Fears for homeless Dalits as winter approaches

children huddle in makeshift shelter

children huddle in makeshift shelter

Pupils and staff of Wimbledon College in south west London have been responding to the appeal by Jesuits in India, following devastating floods that have hit Dalit communities.  JM has also sent donations to help those known as 'untouchables'.  Here is the latest update from the area - from Fr Maxim Rasquinha SJ, the Mission Superior in Manvi.

It is a month since the floods devastated our villages and still our people are on the road for lack of housing and other amenities.  We have been distributing material by way of rice, dal, oil, nutritional food for our children, clothes and utensils and warm clothing as winter is setting in.

We are mobilizing people to demand from the government their rightful needs in this hour of struggle.  There is a lot of discrimination on the part of the government machinery: those who do not need help have been helped abundantly and the needy poor people have been set aside.  Plots have been distributed to the higher castes whose houses are safe, while the Dalits who have lost their houses are still on the road.  In connection to this, a strike was organized at Sindhnoor, at which people demanded plots for the people of Hulugunchi and immediate temporary arrangements to live in.  As a result a new survey was conducted with a promise from the Tahsildar (local government official) to provide immediate help.

There is some anxiety as regards the weather because of the cyclonic winds in the southern sea which have affected both Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.  The sky is overcast in our area.  Yesterday, there were heavy showers and we could see people struggling to keep their little tents in position. Sad to say: those who have their houses have managed to get help, while those who are badly in need of help have been deceived.  This is the way the government agencies operate.

What has been our work? Along with many people of goodwill, we have been distributing essential items like food, clothing, water, medicine and utensils.  We have already made an impact on 22 villages: Pannur, Hulugunchi, Yadiwala, Chintmandoddi, Chitalli, Olabellary, Yeddoldoddi, Gonavora, Hadginal, Chikalparvi, Devipura, Ramathnal, Vegneshwara Camp, Jokkur, Harnahalli, Valcomdinni, Rajolli, Adavi Kanapur, Karabadinni, Puldinni, Dumti and Muddanguddi.

Besides distributing basic materials to these people, our teams are making themselves available to them, to listen and empathise in their sorrow and pain and keep the children engaged and happy.  We have distributed our volunteers in different teams to be close to the people in these villages.  We have 18 Bethany Sisters and six Jesuit Novices distributed in various flood affected areas along with other helping hands.

Our biggest task now is to mobilize people and prepare them to demand from the government agencies what is due to them, like land for their house and compensation for the loss of property, cattle and house. We are also networking with like-minded people to pressurise the government to act and to provide the people with more permanent habitation.
We have brought several children to Pannur from the flood affected areas and are taking care of them, as it is too much for the parents to worry about their needs.

Our people are still in a state of shock; they are not able to see what they have to do next, as most of them have lost their cattle and crops.

Photos show the town of Hulugunchi, on the other side of the river from Pannur. In 2008, pupils and staff of Wimbledon College built foundations for houses here.

Share this story