A meeting on the Annihilation of Caste took place with the participation of a few scholars and activists, including Daniel Edwin, GaganSethi, Ghanshyam Shah, Manas Jena, Manjula Pradeep, Meenakshi Ganguly, Meera Velayudhan, Prasad Chacko, Priyadarshi Telang, and Rajiv Shah. Stressing on moving from caste based discrimination to annihilation of caste, taking cue from the famous treatise of Dr BR Ambedkar, the meeting began with a note of concern that Dalit identity is getting diluted because of overt concentration of entitlements based on reservation to those who have been identified officially as scheduled castes. While not denying the importance of reservation as a means to empower certain sections of Dalits who are above than other Dalit sub-castes, the meeting believed that there is a need to go beyond reservation, violence and discrimination, towards an approach that takes into account the aim of complete demolition of the caste system, as it exists in India as also in other South Asian countries. A well-planned strategy should be worked out by identifying important factors that keep the caste system alive, keeping in mind both short-term and long-term goals.
In a sharp rebuttal to the Gujarat government’s dogged refusal to admit the prevalence of manual scavenging in the state, the Safai Kamdar Hak Rakshak Samiti, Surendranagar, which is supported by the Navsarjan Trust, has come up with documentary evidence to demand the the despicable practice, which Mahatma Gandhi called “shame of the nation.” Releasing photographs showing existence of manual scavenging under Dudhrej municipality, has demanded from the district collector, Surendranagar, to take “urgent steps to stop the practice and employ them in respectable jobs.” The statement said, “Even today, 66 years after Independence, the municipality has manual scavengers who are forced to manually clean up human excreta at several public places. This is disgraceful. The municipality officials who force the workers to do this should be punished.” For three weeks, the manual scavengers, not even paid minimum wages, were on warpath against local authorities, who have retaliated by sacking some workers.
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A study by Navsarjan Trust has found that majority of widows who were unable to get any job following their husbands’ death, may not be receiving any pension, despite Gujarat government directions on this. Based a focus group discussion (FGD) with tens of widows belonging to 16 villages of Patdi taluka, Surendranagar district, the study says that many of them have not received pension though they applied for it in accordance with a government resolution of 2012. It also found that a few women didn’t apply for pension because, though eligible, they were unaware of any scheme. This is in sharp contrast to Gujarat’s woman and child department claim that it is “sensitive towards women of 18-40 years, who have lost their husbands and initiates policy for their empowerment and economic living condition.”
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A survey by Navsarjan Trust has revealed that despite Gujarat government claims of one of the best infrastructure facilities compared to rest of India’s schools, things have failed to improve in remote and backward villages. In a representation handed over to the district education officer, the Baal Adhikar Suraksha Samiti, a local NGO working for child rights, has revealed, quoting the survey, how in several of the primary schools there are no separate toilets for girls, there is lack of basic seating facilities for children from classes 1 to 4, and computers, though installed, are not in use. Carried out in villages of eight talukas of Surendranagar district, the survey suggests how things have not improved despite state-sponsored child education drive in order to improve quality of education.
With summer at its height, and increasing number of villages facing water shortage in Gujarat, facts have come to light which suggest that backward communities, particularly the Dalits, have once again begun to face the brunt of the shortage. In a letter written to Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel, Kirit Rathod, programme director, Navsarjan Trust, said that in village Samosar, tuluka Muli, district Surendranagar, 90 families of the Dalit community “face extreme discrimination” at the hands of dominant caste persons, controlling village local body, in the distribution of drinking water. Asking the chief minister to “immediately act”, Rathod said, “Currently, water is being supplied to the Samosar village from the nearby Umarda village panchayat, However, as for the distribution of water, it is the job of the Samosar village panchayat, which is where all the mischief is done.”