Untouchability in the Land of the Gods

The most alarming is the behaviour in the anganwadis (nurseries) in some villages…. The village folks don’t send their wards to the same anganwadi where SC children are admitted. If a cook at a centre is an SC, the general-category children are told by their parents not to consume the food

The  report on the assessment of social, political and economic status of mountain Dalits in the hill state of Himachal Pradesh points out that the caste-based discrimination is prominent in MNREGA, health schemes, at anganwadi centres and even schools where mid-day meal is served to children.

The report is based on the case studies from the remote villages carried out by the Rural Technology and Development Centre, Voluntary Action Group, Palampur, for the Centre for Mountain Dalit Rights in Himachal Pradesh (CMDRHP). “It’s the first such assessment on the situation of mountain Dalits. We have sent the report to National Human Rights Commission for intervention and action,” said Sukhdev Vishwapremi, convener of the CMDRHP at Palampur.

The assessment is based on field studies in 61 villages across 29 panchayats in 11 districts of the state and it points out that a mere 3.1 per cent of the respondents were aware of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act.

The report says that only 15.5 per cent of the respondents had benefitted from schemes run under Gandhi Kutir, Indira Awas Yojana, Rajiv Awas Yojana and Atal Awas Yojana. Seventy per cent of Dalits reported minimal medical facilities. Only 5.9 per cent of them said they had received assistance under Janani Suraksha Yojana. In contrast, the report highlights the case study of Bathri panchayat of Mandi, wherein the people refused to have their children immunized by a female health worker from Dalit community.

In MNREGA, only 15 per cent of the 60.2 per cent SCs enrolled got work within 15 days. “The most alarming is the behaviour in the anganwadis (nurseries) in some villages…. The village folks don’t send their wards to the same anganwadi where SC children are admitted. If a cook at a centre is an SC, the general-category children are told by their parents not to consume the food,” shared Vishwapremi. He said in some remote schools in Mandi and Rampur villages, children from the Dalit community are asked to sit at a distance from others when the mid-day meal is served.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken notice of this matter.

Published in the August 2013 issue of the Forward Press magazine

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