In a major outreach to the Dalit community, the Maharashtra government has decided to develop 125 Dalit localities across the state.
“In order to ensure the all-round development of settlements of Scheduled Castes and Neo-Buddhists, the state government will start a programme where 125 such settlements will be identified and special emphasis will be paid on improving their infrastructure,” a senior state government official said.
The scheme will be run by the Social Justice and Special Assistance Department, which will help identify the 125 settlements. The state has decided to limit these localities to 125 to commemorate Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s 125th birth anniversary.
The project envisages that every house in these settlements be given water, electricity and cooking gas connections. The government will build a toilet in every house that lacks one. Community centres will be set up in these areas, equipped with a library and an Internet connection. The state also plans to run special leadership training programmes in these localities for the local youth, to provide them vocational training.
The project is likely to cost around Rs 50 crore, and the state is aiming to ensure the development of these localities within two years. Once the areas have been identified, they would be renamed in honour of icons who have played a role in creating social equality in the country, the official said.
The improvements in the settlements will be carried out taking suggestions from locals as well as a well-known architect.
The outreach plan comes in the backdrop of increasing strife between the Dalit community and the BJP over incidents of violence against Dalits being reported in parts of the country.
Dalits constitute nearly 13 per cent of the states voting population and are a politically active community. In major urban centres such as Mumbai, which will soon see local urban body elections, Dalit’s make up nearly 15 per cent of the voting population.