Untouchability still practised in Gandhi's land
Radha Sharma, TNN, Sep 6, 2010, 05.50am IST

AHMEDABAD: Rajniben, a village panchayat member from Ahmedabad
district, does not have a chair to sit in the panchayat office. Unlike
the other members, who all have a chair, there is a gunny sack
reserved for Rajniben which she uses to sit on the floor when the
panchayat meets. This is because Rajniben is a dalit and is not
allowed to sit on par with panchayat members belonging to upper

The untouchability factor remains high in Gujarat, the land of Gandhi.
A survey on discrimination in offices has revealed that nearly 65 per
cent dalit sarpanchs report they have separate cups to drink tea or
water in their own office. About 40 per cent are not allowed to sit on

The survey, Dalit Women's Right to Political Participation in Rural
Panchayati Raj', has been conducted on 200 dalit women sarpanches and
panchayat members in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. Carried out by an NGO,
Navsarjan Trust, in Gujarat 100 dalit women of these, 86 were
sarpanchs, while the rest were nominated for the office but could not
contest the elections following political or social pressure were

The survey was released at the women's tribunal, organised by Waada Na
Todo Abhiyan along with other members here where nearly 200 women from
marginalised sections like tribals, dalits and Muslims have

The survey revealed that assuming office did not mean an end to
discriminatory practices for dalit women. A good 64.5 per cent dalit
women reported that they were not able to drink tea from the same cups
used by other representatives and 38 per cent said that they could not
eat food or snacks in the same plate or utensils used by others.

"A dalit woman may become the sarpanch, holding the highest office in
the village, but is still forced to drink from a separate cup because
of her caste," said Manjula Pradeep, director of Navsarjan Trust.

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