'Caste bias marred quake relief'
A FULL five months after the January 26 quake in Gujarat, a study has revealed that Dalits, minorities and other backward castes have been given a raw deal during the relief operations.
A joint study by the Delhi-based Indian Social Institute (ISI) and an Ahmedabad-based NGO, Behavioural Science Centre (BSC) among marginalised communities in worst-hit areas has confirmed allegations of discrimination on the basis of caste during the relief work. This had earlier been dubbed as motivated media propaganda by the administration.
Even as the dead were extricated from under the debris, disturbing reports had begun pouring in about the discrimination during relief distribution. Many social workers and NGOs had alleged that minorities in far-flung areas were being asked to chant Jai Sri Ram before receiving relief. Even where relief had reached, upper castes and Rajputs were given priority over Dalits and minorities, social workers had pointed out.
Excerpts of the ISI-BSC study, released here on Tuesday evening, confirm that most members of marginalised communities received inadequate or no aid from the governmental agencies. The team made a random survey of 600 houses of Dalits, Adivasis and minorities in 30 of the 223 worst-affected villages in Bhuj, Bachau, Anjar and Rapar talukas of Kutch. The overall perception was that only a trickle had reached to the Dalits and minorities.
More than 80 per cent people surveyed said they had received no aid from the government.
"In terms of social discrimination, it is obvious that the two talukas of Rapar and Anjar having the highest population of STs and SCs were completely neglected by the government," the study observes in its chapter on 'Perceptions on Relief'.
Commenting on urban bias in relief distribution, the study found out that more than half the respondents felt they did not get adequate relief as they lived in rural areas. The study also found that more than half of the SC and minority respondents in Anjar and over 40 per cent ST respondents in Bhuj were against the government's rehabilitation policy, while most respondents (about 85 per cent) in Rapar and Bachau fond it mediocre.
None of the SC-ST respondents in Rapar and Bachau and minorities in Anjar received any aid from the government, the report observed. One Babubhai K. Vaghela, a resident of the devastated Adhoi village, narrated how the Gram Sabha resolution on relocation of their village was scuttled as the upper castes refused to forego land.
As the ISI-BSC study was a statistical venture, it did not include specific instances like that of a minister asking the district police chief to stop distribution till RSS workers arrived on the scene, as happened in Dasada in Surendranagar district. Even during VIP trips to affected areas, state ministers visited localities of upper castes and did not even inquire about well-being of Dalits and minorities, alleged social workers.