Rani, a 71-year-old woman living in Hoovina Hadagali in the Bellary district of Karnataka, spends her day begging on the streets to make ends meet for her family. She’s been doing this, day in and day out, after the local Panchayat striped her and her family from their homes.
Rani is one of the hundreds living in a similar condition where a secure house and a regular income is hard to achieve.
This group of close to 50 families, known as ‘Banjaaras’ by the locals, have been living on a field with tents for the past three years. With no electricity, proper water or sanitary facilities, life has been extremely tough for them.
They wait every day in a hope that the Panchayat will come to them and solve their misery as they had promised a few years ago. The families wait to feel the comfort of a proper home where their families can live together, safe from the harsh rain or burning sun. They wait for recognition from the
“We didn’t have proper homes back then either. But we were comfortable. We were recognized by the government as local citizens. We all had jobs, no matter how small. Now we have nothing. Our children have nothing,” Hanumanta, a member of the group said.
Hanumanta lives with his wife, two daughters and parents in a tent too small to even fit three people. He sells balloons and small toys, which he makes out of wool, in the local Melas.
The rest of the members have hardly any earning. Most of them beg on the streets. A few women have been lucky that they’ve bagged a job as household help in the residential areas nearby.
An unfulfilled promise
Shanti Bazaar, the place where they lived previously, was their home for years. Their ancestors, too, had lived there and expanded their families. The government in 2015 had asked the
The government had verbally promised the group a resettlement by building new houses within three months’ time. Even now, in 2018, there have been no signs of development for them.
“We get drinking water delivered here in a tank once a week. We have to store them in tumblers for the rest of the week. We buy ration from whatever little money we earn. On most days, we eat out of a single plate, as there isn’t sufficient food,” said Shiva, a daily wage labourer, and a father of two.
Hoovina Hadagali, as a Taluk in itself, faces a shortage of clean drinking water supply. The
The never ending woes
Other than the everyday problems of food and water, there is also a huge problem sanitary wise. There are no toilets in the area. Only a makeshift, covered on three sides, arrangement for every four tents on the field can be seen.
“What do we do? There is no other way. We know it is not
clean,and can lead to diseases, but we have no other choice. Women take a bath only at night or early in the morning,when most of the people are indoors,” said Lakshmi, a 21-year-old youngmother.
On the other hand, monsoons are the worst for them. Heavy rains flood the tents forcing the people to take shelter in nearby bus stands, under trees, and temples. There have been times when the water has washed up all the sewage waste into their tents and caused many of them to fall sick.
“The rains are too harsh on us. That time period of
one- twomonths, we struggle to keep our tents on our heads. Everything gets dirty and mucky. We pray for the sun then. You see, we are never really at peace, throughout the year,” added Rani.
A bigger war for children
Children make up a large part of the Banjaara clan. They are the ones who are the most affected by their current situation. Only a small portion of these children go to school. Government schools, where education is free till class seven, is the extent to which the
The girls help their mothers in the household chores and also work in the homes of others. Their parents want them to get married soon, in a hope to free them of their miseries.
It is not as if the Banjaara clan is keeping their mouth shut against the government’s injustice. They have staged protests in front of government offices and also presented their problems in the Panchayat meetings. But all of it has been in vain until now.
“The government doesn’t even want to listen to us. They treat us as if they have never seen us before but the truth is, it is because of them that we have ended up this way. We have protested before, and we will do it again, till the time the government listens to us,” Hanumanta added.
Photos: Nidhi Roy