Three months after tragedy, M.P. Dalit family waits for jobs, houses

2 children were thrashed to death for defecating in the open

More than three months have passed yet the families of two Dalit children thrashed to death for defecating in the open by upper caste men in Shivpuri district in September last year have not been shifted into new houses or given jobs and land promised to them by Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia within a month.

“Nothing can cure the deep wounds the family has suffered,” he told reporters after meeting the family in Bhavkhedi village of the district on October 14. “But being people’s servants, the least we can do is bring them succour. The construction of permanent houses would at least take a month.”

Besides, Mr. Scindia, a former MP from Guna, stating it was unbelievable someone in “his region” could even think of committing such an act, had assured the Mehtar family’s adult members employment, children’s education and had requested Chief Minister Kamal Nath to allot 20 bigha of land on “humanitarian ground” to them.

‘Promise unfulfilled’

“The promises of Maharaj have come to naught,” Bablu Valmik*, whose son, 11, and sister, 12, were the victims, told The Hindu, referring to Mr. Scindia, who belongs to the royal family of Gwalior. “The wheat we got in assistance is over, we don’t have a ration card for the city yet and there is no work promised to us. I thought with a permanent job, I could help meet at least the daily expenses.”

Under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, the family received ₹8,25,000 on top of ₹50,000 as compensation by the panchayat. While Mr. Valmik has set aside a lakh each as fixed deposit in a bank for his two daughters’ wedding, he had to shell out ₹2 lakh each for two new houses, with ₹4 lakh left in his bank account now. “Both the girls go to school in Shivpuri, and they don’t face caste discrimination like in the village school,” he said.

At present, the family — Mr. Valmik and four brothers, his wife, daughters and parents, sister-in-law and two nephews — is staying at two temporary houses having a room, a kitchen and a bathroom each in a colony for Public Health Engineering officials in the city. “There is no water connection, even in the toilet. We have to pay ₹350 for a tanker every three days,” he said. Back in the village, the family stayed in two ramshackle huts without toilets, which prompted the two victims to go out for defecation in the district, declared open defecation-free by the government.

On September 25, as the two victims defecated in the open along a village road, two men of the Yadav community, dominant locally, struck lathis on their heads, killing them. They were later arrested.

Daily wage work

An agricultural labourer back then, Mr. Valmik every morning now rushes to the city circle to seek daily wage work as a construction worker, making ₹150-200 a day, along with one of his brothers. “The two-and-a-half bigha land in my father’s name in the village is lying fallow. We get just one crop during the monsoon a year anyway,” he added. The family, now in a city, can’t even practice the traditional occupation of playing dhapli, a drum, during ceremonies for a fee.

‘Job order ready’

Stating that Mr. Valmik’s job order was ready, Deputy Collector Manoj Garwal said, “He can start working whenever he wants by collecting the order from the Municipal Council office. He’ll be employed as a watchman at a park, with the starting pay scale at ₹6,000 a month.”

Moreover the houses, built under the PM Affordable Housing Scheme, were almost ready, he said. “We’ve collected ₹4 lakh from them for two houses where they can shift once registration of the new colony is completed with the Real Estate Regulatory Authority. The colony will have regular water supply through pipelines,” he said, adding that in most parts of the city water was supplied through tankers.

“What Mr. Scindia and the State government has committed, they’ll surely fulfil it. The houses will be ready in a month and Mr. Valmik can start working from tomorrow, as the go-ahead has been given. As for land, we will allot it soon,” said Pankaj Chaturvedi, aide of Mr. Scindia, and State Congress spokesperson.

*Name changed

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