Skip to main content

Development? This tribal hamlet in Chitrakut has no toilets, no electricity connections yet

By Bharat Dogra* 

As we moved away from the starting point of the Bundelkhand Expressway and a famous pilgrimage site into a side-road, the hills of Chitrakut here appeared to be more and more isolated. Another turn, and we appeared to have reached almost a dead-end. However it is here that over 80 households of the Kol tribal community have been living for a long time.
This is Dafai hamlet located in Karvi block of Chitrakut district (UP). This settlement was formed several decades back when some dominant feudal persons were keen to have many workers at their beck and call all the time, particularly as they were interested in large-scale, highly lucrative stone quarries and it was important to get pliable workers nearby for the hazardous stone crushing work.
Those Kol families who were in vulnerable conditions in places like Manikpur were encouraged by them to settle in some vacant land and this is how the Dafai hamlet was settled.
When I first visited this hamlet about five years back I learnt that they had no farmland, and even their housing land on which their small mud houses stood was not secure as feudal persons still claimed this as their own, and to maintain this status they tried their best to keep these families away from government benefits which could have brought some recognition of people’s rights as residents of this hamlets.
Hence I learnt that most of the people living here did not have ration cards and job cards, and nearly 90% of the children here did not go to school then. This settlement did not have any electricity connection. The only source of water supply was a hand pump and if this did not work they had to get go far for fetching water.
There were no toilets in the village and women in particular were very troubled by having to go to a distant hill in unsafe conditions. Working conditions in stone crushing units were very harmful for health. So bad was the situation in fact that we had to rush to provide immediate some relief for cold wave conditions.
Later at my home in Delhi I got news of serious trouble here. Taking advantage of the further vulnerability of women workers in crushing units during Covid times, some of their employers started subjecting them to sexual exploitation.
The leading voluntary organization trying to help them -- Vidyadham Samiti -- obviously tried to check this. As a result the silence was broken and news of this violence against women appeared in some media outlets, local and national.
Instead of rushing to check this, the police instead responded initially by victimizing and badly humiliating the chief functionary of Vidyadham Samiti, Raja Bhaiya, an activist known widely for his firm commitment to the rights of the most vulnerable communities. He was taken to the police station, treated very badly, abused and threatened of much worse to come.
All sorts of pressures were exerted on the people and in particular the women of Dafai to implicate him in some false case but the people resisted all pressures and refused to say anything false against the man they stated had tried to help them most sincerely. Vidyadham Samiti had also been involved in distributing relief far and wide during Covid times.
People resisted pressures exerted on people, particular women of Dafai village, to implicate activist Raja Bhaiya in false
Meanwhile, an appeal to the National Human Rights Commission resulted in the police official involved in the harassment of Raja Bhaiya being fined Rs 50,000, and this amount being used to provide compensatory payment to Raja Bhaiya.
This turn of events allowed Vidyadham Samiti to again devote itself to getting justice for the people of Dafai. Meanwhile this distant hamlet had come so much into focus that the administration selected this hamlet for a concentration of several of its development schemes.
Job cards and ration card were made. Tap connections were provided under the ongoing scheme although water is still to reach these taps. Above all, in a rare decision, almost all the households here were selected under the PM Awas scheme for new house construction.
In the case of nearly 70% of them these houses have been constructed or are nearing completion. However, as the amount given is not adequate people also had to borrow money to get houses constructed from private moneylenders on high interest rate and now they are compelled to pay back around Rs 800 or more to these moneylenders per week for about two years or so.
At the same time, most of them have lost work at crushers due to mechanization or other factors. Now they have become more dependent on going to brick-kilns as migrant workers. Women here said what they want is some work they can do within or close to their village. However, NREGA work is provided very rarely and then too wage payments are too delayed.
Despite the recent increase of development work, no toilets have been constructed yet. No electricity connections have been given yet.
One source of new confidence among villagers is that as the government has helped to construct houses here their stay here has become more secure with housing rights. Although some feudal persons still threaten that one day you will have to leave, but on the whole now they feel more secure.
Hence this village has been on a journey of despair as well as new hope in recent years and needs more support to strengthen its gains.
---
*Honorary convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now; recent books: “Protecting Earth for Children”, “When the Two Streams Met”, “A Day in 2071”

Comments

TRENDING

'Modi govt's assault on dissent': Foreign funds of top finance NGO blocked

By Rajiv Shah  In a surprise move, the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, has cancelled the foreign funding license of the well-known advocacy group, Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA), known for critically examining India's finance and banking sectors from human rights and environmental angle.

Misleading ads 'manipulate, seduce, lure' to market unhealthy harmful food

By Our Representative  The Nutrition Advocacy in Public Interest (NAPI) in its new report “50 Shades of Food Advertising” has sought to expose how seductive, luring, manipulative or deceptive these advertisements can be. Consequences of such advertising are increased intake of unhealthy food products that is associated with obesity and diabetes, it says. 

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

'Failure of governance': India, China account for 54% pollution-related deaths globally

By Vikas Parsaram Meshram*   A recent report jointly prepared by UNICEF and the independent research organization Health Effects Institute has been released, and the statistics within it are alarming. It states that in 2021, air pollution caused the deaths of 2.1 million Indians, including 169,000 children who hadn't yet fully experienced life. These figures are indeed distressing and raise questions about why there hasn't been more serious effort in this direction, putting policymakers to shame. 

August 9 to be observed as Corporates Quit India day: Top farmers' group

By Our Representative A recent general body meeting of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), the top farmers' organisation, stated hat "there is no need for any illusion of change in the pro-corporate policies of the BJP-NDA government" following the recent elections in which BJP failed to achieve even simple majority. It insisted,  Prime Minister Narendra Modi "is hell bent" to continue 'business as usual' policies.

Over 3.8 billion animals at risk: India on crossroad in animal welfare practices

By Rupali Soni*  In a collaborative effort, the India Animal Fund and Dasra have unveiled their report , "Our Shared Future | Securing Animal Welfare, Human Wellbeing, and Sustainability in India." This landscape report provides a thorough overview of animal welfare and underscores its indispensable role within India's socio-economic and ecological frameworks. It also illustrates how animal welfare is intricately intertwined with public health, labor welfare, and climate resilience.

Belgian report alleges MNC Etex responsible for asbestos pollution in Madhya Pradesh town Kymore: COP's Geneva meet

By Our Representative A comprehensive Belgian report has held MNC Etex , into construction business and one of the richest, responsible for asbestos pollution in Kymore, an industrial town in in Katni district of Madhya Pradesh. The report provides evidence from the ground on how Kymore’s dust even today is “annoying… it creeps into your clothes, you have to cough it”, saying “It can be deadly.”

Women's emancipated under Mao: Girl completed primary school, began working in farm collective

By Harsh Thakor*  The book “New Women in New China”, a collection of articles projecting dramatic transformation -- political and economic -- in the status of Chinese women after liberation, originally published in 1972, and reprinted in 2023 by the Foreign Languages Press, Beijing, encompasses the period between 1949 and 1972, seeking to give justice to the subject of women’s emancipation in China after the 1949 revolution.