Kushinagar: At a time when India is witnessing rapid social and economic changes, the Musahar community of Kushinagar are forced to live in the outskirts of the village, in hamlets earmarked exclusively for them. Living in unhygienic conditions with next to no benefits from the Modi government, the impoverished and oppressed members of this community are overwhelmingly landless, eking out a miserable living by working as unskilled labourers in farms and brick chimneys.
Kushinagar, located at the north-eastern edge of UP, goes to polls on May 19. It is a densely populated area with about 15% Scheduled Caste population. It is one of the most backward districts in the country. It is also a famous Buddhist pilgrimage site.
A HOUSE — DREAM FOR EVERY MUSAHAR
Sisain Pras tola and Gurmiya village under Kudwa Dileep Nagar, 8 km from Kasia tehsil have over 6,000 Musahar people living in acute poverty. Despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana which was expected to solve India’s housing shortage, these people are forced to live in makeshift huts or in rickety mud houses on lands that they do not own.
Sitting under a peepul tree in the scorching heat, Kanti Devi, who still believes that Modi will provide her a house, said, “Few people came here six months back and clicked photos of our hut but it seems it was just a photo op. We are not worth anything to people, who hire us only in season. In our community, many people don’t have food to eat. My husband is suffering from hydrocephalus but we don’t have money for his treatment and the district hospital has already surrendered because they don’t have medicine for this disease.”
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“Humari biradari me kisi ko makan nahi mila hai. Sab dalal le lete hain, ekka-dukka jiske pass hai wo bahut purana hai (In our community, no one has got a house under any scheme. Brokers take everything. Those few who have received anything had got it long back),” 70-year-old Sudharshan who works as a labourer told NewsClick.
Ramrati, Emarti Devi, Meena and Seema were busy singing monsoon special song in Bhojpuri when NewsClick team approached them. They have a series of complaints against the Modi government and the Sarpanch. They have claimed that despite filling forms, no one got any house. They also alleged that officers throw away their papers and they will not apply for any more schemes as their hard work goes in vain everytime. “Ek awas mil jata to bachhon ke liye achha hota (It would be good for our children if we get a house),” one of them sums up.
The Musahars are considered an untouchable community, whose members are traditionally rat-catchers. They have always been kept away from mainstream society. In this village of Kushinagar, they have been oppressed, targeted and beaten by the upper caste and verbal abuse is a routine affair.
Ful Kumari who received had 2 Katha land from the previous village sarpanch said, “Patta wali 2 katha zameen mili thi kheti karne ke liye pichle pardhan ke time lekin is pradhan ne sab le liye (I got 2 Katha land for farming on lease from the previous sarpanch but the current village head has taken that away from me.)”
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Ful Kumari, also said that despite being a Red Card (given to those living below poverty line) holder, is not getting enough ration.
DISCRIMINATION ON RATION DISTRIBUTION
“40 ghar Mushar biradri ka hai Gurmiya tola me. Sirf 6 logon ko laal card mila hai aur kuch ko safed, bahut sare logon ko to mila hi nahi hai (There are 40 families of Musahars in Gurmiya tola and out of 40, only 6 families have received Below Poverty Level (BPL) card. Few received the white card and many people did not get anything),” Ram Awatar, one of the villagers told NewsClick.
Accusing his Kotedar (who distributes ration) of not giving them ration, Ram Awatar said, “On red card, they are supposed to give us 35 kg ration but one can hardly get 15 kg. On the other hand, those who avail white card are supposed to get 5 kg but they are also not getting the required amount and when we complain, the distributor asks us not to come again.”
Kauleshar, who has a white ration card, said, “Did I get the ration card as a show piece that I am not getting anything? I get my requirements from the market. In my entire life, I have never received sugar or kerosene from the kotedar. I even showed my Aadhaar card but he rejected several times so I have stopped going there.”
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Ful Kumari and many others like her also have a complaint that when their thumb prints don’t match with the machine, they were denied ration and forced to buy from the market.
Gulaishi, Sahdevi and Kusmi are some of the many people whose names are not in the list and haven’t received any card. They are forced to purchase their ration from the market which is expensive for them. “If he will not make our Red Card, we will not able to survive for a long time,” one of them stated.
NO HEALTH FACILITIES
Ram Chandra who lost her daughter on May 13 due to high fever said, “Pooja, my daughter was suffering from high fever and we rushed to the government hospital in Kasia where they declared her dead.”
When asked about the medical facilities available in the village, Ram Chandra said, “Ask any villager, they will tell you the truth. We do not even have the basic facilities in the village.”
Hridyanand Sharma, a social activist who has been working with the Musahar community said that over 1,07,000 people living in 55 mohallas across the district. They are living in large numbers in Koilaswa and Doghara.
Talking about the living conditions of the Musahar community, he said, “I am working with this community under supervision of Medha Patkar and Ramson Magsaysay awardee Sandeep Pandey, since 18 years. We had even started an institution to impart education but it was all in vain. During crop cutting season, the children go to pick up grain. The people are engaged in the production of local liquor and the women and children are caught in the trap of liquor, as there is a high demand from the city.”
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He added, “Yogi government have announced a lot of schemes to uplift the Musahar community but on the ground they are living in the worst conditions.”
Sanjay Singh, a social activist told NewsClick, “Vikas Manch and Musahar Vikas Pahal are two Non-Government Organisation (NGO) working in Kushinagar district but they are not providing any benefit to the community. Instead they are filling their own pocket in the name of Musahar.”