Children in India, especially girl children, have been identified as one of the most vulnerable sections of society. In the Indian caste system the Dalits are continually victimised by means of exploitation, violence and discrimination and the Dalit girl children become even more vulnerable due to their triple identity of Dalit, child and girl. Despite all efforts the situation of the dalit girl child remains pathetic. The 1990 World Conference on Education for All and the subsequent declarations were not effectively implemented in the country.
Hence, DSS decided to launch a campaign to win community support to improve the life of dalit girl children in the State of A.P.With this objective, DSS launched the campaign “Qualitative Childhood to Dalit Girl Child” to give the Dalit Girl Child her Due.The campaign commenced at 11 am on 15th November 2010 from Ambedkar Statue, Tank Bund, Hyderabad
and was intensively carried on for 10 days. The campaign concluded on 23rd November 2010 with a public meeting at Lions Club, Visakhapatnam. The campaign highlighted the need to provide qualitative education to dalit girl children, the future citizens of our country by overcoming the existing social tribulations and setting right the functioning of Anganwadi Centres, Government Schools and Social Welfare Hostels. The community at large was sensitized.
DSS has felt that a prolific program like the one just concluded was highly essential to bring in awareness to the parents, society, concerned departments, local bodies etc on the prevailing conditions, hence this campaign has been initiated. The DSS campaign stands in stark contrast to the much publicized, but totally forgotten programme of the politicians who promised in the State Legislature that ministers and MLA’s should sleep in the Social Welfare Hostels for a night. DSS pointed out that no political party or the dalit organizations working for the dalits have not worked out any concrete plan of action to put an end to the most vulnerable conditions and corrupt practices in the Anganwadi Centres, Government Schools and Social Welfare Hostels. The other reason for this situation is the backwardness of the dalit women socially, politically, economically and culturally. Likewise the reason for the backwardness of the dalit women in these fronts is due to the inequality, discrimination and poverty by birth. DSS has taken up this campaign with a firm determination that if the dalit girl children are brought on to the main stream by overcoming all these hurdles, there will be ample change in the situation of the dalit women.
This campaign was launched by D.Srinivasulu IAS, Principal Secretary Labour Department and
Vijaya Bharathi Director (Retd)-Telugu Academy. Other dignitaries that participated were Kaki Madhava Rao IAS Retd. Chief Secretary, women leaders Vasantha Kannabhiran, Sumathi & Sajaya, Prof Pushpa Chakrapani, Siddhoji-Director Ambedkar Study Circle, Vinay Kumar-DBF, SC/ST Bank Employee’s Association leaders G.Shankar, Rajendra Kumar, Narayana Rao, RPI leaders Gnaneswar & Seshu, Krupakar Madiga-Dhandora Leader and Poet, Subhadra-Dalit Poetess, Hemalatha-HRLN, Indhira-Amanvedhika, Suresh–Director Youth Empowering Society, Daniel-Ankuram, Arif-Dalit Minorities Front, Basavaraj-APSA and others.
Kaki Madhava Rao,the chief guest addressing the gathering has said that the campaign is first of its kind in the state and it is very much necessary. He has appreciated DSS for holding this campaign. Recollecting his past in a social welfare hostel in Krishna district, he has said that there used to be only 1 open lavatory for 80 members and they used to find it very problematic in rainy season. This situation still persists in the Anganwadi Centres, Schools and hostels; hence the time to bring in a change in them has come. The responsibility of accessing better facilities to the dalit girl children is on all of us.He has said that quite a good number of dalit girl children are studying in Anganwadi Centres, Government Schools and Social Welfare
Hostels and the government has failed in providing the basic amenities to them. The parents are sending their children to anganwadi centres with a view that they will be given nutritious food, play equally with other children, learn about hygiene conditions, but due to inadequate facilities in the centres it has become a hurdle for the psychological growth of the children. To bring our children on to the main stream we need to bring a change in the existing society. This campaign will definitely create an impact for an amicable change.
D.Srinivasulu Principal Secretary has that their department has been working with many organizations for the eradication of child labour and as part of it he has participated in this campaign. He detailed about the technical courses including various services that are being provided to the child labour by their department. He appreciated DSS for holding this campaign and has said that their department will participate in the campaign in all the districts and will extend all co-operation for the campaign.
Vijaya Bharathi has said that she could see cheerfulness in the eyes of Ambedkar and has appreciated DSS for taking up this campaign. She felt that there is a need to bring in awareness in the future generation to revamp the society.
Vasantha Kannabhiran has said that lack of toilets in the anganwadi centres is forcing the children to go on to the roads and lack of protected drinking water facility is leading to ill health. Likewise there is a need to keep an eye over the anganwadi centres as there is a lot of misuse in the funds meant for the nutritious food. She suggested bringing awareness in the community in such a way that they will feel responsible and continuously monitor the centres.
Jhansi Geddam, Convener, DSS has briefed the gathering about the objectives of the campaign. She told that the campaign has been aimed to bring in awareness in the dalit women and girl children in order to bring them on to the mainstream, to sensitize the community in general about the plight of the dalit girl children’s education and likewise submit representations to the district heads of the concerned departments on the violations identified centre wise during the monitoring of the centres.
She explained about the elaborate planning, ground work that went in the organization of the campaign. The Campaign is titled as Ratha (Chariot) Yatra for “Qualitative Childhood To Dalit Girl Children”. In India and A.P it has been the practice of all political parties to launch a ratha yatra to propagate their political point.So far a number of such ratha yatras took place but all of them were for their political and personal ends.None has launched a campaign like the one to highlight the rights of vulnerable like the dalit girl children.She explained that a 60 member team of volunteers have been selected and trained to participate in the Ratha Yatra. The 60 member team were trained in giving speeches, interacting with the community wherever the yatra reaches. The team consisted of well trained cultural team who would convey the message of the campaign through songs and other cultural forms. The yatra team are accommodated in 3 vehicles, as the journey continues throughout the 10 days. The vehicles were fully decorated with flexi banners carrying the slogans of the yatra and DSS.The very movement of the vehicles with those banners and volunteers inside conveyed the campaign message to the public.
The volunteers were in high spirits and were prepared to bear the stress and strain of continuous travel covering 3449 kilometres in total from Hyderabad to Visakhapatnam. Posters have been pasted throughout the area of operation and thousands of Pamphlets have been printed for distribution throughout the State in the course of the tour. The Pamphlets give details of the plight of dalit girl children and the need to rise up to address the issue. She narrated the route map of the yatra that will go through various mandals and villages of Ranga Reddy, Hyderabad, Guntur, Krishna, West Godavari, East Godavari and Visakhapatnam districts from 15th – 23rd November. She explained how some of the anganwadi centres, schools and hostels are being run in rented buildings having inadequate space and most of the own premises are in a pathetic situation. She also said that the campaign will also aim to bring a change in the situation of the dalit girl children.
The representations prepared district wise on the violations centre wise in specific were submitted to the concerned district heads in the respective districts while campaigning in the districts.
Having explained the objectives etc of the Ratha yatra, the tour formally commenced on 15th November 2010 from Hyderabad. Starting from the Day 1 till the concluding day, in all the public meetings and press meets held, the DSS state team comprising of the Convener, Program Manager and State Coordinator have given speeches in an elaborate manner on these thematic areas.
To strengthen the dalit women movement we need to intervene right from childhood stage. To make the dalit girl child a potential leader we need to provide them nutritious food, qualitative education, hygiene environment, violence free society, non discriminative conditions in the house as well as in the surroundings.
Due to poverty the dalit girl child is being forced to ask only for minimal things such as the powdered food and an egg provided in the anganwadi centres, likewise for basic amenities such as drinking water, benches, class rooms and toilets in the schools. Further, the demand of the dalits is to provide minimum conducive environment in the hostels with protection from all sorts of sexual exploitation in these institutions. On the other side of the coin one can see the children of the dominant communities staying in AC houses, going by AC school buses and studying in AC class rooms.
Studying in such an oppressive, unfriendly environment with lot of disparities can a dalit girl child ever come on to the mainstream and become a doctor, an engineer, IAS and IPS though she has reservation.
The plight of dalit girl children was explained by quoting many examples from the atrocity instances investigated by DSS such as cheating in the name of love, sexual exploitation by teachers and other staff, caste discrimination by teachers leading to suicides, rapes, abortions to minor girls with judicial orders etc. The parents of the girl children in particular and the dalit community in general were motivated to rise up to save dalit girl children by regularly monitoring these centres.
Long persisting problems like the vulnerable conditions in these centres without basic infrastructure such as class rooms, drinking water, toys, electricity facility, adequate teachers and other staff, toilets etc were explained. It was elaborated as to how when these issues are taken up with the district level authorities they express their helplessness and refer to the state level authorities, who when approached, in turn say they neither have requisite budget nor the requirement proposals sent by the districts. Thus the problem remains unattended due to utter neglect by the Government authorities.
Explaining about the constitutional rights and the budget, they were detailed about the SC Sub Plan and the Tribal Sub Plan. The people were enlightened that unless and until the dalits get their due share in the budget a comprehensive approach for mainstreaming dalit girl children cannot be done.
The perspective of the legislature, executive and the judiciary was clearly explained by quoting the examples and the strategies to overcome these hurdles were also discussed.
Day I & II (15th & 16th)
After launching of the campaign representations were given to the concerned authorities of Hyderabad and Ranga Reddy districts and the tour proceed to Ranga Reddy district.
The campaign team has garlanded the Ambedkar statues in the main centres and has also addressed the gatherings there.
In Ranga Reddy district public meetings and gatherings were addressed in Shankarpalli, Nawabpet, Chevella, Shabad, Moinabad mandals.
Rajya Laxmi – Mandal Parishad President of Chevella, Ramulu – Mandal Parishad Territorial Constituency member, B Prabhakar – President Dalita Sena, Chandra Babu – ConvenerChild Rights Protection Forum, B Mallesh – MV Foundation, K Padma and B Menka – Mandal Women-
Collective members, Bheemaiah – Co ordinator Saksharata Bharat, Lakshmaiah, Narasimhulu, ramachandraiah, Venkatesh, Prabhakar, Ramulu and Vitalaiah from various dalit organizations, B.Prabhakar & Ananthaiah–President & Vice President, Ambedkar Yuvajana Sangam and other leaders have participated in respective areas and have addressed the gathering and expressed their solidarity.
A press meet was held at Ambedkar hall, Chevella
Palle Nidra( Night Halt) was done at Gundala village. A mammoth public meeting was held, elaborate discussions.
Discussions were held on many issues pertaining to the village. The active participation of the women could be seen and they even have gone to a stage of questioning the caste elders and the panchayatraj representatives.
In all the mandals of this district the youth in big number have participated with enthusiasm.
Day III & IV (17th & 18th)s
The campaign team have reached Guntur district. The team has garlanded the Ambedkar statues in the main centres and has also addressed the gatherings there.
In Guntur district public meetings and gatherings were addressed in Dachepalli, Piduguralla, Medikondur, Mangalagiri, Guntur city, Pedakakani, Duggirala mandals.
In Guntur district, Labour Department team of the Government has participated in all the meetings held in the district. Among them were Varahala Reddy – Joint Commissioner, JAS Krishna Rao –Deputy Commissioner, Assistant labour Commissioners of respective areas U Malleswara Kumar, K Srinivas Rao, M Venkata Rami Reddy, P Padmavathi, Ch Ratna Ramesh, VSR Murthy, B Anitha Vani have participated.
Labour department team has appreciated DSS for taking up this campaign which was supposed to be done by the government. Though their department’s chief concern is with the child labour, they nevertheless would like to join DSS campaign as it is every one’s responsibility to bring the dalit girl children on to the main stream. They detailed about various programs being organized by their department for child labour and has said that 90% of the child labour are dalits. Even the drop outs from the school are also turning as child labour. The most dangerous thing is that these children are being engaged in hazardous works and it is the responsibility of the parents and the society to ensure that they do not promote child labour. We are sure that this campaign will bring in awareness to the larger civil society on this burning issue.
The Sarpanchs of respective villages, MPTC members, Heads of various Ambedkar associations, representatives of like minded organizations have participated and addressed the gathering. These leaders have promised to monitor the centres of their respective areas.
A press meet was held at Vavilala hall, Guntur.
Palle Nidra( Night Halt) was done at Nidamarru and Chukkavaripalem villages. Mammoth public meetings were held in all three villages including Emani. Youth and women actively participated in large numbers.
Day V & VI (19th & 20th)
The campaign team reached Krishna district. The team garlanded Ambedkar statues in the main centres and addressed the gatherings there.
In Krishna district public meetings and gatherings were addressed in Gudur, Machilipatnam, Gudiwada, Mandavalli and Kaikalur mandals.
The Sarpanchs of respective villages, MPTC members, SC/ST Employee’s Associations, Heads of various Ambedkar Associations, representatives of like minded organizations have participated and addressed the gathering. These leaders have promised to monitor the centres of their respective areas apart from extending their continuous co-operation for DSS.
A press meet was held at Press Club, Vijayawada and SC/ST Employees Association hall, Machilipatnam.
A massive rally was organized at Gudur and Human chain was formed on the highway. Later a huge public meeting was held.
Palle Nidra (Night halt) was done at Akumarru village. Mammoth public meeting was held at Akumarru village. The active participation of the women and youth was there. The dalit leaders from various political parties, academicians, advocates have participated in the public meeting and addressed the gathering. Elaborate focussed group discussions were held on the prevailing political scenario in respect with the district and the future course of action of dalit movement.
The campaign team then reached West Godavari and garlanded the Ambedkar statue at Eluru. A public meeting was held there. The representatives of Dalit and Relli organizations participated and addressed the gathering at Eluru.
Day VII & VIII (21st & 22nd)
The campaign team reached East Godavari district and garlanded the Ambedkar statues at the main centres and addressed the gatherings there.
In East Godavari district meetings were held in Ambajipet, Allavaram, Amalapuram, Katrenikona and Kakinada mandals.
In the public meeting held at Ambajipet the MRO, MEO and Assistant Labour officer have participated. They expressed their solidarity for the campaign and appreciated DSS for taking up this mighty task. The responsibility of ensuring the effective functioning of Anganwadi centers, Schools and Hostels lies on our shoulders and at the same time bring in awareness to the parents so that they will continuously monitor these centres.
They also expressed their inability to provide ample funds and at the same time have said that they are not in a position to resolve the violations brought to their notice by DSS. The Assistant Labour Commissioner has assured to attend to any issue pertaining to the wages including NREGS that DSS may bring to his notice.
A Press meet was held at Officers Club, Kakinada
In the public meeting held at Kakinada Kishore Kumar – RDO, G Ravendranadh Tagore – Deputy Thasildar, P Vara Prasad- District President RPI, D Shyam Sundar – Vigilance and monitoring committee member, Chetan – Editor of Varadhi etc have addressed the gathering.
The RDO has said the two prominent issues pertaining to dalit girl child are nutritious
food and education. It is the responsibility of all of us to see that nutritious food is made available to dalit girl children and at the same time ensure that qualitative education is provided to them. We should see that there are no gender disparities and the girl child is given equal opportunity in all fronts.
Palle Nidra (Night halt) was done for 2 nights in this district one at Tadikona and the other at Somidevarapalem village. Public meetings were held in respective villages. Women and youth participated actively. Elaborate focussed group discussions were held on the long pending issues apart from sharing the success achieved in getting the bus route sanctioned, closure of liquor belt shops, domestic violence cases etc.
The Campaign team then proceeded to Vishakhapatnam District and reached on 22nd evening. here the team garlanded the Ambedkar statue at Natavaram. A rally was organized from the Ambedkar statue to the venue of public meeting. Public meeting was held in the premises of social welfare girls hostel.
N Vijaya Kumar - Mandal Parishad President of Nathavaram mandal addressing the gathering has said that DSS should be appreciated for conducting and reaching such a remote area. The other dignitaries on the dias were Amrutha Kumar – MEO, Rama Rao – Dalitha Bahujan Front, Venkata Rao - Dalitha Hakkula Porata Samithi, SK Razak – CPI, Mani Ratnam – NASA etc.
After the meeting there was a close interaction with the girl children of the hostel. They brought out many issues such as forcing them to clean the toilets, misbehaviour of teachers, unhygienic conditions, lack of warden, lack of watch women, lack of proper protection to the children.
The concluding meeting of the campaign was held at Lions Club, Visakhapatnam. The dignitaries on the dias were Srinivasan – DD Social Welfare, Kameswari – PD Women & Child Welfare department, Prem Kumar – ACP, Papa Rao – President Fisher men Society, Prasad – President – Swajana, Indira Priyadarshini, Rajeswari, Kousalya, Padma & Sowbhagya – DSS State Women Collective members, Jhansi Geddam – Convener, GDV Prakash – Program Manager and Ranjani of DSS etc.
DD Social Welfare has appreciated DSS for organizing this campaign and giving them an opportunity to be with the team in the concluding meeting. He has said that nutritious food, qualitative education, good social atmosphere are very much essential during childhood.
He has also felt that definitely the conditions in the social welfare hostels need to be improved and he is ready to extend any sort of help pertaining to the hostels in Visakhapatnam.
PD Women & Child Welfare dept has explained about various schemes meant for women and child being implemented by their dept.
Highlights of the Campaign:
The 60 member Campaign team was at all ease right from the first day till the last day. The slogans raised by them have touched the sky. The team includes many young volunteers apart from the full timers of DSS. There are even mothers who have left their kids at homes and have been in the campaign for the whole 10 days with high levels of commitment towards the cause.
In all the areas the Volunteers were appreciated by the officials, representatives of local organizations, community for their commitment and active participation.