Friday, November 01, 2002

Bihar Dalit widows denied compensation

Manuwant Chaudhary

Friday, November 1, 2002 (Patna):

A rare initiative to look for ways to end extremist violence in Bihar has found discrimination even in compensations given to widows of those killed in extremist violence. A hundred Dalit widows have still not got the promised government jobs. Only because they are illiterate.

In more than 50 villages thousands of people have been killed. But the fire of revenge is still raging. It doesn't seem to see an end. Who won, who lost? is the narrative of Life on the Margin, a documentary on Bihar's extremist violence.

This documentary was screened for women who have lost their husbands in caste wars in Jehanabad, one of Bihar's most violence-prone districts.

"What are we doing to end the cycle of violence. You know it better that to end one violence another violence is being committed," says documentary filmmaker Arun Kumar.

For the past year, a non-governmental organization the Mithila Gram Vikaas Parishad, has been working with widows. They have found a hundred Dalit widows who were promised government jobs but were later denied and have not been given them because they are illiterate.

"The Chief Minister announced that we will get jobs but now they're not giving us jobs. I am barely surviving with my two children," said Jiraniya Devi, a widow in Narainpur village.

"We go to the Collector and give names but because they are illiterate, they remain jobless. For four years now, they have been denied jobs," says Rudresh Kumar, headman of Narainpur.

Bihar's senior minister says compensations and jobs to those killed in extremist violence is not a citizen's right but the Chief Minister's prerogative.

"This is the Chief Minister's prerogative. Mulayam Singh gave money to journalists and Indira Gandhi gave some to children, but all this cannot be demanded. It is the Chief Minister's prerogative," says Bihar's Labour Minister Upendra Prasad Verma.

Last month, the Patna High Court decided that the chief minister would now share decision-making on compensation issues with three others including the leader of the opposition and both the speakers of the Bihar legislature.

Source: NDTV, November 1, 2002

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