22 p.c. of Dalit families not allowed to go near common water sources: study

There is a grim picture for Dalits in the 21st century, and untouchability continues to be vehemently practised in rural Karnataka, said Bislaiah, former Vice-Chancellor, University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, during the release of ‘Discrimination and social exclusion: a study on the development experience of Dalits in Karnataka’ here recently.

Conducted by researchers of the Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Mangalore University, the study covered 10 taluks in Belgaum, Gulbarga, Chitradurga, Mysore and Kolar districts over 10 months ending in June 2011.

Quantifying untouchability, the study revealed that the denial of entry to Dalits into ‘upper caste’ homes was a “strictly observed practice” with 82 per cent of the households saying they were not allowed into these homes.

Sixty-four out of 100 households said they were denied entry to temples (here, an overwhelming majority said they could not enter the sanctum sanctorum of the temple, notes the study), while 22 per cent were not allowed to go near common water sources in the villages.

Mr. Bislaiah, at the function on October 18, said that Independence changed little for the Scheduled Castes.

Spatial isolation

His observations seem to be buttressed by the observed spatial isolation of Dalits in the villages of Karnataka. Only 4.5 per cent of Dalit houses are located in the middle of the village, while the rest are on the fringes. The Madigas, who stand on the lower rung of the SC hierarchy, are even worse off with just 2.3 per cent of their houses in the centre of villages.

Similarly, Dalits remain deprived of land with the study cataloguing that nearly 53 per cent of the families were landless. Added to this, 32.7 per cent of landowners have less than 2.5 acres of “scanty, unusable” farmland and are entirely dependent on the monsoon for water.

Below poverty line

Perhaps this is a factor, observes the study, for the high levels of SC families below the poverty line (BPL).

As much as 93 per cent of the respondents were BPL. “The income of more than 1,900 families interviewed comes from agriculture-related activities. Their mobility to other occupations was hindered due to the institution of caste and untouchability,” said the study.

Only 141 households had a member in government services, while around 186 families had a breadwinner in the private sector. “What kind of economy exists in the villages, where there exists so much disparity,” questioned Mr. Bislaiah.

English seemed to be a stumbling block, revealed the study, with 412 unemployed, educated youth blaming their Kannada-medium education for not equipped them with fluency in the language.

Poverty sees 40 per cent of families living in thatched huts or mud houses.

Poor quality houses

The study notes that though 53 per cent had concrete houses built under government schemes, these houses were of “very poor quality.”

Shockingly, more than 92 out of 100 Dalit houses visited did not have latrines.

Lack of water facility

While most Dalit households (around 56.5 per cent) got “erratic and low quality” water from village taps, around 260 households admitted to using pond water that was “unfit for consumption”.