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Thiruvananthapuram: Marginalised sections ignored in relief plans


Published on: July 27, 2019 | Updated on: July 27, 2019

Shibi Peter coordinated the work of CSSC, which is run by a group of academics, independent researchers and activists.

Thiruvananthapuram: A study by an activist group has revealed glaring discrimination shown by different agencies against marginalised sections during the flood relief operations last year. The affected included dalits, dalit Christians, adivasis and scheduled castes.

Their plight has been brought out in a document, ‘Marginalisation in Catastrophe: Rainfall, Landslides and Deluge in Kerala,’ prepared by the Centre for Social Studies and Culture (CSSC), Kottayam, in collaboration with the Delhi Forum, Abhayaloka Buddhist Community (ABC) and Socio-Economic Development Service (SEDS). Shibi Peter coordinated the work of CSSC, which is run by a group of academics, independent researchers and activists.

The experience of Lissy, a separated woman, who was in charge of the anganvadi at her village, was revealing. The panchayat officials gave her additional workload for three days continuously in a relief camp without paying extra remuneration. Her house was submerged and all household materials were lost when she returned from the camp with Rs 1,000 given by her cousin. She had to spend Rs 900 to reach home using various modes of travel. She could not clean her house or do anything for her family for three days.

Scheduled Castes got Rs 15,000 to repair houses while Dalit Christians got only Rs 10,000 as they are not classified as Scheduled Castes. NGOs and the Church also ignored them.

 When the shutter of an irrigation canal from Muvattupuzha river broke, flood waters destr-oyed the stock of hay kept as fodder for cattle by the people living south-west of Thalayolapparambu resulting in a loss of `8,000 to `10,000 to them. And they found it very difficult to feed livestock which is central for their livelihood.

 Most of the Dalit localities in Kuttanadu faced water shortage. Mithramadam colony at Mithrakkari had a single water tap for all the families of the region. Most dalit families depended on such water taps or purchased drinking water at a huge cost.

Many Dalits had to leave their houses because of the damaged toilets. The toilets in 67 per cent of households surveyed were damaged either partially or completely due to collapse of walls, breakage of the tanks and doors due to sustained water-logging for many days.

Dalits did not get timely warnings, support for shifting to relief camps or in the disbursal of relief and compensation due to spatial disadvantage.  

The dwellings of dalits in Kuttanad are built on raised mud platforms in the low-lying lands in the flooded paddy areas or puramboke land. This resulted in the proliferation of ghettoized, exclusionary and exclusive dalit settlements known as ‘colonies.’

Among the households covered in the survey, except for 50 houses others had different degrees of indebtedness from various sources.

When a priest in Gomentha church in Muttar opened the parish hall for relief camp, majority of the people who sought refuge belonged to dalit communities. A Syrian Christian family, who consider themselves equivalent to some of the privileged Hindu communities, also reached the camp. The family felt uneasy and asked the priest to provide a separate accommodation to them. But when the priest refused, the family left the parish hall to seek shelter elsewhere.

Adivasi houses were built as part of government projects spending nearly Rs. 3.5 lakh for each house. But these were not properly constructed due to corruption. The adivasis who returned home found the reinforced cement concrete roofs leaking. They had to request the authorities to provide them tarpaulin sheets to cover the concrete houses, the study said.