Highlighting the plight of Dalit workers in the unorganised sector, Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chairman Milind Kamble said most of them had lost their jobs in the lockdown and were struggling for food. He urged the state government to come up with a comprehensive financial package for them.
While the community has been flooded with “dos” and “don’ts” on how to observe Ambedkar Jayanti on April 14, the government has not addressed the crucial question of how these workers are going to feed themselves and their families, Kamble said.
“Dalits constitute majority of the workforce in the unorganised sector, both in urban and rural areas. Therefore, this is a segment that is among the worst-hit financially. With no daily earnings, they are at the receiving end,” he said.
In Maharashtra, landless Dalits account for 81 per cent of farm labourers. They work on others’ farms. With agricultural activities at a standstill, these workers are struggling for their daily meal.
“The entire food supply chain should have been defined under emergency category. This would have helped avoid the recurring conflicts we are seeing between the police, civic authorities and administration, which is determined to enforce the lockdown,” Kamble said.
In urban areas, Dalits are mostly daily wagers in the service sector, almost 75 per cent of which is now shut.
Ambedkar Jayanti on Tuesday is being used by several Dalit organisations to highlight the community’s plight. While acknowledging that staying at home was necessary, they believe the government should also address their problems.
On Monday, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar urged people to commemorate Ambedkar Jayanti “digitally”. Food and Civil Supplies Minister Chhagan Bhujbal called for celebrations by reading Ambedkar’s life and teachings. Social Justice Minister Dhananjay Munde appealed to people to stay safe at home. Last week, Republican Party of India chief and Union Minister for Social Justice Ramdas Athawale urged Dalits to light lamps.
A senior Ambedkarite said, “There is an overdose of dos and don’ts from every political party and prominent leaders on how to celebrate Ambedkar’s birth anniversary. It is good. But unfortunately, the same should also reflect when it comes to reaching the poor Dalits basic foodgrain.”
Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi president Prakash Ambedkar said, “Our field experience is, food supply is not effective. The poor are facing hardships. And administration should wake up.”
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