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Hyderabad Nov. 5: The Andhra Pradesh Scheduled Tribes Employees Association has termed the Chief Minister's campaign against untouchability as a gimmick and challenged him to take action against senior IAS and IPS officers who misused their power to obtain bogus caste certificates.
Addressing a press conference on Monday, chairman of the Scheduled Tribe Employees Association K Ranga Rao said the real fight against untouchability is to stop illegal methods of issuing bogus caste certificates to members of upper castes.
"Majority of people who obtain caste certificates are those from upper class. The real poor and backward people are not getting a chance due to illegal certificate holders," the chairman of the Scheduled Tribe Employees Association said.
He demanded that the Chief Minister take criminal action against R P Banjdev, Telugu Desam MLA from Salur constituency in Vijayanagaram who got elected in the reserved category ticket.
"Banjdev belongs to Rajput family which comes under upper caste. He obtained a bogus caste certificate with the help of local contacts," said Rao.
He also said that a number of officials in government service are working hand in glove to issue bogus caste certificates to their kith and kin.
The campaign against untouchability is mere hogwash only to hoodwink the backward classes. It is an attempt to divert the attention of the people from the main issues be it high power tariff, RTC and doctors agitation, he said.
The caste discrimination is deep-rooted in this country and mere dropping of surnames will not bring about any change, he said.
CM remarks on atrocities triggers row
Hyderabad, Nov. 5: The Committee Against Caste Discrimination criticised the Chief Minister for his remarks that no action would be taken against those who committed atrocities on backward classes.
Committee president P Ramaiah said though there had been many cases of discrimination against the SC and the STs, the State government had never booked the perpetrators.
The committee demanded that the government take action against those who opposed the entry of Dalits in temples. It also wanted the government to take up an extensive campaign against untouchability in the forthcoming Janmabhoomi in January.
The Dalits who had been subjected to discrimination should be provided free ration, the committee president added.
Dalits vulnerable to attacks in 12 districts
Cuddapah, Nov. 5: The State government has identified 12 districts where Dalit and other weaker sections are reported to be vulnerable to atrocities and attacks by the upper caste people.
According to official sources, the government, in its efforts to curb the growing incidence of violence against the oppressed sections of the society, the government has ordered the Joint Collectors of these 12 districts to act as special officers to monitor and take adequate measures to reverse the situation.
The government has identified Prakasam, Guntur, West Godavari, Nellore, Vijayawada, Kurnool, Cuddapah, Mahbubnagar, Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Khammam and Adilabad districts as places where the incidence of atrocities on Dalits and weaker sections are on the rise.
The government expects the respective Joint Collectors to act as special officers and remain alert to any kind of crime being perpetrated against the oppressed sections.
The task of the district officials would be to personally visit the place from where reports of caste-based conflicts or discrimination emanated and initiate stringent action against the culprits besides instilling confidence in the victims.
Their role would also include finding a solution to the long-standing land disputes between the Dalit sections and upper castes in villages and distribution of government land to the eligible.
They would also act as a link between the district Collectors, superintendents of police and the Dalit victims in order to ensure speedy redressal of their grievances.
The special officers were also expected to organise regular mandal-level meetings on campaign against untouchability every month besides taking note of the common problems being faced by the Dalits in the rural areas.
However, there are apprehensions over this new set-up since the same format was also followed earlier with district Collectors at the helm, but with little or no success.
The Collectors, burdened with all kind of work, had little time to organise periodical meets to review the progress of schemes meant for the welfare of Dalits. It remains to be seen how far the new set-up would be effective.
DSS threatens protest
The Karnataka State Dalit Sangharsh Samithi (DSS) has threatened to launch a state-wide agitation if the 250 engineers belonging to Scheduled Tribe are not promoted within a fortnight. The organising secretary of the Samithi Mavalli Shankar has alleged that the engineers were demoted by the state government.
Speaking at a press conference here on Sunday, he said that the government claims to have demoted the engineers based on a Supreme Court order. But he added that back log vacancies have not been filled up on a regular basis since 1978. He wanted the government to implement the Sabarwal verdict. He said that dharnas had been held in front of the hosues of the Chief Minister, Home Minister and the Law Minister.
Mr Shankar said that the Congress government in the state was talking in terms of information technology, but the condition of the Dalits in the state was depressing. The government was not according importance to the Dalits, he alleged and added that the government has failed in protecting the Dalits. Udupi taluk convenor of the DSS Jayan Malpe said that the Udupi deputy commissioner had shown neglect in the construction of the Ambedkar Bhavan in Udupi district. He said that if the deputy commissioner did not issue orders for the construction before December 6, they would launch a protest in front of the DC's office. He urged the government to include members of DSS in various samithis to identify beneficiaries of various schemes.
CPI(M) flays bid to prevent conversion rally
By Our Special Correspondent
NEW DELHI, NOV. 5. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) today criticised the Delhi Police for prohibiting a gathering organised on Sunday by the All-India Federation of SC/ST organisations and termed it as an ``undemocratic and authoritarian step''.
The CPI(M) politburo said in a statement that since the organisers had announced that a large number of people from the Scheduled Castes would embrace Buddhism, the BJP-led Government had instructed the Delhi Police to withdraw the permission given to the rally.
The party noted that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad had levelled a baseless allegation that the rally was meant for converting the people to Christianity. ``It is shocking that the police have echoed this false allegation, citing some website abroad to deny permission.''
It was equally critical of the ``dubious role'' of the National Commission for Minorities in lodging a complaint with the Home Ministry. ``It seems that the Commission does not recognise Buddhists as a minority in the country.''
The organisers held the meeting at a different venue, despite the obstacles put up by the police. ``Conversion to any religion voluntarily is a right given to citizens in the Constitution. For the BJP-led Government, it seems only conversions by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad are valid,'' it said.
The politburo appealed to all democratic and secular forces to take note of the ``blatantly biased approach'' of the Central Government and protest the violation of basic rights of people to decide for themselves which religion they wished to profess.
The Adivasis of Orissa
BIHAR IS generally considered the worst-off of India's States with little hope of things getting better. But Orissa cannot be considered in much better shape. The two are among the most backward of the States in terms of per capita income, literacy and any of the human development indices. Another common feature is that they have gained the most negative publicity - Bihar for caste violence and Orissa for starvation deaths.
Every year there is a hue and cry over starvation deaths in Orissa - in Kalahandi, Koraput and Bolangir. These Adivasi- dominated districts have long been known for endemic poverty. The latest addition to this list is Kashipur block of Rayagada district, from where there have also been reports of poverty- induced sale of children.
Kashipur was also in the news for another reason about 10 months back. Three Adivasis were killed in police firing. The tribals were protesting against t he mining of bauxite from this region and the setting up of industries, which they felt would adversely affect their livelihood.
Since 1992, the Adivasis have been protesting against the attempts by a consortium known as Utkal Alumina International Ltd (UAIL) to mine bauxite ore at Baphlimali and process all of it into ready-for-export alumina at a plant to be erected in the fertile valley at the foot of these hills. There have been several ups and downs in the struggle by the tribals to preserve their way of life against the onslaught of `civilisation'.
However, real attention to addressing the basic issues behind the Adivasis' plight has been lacking; ad hocism has been the rule.
Whenever incidents of starvation deaths are reported, Orissa's Adivasis are in the news. But public memory is short and once the initial hullaballoo dies down, things are back to square one. Follow-up action is rarely, if ever, taken up. Reports of diversion of relief supplies are legion. Year after year, reports of starvation deaths in Orissa are publicised. Earlier these were associated with the most backward Kalahandi district, but now we hear of them from the other areas as well. As the years go by the situation seems to be going from bad to worse. The politicians and the bureaucrats have been full of pious promises, but little else has been done.
In most of the cases, the Government of the day tries to cover up by saying the deaths were due to food poisoning caused by eating mango kernels or some other traditional food or drink.
It may be true that the Adivasis, who live in very primitive conditions, may not be able to maintain high standards of hygiene; but this is not the whole story. One needs to examine why they are driven to eat mango kernel. Even if for argument's sake one were to grant that mango kernels are a traditional delicacy, how can selling their children be passed off as a matter of the Adivasis' tradition or culture? What is needed is a close look at the general economic condition of the Adivasis.
Orissa is one of the most backward States. The data with regard to per capita income or expenditure released by the Government put this beyond doubt. But even among such a poor people, the Adivasis are the worst off. And it is important to find out why.
Data collected through a survey conducted in Orissa during April- May 2000 by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), New Delhi, highlight the factors that have worked to keep the Adivasis in Orissa on the fringes.
Nearly 66 per cent of them are illiterate, while another 32 per cent began schooling, but dropped out after only two-three years. Only two per cent managed to complete college education. This is a crucial factors that has stunted their progress. Education has its impact on the occupational structure. A higher level of education is the key to the higher echelons of the job market.
Since most of the Adivasis are illiterate, very few among them are employed in the services sector. A vast majority, nearly 38 per cent, is engaged in unskilled work. About 20 per cent work as agricultural labourers or are engaged in petty farming. But nearly 23 per cent are ``non-workers''. This implies that they do not get any work at all. Most of the time this is not because of an unwillingness to work but because of the lack of jobs.
None of the occupations mentioned above provide reasonable earnings, let alone a decent living. So the Adivasis remain poor. The CSDS survey confirms the Government figure that nearly 48 per cent of the people in Orissa live below the poverty line, but that is not all. Nearly 72 per cent of the Adivasis are below the poverty line. With the help of the survey we tried to classify the poor into two categories, very poor - those who have no means to spend beyond Rs. 300 rupees a month for all their needs - and those relatively less poor - who spend between Rs. 301 and Rs. 400 a month to meet all their requirements. The data reveals that while 28 per cent of the people in Orissa live the life of destitutes; among Adivasis, nearly fifty per cent are in this category. The economic condition of the Adivasis is more or less similar both in the tribal-dominated areas and in the rest of Orissa.
Nearly 86 per cent of the Adivasis survive on a family income of less than Rs. 600 a month to meet all their needs - 37 per cent survives on less than Rs. 300 a month, another 24 per cent spends between Rs. 301 and Rs. 400 a month, while 26 per cent spends Rs. 401-600 to meet all needs. This means many of them do not even have the money to buy subsidised grain on offer under the Public Distribution System.
The Adivasis have been living in such extreme poverty that they do not even have big expectations. More than half do not even desire more than Rs. 1,000 as monthly family income. Another 34 per cent desire a monthly family income of between Rs. 1,000 and 2000. But there are no employment generation schemes to meet even these very modest expectations.
The Adivasis' quality of life is naturally very poor. Nearly 93 per cent still use firewood as their primary source of cooking fuel; kerosene or liquified petroleum gas (LPG) is beyond their reach.
Also, only nine per cent of the Adivasis have access to electricity; 91 per cent depends only on kerosene for light once the sun sets. And of the nine per cent, most are those who moved out from rural settings to urban locations. Those who are moved to the cities and towns have not had it much better. They are still on the fringes of mainstream society.
This is the state of Orissa's Adivasis. Even after fifty years of independence, people die of hunger and starvation. Long-term programmes are needed for solving the endemic poverty of the tribals so that there are no more starvation deaths. Piecemeal efforts will not help.
(The writer is Associate Fellow, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi.)
NHRC notice on Dalit atrocities
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued a notice to the Junagadh district administration over reports of upper caste men forcing over 120 Dalits out of their hamlets in Khumdi village. Two reports in the Hindustan Times beginning July 25 this year had detailed the plight of these Dalits who were evicted from their houses and who got no help from the district administration.
The NHRC recently asked the Junagadh district collector to explain why the Dalits had to leave their homes and told to ensure that such incidents do not recur.
In June this year, upper caste Ahirs drove the Dalits, including women and children, out of their homes in Khumbdi village. These Dalits had camped outside the district collector's office for over a month.
The dispute was over a wasteland where the Dalits had cultivated crops. But the Ahirs said the land was reserved for their cattle to graze. The Dalits, Vankars, used a part of the 150-acre wasteland for cultivation.
Traditionally weavers, the Vankars had gone out of business due to competition from modern and automated textile mills. District Collector Sunaina Tomar confirmed that the NHRC had sent a notice and told the Hindustan Times that she had since sent her reply.
"The land in question is pasture land under the control of the village panchayat and thus cannot be given away to anyone," the District Collector said she wrote to the NHRC. The Collector said the dispute had been amicably settled and the Dalits had returned to their homes.
In another instance, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) has taken a serious view of an exclusive report in the Hindustan Times about a subtle campaign launched by certain Sangh Parivar outfits against Christians in Gujarat.
The IB headquarters in Delhi has asked their local counterparts to probe the contents of the HT report, published on October 16 this year. The report had said that the saffron brigade in Gujarat had been distributing pamphlets containing objectionable material denigrating Christ and Christianity.
Sleuths from the IB unit visited the Christian establishment here to find out if more such pamphlets were distributed, Bishop Stanislaus Fernandes of Ahmedabad Diocese said on Monday.