Upward mobility, a mirage for these nomadic communities

Fettered: A settlement of nomadic tribes in Lakshmi Kanthan Bharathi Nagar in Sakkimangalam panchayat in Madurai.

Fettered: A settlement of nomadic tribes in Lakshmi Kanthan Bharathi Nagar in Sakkimangalam panchayat in Madurai.   | Photo Credit: G_Moorthy

With no community certificate, educated youth are forced into traditional employment; school dropout rate high

Twenty-four-year-old E. Anandan, a graduate in History, belongs to a nomadic community that traditionally earns livelihood by lashing with a whip, popularly called the Sattaiyadi community.

Two years after completing the course, he is yet to find a job, the main impediments being lack of community certificate and the stigma associated with his community.

“I opted for history since a well-wisher advised that it would help in cracking examinations for government jobs. I prepared for Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission examinations for a year. However, with no community certificate, I have to compete in ‘others’ category, for which the cut-off mark is almost impossible to get for a person of my background,” he said.

Stories like that of Mr. Anandan are common among the more than 500 families of different nomadic communities residing in government-allotted land in Lakshmi Kanthan Bharathi Nagar, Annai Sathya Nagar and nearby places in Sakkimangalam panchayat.

While Anandan managed to get a degree because of his resolve, a majority of the girls and boys here do not complete schooling. Many have opted to go back to their traditional and stigmatised means of livelihood, despite studying up to Class 10 or 12. High dropout rate in school is a serious concern here.

T.U. Rajavadivel, working as a teacher for the past 14 years in the Panchayat Union Middle School, pointed at two main reasons for their discontinuing education. “The important reason the families cite is the lack of community certificate under Scheduled Tribes (ST) category, without which they cannot land in any job. Therefore, they see no point in pursuing education,” he said.

Another reason he cited was their livelihood means. With the families mostly travelling to different places coinciding with temple festivals to sell items such as beads and balloons or exhibit their performance to earn a living, they took their children also away.

P. Tamilselvi, headmistress of the school that has 373 children, all of them belonging to nomadic communities, said long absenteeism was a common phenomenon.

Long struggle

B. Selvarani, 55, a leader of the Narikuravar community, has been struggling for the past 30 years to get community certificate for her people under Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes category. Though the Union government had passed a Bill to include them in the ST list, she said community certificates still eluded them. “So many Collectors have visited our place. I have made umpteen representations. Nothing worked,” she said.

E. Murugan from the Sattaiyadi community, who had to take up the traditional job after completing Class 12, said he must have submitted at least 100 petitions to officials. Arguing that they belonged to the Telugu-speaking Sholiga community, which comes under the ST list, he criticised officials for refusing to acknowledge it.

“They demand historical proof that our forefathers had community certificates as Sholigas. We are a nomadic community. How will we have such proof,” he asked. He acknowledged that lack of support of political parties or other organisations representing their community was a drawback as they were often unable to put up a united fight for their demands.

Mr. Rajavadivel said the Narikuravar and Sattaiyadi communities, who formed the majority in the area, remained the worst affected in terms of denial of community certificate. “After a long struggle, a few communities like Boom Boom Maatukarar are getting the certificate as Hindu Adhiyans under ST category,” he said.

When contacted, a senior official in the district administration said there were stringent norms to grant ST status and it required anthropological study.

Residential school

Meanwhile, in a bid to reduce dropout rate, a residential school with a capacity of 50 children built under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan for the Narikuravar community is running with moderate success in the area.

An official from School Education department said a new residential school with higher capacity had been proposed under the new Samagra Shiksha scheme, formed by merging the SSA and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan. “These measures can help to an extent. But if we need to give these people hope of upward mobility, community certificate is absolutely essential,” he said.

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 6:49:25 PM |

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