Dalits Assert Their Rights
B Madhava KARNATAKA THE people belonging to the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in Karnataka are getting organised under the Dalit Rights Committee and Adivasi Tribal Subcommittee led by the CPI(M). As a part of their activities and struggles, a successful Dalit Rights Assertion Convention was held in Mangalore on November 17, 2013. The convention, held in the NGO Hall and presided over by Sanjiva Balkur, president of the Mangalore city unit of Dalit Rights Committee, was attended by a large number of dalit activists. The convention pointed out that the government has so far not allotted a single housesite to dalits in the city who have been submitting applications for it for many years. Suffering from social discriminations for centuries, these poor people are unable even to get a house on rent. There are a good number of dalit families who have built houses on government lands but are running from pillar to post, desperately contacting various government offices to get the ownership right to their houses. Unless they get this right, they cannot get a ration card or electricity and water supply. The government says 22.75 percent of the city corporation’s budget is meant to provide facilities to the SC and ST families. However, its implementation is tardy. The Dalit Rights Committee has been demanding that the facilities meant to be made available under this plan must be doubled for rushing any worthwhile benefit to the dalit masses. Another important demand pertains to implementation of the scheduled castes sub-plan and tribal sub-plan which provide for reservation of funds according to the population of dalit and tribal masses in order to take up developmental programmes for them. In Karnataka, dalits constitute 23 percent of the population and, in accordance with this proportion, the government of Karnataka should have allocated Rs 12,700 crore for dalits in the current budget. But the funds allocated are grossly inadequate. These and many other issues agitating the minds of the dalit people were effectively expressed in the convention. Addressing the convention as the chief guest, N Nagaraj, state leader of Dalit Rights Committee, pointed out that it is landlords who have grabbed most of the government lands while the small pieces of land allotted to dalits are not fit for cultivation. He demanded that the government should ensure equal distribution of government lands and mete out justice to dalit masses. Nagaraj also spoke about the evil practices in our society which exploit, oppress and suppress the dalit masses. He said there are more than 60 evil practices in Karnataka. and urged upon the dalits to stand up against these social evils. Others who addressed the convention included Sunil Kumar Bajal (secretary, CPI(M) Mangalore city committee), Krishnappa Konchady (district convenor, Dalit Rights Committee) and Lingappa Nanthoor (convenor, Mangalore city unit of Dalit Rights Committee). The convention adopted a resolution outlining the important issues facing the dalit masses in the state and their demands.