This is the 2nd Season of our weekly show Awaz Ho Buland. In this episode our correspondents are highlighting the issues of the Musahar community, one of the most backward, destitute and exploited castes of India.
They are mostly found in Eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Nepal region. In this episode, our Community Correspondents discuss their living conditions in Uttar Pradesh, India. Their name literally means 'rat-eater' (Mus - Rat - Ahar - food) due to their former occupation of catching rats, and there are many who are still forced to do this work due to destitution and poverty.
Through the five stories in this episode, we get to know about their livelihood, health, agricultural land holdings, social status and their access to Governmental beneficiary schemes. It has been documented that from the colonial times, this community is often made to work as bonded labourers. Sadly, their status has not changed much over the years. They are dependent on the meager income they get as landless labourers and are at the mercy of landlords and the ruling class. They are one of the most marginalised castes in India, even among Dalits.
The Government of Bihar, India, operates the Mahadalit (Maha- Most) Mission, which partially funds some programs to expand education and other social welfare programs for the Musahars. But these programs are often full of lacuna, mostly because of the mandate that the beneficiaries are required to have some kind of land-holding record to receive compensations, which most of the Musahars don’t have!
They are deemed such “untouchables' ' that even the last mile community health workers deny immunisation and creche workers deny food to their children, which leads to higher malnutrition in this community. Their literacy rate is abysmal, and their IMR and MMR is spiraling up. In fact, they are so poor that only two percent of them have cattle and none have agricultural lands of their own. Though most of them depend on government schemes like MNREGA (Government provides 100 days of paid labour under this scheme), but even there they face acute discrimination due to their caste.
Through our efforts, few of these problems have been resolved. A group of Musahars were taken away to work as bonded labourers in a sugarcane field in Maharashtra. Thanks to the intervention of our CCs Shabnam Begam and Anil Kumar and our Field Producer Anshuman Singh the 16 people were rescued with the help of the police.
The matter is serious - in Jatrahi village under Sikid village council of Chatra Block, Chatra District of Jharkhand, 25 families of Bhuyan community were living for 70 years and they are asked to relocate.
The villages in Sundarbans area of West Bengal State are impoverished. Taking advantage of their poverty, the human traffickers easily find victims to lure away.