Bihar government to build homes for the poorest

By Imran Khan, IANS,

Naubatpur (Bihar) : It has been a dream that has remained unfulfilled for long. Their forefathers died without a proper roof over their heads. But now the poor, landless Dalits of Bihar, referred to as the Maha-Dalits, will have a house of their own.

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Bholwa Dom and Dhanu Bhuiyan, both in their 40s, for the first time in their lives are hoping to get a small patch of land on which the government would build a house for them.

“We were told by officials as well as the head of the village body that the government has decided to provide us with 120 sq metres of land and would build a house for us. It is great news for us,” said Dom, a resident of a small Dalit colony outside a village of powerful upper castes near Naubatpur, some 25 km from state capital Patna.

Bhuiyan, a resident of a nearby village, said that he was happy that at last the state government plans to provide land and build houses for them.

“We have no land of our own and powerful people have been exploiting us,” said Bhuiyan, who works as a labourer.

Dom and Bhuiyan are two of the thousands of the poor, landless and homeless among Dalits, known as Maha-Dalits in Bihar, who will be provided 120 sq metres of land on which their brick house will be built by the state government.

“Our forefathers died dreaming of their own house, but it seems our dream will be fulfilled soon,” said Kameshar Manjhi, another landless Maha-Dalit.

The state government has set up a special package of Rs.4 billion for the socio-economic development of the poorest among Dalits.

Early this year the state government decided to launch the special package under which various schemes would be initiated for the development of the Maha-Dalits over the next three years.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar earlier this month gave an assurance of providing 120 sq metres of land, a brick house, a toilet and a radio set to the Maha-Dalits.

There are 178,896 Maha-Dalit families in the state, officials said.

The government requires around 9,500 acres of land to provide 120 sq metres to each Maha-Dalit family.

At present, however, the government has only 4,055 acres across the state for 72,222 Maha-Dalit families.

The state government has decided to acquire the rest, officials said.

Last year the state government set up a commission for the welfare of certain Dalit groups, which are socially and educationally more backward than others.

Bihar was the first state in the country to constitute a commission to study the status of the neglected sub-castes among Dalits and to suggest ways to uplift them.

The commission in its first interim report to the government a few months ago painted a bleak picture of these Dalit sub-castes. The report said there were no high school teachers or senior officials from these castes in the state despite reservations in government jobs for them.

Dalits constitute nearly 15 percent of Bihar’s population of 83 million. The commission has identified 18 of the 22 Dalit sub-castes, including Musahar, Bhuiyan, Dom and Nat as the most backward of Dalits. They constitute 31 percent of the Dalit population in the state.