Dalits still waiting for help in Tamil Nadu floods, governments ignoring Dalits


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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.

Read also – Earthquake that couldn’t shake caste bias – Dalit victims of Nepal earthquake still waiting for any help

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Here is what Dr. Ambedkar had said about the discrimination in charity almost 70 years back and this is still true,

“Go into the field of charity. With one or two exceptions all charity in India is communal. If a Parsi dies, he leaves his money for Parsis. If a Jain dies, he leaves his money for Jains. If a Marwadi dies, he leaves his money for Marwadis. If a Brahmin dies, he leaves his money for Brahmins. Thus, there is no room for the downtrodden and the outcastes in politics, in industry, in commerce, and in education.”

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.

It is unfortunate when relief and rehabilitation should be done without considering caste or creed, in reality it doesn’t happen. Research has shown time and again that in large scale disasters, communities at the bottom of the caste hierarchy are also the last to receive relief benefits, if they receive it at all.

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.

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.

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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.

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.

Source – IDSN website

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