Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh): Members of the different nomadic, semi-nomadic and denotified communities want work, reservation in government jobs, agricultural land and loan. They say that they have lost their traditional livelihoods and lack the education and the skills needed to make a living in the modern times.
Members of Pardhi, Kalbeliya, Bagri, Kuchbandia and Bedia communities are in the city to participate in the ongoing 38th Lokrang, themed on nomadic, semi-nomadic and denotified communities. They have built their traditional homes as part of an exhibition named ‘Dera’ on the premises of the Ravindra Bhavan to introduce the visitors to their culture and lifestyle.
They told the Free Press that their traditional occupations have either become obsolete or have been banned by the government for different reasons. Thus the Pardhis used to catch and hunt birds, the Kalbeliyas were ‘saperas’, the Bagris used to make mats from leaves of date palm while the Bedias used to entertain people with Rai dance.
Now hunting of birds and keeping snakes captive have been banned and there are few takers for the art of the Bedias and date-palm mats. As a result, most of them have to work as daily wage labourers to make the ends meet.
Ismail Pawar, 60, a Pardhi, said that the system is making the rich, richer and the poor, poorer. “All government jobs are being given to the Sharmas and the Vermas. Not even a single village chowkidar is from our community,” he said. “We, too, had contributed to the freedom struggle. But why is it that a few are ruling while most are suffering,” he said.
Santosh Kalbeliya, 40, from Dewas said that all his four children are studying in different classes. “We are not educated but our children are. Why shouldn't they get jobs, he asks. His wife Angoori said that the income from daily wage work is irregular.
Dhanraj Kuchbandiya, 30, from Seoni said that the government should give them reservations, provide them farmland and loans. “We face great problems in getting caste certificates as we keep on moving from one place to another and do not have the necessary documents,” he said.
Suraj Bedia, from Sagar said that their community is included in the list of Scheduled Castes. but there are so many communities in this category and the level of education in this community is so low that they do get the benefit of reservations. So, we should be categorised as STs, he said. Also, he wants the government to provide a platform for popularising the traditional Rai dance which the women of his community perform.
Bantu Bodana, from Nagda (Ujjain), a Bagri. He said that his community is included in SCs but their members are unable to compete with the other castes.
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