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… Dalits had to wait for trucks to serve Caste Hindus before they could get relief materials …

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… Dalits had to wait for trucks to serve Caste Hindus before they could get relief materials …

Chennai Flood :Caste base discrimination on relief reported by National Mainstream Media

Scant aid for low-caste villagers hit by south India floods: charities http://news.yahoo.com/scant-aid-low-caste-villagers-hit-south-india-134924533.html  

CHENNAI/NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Hundreds of poor lower-caste families who lost their homes and jobs after devastating floods swept southern India have been neglected by government relief efforts, a survey conducted by two charities has found.

About 280 people have died and more than 400,000 have been displaced across Tamil Nadu state since torrential rains began in early November, swelling rivers and reservoirs and inundating the state capital Chennai and neighboring coastal districts.

A study of the first days of the floods found that although low-caste or “Dalit” families were the group worst hit by the floods, few had received any help, said National Dalit Watch and Social Awareness Society for Youth – Tamil Nadu.

“No relief has reached the community properly till now. During the distribution of food relief there has been priority to the families having concrete houses, people having connections with leaders of villages,” the report said.

“Relief camps and medical facilities have been organized far away from the villages, or are in dominant caste areas which Dalit people cannot access due to the lack of transport and fear of discrimination and violence,” it added.

Government officials in Cuddalore district said the report was incorrect and helping marginalized Dalit communities was considered a priority after a disaster.

“In times of inundation, Dalit colonies are usually more affected since they are in low-lying areas,” Gagandeep Singh Bedi, Cuddalore’s Monitoring Officer for Disaster Relief, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“The state government is very sensitive to the needs of Dalits. For them, we have built a temporary shelter in record time.”

The rains, the heaviest in a century, hit Chennai last week, putting some areas under eight feet (2.5 meters) of water, trapping people on rooftops with no power or communications.

The rains have now stopped, water levels are dropping, and the government has set up relief camps across Tamil Nadu. Dry food and tarpaulins are being distributed, but some interior areas have been difficult to reach due to damaged roads.

The survey polled 1,500 families in Cuddalore district, more than 40 percent of them Dalits, from Nov. 19 to 21. It found that 95 percent of damaged houses, 92 percent of livestock lost and 86 percent of crops lost belonged to Dalits.

Caste-based discrimination was banned in India in 1955, but centuries-old attitudes persist in many parts of the country and low-caste Indians still face prejudice in every sector.

Aid workers say that in times of flood or drought, many Dalits do not get the same access as higher-caste Indians to emergency aid such as clean water, dry food rations or shelter.

In most Dalit villages surveyed in Cuddalore’s Parangipettai and Bhuvanagiri blocks there was no clean drinking water, and in some areas dominant castes had refused to share their water sources with Dalits, the survey showed. Most Dalit villages also lack medical services, it added.

But government officials said the bulk of the relief budget had been spent on helping rebuild and repair over 70,000 damaged homes of Dalits.

“District and state government are aware and make conscious efforts to ensure that the poor and Dalits are given the greatest care,” said Bedi. 

(Reporting by Nita Bhalla in New Delhi and Sandhya Ravishankar in Chennai, writing by Nita Bhalla, editing by Tim Pearce. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change.

Chennai floodwater mixes with casteism: Dalits refused relief in Cuddalore #WTFnews http://www.kractivist.org/chennai-floodwater-mixes-with-casteism-dalits-refused-relief-in-cuddalore-wtfnews/

A survey reveals that around 90 % of the houses, livestock and crops destroyed in Cuddalore districts of Tamil Nadu belong to the Dalits.

SALMA REHMAN@rehmansalma |8 December 2015

One of the reason for the acute damage is that the schedule castes are mostly living either on the edge or close to the river on the low-lying areas.

The survey also reveals that in Kongarayanpalayam, people from the dominant caste blocked clean water access for the Dalits.

The world watched in awe last week as people in and outside Tamil Nadu pulled out all the stops to help those affected by the worst rains to hit the state in a 100 years.

People opened the doors of their houses to strangers, shared food and supplies and went out of their way to rescue those stranded in the floods. However, while most of Tamil Nadu experienced these heartwarming scenes, the situation in Cuddalore – one of the state’s worst affected districts – proved why true humanity may still be a distant dream.

A recent report published by the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) and the Social awareness Society of Youth (SASY), exposed the dejection that people from lower castes are facing in the state’s most underprivileged areas. As if the devastation of the floods were not hard enough on the Dalit community in Cuddalore district, they were also denied the compassion that the rest of the state seemed to receive in the aftermath of the floods.

‘The floods washed away everything’

The floods left the low-lying areas in Cuddalore district completely crippled – with houses and roads submerged in water. Keenanur, Manavalanallur, Kottumulai, Ottimedu and about 10 other villages were inundated.

The survey by NCDHR and SASY, which covered 8,400 Dalit and non-Dalit families in 20 villages in the region, revealed that around 90 per cent of the houses, livestock and crops destroyed by the deluge belonged to Dalit families.

One of the reason for the acute damage is that the schedule castes are mostly living either on the edge or close to the river on the low-lying areas – making them more vulnerable to damage. A majority of their houses are made of mud and thatch – that were washed away in the deluge.

“This is reaffirmation of caste divide as the choice of these people to stay secluded from the other residential areas in their respective villages is borne out of the social norms which are strictly observed there,” said Rajesh, NCDHR’s Coordinator of National Dalit Watch.

No shelter

The Dalit population in the district lack government infrastructure – like schools and community halls – leaving villagers from Dalit communities in Vadakkuthurai, Kongarayanpalayam, Agaram and Ambedkar Nagar villages with no place to take refuge.

According to reports, there were also instances where the government rescue teams failed to visit some remote Dalit villages for lack of connectivity. As a result, the Dalit families from Vadukathirumedu, Chillankuppam, Kaduvetti, Varagurpettai and Annavalli could not shifted to safer place after the huge flood hit in their villages.

‘Can’t quench thirst’

In around 90 per cent of the surveyed villages, there was no adequate provision of drinking water. “A number of Dalit families did not receive any drinking water. Most of the public sources are destroyed and villagers in hamlets like Vadakkuthurai, Ennanagaram and Kongarayanpalayam had to travel miles for getting the access,” said Pandeyan from the SASY.

He narrated of a chilling reminder of Munshi Premchand‘s story – the Thakur’s well. “In Kongarayanpalayam, people from the dominant caste blocked clean water access for the Dalits. This is reflective of the eople’s attitude which refuse to compromise with their rusted caste-system even at the time of such hardships,” he alleged.

Struggle for survival

According to the survey, relief efforts are restricted to specific villages which belong to the upper caste people – mostly in the more accessible district blocks.

Reportedly, in the Alamelumangapuram village, a medical camp has been organised in an area which is dominated by high caste people. According to reports, people from the Dalit communities were avoiding the camp for fear of violence and discrimination.

“Majority of the Dalit villages have been filled with flood water, mixed with sewage. Villages like Nalanthethu, Alamelumangapuram and Vadakkuthurai are under threat of malaria and dengue outbreak,” said Rajesh.

Catch tried to reach the District Collector of Cuddlore on the issue but he did not comment on the issue.

Dalits suffered more than others in flood-hit Cuddalore: Report http://huntnews.in/p/detail/5fe7f96b097d3087478c9080f48012bb?uc_param_str=dnfrpfbivesscpgimibtbmntnisieijblauputoggdnw

Dalit households were hit the hardest by torrential rainfall and floods in Tamil Nadu’s Cuddalore district over the past month due to poverty and discrimination by upper caste villagers, a report has said.

The document surveyed 8,400 Dalit and non-Dalit families in 20 villages in the Cuddalore region – more than half of these belonged to dominant caste villagers– to find that around 90% of the houses, livestock and crops destroyed by the deluge belonged to Dalit families.

The report also alleged dominant caste people blocked access to clean water and official relief measures remained concentrated in upper caste neighbourhoods that were more accessible by transport.

Conducted by the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) and the Social Awareness Society for Youths (SASY), the survey said that Dalits made up the lion’s share of those displaced by the floods as they lived in poorly-constructed mud houses.

Of the 1,026 mud houses that collapsed, 971 belonged to Dalits and of the 311 concrete houses that were damaged, 305 belonged to Dalits, the report said.

The report also found a majority of Dalit settlements were located on the fringes of the villages and much closer to dangerously-bloated water bodies. The average distance of Dalit houses from these rivers, canals and the sea was 1.5 km, the report found.

As a result of this proximity, 128 of the 146 goats killed in the survey area belonged to Dalits. All 20 cows that died belonged to Dalits and 274 of the 292 heads of poultry that drowned belonged to Dalits.

In Vadakkuthurai village, dominant caste people stopped Dalits from entering their neighbourhoods to access clean water. In Alamelumangalapuram, Dalits who have never been allowed to enter upper caste areas were too scared to attend the government medical camp set up for flood victims.

The report said that most primary health centres were located in dominant caste neighbourhoods and were, on an average, three km from Dalit settlements. As a result, reaching these PHCs involved wading through flooded areas — a major risk.

The neglect was institutional, the report alleged, pointing out that visits by senior government officials were mostly to dominant caste areas and Dalits who lived in the most-inaccessible parts of villages weren’t visited by any inspection team.

The report also said private and government aid teams were distributing relief materials such as food and tarpaulins only to dominant caste areas that were easily accessible and located on main roads and highways.  

Scant Aid For Low-Caste Villagers Hit By Floods In Tamil Nadu, Says Survey By Two Charities http://www.huffingtonpost.in/2015/12/09/chennai-floods_n_8754788.html

CHENNAI/NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Hundreds of poor lower-caste families who lost their homes and jobs after devastating floods swept Tamil Nadu have been neglected by government relief efforts, a survey conducted by two charities has found.

About 280 people have died and more than 400,000 have been displaced across Tamil Nadu since torrential rains began in early November, swelling rivers and reservoirs and inundating the state capital Chennai and neighbouring coastal districts.

A study of the first days of the floods found that although low-caste or “Dalit” families were the group worst hit by the floods, few had received any help, said National Dalit Watch and Social Awareness Society for Youth – Tamil Nadu.

“No relief has reached the community properly till now. During the distribution of food relief there has been priority to the families having concrete houses, people having connections with leaders of villages,” the report said.

“Relief camps and medical facilities have been organised far away from the villages, or are in dominant caste areas which Dalit people cannot access due to the lack of transport and fear of discrimination and violence,” it added.

Government officials in Cuddalore district said the report was incorrect and helping marginalised Dalit communities was considered a priority after a disaster.

“In times of inundation, Dalit colonies are usually more affected since they are in low-lying areas,” Gagandeep Singh Bedi, Cuddalore’s Monitoring Officer for Disaster Relief, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“The state government is very sensitive to the needs of Dalits. For them, we have built a temporary shelter in record time.”

The rains, the heaviest in a century, hit Chennai last week, putting some areas under eight feet (2.5 metres) of water, trapping people on rooftops with no power or communications.

The rains have now stopped, water levels are dropping, and the government has set up relief camps across Tamil Nadu. Dry food and tarpaulins are being distributed, but some interior areas have been difficult to reach due to damaged roads.

The survey polled 1,500 families in Cuddalore district, more than 40 percent of them Dalits, from Nov. 19 to 21. It found that 95 percent of damaged houses, 92 percent of livestock lost and 86 percent of crops lost belonged to Dalits.

Caste-based discrimination was banned in India in 1955, but centuries-old attitudes persist in many parts of the country and low-caste Indians still face prejudice in every sector.

Aid workers say that in times of flood or drought, many Dalits do not get the same access as higher-caste Indians to emergency aid such as clean water, dry food rations or shelter.

In most Dalit villages surveyed in Cuddalore’s Parangipettai and Bhuvanagiri blocks there was no clean drinking water, and in some areas dominant castes had refused to share their water sources with Dalits, the survey showed. Most Dalit villages also lack medical services, it added.

But government officials said the bulk of the relief budget had been spent on helping rebuild and repair over 70,000 damaged homes of Dalits.

“District and state government are aware and make conscious efforts to ensure that the poor and Dalits are given the greatest care,” said Bedi.  

(Reporting by Nita Bhalla in New Delhi and Sandhya Ravishankar in Chennai, writing by Nita Bhalla, editing by Tim Pearce. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change.

Tsunami to 2015 Floods – “No Respite for Dalits in Disaster Response, Tamil Nadu”: Report of Initial Findings from Immediate Needs Assessment and Monitoring Responses towards Affected Dalit Communities http://reliefweb.int/report/india/tsunami-2015-floods-no-respite-dalits-disaster-response-tamil-nadu-report-initial

Dalits hit disproportionately hard by 2015 flooding in India, no relief in sight

An assessment report of the situation in Tamil Nadu following devastating floods on 9 November, 2015, finds that Dalit households are the main victims of the flood and are not receiving relief from the Government, despite non-Dalits having received such relief. Statistics reveal that more than 95% of the houses damaged due to the flooding that were surveyed are Dalit houses while Dalits have not received any shelter relief from the Government. The report “No Respite for Dalits in Disaster Response, Tamil Nadu” has been released by National Dalit Watch and Social Awareness Society for Youth – Tamil Nadu.

The assessment team surveyed 8392 households, just under 41% of these were Dalit households. Some of the most striking statistical findings in the report reveal that 90% of those injured in the flooding were Dalits, 95% of the houses damaged were Dalit houses, 92% of livestock damaged belonged to Dalits and that 86% of crop losses were sustained by Dalits.

Adding insult to injury the assessment team finds that stories of discrimination in rescue and relief work were widespread among the respondents, with non-Dalit households and villages reportedly receiving support from the Government while Dalit households are not receiving support despite being the worst affected.

Despite their houses being the main damaged, no affected Dalit families surveyed have received shelter relief from the government and Dalit families were often not able to access relief camps set up in dominant caste villages, due to discrimination and distance.

We don’t have walls and a roof, even after 20 days of floods, no officials have visited our village till now, even the village council (Panchayat) president who is from the dominant community is totally biased and not concerned regarding our situation.” Dalit respondent from Parankipettai panchayats

No Dalit families have received food rations through the Tamil Nadu state-run public distribution system (PDS) – even 10 days after the flooding. Dalits surveyed explain that often food relief has been given to non-Dalits living in concrete houses but that Dalits are left hungry.

The report states that in 90% of Dalit villages there is no supply of safe water and public water sources have been destroyed or contaminated. Dalits in some villages have also explained that dominant caste persons have refused to allow them to take water from the sources owned by non-Dalits or in the dominant caste locations.

There is a desperate lack of immediate medical services in most Dalit villages despite the spreading of water borne disease and 90% of those indicated injured in the survey being Dalits. Many Dalit children are suffering from fever and are not receiving treatment.

“When flood water came into my house I ran to find a safe place and at this old age I could not reach it safely and broke my leg in the chaos … there was no rescue operation and medical assistance provided by the Government in our village” 72 year-old woman in Malavanur village

Immediate Needs and Recommendations

The immediate needs of Dalits in the affected villages include rescue and evacuation, immediate food assistance, shelters, health services, access to clean water and sanitation services, and recovery and compensation including rebuilding of schools. A detailed needs assessment is presented in full in the report.

The report also offers detailed recommendations for fulfilling these needs. Among specific rescue and relief recommendations offered are key recommendations to authorities and other relief providers, including, involving Dalits in the relief and rehabilitation efforts, initiating multi-stakeholder dialogues, investigating cases of caste discrimination in the relief efforts and assessing Dalit losses and compensating them adequately. The report also recommends the urgent initiation of a task force to strategize the “Actions towards inclusive disaster risk reduction” at District level.

The organisations behind the report warn that history is repeating itself as National Dalit Watch has previously in connection with the 2004 Tsunami, and many other disasters in India, documented the disproportionate effects of disasters on Dalit households and discrimination in rescue and relief efforts.

Unfortunately the report is yet another piece of the evidence of Dalit vulnerability to natural disasters and caste discrimination in relief efforts that has been building for many years, last raised by IDSN in an urgent appeal in relation to the Nepal earthquake. IDSN’s publication, Equality in Aid, collating cases and offering recommendations, is also very relevant in this latest instance.

Caste raises its ugly head in calamity http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/caste-raises-its-ugly-head-in-calamity/article7968093.ece

Deep divisions between the Dalits and the OBCs in the northern districts has had an effect on the flood relief initiatives with Caste Hindus in several villages across Cuddalore allegedly objecting to trucks carrying materials attending to Scheduled Caste settlements first.

Civilian volunteers who were involved in relief measures faced a difficult task when they ventured into remote villages, where caste prejudices have strengthened since the Dharmapuri riots of 2012.

The devastated village of Onankuppam in Kurinjipadi provided a perfect picture of how Dalits had to wait for the trucks to serve the Caste Hindu settlement before they could distribute the relief materials in their area.

When the Army visited the village to hold a medical camp, the OBC villagers took the column to a house at the centre of the village. Given the atmosphere of mutual suspicion, Dalits were reluctant to venture into the OBC settlement to access the medical camp.

In fact, the villagers told The Hindu that a more pressing problem they faced was the narrowness of a bridge that Neyveli Lignite Corporation had built for them. “If the bridge was wider, we could completely avoid moving through the SC settlement to reach the main road,” said Ganesan, an OBC resident. Women agreed alleging that their young daughters were being “teased” if they walked through the SC area.

“Since our huts are in the periphery of the village, we are the worst affected. But every time a truck comes in, it is taken directly into the Caste Hindu settlement where we have not gone in for years now,” said a Dalit woman, who was disinclined to identify herself anticipating backlash. Several houses belonging to the SC community members were submerged in the area.

In about 20 villages this reporter visited on Monday and Tuesday, the story was startlingly similar. In Payirvelivellaiyankuppam area, Dalits recollected how an NGO truck carrying hundreds of bottles of drinking water was rerouted to the intermediate caste settlement. “When the truck came back, it hardly had ten cartons,” a villager alleged. Apprehensions were also raised on involving panchayat presidents in relief works since many were from the Caste Hindu groups in Cuddalore.

However, Dalits also pointed out that once the police started accompanying the trucks, there were more materials reaching them.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, senior IAS officer Gagandeep Singh Bedi, who is supervising the relief operations in Cuddalore, said specific instructions were given to ensure that relief measures take place first in areas dominated by huts since this was where the poorest lived. Joint medical camps organised with the Army was held in a number of predominantly Dalit villages of Suthukulam, Sottavanam, Reddyarpalayam, Kolakudi Mettu and Vellapakkam. By providing contact numbers, feedback was also being received from areas where relief operations were on.

“When huts of Dalits were washed away in floods at Periyakattupalayam, we immediately sanctioned Rs 12 lakh and built temporary shelters for all of them,” Mr. Bedi said.

Dalits had to wait for trucks to serve Caste Hindus before they could get relief materials

 

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