The centuries-old jogini system is still prevalent in the State capital. This startling revelation came from Ashraya, an NGO working in Hyderabad, at an interactive meeting organised by the government-appointed commission to study the problems faced by joginis, at the Collectorate on Friday. “These women [joginis] perform rituals during the festivities in the twin cities,” said NGO representative Gracy Nirmala. She maintained that she knew of four joginis in Marredpally locality.
An official note circulated ahead of the meeting too ratified that there were joginis in the city and a few of them were working in temples. These women had migrated from other districts and were staying in slums. In 1987-88, the district administration had identified 740 joginis and spent over Rs.25 lakh for their rehabilitation under the SC action plan. Each family got over Rs.20,000 financial assistance, including Rs.10,000 as government subsidy. The scheme was continued till 2006-07 and since then there has been no aid extended to these families. To assess the prevalence of the jogini system in the city, a survey would soon be conducted by the Revenue and Health Departments and the report would be submitted to the commission that is headed by V. Raghunath Rao.
The committee was constituted following the direction of the Supreme Court to the government to look into the issue of joginis. The apex court was responding to a petition highlighting the prevalence of the system in Mahabubnagar district. The commission has visited 19 districts so far.Mr. Rao expressed concern over the apathy of Police and Revenue Departments in initiating action against those propagating the practice. Only eleven cases, including nine in Ongole have been booked under the A.P. Devadasis (Prohibition of Dedication) Act, 1988. Police and revenue officials can take stern action against propagators, he advised.
Quoting NGOs’ estimates, Mr. Rao said that there were 50,000 to 60,000 joginis in the State. Revathi, a jogini from the city, complained that most of them were facing untold problems due to this practice and some of them were unable to manage their medical expenses. “We request the Commission to look into our problems and render justice to us,” she added.