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Campaign (Ratha Yatra) for Accessing the Rights Of Dalit Women and Girl Children

Dalit Sthree Sakthi organized, Ratha Yatra, a marathon “Campaign for Accessing the Rights of Dalit Women and Girl Children” tosensitize all concerned and to focus the plight of dalits. In the era of globalization the situation of dalits turned from bad to worse and the worst affected among them are, dalit women and dalit girl children. The country had undergone several systemic changes with the advent of economic reforms in the early 90’s. If these reforms had a symmetrical impact on the upper echelons of society it’s pathetic to note its impact on dalits had been asymmetrical and disastrous destroying the social, economic and cultural facets of dalits. The major impact of this new trends is the steep rise of landless and jobless dalits, who undoubtedly are the most exploited and helpless strata of the society. Buoyed by the policies of the international treaties, the public sector banks have been shying away from granting loans, thereby drastically slowing down the fund-flow to the dalits. Certain administrative policies by governments have dried up jobs in the agricultural and rural sector putting the lives of dalits in a spot, especially the dalit women. 90% of the dalit women are dependent on agriculture sector. The impact of all these policies can be clearly seen on the dalit girl children.

The campaign was organized from 5th – 14th November 2011. It commenced from Visakhapatnam on 5th November 2011 at 11am from Ambedkar statue, Dhaba Gardens.

The campaign was flagged of by Mr. K. Sasidhar, IAS, VUDA Vice-Chairperson. Addressing the gathering the Vice Chairperson has appreciated DSS for taking up the campaign as there is every need for building awareness to the dalit women and girl children on their rights. He applauded the 60 dalit women participating in the Ratha Yatra for their commitment. He stressed the need for the dalit women to acquire knowledge of their rights and strive for accessing them.

Convener-DSS detailing about the objective of the campaign has said that it is the duty of the government to bring in awareness as per the constitution and as they have filed to do so, DSS has taken up the responsibility. This campaign will be taken up in 7 districts covering all towns, cities, mandals and villages enroute and create awareness among the dalit women and girl children on their rights such as SC,ST (PoA) Act, Domestic Violence Act, Dowry Prohibition Act, Free & Compulsory Education Act, MGNREGA etc. The valedictory meeting will be held at

Hyderabad on 14th November, wherein all the officials of concerned departments will participate. Speaking on the occasion the Convener explained about the vulnerable situation in the anganwadi centres, government schools, social welfare hostels and residential schools. She said that the study report of DSS done on the situation of dalit girl children, anganwadi centres, government schools and social welfare hostels will also be shared. She also said that the 60 members’ yatra (journey) team are being accommodated in 3 campaign vehicles decorated with posters, banners for this 10 days yatra.

The campaign vehicles with flexi banners, sound system and 60 members team in it has conveyed the voice and vehemence of the dalit women. Similarly posters have been affixed in all the 7 districts and thousands of pamphlets explaining the deplorable conditions of dalit women and girl children were distributed en-route. The team and the volunteers were

enthusiastic and in high spirits throughout the journey and even in the late nights. Though the journey was tedious with stress and strain, they continuously travelled for a total of 4567 kilometers starting from Visakhapatnam to Hyderabad via East Godavari, West Godavari, Krishna, Guntur, Ranga Reddy districts. Papa Rao – Senior Advocate and Secretary of Fisher men Association and other organizations have also participated in the launch of the campaign.

Starting from day one, till the concluding day, in all the public meetings and press meets held, the DSS state team comprising of the Convener, Program Manager, State Coordinator, District Co-ordinators and Divisional Organizers have given speeches in an elaborate manner on the thematic areas.

  • To bring in awareness to the dalit women on their vulnerability, oppression, inequality which they are facing and the reasons for their poverty. Similarly to strengthen the dalit women movement we need to intervene right from childhood stage. Likewise we need to garner the support of the dalit men and other positive forces. Every dalit women need to have a broad approach instead of thinking for one’s own family needs. We are the most skilful and strong masses in the society. Lack of awareness of our rights is hindrance. Unity and collective effort is much more needed. There is every need of us coming together irrespective of caste, class and gender and play a collective battle to achieve our constitutional rights.

  • Eradication of poverty and inequality is the constitutional responsibility, since the state is not doing so; DSS has initiated this type of campaign.

  • The dalit women unable know about the Acts meant for them such as SC,ST Act, DV Act, Dowry Prohibition Act, NREGA etc. Lack of awareness is leading to improper implementation of these Acts and denial of entitlements.

  • DSS has condemned the government’s stand of aligning NREGA with Agricultural sector and has propagated in a wider way on the danger of NREGA implementation going into the hands of dominant community landlords, as already they are opposing NREGA since they have lost control over the dalits due to it.

  • To overcome the present situation of illiteracy among the dalit women and their confinement to the houses, we need to put efforts right from the childhood stage of dalit girl children.

  • To provide qualitative childhood to dalit girl children 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 society.

  • 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 dangers, including the rising incidents 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, hostile 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 and 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, Tribal Sub Plan, the quantum of funds allocated at present; the various other entitlements we ought to get, etc. The people were enlightened that unless and until the dalit women get their due share in the budget a comprehensive approach for mainstreaming dalit women and girl children cannot be done.

  • The 1% communities which are holding the multi-national companies etc are being given 99% of the budgets and large quantum of land, whereas 99 % of remaining communities are being given mere 1% budget.

  • 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 detailed.

  • To overcome all these inequalities, oppression, discrimination there is every need for us to educate ourselves and start an agitation like the “Occupy Wall Street” movement in America.

Day I (5th November)

After the completion of launching, the Ratha yatra reached Nathavaram via Gajuvaka, Ankapalle, Tuni, Narsipatnam by garlanding the Ambedkar statues and addressing the gatherings. At Nathavaram the Ambedkar statue was garlanded and a rally was held up to the main centre, followed by a public meeting.

  • The SC, ST Employ Welfare Associations, Ambedkar Youth Associations, Local NGOs, Academicians, former panchyat raj leaders, Ambedkarites etc were involved in almost all the places including the press meets.

  • The women collectives have actively participated apart from organizing the meeting in their respective areas.

  • The Campaign team has stayed during the nights in the villages where atrocities have taken place.

Day II & III (6th & 7th November)

  • Kakinada: A press meet was held on 6th around 10.30 a.m. at Kakinada; both the print and

electronic media were briefed about the objective of the campaign and were also explained about the pathetic situation of the dalit women and girl children including the anganwadi centres, government schools and hostels by quoting the examples of the district.

  • Public meetings were organised at Annamghat Centre and Kunthidevipet of Kakinada and the Ambedkar statues were also garlanded.

  • A grand gala welcome was organized by the SC/ST Employees Associations, Ambedkar

Youth Associations etc followed by garlanding the Ambedkar statues and public meetings at Rajanagaram, Dosakayalapalle and Korukonda. Later awareness meeting was held at a Tribal Welfare Girls Hostel in Rajahmundry, wherein hundreds of girl students were addressed. There was a close interaction with the girls and many have expressed their views. They have also requested to organize these meets continuously.

  • Rajahmundry: A press meet was held on 7th around 9.30 a.m. at Ambedkar Bhavan,

followed by a rally until Ambedkar statue. The campaign team was again flagged off by Gada Laxman Swamy a freedom fighter and well known Ambedkarite. The SC/ST Employee Associations, Ambedkar youth associations have welcomed the campaign team in a big way.

  • Amalapuram: After coveringen-route mandal head quarters and villages such as Kadiyam, Pottilanka, Ravulapalem and Kothapeta, the campaign has reached Amalapuram and a public meeting was organized at Gadiaram centre. Later a rally was held until Buddha Bhavan and the Ambedkar statue was garlanded. The campaign

team proceeded to West Godavari district via Kodurupadu, Ambajipet, Razole and Sivakodu, wherein many public meetings were addressed apart from garlanding Ambedkar statues.

  • Narsapuram: Ambedkar statue at bus stand centre was garlanded followed by a public

meeting. The local Mandal Revenue Officer, Ex-MPP, other panchayat raj leaders have also participated and addressed the gathering. Then the campaign reached Madepalli via Seetharampuram, Palakollu, Atthili, Ganapavaram, Tadepalligudem, Bhimadolu etc after addressing the gatherings on the route.

Day IV & V (8th & 9th November)

Eluru: A press meet was organized around 10.00am on 8th at SC/ST Rights Protection

Association office followed by a public meeting at Ambedkar statue near old bus stand, Eluru. Many leaders like Mani Singh, Sudharshan (Teachers association), Santosh, Prasad (Cry), Baby Kumari (Spandana) and others have also participated.

The local organizations have arranged a team of drums and the whole town was alarmed with the sounds of the drums and the inspiring songs by the DSS cultural team.

  • Kaikalur: The Campaign entered Kaikalur of Krishna district via Lingarao gudem,

Sriparru, Kovvadalanka. The Ambedkar statue was garlanded and the gathering was addressed. Many people from the nearby villages have participated in the public meeting at Kaikalur. Later the team reached Idugullapalli via Mandavalli, Mudinepalli, Gudlavalleru, Pedana, Madaka, Kappaldoddi, Akulamannadu and Polavaram. Public meetings were held in all these places, Ambedkar statues garlanded. The response from the community was amazing and many Ambedkar associations, Panchayat raj leaders, Employ associations have also participated. Idugullapalli village is a place where the dalits were attacked by the dominant community people in the recent past. The Campaign team has made night stay in the village and the whole village has participated in the public meeting though it was held in the late night.

Machilipatnam: A press meet was organized at SC Welfare Hall around 10am on 9th morning. Later a public meeting was organized at Gudur where in the dalit women from nearby villages,