Segregation, denial of access to water, its a tough life for Dalits.

Education no bar In this Telangana village a dalit graduate still cleans drains
news Caste Friday, November 18, 2016 - 20:41

It has been five years since 42-year-old Malanbi’s son took up his deceased father’s work in an enforced hereditary capacity. A dalit to clean the village drains.

“My husband and another man from our community used to take care of the sanitation work in the village. After my husband’s death, my son had to take it up even though he is a graduate,” says Malanbi, a resident of Kharamungi village in Telangana’s Sangareddy district. Kharamungi is 66km away from the district headquarters and Malanbi and her family lives in a mud house.

Malanbi isn’t sure of which subject her son Venkata’s degree is in, she thinks it is a BA. His meagre salary of Rs 3000 isn’t enough to meet their household expenses. “Initially he stopped eating because he also had to clean the drains, but now he has accepted the work,” she says.

It isn’t just her son who has had to face casteist discrimination in the village. Once, when she took her brother’s daughter with her to work, the child touched food kept in a container. Malanbi did not notice as she was busy cleaning the house.

“They shouted at her and me, saying they couldn’t eat the food because it had become impure,” Malanbi says.

Malanbi narrates these stories sitting on the floor in an open shed at the Zila Parishad High School while cleaning the rice for the mid-day meal. She has been doing odd jobs at the school kitchen without being paid for it.

She recently took a loan from a money lender in the village at exorbitant interest rates. For the past six months, she has been unable to pay the interest.

“I work in his house to pay back the money, after cooking the mid-day meal,” she said.

She says that this is the case with most Dalits living in the village. Not only do they live in segregated areas, they have no choice but to rely on the upper caste village for everything from their work to their loans. If they fail to repay the loans, they usually end up working in the money lenders’ houses.

Chandramma, the head of a self-help group in the village says, “I am scared of even speaking in front of those bade sahab (the upper caste). If I say anything against them they won’t lend me money next time.”

Other areas of their lives are also regulated by caste. Malanbi says that the 44 Dalits families of the village are not allowed to use the borewell water as it is located on the side of the village where the upper castes live. Dalits aren’t allowed to go there, and the upper caste people do not come to this side of the village.

A gram panchayat member says that the segregation has been practiced for years they can’t do anything about it.

“They eat beef and have very poor sanitation. How can we expect them (upper caste) to stay next to these people?” said a panchayat member.

“We don’t have anybody to speak for us or fight for our basic rights to water and shelter. May be this is all happening because we were born in this community, this our fate,” Malanbi said.

 

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