A Letter: Condition of Balmikis

23Oct07

Dr Buta Singh,

Chairman,

National Commission for Scheduled Castes,

Lok Nayak Bhavan,

Khan Market

New Delhi                                                                                October 23rd, 2007

Re: Urgent appeal to save the five Balmiki families of Dogadda Garhwal (Uttarakhand) from eviction from Balmiki Busttee by the Nagarpalika.

Sir,

We would like to bring to your notice the fear of displacement lurking over the head of nearly 12 Balmiki families in the town of Dogadda Garhwal (Uttarakhand). Though notices have gone to five of them yet at the moment the entire bustee fear police action as well as manipulation by different political outfits, which term them encroachers. These families had settled many years back (over 50 years) in the state of Uttarakhand and were working in the Nagar-Palika, Dogadda as sweeper. Many of them worked as manual scavengers in the private houses, a practice which is still prevalent in many parts of Uttarakhand despite loud claims of total prohibition.

We, in the social Development Foundation, Delhi have been working on the issue of the rights of the Dalits particularly manual scavengers and would be bringing out a status paper on the condition of Balmiki community in Uttarakhand and Uttar-Pradesh next year.

 

At the moment, this urgent call comes to you as the Nagar Palika of Dogadda Garhwal has given notices to five families to vacate their houses, which were given to them in the Balmiki Mohalla. Some of them have retired from the municipality but still live in the mohalla. The Balmikis in the Uttarakhand are immigrants and are virtually landless and shelter less community. It virtually has no socio-cultural linkage with the local communities yet it served them unhesitatingly and in total subjugation for the past fifty odd years. Yet after serving the people of the state and towns for past so many years today they are thrown away, unwanted and uncared for. Their condition is pathetic and the state has shown no sympathy towards their welfare. It is clear that their economic condition is not such which can allow them to rent out a house elsewhere. Secondly, it is impossible for them to get a house on rent in the otherwise upper caste dominated Uttarakhand state.

No political party raises their issue for the fear of offending the upper castes. It is tragic that the issues of Dalit’s right have become politicized in a very negative way. While Dalit rights campaign were aggressive everywhere it remain mute in the Himalayan states of Uttarkhand and Himachal Pradesh.

This Nagar Palika orders comes in wake of an instruction from the Directorate of Urban Development, ( Uttarakhand), Dehradun dated September 19 th, 2007. This order refer to Supreme Court petition no 4064/2004, S.D.Bandi verses Divisional State Officer ( a copy of the priority of the directorate is being enclosed herewith), asking state to vacate those houses where people are over staying. These include government accommodations, public sector, local government bodies etc. Now to put the sweepers in the same category with that of a bureaucrat or a Babu is not only condemnable but must be questioned. Asking the sweepers that they are overstaying in a one room semi-constructed Balmiki locality shows the mindset that works to put the Dalits on the defensive. Rather than feeling apologetic that the state and the Nagarpalikas have shamelessly not done anything to rehabilitate the Balmikis, the state here is forcing them out to live in the streets. At the time when there will be severe cold waves in the hills, the state’s action amount to violate right to life and right to live with dignity and must be resisted at all cost.

I would also like to add here none of the Dalit landless have been granted land for housing in Dogadda and these Balmikis were living their on the bank of river Khoh in complete isolation. Nobody visit them, their socio-economic profile is of deep misery. They live on the mercy of the upper castes and there is no awareness among them as at the moment their first struggle is of survival.

It is also ironical that at the moment only 9 permanent staff is working in the municipality while several years back their number was 12.   They work on sever and cleaning the Nalis. Only one woman has got a job in the municipality.  There are 5 persons working on contract with a salary of Rs 2,100/- while the two persons appointed by local Samiti are being paid rupees one thousand five hundred per month. When women do not job at the municipality they simply work in the private houses to clean nightsoil, a practice still active and not visible because of the threat to those who expose it.

Following are the retired sweepers who have got notice to vacate their houses and who have nowhere to go.

1.       Shankar,

2.       Ramdayal

3.       Chandrodevi

4.       Gurudeva

5.       Sunehari

At the moment, following are the people who are working as ‘regular’ employees in the Nagar Palika

1.       Ramnath

2.       Chandrapal

3.       Gopalram

4.       Ratan

5.       Rajpal

6.       Saroj Devi

7.       Shambhu

8.       Kumar

9.       Vir Singh

Those who are working on contract are following

1.       Sanju

2.       Subodh

3.       Raju

4.       Prakash

5.       Virendra

Those who are appointed by the local Samiti are following

1.       Rakesh

2.       Kamal

Ironically, like any other municipality in Uttarkhand and Uttar-Pradesh, the nagar palika here also has not given salaries to its sweeper for the past 7 months. What does it expect them to do? Not even go for strike and ask their fundamental right. While it is claimed that carrying night soil is prohibited, we would like to challenge that. Even in the so-called flush latrines would have to be cleaned annually or biennially, as there is no sever in real sense. For cleaning you only need Balmiki boys. While men can get a job with the municipality the female still do ‘private’ work. Most of those who have retired have not got their dues from municipality. Shankar, Chandrodevi, Gurudeva, Tarawati , Ramdayal and Sumarati. These dues includes pension, gratuity, GPF etc.

Most of the scavenger community people are not in a position to buy land. They claim that the area where they are living at the moment were allotted to them in 1964-65 by the ‘ Samaj Kalyan vibhag’ and that they were given these rooms as a contribution by the department. In fact, this reflect in the letter of Mrs Saroj Rana on July 29 th, 2007 to CEO of the Nagarpalika in which she has asked the Nagarpalika to provide her the list of people living in the Balmiki Bastee and who are the allottees.

It seems that the officials and political leaders of the Nagarpalika are manipulating the entire incident to pressurize the sweepers to leave the place and do not ask for their legitimate rights. As Gurudewa, a former sweeper in the Nagarpalika writes in his letter to Chief Executive Officer of the Nagarpalika that his father started working in the municipality since 1947-48 and that he too got involved in the Nagar Palika work since 1958. He has not got anything from pension to gratuity from the Nagarpalika. Their children were born here in this town and now they are being forced to leave this place. One does not know where they will be thrown away. This is the best gift by the bureaucrats and upper castes officers can give to the Dalits in a state where they live in complete subjugation and isolation.

I would be grateful if the Scheduled Caste Commission take note of it and ask the Nagarpalika not to get the houses of the Balmikis vacated without providing them a suitable alternative. Tomorrow is the last date of notice and the Nagarpalika threaten them with police action.

Thank you,

Yours Sincerely,

For Social Development Foundation,

Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Director

Enclosed :

      1.   G.O. from the Director, Directorate Urban Development,

Letter of Eviction to Mrs Chandro and  Shankar,
Letters by Gurudeva and Chandro
Letter from District Samaj Kalyan Adhikari claiming that the houses were allotted to Balmikis by the nagarpalika.



One Response to “A Letter: Condition of Balmikis”


  1. 1 Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist-Maoist » Blog Archive » A Letter: Condition of Balmikis

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