the footpath beside the legendary Musi for over 30 years now.

They migrated to Hyderabad as they had few buyers for their products in their home district. Basket weaving has been the traditional occupation of the Erukulas since the time of their ancestors.

Basket weaving is no less a craft by itself, requiring a certain deftness to weave the palm-leaves/ reed itakalu into a strong basket, used for carrying vegetables, fish, fruits and so on. Sinu, one of the younger Erukulas said they fetched the itakalu from Kurnool, Warangal, Anantapur and such areas, in bulk.

Parvatalu, a senior man, says, “So many people have taken photographs and left, ministers, collectors come and go, but our lives have not changed.”

As for education, all of them are illiterate, but Parvatalu says, “Our education is basket-weaving.” Muttaiah, their headman, says, “We are carrying on because this is our traditional occupation. When things are good we get to save about 30 rupees per day. We make enough to eat a good meal at the end of the day.”

The vegetable, fruit and fish market buys their produce in bulk, at rupees 10-20 per basket. Each basket is made in roughly an hour’s time, and they begin at 6am and work till 9.30pm.

All of them say the Rythubazars, and other schemes of the government are not for the Erukulas. “The Girijans and other castes have concessions, schemes, but we have nothing,” says Muttaiah. Added to this is the persistent conflict with the municipal authorities, who threaten to evict them.

According to Sinu, there are newer struggles everyday. “With plastics coming in, people prefer plastic baskets to ours. If we had a special market, and the government gave us some land of our own, we would fare better.” “Governments have come and gone but we have been on footpaths,” says Parvatalu.

With the Tourism Ministry busy selling the heritage of AP, perhaps a closer look at these tribal basket weavers is needed, to incorporate them in schemes, and market their produce, which is also an important part of tradition in crafts.

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Referred by: Mukundan CM
Published on: May 21, 2001
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