Tamil Nadu

Dalit panchayat chief alleges discrimination

V. Karuppan

V. Karuppan  

Says he is forced to sit on the floor during meetings

Seven months after being elected president of the Kottakachiyendhal village panchayat in Virudhanagar district, V. Karuppan (48) claims to be a victim of caste discrimination, criminal intimidation and non-cooperation, which have brought development works in the reserved panchayat to a grinding halt in the last one month.

In a petition to the Director-General of Police, Mr. Karuppan has accused the panchayat vice-president, all six ward members and the clerk of not allowing him to function independently.

Alleging he was forced to sit on the floor during meetings while others sat on chairs, the panchayat president said that he was often humiliated on caste lines and threatened with dire consequences if he lodged a complaint.

After the Kottakachiyendhal in Narikudi Panchayat Union was declared a reserved panchayat, elections could not be held there for a decade owing to pressure from caste Hindus. A similar situation prevailed in Pappapatti and Keeripatti in Madurai districts.

In 2006, officials managed to bring about a consensus and elections were held for the first time in these reserved panchayats.

A construction labourer, Mr. Karuppan said that the vice-president, six ward members and the panchayat clerk took decisions without consulting him. His views were always ignored and none of the panchayat-related accounts or administrative matters were brought to his notice.

When the vice-president, her husband and others forced him to sign some files without perusing them, Mr. Karuppan refused and lodged a complaint with the district administration and sent its copies to the Chief Minister and others. Virudhunagar Collector M. Balaji visited the village and instructed the ward members to cooperate with the president.

Since there was no perceptible change in the attitude of the vice-president and ward members, Mr. Karuppan sought registration of a case against them under the provisions of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

When contacted, Mr. Balaji said that the Kottakachiyendhal panchayat secretary had been terminated from service and a new person appointed to guide the panchayat president in administrative matters.

“We are closely monitoring the situation in the panchayat. A basic amenities survey was conducted in the village recently and steps have been taken to provide potable water, streetlights, roads etc. Benefits of the Old Age Pension scheme have been extended to eligible persons. The Block Development Officer has been instructed to coordinate with the elected members and ensure an amicable environment there.”

A. Kathir of ‘Evidence', a human rights organisation, urged the district administration to conduct monthly meetings with Dalit panchayat presidents to know their problems. “SC, ST and woman panchayat presidents should be given a monthly remuneration as a majority of them hailed from the ‘below poverty line' category and worked as coolies.”

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Printable version | Aug 5, 2020 7:35:59 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/dalit-panchayat-chief-alleges-discrimination/article3498083.ece

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