Grain banks prove a boon for Dalits

PATNA: About 150 Grain banks being run in Patna, Bhojpur, Gaya, Jamui and Saharsa districts by Dalit women have come as a great relief for Musahar and other poor families. 

Fed up with hunger and poverty, around 2,000 Musahar Dalit women had set up Grain banks in 2002 in about 60 villages under Paliganj subdivision comprising Paliganj and Bikram blocks in Patna district. These banks, which provide grains on loan to needy Dalit families, have proved a boon for the poor and destitute families of the region, who had to hitherto depend on rich farmers and moneylenders in times of crises. Later, such banks were opened in Bhojpur, Gaya, Saharsa and Jamui districts.

Not only has the move helped the Dalit families to overcome hunger, it has also instilled self-confidence among them. It has rid them of high interest rate on loan besides encouraging the savings culture. 

Says Sudami Devi of Maner Telpa village under Bikram block in Patna district, "Earlier, we were forced to live in penury as we did not get enough wages as farm labourers. We were left to the mercy of rich farmers for sustenance. Now, we get grains at low interest rates from these banks," she said. 

Jirmania Devi of Paliganj block said, "These banks meet the needs of around 35 Musahar villages in Paliganj, with nearly 400 Musahar families benefiting." 

"Exploitation led to establishment of these Grain banks as Musahars and other landless agricultural labourers were exploited by landlords and not given their due wages, " said Pradeep Priyadarshi of Pragati Gramin Vikas Samiti, who was the man behind this initiative of Grain banks. 

"For a day's labour, we used to get one kg of grain, which sometimes went down to half-a-kg on the excuse of having been adjusted against pending loans. This encouraged us to set up the Grain banks," said a village woman, who refused to disclose her identity. "We were also humiliated on failing to return the borrowed foodgrain," 

Starting with an initial stock of 55kg of grain in 2002, the bank today has 1,560kg of rice as capital, said Punam Devi, one of the 26 members of the village samiti in Maner Telpa. The family borrowing wheat and rice has to pay one kg grain as interest for every five kilogram of grain, said Sudami Devi, the bank's secretary at Maner Telpa village. The banks do not charge interest from extremely poor women. Besides, they also donate foodgrains to families free of cost in the event of any death or physical disability. 

When contacted, food and consumer protection minister Shyam Rajak said, "The government is willing to provide help to such groups financially as well as in developing infrastructure. We would provide all possible help to them." 

Courtesy: TOI, June/15/11

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‘The Hague Declaration on the Human Rights and Dignity of Dalit Women’

The Hague, 21 November 2006


WE, the participants of the Hague Conference on Dalit Women’s Rights, held in The Hague on 20 and 21 November 2006, after deliberating upon the issues of discrimination, violence and impunity against Dalit women, adopt this Declaration on the Human Rights and Dignity of Dalit Women.

In South Asia – that is, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka – Dalits have endured discrimination based on work and descent for centuries, and this discrimination continues today. The Dalits – known as ‘untouchables’ or outcastes – number around two hundred and sixty million people in South Asia. On account of their caste, they experience discrimination, social exclusion and violence on a daily basis. Although economic growth in the region has been strong over the past decade, caste disparities remain and are in fact increasing. The situation of Dalit women in these countries needs urgent and special attention. They constitute one of the largest socially segregated groups anywhere in the world and face systemic and structural discrimination thrice over: as Dalits, as women, and as poor Systemic Discrimination, Violence and Impunity.

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The Status of Dalit Women in India’s Caste Based System

by Sonia Mahey, University of Alberta

In this paper I wish to present the devastating effects of the caste system on the educational, social, and economical status of Dalit women in modern India. My aim is to highlight the harsh reality of the suppression, struggle and torture Dalit women face every day of their miserable lives. The hardships of Dalit women are not simply due to their poverty, economical status, or lack of education, but are a direct result of the severe exploitation and suppression by the upper classes, which is legitimized by Hindu religious scriptures (Thind n.pag; Agarwal n.pag).

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There is a general perception that Adivasi women enjoy greater equality because tribal society is less patriarchal. The reality, however, is very different. Take the situation of Bhil tribal, Ramanbai, of Chandupura village in Madhya Pradesh's Khargone district. She says, "I am suffering from piles and the doctor at Sanawad has told me that I will have to get myself operated. Yet, my husband is refusing to part with the money." 

Kesarbai of the neighboring Okhla village also has problems. "I already have three daughters and don't want any more children, but my husband is insistent on a son. When he gets drunk he does not listen to any reason. If I resist him, he accuses me of being involved with another man." 

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A Study on Dalit Women Movement in Tamilnadu

by Dr. R. Sivakumar 

Even as we are in the 21st century, caste discrimination, an age- old practice that dehumanizes and perpetuates a cruel form of discrimination continues to be practiced. India where the practice is rampant despite the existence of a legislation to stop this, 160 million Dalits of which 49.96 percentage are women continue to suffer discrimination. The discrimination that Dalit women are subjected to is similar to racial discrimination. Dalit women are thrice discriminated, treated as untouchables and as outcaste, due to their caste, face gender discrimination being women and finally economic impoverishment due to unequal wage disparity, with low or underpaid labour. According to the Manusmiriti, women have no right to education, independence, or wealth. It not only justifies the treatment of dalit women as a sex object and promotes child marriage. Manusmiriti also promoted inequality between men and women. As other parts of country in Tamil Nadu also Dalit women are facing challenges because of their caste and gender discrimination. So, in order to improve and get due respect of Dalit women, the various womenâ??s forum and organization started as Dalit women movement to protect their rights.

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