(SAVARI and Round Table India are doing a series to put together the Bahujan perspective on the Coronavirus pandemic)
Dr. Anuradha Bele: So first question is we look to seniors like you to give us guidance about how young bahujans can channel their energies to minimize the hardship which are brought on bahujan masses due to the pandemic and lockdown measure. So what guidance and advice would you like to give to the young bahujans in the present situation
Suresh Sontakke: The year 2020 has become a historic event in the context of Corona Virus spread throughout the world, which took many lives irrespective of caste, creed, place, age, gender, and nation. India is no exception to this. India is a populous country (131 crore population) and dense also. Looking at the severity of the disease and speedy spread of the virus, the government had to do lockdown of hotspot areas for strictly follow up physical distancing to curb further spread of virus effectively.
Dr. Anuradha Bele: The rural poor and the urban poor are both bahujan castes and they are both facing the impact of the lockdown. What are your thoughts about this situation where the lower castes, dalits, adivasis have to pay the biggest price for natural disasters or diseases?
Suresh Sontakke: To talk of India, 85% of India’s population constitutes bahujan samaj (SC, ST, VJ/NT,OBC), larger part of which is poverty-stricken or below the poverty line. The livelihood of this large population depends on daily earnings. Because of lockdown, a major chunk of this bahujan samaj population became jobless and unemployed. The economic condition of the rural poor, as well as urban poor, has worsened. Because of the pandemic Corona, labour and middle class population from other states like M.P, Chattisgarh, U.P, Bihar working in Nagpur or other district places went back to their respective native places. They will not come back soon. They were not much educated but were hard workers, used to earn on hand carts by selling fruits, vegetables, eatables, cloth pieces, kids’ toys, dresses, etc., used to earn money and send back to their homes, and some could become well off in a short period of time. So now, this lacuna can be filled in by local, unemployed, jobless Dalit, Tribal youth to take over those small businesses as entrepreneurs.
Our women folk who are smart in cooking dosas, idlis, vada-pav, sambar bhajee samosa kachori should teach their brothers, sisters, husbands to install exhibitory stalls. These stalls can be exhibited in vacant areas of our Buddha vihars. Boutique parlours, hair styling, hardware (plumbing and other servicing), air cooler servicing, motor servicing, vegetable shops, Kirana shops, vehicle servicing (electronic goods) and so many (other services can be offered).
Transportation services, a network of transporting material, home medicine delivery to places of bahujan areas – even other areas also – Buddha vihars should take the lead.
It is possible that in a society a small chunk may have a little bit of money to start their own businesses. They can do it in their own way. If not, then social NGOs, well-established entrepreneurs, and others who work for the upliftment of Dalits, Tribals, Bahujans should come forward to help them financially so that they can start their own small businesses. Otherwise, through donations, money can be raised and financial help can be given to needy or else, required things, items like fruits, vegetables, tea – other grocery items, art-jewellery, cold drinks items could be supplied by the organisers to these needy persons. Through these activities, our helpless, disappointed youth can be re-energized during the lockdown period.
Apart from the above activities, some guiding groups may be formed to educate and inform the rural as well as urban poor about the government schemes already in vogue or recently announced so that poor masses can benefit from them.
The above few suggestions will help in minimising the severity of the situation arising out of the lockdown due to the pandemic to some extent.
Mr. S.D.Sontakke is M.Sc (Botany). He cleared his UPSC exam and joined Indian Forest Service as Maharashtra Cadre officer. He retired in 2012 as Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, Maharashtra. Before joining I.F.S, he was a lecturer in the Institute of Science, Nagpur, and Vidarbha Mahavidyalaya, Amravati. He held various important posts under Forest department at Nagpur, Chandrapur, Amravati, Buldhana, Aurangabad, and Nasik. He is actively associated with various Buddhist organizations at Chandrapur, Nagpur, Amravati and Buldhana.
Dr. Anuradha Bele is a software engineer and a veterinary doctor, with a degree in management. She specialises in building software for medical use. She trains students for IELTS/TOEFL exam. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.