Fighting to get pathway for Dalit women
Fighting to get pathway for Dalit women. One of the major problems that the very poor face in rural India is that when a village divides on account of politics of any kind, the interests of the poor suffer as the poor have to join one or the other of the dominant groups whether or not their real interests are thus served.
One of the major problems that the very poor face in rural India is that when a village divides on account of politics of any kind, the interests of the poor suffer as the poor have to join one or the other of the dominant groups whether or not their real interests are thus served. When this happened in a village in Krishna district the results turned out to be pretty costly for the Collector himself! The Zilla Parishad High School (ZPHS) in this village abutted the harijanwada but there also existed a no man’s land between the harijanwada and the school, about six yards wide. It was represented to me by the Dalits of this village through a respected leader of the district Guntur Bapanaiah that this land was being used by the women of the harijanwada as a pathway to reach the bushes some distance away serving as toileting ground by these women. It was brought to my notice that a barbed wire fence was being erected by the ZPHS right up to the houses in the harijanwada in such a manner that this pathway to the toileting grounds was blocked off so the women lost their right of pathway to answer calls of nature.
It was alleged that this was done because the occupants of this harijanwada belonged to the faction opposed to the one that had influence over the affairs of the school. The resultant predicament of the women was brought to my notice by Guntur Bapanaiah who had been a legislator. Accompanied by the chairman of the ZP I inspected the spot personally on the 1st September 1974 and found the facts on ground to be exactly as reported by the harijans. I examined the village records and found that the area occupied by the ZPHS was classified as playground poromboke. In other words, it was government land and had continued to remain so despite the school having been built. The women needed immediate relief from being constrained by the act of the ZPHS. Under the Zilla Parishad and Panchayat Samithis Act 1959 the Collector was the chairman of all the standing committees of the ZP including the one on Education. The chairman ZP was also present at this inspection. I noticed a clear “footpath” in the disputed area created by its constant use by the harijans establishing beyond doubt that they had been using the path over a long period. This beaten path could not have appeared suddenly and must have been in existence for several years and enclosing that now with a fence against custom and usage was unfair and calculated to harm the interests of the harijans. To obviate this, I ordered that the fencing be shifted so the pathway would continue to be available to the harijans. I wrote a note accordingly on the file justifying my decision.