Wednesday, August 17, 2011

[ZESTCaste] Historic Day for Mahadalits in Bihar

Sunday, August 14, 2011 2:03:16 PM (IST)

Historic Day for Mahadalits in Bihar

Patna, Aug 14 (IANS): The Mahadalits of Bihar, who constitute an
overwhelming number among the state's downtrodden, are in a festive
mood like never before ahead of India's 65th Independence Day.

Possibly for the first time in independent India, more importantly
since the promulgation of a constitution that guarantees equality, the
Mahadalits will be hoisting the national flag in their 'tolas' or
community-based settlements. One from their ranks will do so.

According to Census 2011, Dalits constitute nearly 15 percent of
Bihar's 104 million population. The census has identified 21 of the 22
Dalit sub-castes as Mahadalits. They include Musahars, Bhuiyans, Doms,
Chamars and Nats.

Deepak Kumar, principal secretary in the state's general
administration department, said that it was decided by the government
that Independence Day functions would be organized in all such 'tolas'
and an elderly among them would unfurl the flag.

Surender Ravidas, in his mid 40s, a resident of Mahadalit tola of
Jituchak village near Patna, is pleased that his family can take part
in the flag-hosting ceremony. "For the first time, we will get a
chance to participate," the daily wage earner said.

He is not alone. Hundreds of thousands of Mahadalits, living in tolas
across the state, are equally happy with the state government
decision. It is part of the Nitish Kumar government initiative to
empower the downtrodden.

Hari Dom, in his early 50s, a resident of Mahadalit tola near
Lohanipur in Patna, believes that this year's Independence Day will be

"We and our children used to visit other neighborhoods to witness the
flag-hosting ceremony, either standing outside a school or a
government office," the sweeper-cum-cleaner told IANS. "But now we
will be part of the national day in our own settlement."

According to government records, there are over 25,000 such 'tolas' in
the state. In the six districts of the Patna commissionarate alone,
the day will be celebrated in 4,799 tolas. Patna commissioner K.P.
Ramiyah said that preparations were in full swing.

Letters have been sent out to all the district magistrates (DMs). "As
the Right to Public Service Act is to be implemented from August 15,
this programme will be an effective way to inform weaker sections of
government programmes," Deepak Kumar said.

The government has earmarked Rs. 500 for each Mahadalit 'tola' to
purchase flags, sweets and toffees for such functions. "It will cost
the state exchequer Rs. 1.30 crore," an official said.

District administrations are to depute a government school teacher for
the function, who could explain the national anthem and events related
to Independence Day and freedom struggles to Mahadalits.

Bihar was the first state in the country to constitute a Mahadalit
commission. It was decided that the commission would study the status
of the neglected sub-castes among Dalits and suggest ways to uplift

In power-starved Bihar, most Mahadalits are living without any
electricity, except in the state capital Patna and some towns.
Millions are still living in the lantern age, as electricity is a
luxury or not available.

Akhilesh Kumar, who hopes to become a schoolteacher, summed it up
well: "It may be a small thing for the powerful in society, but for us
it is a big thing."

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