Quake fails to make society raise above caste:

Adoption ads. Read like matrimonial ones
Bharat Desai

Ahmedabad : Caste is casting its shadow over the long-term rehabilitation of the quake survivors. Not only are families coming forth to adopt a boy or a girl of a particular caste, but officials say they are facing problems with rehabilitation of affected villages at one location because persons belonging to different castes would not like to stay in a community.

Sample some of these proposals received by the government from childless couples and other families who would like to adopt a boy or a girl orphaned by the disaster.

Some of these proposals sound strangely like matrimonial ads: “Preferred, a Patel boy in the age group of 1 to 2 years,” says one. Another proposal from a Navarangpura couple who have four daughters states: “Boy up to 2 years, preferably Jain.” Similar preferences have been made for Brahmin boys.

Officials say it is striking that “while all caste-based preferences have come from upper caste families, none of the families which want to adopt a girl have indicated caste preferences”.

However, the official co-ordinating the efforts for adoption, S. K. Nanda, claims “those who have given caste preferences are only a handful”.

But when The Times of India made inquiries from some Ahmedabad families, which have not put down these preferences on paper, many did admit they would prefer the orphan to be from their own caste.

“It would not have mattered so much to us, but the child will get greater acceptance in our extended family and community if he is of our caste,” explains a man who has two daughters and wants to adopt a boy. He did not want to be identified.

The state government is now favourably inclined towards handing over these orphans to institutions which have proposed to set up rehabilitation centres in and around Kutch rather than allowing families which stay in far off places in Gujarat or other states.

“This way it will be easy for us to monitor the progress and well-being of the orphans. May be these centres could be integrated with homes for orphans as well as old women so that there is a family atmosphere,” explains an official.

The caste factor is also hampering the government’s plans to build news villages at relocated sites. While officials are not ready to discuss the issue openly, NGOs wanting to adopt some of the badly affected villages admit to the problem.

Says Vivek Jivan Swamy of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sansatha: “we are carrying out a detailed survey in about 15-20 villages where we would like to be part of the rebuilding activity. We find that caste is a very sensitive issue in some areas. While deciding the layout of these sites, we will have to bear that in mind”.

An official co-ordinating relief activities in Bhuj remarks: “from the interactions we have had with various village communities, it is clear that people of a particular caste would prefer to stay in a cluster of houses, like they used to in their villages.”

The official opines the new villages would have to be planned that way “simply because people are more comfortable living with their kith and kin”.

Source:“Times of India” (B’lore Edn)
Referred by:Mukundan M
Published on: February 20, 2001
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