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Objecting to the naming of a government school as “Harijanvas Prathmik Shala” in Dhima village under Vav taluka in Gujarat’s Banaskantha district, a city-based NGO sent a written complaint to the minister of social justice and empowerment Ramanlal Vora Tuesday. Seeking action against the officials for naming the school against the state government’s notification of January 12,1999 — which does not permit reference to persons of scheduled caste as “harijan” and scheduled tribe as “girijan” — the NGO, Navsarjan, has complained to the minister as well as concerned officials of the social justice and empowerment department and asked for immediate withdrawal of the school’s name.
Following protest letter, the school was named after Dr BR Ambedkar.
The Gujarat government has refused to part with any information regarding official review of the state’s reservation policy towards Dalits, Adivasis and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) between 2001 and 2015. Kirit Rathod of Navsarjan Trust, in an RTI plea, had sought “agenda and minutes of the meetings, which may have taken place for reviewing the quota policy under the chairmanship of the chief minister at district, departmental, ministerial, or chief ministerial level.”Addressed to the general administration department (GAD) of the Gujarat government, responsible for personnel issues, Rathod’s application was transferred to two separate departments for a reply – social justice and empowerment and tribal development. Rathod says, the public information officer (PIO) of the tribal development department, Narendra Vaghela, in a “shocking” reply told him that since reservation is a “policy issue, it does not deal with it.”
In Dharmaj, known as Gujarat’s “village of NRIs” with a whopping Rs 1,000 crore of deposits in its banks, the dalit falia (quarter) wears a deserted look. Only 24 of 274 dalit families have remained in the village. The reason for the mass absence they claim, is that they were being intimidated by the dominant Patidar community , for trying to exercise their right to vote for local body polls held on November 29.
Close to the 65th death anniversary of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar on December 6, the dalits of Dharmaj village alleged that they were barred from exercising their constitutional right. The dalit quarter, which earlier had a population of about 1,500, had few houses open and almost none dared to talk about what happened between November 23 and 29.
Dina Rohit, a worker of the NGO Navsarjan, says atrocities on dalits are common here. “They don’t speak out as they fear losing daily-wage work on the tobacco farms of Patels. Even if a dalit farmer has land, he would grow tobacco and that trade is also dominated by Patels. So they fear harassment by way of blocked payments,” she says.
A well-represented Dalit advocacy delegation from Nepal, visiting India to take stock of the type of laws made in the country and how they are being implemented to “safeguard” Dalit rights, has alleged that the new draft Nepalese constitution has “failed” to take a serious view abolition of the dreaded haliya system of bonded labour, prevailing in large parts of the country. Majority of haliyas are Dalits and are landless, the delegation members said during an interaction at the Navsarjan Trust office in Ahmedabad. The delegation — visiting Delhi and Ahmedabad — had come to Gujarat in order to gather facts on how to insert outstanding issues relating to Dalits while framing of the new constitution. Several members of the delegation claimed to be close to the committee finalizing details of the Nepalese constitution.
A decade-long experiment, taking shape 100 kilometres from Ahmedabad, halfway to Rajkot, the business hub of Saurashtra region of Gujarat, appears have largely gone unnoticed. Just next to the National Highway 8A, not very far from the sleepy Katariya village, the premier Dalit rights NGO of Gujarat, Navsarjan Trust, is running a higher primary school, for classes 5 to 8, seeking to turn it into a “model” for other schools to follow. It is one of the three schools run by Navsarjan — the other two being near the Rayka village in Ahmedabad district and Sami village in Patan district.