Dalit colony ‘removed' from panchayat jurisdiction

Complaints of water and other benefits being denied to them

Published - April 15, 2010 02:03 am IST - VIRUDHUNAGAR

Fourteen group houses constructed for Dalit families nine years back have been ‘removed' from a panchayat jurisdiction.

At a public hearing on violence against Dalits organised at Aruppukottai on Wednesday, one of the beneficiaries narrated how the families of Ambedkar Colony were denied development works.

The Suklampatti panchayat had passed resolution in December 2007 that the 14 houses were outside the panchayat jurisdiction and hence no tax could be collected from them. “Since we were not paying the tax, we are denied drinking water, road facility and other government benefits,” said Jeyaraman.

Deposing before a panel of jurists, comprising Perambur MLA K. Mahendran, State convenor of Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Act P. Sampath, High Court lawyer U. Nirmalarani, executive director of an NGO, Evidence, A. Kathir, and former Chief Judicial Magistrate S. Muthuraj, he said the Suklampatti panchayat had collected property tax till 2006-07.

Replying to a petition under the Right to Information Act, the Aruppukottai Revenue Divisional Officer, had confirmed in March 2008 that the colony came under the Suklampatti panchayat.

Mr. Jeyaraman alleged that the panchayat president, a caste Hindu, had deliberately ‘removed' the Dalits from the village to check the number of Dalit votes in the local body.

Mr. Kathir said this kind of practice of untouchability was so novel that the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act had no provision to deal with it. “It is an attempt to destroy the identity [of a section of the society].”

Mr. Mahendran said the panchayat president should be removed by the Collector for his “discriminatory” action.

Ms. Nirmalarani said though the panel of jurists came to give their opinion on the cases, it turned out to be a “learning” session.

Mr. Sampath said that if no proper action was taken in the case, the Dalits would occupy the office of the Special Tahsildar, who had allotted them the houses.

In another case, it was alleged that Aruppukottai municipal officials had discriminated Dalit sanitary workers from caste Hindu sanitary workers, who were given works which were not in keeping with the nature of the job. They worked in the office as messengers. Besides, they were given “out of turn” promotion as maistry, overlooking the seniority of Dalit workers. Two of them who objected to it were transferred out of Aruppukottai. Before they could come back to Aruppukottai municipality, the promotion orders were issued. The member of the jury flayed the “peace meetings” conducted by the officials, which rendered no justice to the Dalits in cases of violence against them. “It is only a katta panchayat,” Mr. Kathir said. The role of judiciary in dealing with cases of violence against Dalits was also not satisfactory, he said.

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