Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Two years on, Dalits still out of work

CHENNAI, OCT. 18. For two years now, the Dalits of Siruthondamadevi village in Cuddalore district have been out of work. After a riot two years ago in the village, upper caste villagers who owned the cashew groves decided not to employ Dalits.

That put the farm hands out of a job and no other source of income.

That is why they have decided to hold a conference in Cuddalore on November 5 and 6 to discuss caste and sexual violence. The conference is meant to be a call for liberation, to send a plea to the government to provide them jobs under the `food for work' scheme, said Bernard Fathima, member, Tamil Nadu Dalit Women's Movement.

While the sexual harassment and physical torture ceased after the April riots, it had commenced all over again with a pregnant woman being assaulted just a few days ago for having stood in front in the ration queue, villagers said.

Though the violence worries them, their biggest concern today is the lack of a livelihood. "We are all farm hands. If we are sent out of the cashew farms, we cannot find work elsewhere. This is why we want to be given opportunities and loans for self employment," a villager added. Even the local self-help group had to wind up for a year, as the women were unable to mobilise the required monthly savings. "When we have a problem putting food on the table, where is the question of saving," a Dalit woman from Siruthondamadevi asks. She has been a victim of the riots and sexual harassment, but has put her past behind her, convinced that getting a job is the top priority.

Some of the villagers have managed to retain their daily jobs, but those who complained about ill-treatment have been banned from the fields and are left without an alternative source of income.

Source: The Hindu, October 19, 2004


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