There is some relief to Dalits of Ragimaruru village in Araklgud taluk, many of whom used to work as bonded labourers for landlords until recently.
The Hassan district administration has responded to their problems and will provide them benefits in the form of houses, toilets, roads, water supply and drainage system, apart from ensuring that 21 of their children, who had discontinued studies owing to financial problems, will continue their education.
On August 15, The Hindu had reported about human bondage system prevailing in the village. Around 40 Dalits of the village had been working as bonded labourers for many years to clear loans taken from landlords. Following the news report, Deputy Commissioner and other senior officers of the district visited the village and took stock of the conditions that forced Dalits to work as bonded labourers.
Staff of the Social Welfare Department conducted a door-to-door survey in the village to identify school dropouts. They found that 21 children had discontinued studies two–three years ago. Now, they have been admitted to government schools and colleges and also provided accommodation in hostels run by the Social Welfare Department.
“Among the 21, eight are pre-matric students, 11 are PU students, one is a B.A. student and another ITI student. All of them have been provided hostel facility,” said H.V. Nagaraj, District Social Welfare Officer.
The department has worked out a proposal to construct roads, provide water supply and drainage system in the village at a cost Rs. 16 lakh. “We have sufficient funds in the Hassan Zilla Panchayat to take up these works. The proposal has been sent to the Commissioner of Social Welfare for approval,” he said.
Arkalgud Taluk Panchayat has prepared a Rs. 48-lakh action plan to take up works in the village under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act so that those in need work could be offered jobs. This is to discourage poor people from opting to work for landlords at meagre salaries.
Officials have identified 51 families to sanction toilets and 53 families for providing houses under different schemes. Also, eight youths have been chosen for training in computer usage, six for driving training and eight for training in sewing.
Mr. Nagaraj said Dalits of the village were very poor. “Many children had discontinued studies to help their parents earn a living. They are all now studying. The department will bear their education fee,” he said.
V. Anbukkumar, Deputy Commissioner of Hassan, has constituted a committee under the chairmanship of Srividya, Assistant Commissioner of Sakleshpur subdivision, to file a report on the prevalence of bonded labour system in Ragimaruru. The committee has held meetings with residents of the village. So far, 28 Dalits have appeared before the committee. The committee will submit a report after completing its inquiry.