Study reveals discrimination against Dalits at relief camps

Dalit communities were still awaiting relief and rehabilitation and they had been excluded during the process of rescue and post-disaster care.   | Photo Credit: M_Moorthy

A Damage Assessment Study by Tindivanam-based Social Awareness Society for Youths (SASY), a voluntary organisation, has revealed rampant discrimination against Dalits in access to relief and rehabilitation in relief camps in the cyclone-ravaged Nagapattinam district.

The study was carried out by volunteers from Dalit Watch and various other volunteer groups in 19 villages in 4 blocks in Nagapattinam district to understand the needs of the Dalits after the Cyclone.

As many as 9,827 households were affected in the impact of Cyclone Gaja and the study revealed that exclusion and caste discrimination against Dalits during disasters had not lessened even after multiple disasters such as floods, tsunami and Cylone Thane had hit the districts in 2004 and 2011 respectively.

Pandian, Executive Director of SASY pointed out that Dalit communities were still waiting for relief and rehabilitation and they had been excluded during the cyclone and the process of rescue, relief and post-disaster care. Most of the families comprising elderly persons, children and women who have lost their houses in the cyclone are now struggling without any basic facilities and access to relief.

Dalits from several villages such as Anna Nagar, MGR Nagar and Mettutheru who were engaged by members of the dominant Pillai caste in unloading the relief materials were forcefully sent from the places where relief was distributed.

The families were subjected to verbal abuse by the dominant caste communities.

Systematic exclusion

Mr. Pandian said that Dalits in Kovilpathu, Thanthiruvasal, Karapidakai, Vanamahadevi, Vellapallam and Chinnagkadu villages were not allowed to stay in the relief camps where the dominant Vanniyars stayed. Over 75% of the relief camps in these villages were maintained separately for Dalits and the dominant castes in a systematic exclusion against them.

SASY has distributed relief packages to around 1,436 most affected families in the district at ₹45 lakh.

The package included relief materials such as food, dry ration, tarpaulin, mattresses, bedsheets, clothes and other basic requirements.

The government must ensure Social Inclusive Frame Work within the Disaster Risk Reduction Management (DRRM) and ensure that no family is left behind.

The most affected Dalit families should also be included in all kinds of relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction measures in the State’s humanitarian response, Mr. Pandian said.

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Printable version | Dec 2, 2021 7:14:24 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/study-reveals-discrimination-against-dalits-at-relief-camps/article25720978.ece

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