Upgrade Dalit colonies into Gram Panchayats, demands Dalit organisation

"This demand is not a new one. Dr BR Amebdkar argued for separate settlements before different commissions."
A village in Nizamabad district in northern Telangana
A village in Nizamabad district in northern Telangana
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Dravida Bahujana Samiti (DBS) an organisation working for social development of Dalits, has come up with a demand for a separate Gram Panchayat for Dalits in Telangana 's villages. Most villages are segregated along caste lines across India, and Dalit 'colonies' are situated separately from households of other castes. These colonies should be upgraded into Panchayats, the group has demanded.

The organisation led by Jilukara Srinivas, a senior activist, in its general body meeting held at Hanamkonda of Warangal has resolved to work towards achieving separate Gram Panchayats for Dalit colonies in Telangana.

Telangana state government formed 4,383 new Gram Panchayat's in 2018; at the time 1,177 tribal hamlets were also upgraded into Gram Panchayats, giving access to self governance in these hamlets. The state currently has over 12,700 Gram Panchayats. In Telangana, Dalits comprise over 15.45% of the state population, and a majority reside in villages or rural areas.

Speaking to TNM, Jilukara Srinivas said that the idea behind the demand is for development of Dalit colonies which are still struggling in backwardness. 

Srinivas said, "This demand is not a new one. Dr BR Amebdkar argued for separate settlements before different commissions. In 2018, over 1,000 Tribal hamlets were upgraded to Panchayats as per the Panchayat Raj Act 2018. We are demanding separate Panchayats for Dalits on the same lines."

He added, "Neither is the village development reaching us, nor  are we being made part of it. Government should convert Dalit colonies with 300 or more population into Gram Panchayat for the all-round development of Dalits. Currently, Dalit Sarpanches are still not in a position to sit in the offices owing to discrimination."

He further stated that the separate Gram Panchayat for Dalit colonies will also end physical violence against Dalits and bring peace to villages as there will be no confrontation among communities.

However, the demand is not going down well with a section of Dalit activists who say that it will create a hindrance to the political development of Dalits.

Observers and political scientists however say this would certainly make way for indepndent development of Dalit colonies, just like the tribal hamlets. Dr Sudarshan Balaboyina, Assistant Professor in Political Science at Osmania University  said this is a 'justifiable and viable' demand.

Sudarshan said, "An educated generation which grew up seeing the exclusion of Dalits from development now want separate Gram Panchayats for the development of their colonies. But it may see opposition from within."

He further said, "Development in this country has always been flowing from top to bottom. This applies to a village as well; any development project or scheme in a Gram Panchayat reaches Dalits only after every other community receives it."

The professor further observed that the people in Tribal hamlets which were upgraded as Gram Panchayats are living and developing independently. 

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