Thursday, July 4, 2013

An idea that changed lives

                  We have all, at some point of time in our lives, been miffed by the jokes on our community. Like every South Indian rolls his eyes at the stand up acts which ridicule the accent of Dravidians, like every Sikh boils at the "sardar" jokes and the list goes on. We hate to be stereotyped. As if that was not enough, we have constant reference to our traditional occupations. So what if my ancestors were potters,barbers, dancers or maybe even grass-cutters. We are way past the varna system that requires me to follow my father's profession. Correction! In that case I would have been just resigned to be at home being a female that I m.

                   If you thought the above points were ludicrous, just imagine being called a "habitual criminal" because of the community you belong to. Imagine never having a place to call home because you are born in a downtrodden nomadic tribe. It is the shocking reality of thousands of people in India. Sad but true.
                   I have lived in a place where these people were a regular sight to see.

           chaaku-chhuri wala, the man who came on cycle to sharpen knives and sickles
          bhandi-bartan wali, the woman who came to collect rags and old clothes and gave utensils in return.
          he boys who came with a whip and lashed themselves

                    These people never came more than once a year or maybe more. Where did they go? Except for the churi wala who had some sort of a regular base, the rest kept migrating. They carried their world around. How would their children ever go to school if they never stayed put at one place? How would they make a home? The next generations were destined to continue the nomadic life. We make a great hue and cry when we talk of reservations for these communities under the nomadic tribes but does the ear marking ever make a difference to such lives? Do they even know that they might get to study medicine under these reservations? Of course, they have to prove their family tree to avail of these rights and we all know they don't have a scrap of paper to even identify themselves!  Where do they bring their certificates from? For all you know, they haven't even been included in census!

                     Ration cards are not issued without a permanent address. Without a ration card you cannot get a voter card. I could not register for voter card because of my change in address which hadn't yet been made on my ration card. For a simple thing like that, I was denied and felt humiliated because I had every other document needed! I witnessed the crude way in which people in such positions talk. If it can happen to a well to do citizen in a metro, who would even entertain people who did not have any document. They are the nameless ones living throughout the country.

                     More heart wrenching is the plight of women forced into prostitution as the "traditional occupation". In the video link shared below, they say they never get married though everyone has a child and that's how the legacy continues. I don't know what else can be more disgracing!

                    I never knew there were communities called the "criminal tribes" during the British raj and they continued to be called "habituated criminals" in post-independence period. It is ridiculous to say the least. You stamp someone with a tag that he is a criminal without him ever doing a crime, then what do you expect them to become? It was a barbaric act to start with, but we turned a blind eye to their sufferings for decades. Even if the fresh blood in the community wants to surge ahead, they are pulled back by their past. They were made to register like criminals and pulled up for crimes that happened in that area. History sheeters by birth!

                   The situation looks depressing. Makes one wonder what is to happen to this country where millions are still struggling for the basics, thousands are trying to make a living and a few hundreds are exploiting the potential of this country. What can anyone do  in the face of the bureaucracy and red tape? What steps can one individual take for the betterment of such a vast problem? We think about it, feel sorry and carry on with our lives. We have our own battles to fight. We are the working class. This is how it is for the unfortunate ones and they have to suffer their karma. Until one young woman dared to change it.

                   Mittal Patel, a journalist from Gujarat, has been working with these communities closely and has succeeded in making them live with dignity. She started an NGO and her achievements are commendable.

She has helped these communities get lands allocated. Thousands of these people now have  a PERMANENT address.
She started tent schools to educate the young minds.
She organised marriages in the community where prostitution passed on as a tradition. Once a girl is married, she isn't pushed into flesh trade and that is her rescue!
She has helped them become self sufficient with new skills.
The denotified tribes are now given ids to not get them punished for crimes of their ancestors!

It is a long struggle ahead. IF one woman can make it happen with her sheer determination and courage, what could the government not do?

Watch the Video that inspired this post.

Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012.



Soumya said...

Wow! Nice to see that there are still some nice people around. That includes you too :)

Thamanna said...

some people testify through their consistent efforts that if there is a will, there is a way. Sunitha Krishnan, a rape victim is one such person who is now rehabilitating number of children from entering into the "traditional occupation" of prostitution. Hats off to such efforts. Thanks for sharing this. :)

Anita Jeyan Sandeep said...

Wow that is an awesome initiative. And kudos to her. Permanent Address is earned and for these people it is an achievement although we've been taking it for granted across generations. Let us not bring the goverment into this and spoil it :-)

Anonymous said...

all the best for the contest :) Technology News