Monday, March 7, 2011

BIS #2321 SNF- OBTAINED TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY FOUR SC CASTE CERTIFICATES

Dakshayani Madangopal
PANGOLI, MARCH 7, 2011: Pangloli, a tribal village in Maharashtra, is situated a few kilometers away from Lonavala, and boasts of a total of hundred and forty houses, with seventy five in neighboring Kunegaon. The village residents mostly belong to the Adivasi class of ‘Thakar’ and ‘Katkari’, some to Other Backward Classes category, ‘Dhangar’ etc. They have been living in this place for more than a hundred years now, but no one possessed any proof of residence or identity.

The seriousness of the problem was brought home to the villagers in 2005 when, during a camp, they were told that they would not find mention in any list unless they produced some document dating back to fifty years and more. Thus began the long painstaking process to obtain caste certificates for the residents of this village. An initiative was launched by Maria Ashiana through their social worker Mr. Dama Hole. Maria Ashiana collaborated with an NGO Manshakti to unearth some records that would be a proof of the people’s identity. Visits to the archives at Vadgaon Taluka office revealed a treasure trove of documents, files and records of births and deaths of the ancestors of the residents. Sifting through endless piles of paper and cross-matching it with details from other records of the talaathi to establish authenticity has finally succeeded in obtaining two hundred and fifty four caste certificates for the villages of Kune, Pangloli and Vanati - only eleven more remain to be obtained.

Possession of a caste certificate remains the one document that can guarantee access to housing facilities (government schemes such as Indira Awaas Yojana provide grants-in-aid for poor rural people towards construction of pucca houses and up gradation of existing kachcha structures), educational scholarships (providing a stipend besides free boarding and lodging and fee exemption), employment schemes, cooking gas, electoral processes etc. Possessing a caste certificate means that the villagers are required to pay only ten percent of their water and gas (LPG) bills, youth need to pay only ten percent of the cost of a drum set (Bongos), ten percent for a cycle etc while women have a similar discount on sewing machine, grinding machines etc. A caste certificate also assures a sum of Rs 20,000/ at the time of marriage. Schemes for business enterprises also exist- small businesses (say up to Rs 1 lakh) require only a ten percent investment from the villagers while larger businesses that come under the Adivasi Vikas Prakalp Godegaon Junnar require an investment of fifty percent by the villagers.

The Katkaris of the three villages, who for generations, never had access to their right under the Constitution of India, are grateful to Maria Ashiana for helping them obtain caste certificates that have helped transform not just the lives but also the mindsets of the villagers from just “living their life” to the current organized style of living- houses have been registered, toilets have been constructed, water taps provided, connecting roads built- all of which have brought the hitherto isolated villagers from their narrow confines of their homes to participate in development and in public life, radically changing their self-perception. They have taken their own initiatives to further their progress, source out more government schemes through the eligibility of the caste certificate etc. The village communities’ homogeneity and co-operative behavior has been capitalized upon to build robust community based institutions which can carry forward the development task, and also place organized demands for various development programs and influence local governance.

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