23. März 2012: The program launch was on ‘Ugadi’, the traditional New Year Day in Andhra Pradesh. Part of the opening event were demystifying shows of so-called magical powers. Regional media covered the event – an excellent occasion to rise public attention on the Dalit problem.
In November 2011 the enlarged committee of the Freethinkers Switzerland decided to support IHEU-Project “Adopt a Dalit village” for three years.
The projct aims to build up local “centers for social change” and offer services, which would otherwise not be supplied:
- Awareness and demonstration programmes to overcome superstition
- Professional counselling and coaching for young people to encourage them to find alternatives to traditional employment
- Gender and Dalit awareness programmes to develop social and economic status
- Human Rights training programmes to promote humanist ideals of self respect.
District: Nalgonda – 508 213
State: Andhra Pradesh
Total population: 518
Physically challenged: 25
Singel women: 16
Since 700-800 years this village was known as Kesharapatham. About 130 years ago when the lake Mysamma Tank overflowed,
the entire village came under the flood waters. After this, the village was parted into two. In the process some people, belonging to the Scheduled Castes (Dalits; SCs) – Madiga sub-caste – got segregated. The village with the Dalits is now called Keshavapuram and is located 48 kms away from the nearest area hospital. Though the village contains above 500 population it has not been recognized as a special Gram Panchayat administrative unit its Grama Panchayat is 48 kms away; the Govt.‟s fair price shop is 10 kms away from the village. Apart from the lack of a proper road, there is no direct bus facility either. Whenever one needs to travel one has to walk a
distance of 3½ kms. to Velugupally village to catch a bus.
Almost all the villagers are Agricultural labour. The man source of rural income is land in the village 15 families have 2 acres
each; 8 families have 3½ Acers of land. Rest of the villagers possess less than one acre i.e, 123 families have less then 1 Acre of land each.
As this village does not have any big landlords, most of the uneducated labourers from the hamlet do not get regular farm work. They have to go to nearby villages namely Annaram ,Y Velugupally.
Almost 33 families have been forced to migrate, wandering from place to place for want of livelihood. Some manage a living by laboring in the construction industry, others work in poultry sheds or work as lorry cleaners in Hyderabad and Chennai cities. They visit the village once in 6 months.
Because of their situation some are even stopping the education of their children and taking them to the city where the children join the army of child labour in the city. Very few join their children into a Govt. hostel. Their annual income would be between 800 USD and 2000 USD.
As nearly the entire village is Dalit, no one is coming forward to develop this village. Awareness is very poor and they know nothing about society. Until the establishment of the IHEU supported library through a different funding program, they did not have access to any news paper.(now Eenadu daily is supplied).
50 years ago the people of Tungathurthy Mandal fought against the practice of bonded labor, but in the same Mandal of Keshavapuram village 20 families continue to be in the trap of bonded labour. Bonded labour is a form of slavery where having taken a loan, adults and their children are condemned to work for the money lender to repay their debt – and their work pays back only the interest portion, thus keeping them forever in bondage. Their daily chore is from 5 am to 9-30 pm. This sad situation can be seen in Keshavapuram village.
Most Dalit families of this village are becoming prey to the dowry system. The dowry and marriage expenditure may range from 60,000/- to 70,000/- (USD 1500 to 1800 USD).This amount of money is rarely available. Parents of prospective brides therefore borrow money to pay the dowry demanded by the groom‟s family, and in turn become bonded labour.
Child labour / child marriages
This village has a upper primary school which caters to the need of 33 pupils. Several dozens of child labourers have been identified.
And if they wish to pursue higher education they have to walk to other villages: most do not complete even their secondary education.
As parents are keen to marry their children early, child marriages and consequent health problems are common. An Anganwadi (crèche) set up under the Integrated Child Development scheme (ICDS) has 25 children in the 0-05 years ago group.
Keshavapuram is a Dalit village and the people go to the land lords of the neighboring villages for work where they are discriminated in all aspects. Land lords arrange for a separate glass for the use of the Dalits, and if the laborers need to be given anything, it is done so by the so-called forward caste people by dropping the things into their hands, avoid touch or any other physical contact. The same experience is repeated at the grocery or the provisional store as well. Those Dalits who are employed are not allowed to sit on their chairs or cots.
As this village water contains flouride most of the children and old people are suffering – a serious problem acknowledged as a scourge of the region by the Government. Due to fluoride poisoning, children and adults lose the strength in bones, lose memory and women suffer from related disease. Above 35 women face problems of cervix etc.
As Govt. health care is literally absent, Thungathurthy hospitals or near by Suryapet town are their only recourse. They get the money to travel and get the disease treated by selling their cattle, land and by mortgaging their children for work with landlords. Where condition worsens, they return to their village and the serious debts they have incurred. We found 23 families bankrupted due to their health problems.
Keshavapuram is administratively attached to Sangem village but so far no villager from here has grown politically to become a sarpanch (village Mayor) or ward members or MPTC, ZPTC etc. Political knowledge is very poor.
The village does not have a drainage system nor any street lights. So far no help is extended from Scheduled Caste Corporation (charged with dealing with Dalits welfare) nor from DRDA for the development of women. As no Govt. help is forthcoming for encouraging self employment etc., most youth are at a complete loss.
Traditions and Superstitions
All the villagers belong to the Hindu religion as per government records. They perform village goddesses festivals such as Muthyalamma bonalu, Yallamma festival, Uppalamma festival, etc. They eat beef which of course is looked down upon by the upper caste Hindus.
As the villagers are very innocent and gullible, several travelling and wandering „saints‟, Guruvis, black magic practitioners visit the village. Whenever cattle or children suffer from diseases, these wandering charlatans make hay: villagers have to offer animals as offerings, and in the blind belief that they hold, they prefer these charlatans to treat scorpion or snake bite etc. They have more faith in the sahib (Muslim) of Annaram for such bites than they have in modern medicine. In this village, 4 women suffer from hysteria and make others believe that the village goddess entered their body during festival times.
We hope to raise awareness of their social conditions, help them analyze and plan for their own social development, and help them lead a life more dependent on science.
Duration This project will last for 3 years but periodical reports will be sent, with reports being submitted via IHEU to the project sponsors, twice a year.
Health camps will be conducted to save the villagers from various epidemics and other seasonal diseases. Mega health camps will also be organized for cancer etc. diseases. DISHA identified a panel of doctors who agreed to co-ordinate the health camps in the village. Familiy planning will be included.
Educating Villagers against superstitions
Most of the villagers still believe in superstitions which is endangering their social relations and standards of life. To eradicate such superstitions we will conduct awareness programs, demonstration programmes and workshops which will hopefully improve the living standards of the villagers. For this Mr. E. Chandraiah will be the resource person who will educate the public by demystifying magic and witchcraft.
Gender Awareness Programs
To bring equality between men and women we will conduct Awareness Training Programs with the help of ASMITA resource team (An organization struggling for women’s rights) from Hyderabad.
Awareness on Nutritious Diet
To bring Awareness among the villagers about the Nutritious diet to be taken by the children, women and others, the villagers will be educated, as part of awareness programs by Ms. Radha Reddy, Kasturba Women’s College, Secunderabad. She will demonstrate methods for preparation of nutritious food based on locally available food items. We feel that this will have a positive impact as most of the diseases and conditions in the community like Anemia etc, are prevalent due to the lack of a proper nutritious diet.
Awareness on Dalit Orientation
We will also focus our Programs to bring awareness among the Dalits about their rights and privileges as mandated by the Indian Constitution. The resource persons will be Prof. Sujatha Surepally, reputed Journalist Mr. Degala Janardhan and Mr. J. Veeraswamy, Spoorthi’s Director.
Awareness on skill & Economic Development for Women
To bring awareness on skill and economic development of women in the village we plant to develop the living standards of the women. The resource person would be Mr. S. Anjaneyulu Director, Disha, and in case, if necessary we will seek the help of Social Development Foundation, New Delhi.
Programmes and costs
||Costs per unit
||Unites||Costs per year|
|1000 Rs||6||6000 Rs|
|1000 Rs||6||6000 Rs|
|Women’s counseling programmes
||1000 Rs||12||12’000 Rs|
|Medical camp travel expences
||1000 Rs||12||12’000 Rs|
|Medicines||1000 Rs||6||6’000 Rs|
|Career counseling programmes||1000 Rs||6||6’000 Rs|
Village co-ordinater honorarium
|1500 Rs||12||18’000 Rs|
Project Co-ordinater salary
|3500 Rs||12||42’000 Rs|
Team travel expences
|1000 Rs||12||12’000 Rs|
Library Development programme
|4’000 Rs||1||4’000 Rs|
Income Generation Training programmes
|25’000 Rs||1||25’000 Rs|
Annual Review, Evaluation and Doc.
|500 Rs||1||5’000 Rs|
Total: US$ 5000 per year.
Control and reporting
The project is ready to start in February 2012. IHEU representatives will accompany and control the project. Twice a year reports will be pubished here.
IHEU-Project “Adopt a Dalit village” was launched in 2010. Two villages have already been adopted: Gottiparthi village in South India by the French Entraide et Solidarité and Malwabar village in North India by the Dutch Humanists. Keshavapuram village in South India will join in 2012. 5 other villages have been identified. Dozens more want to benefit from Humanist action. Tens of thousands are waiting for their lives to be changed through Humanism’s liberating power.: Change in the name of Humanism!
The Freethinkers Association of Switzerland has granted $ 5000 yearly for 2012-2014 and is asking now members and sympathizers to donate in favour of Keshavapuram:
Swiss Post account: 84-4452-6
Freidenker-Vereinigung der Schweiz
Please indicate: “Dalit”
Donations aboce CHF 100 will automatically be confirmed. Smaller amounts on demand.
Goal: CHF 4600 Level on 15 september 2012: CHF 3681