A statue of B.R. Ambedkar in a three-piece blue suit holding the Constitution of India book welcomes you to the ‘Municipal Harijan Colony’ of Subramaniapuram. It’s a Dalit neighbourhood where most of its inhabitants are involved in conservancy work within the Corporation limits.
The neighbourhood has a population of 400 families with about 2,000 persons. The colony has 40 graduates in arts and science and 10 engineering graduates. Only one among them has successful in getting a government job, of that of Village Administrative Officer.
All the graduates from the colony are underemployed and there are no takers in the formal private sector to give them jobs in accordance to their degrees.
“The colony as a spatial location and social background breeds contempt among the job providers and the moment we tell our location and caste we could see the change in the tone of the people with whom we interact,” said Arun, an Master in Social work. Still, the youth of Subramaniapuram have taken a step forward to fight for their rights and organised an awareness programme on Post Matric Scholarship programme within the neighbourhood.
“Since it is pertinent on the part of the oppressed classes to be aware of their constitution-guaranteed rights, we joined hands with All India Students Association (AISA) and organised this event,” said Pandiarajan of the AISA.
“Ten or 15 years ago, given the kind of caste animosity, organising events such as this in this neighbourhood would have been impossible,” said R. Murali, Principal, Madura College, who was part of a People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) fact-finding team of the 1997 caste riots that visited the area. He said the Dalit students should be aware of the role of education as a tool for emancipation and should view Babasaheb Ambedkar as their role model.
The AISA members said that the Tamil Nadu government should take adequate steps to popularise the Post Matric Scholarship scheme and issue orders to the private, self-financing and government-aided colleges to strictly implement the Government Order and issue warning that failure to abide should invoke SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989.
The Collector should establish monitoring committees to see that the act was implemented by the colleges. Madurai Kamaraj University should set an example by fully implementing the scheme in its constituent colleges and affiliated institutions.
They further said that theAdi Dravidar Welfare Department and Finance Department should disburse the funds to the respective institutions during the start of the academic year itself.