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Impacts and Challenges

The following is a program by program account with examples of some of the positive impact that Navsarjan has documented on the ground, as well as challenges that it has faced--both from within and outside the Dalit community.

 

Women's Rights Campaign

Impact

  • Many women (even those who are illiterate) are coming forward to join awareness and training programs, which in itself is a substantial achievement.  Moreover, many of the Women's Rights Councils have women across caste lines taking on common issues. 
  • Muslim women are also coming forward to join the women’s training camps and meetings.
  • Women’s programs are mobilizing more women to join state-level programs, and to speak out concerning their issues.
  • Fewer Dalit children are dropping out of school due to intervention from the village Women's Rights Councils.
  • Navsarjan programs, such as an event at Dalit Shakti Kendra bringing together all the Dalit women Sarpanches of Gujarat and hundreds of Dalit female Panchayat Members, serve to provide women with positive models to emulate, and help them gain the courage to assert themselves to fight for women’s and Dalit issues.  The following is one case study:

1 Dalit female Sarpanch from Rupawati village in Sanand taluka, after attending the DSK event for female Sarpanches and Panchayat members, started sitting on a chair during meetings at the Panchayat (whereas before she had sat on the floor) and taking up Dalit issues.  Because of this, other Dalit women in Rupawati village want to run for office in an election. 

 Challenges

  • Incidents of all kinds of violence against women are increasing, including rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence.
  • Many men are against the DV Protection Act, and many women do not know about this act.
  • Village leadership, particularly the all-male caste councils, sometimes do not accept the Women's Rights Councils.
  • Police often do not respond to rape cases or murder cases of women with any interest at all (this is a particular challenge in Kheda).
  • Dalit men sometimes refuse to accept women in leadership positions, and spread rumors and lies about women who speak out for their rights.
  • Many women hide behind their veils, and are not ready to speak out. 

 

Human Rights Value Education

Impact

  • Through teamwork of the Bhim-shala volunteers and students, and the Navsarjan field staff, segregated seating and other forms of discrimination have been removed at dozens of village schools.
  • Sub-caste discrimination within the Dalit community has been reduced thanks to the children’s meetings and Bhim-shalas.  Moreover, children are speaking out against untouchability and gender discrimination.
  • In many villages, non-Dalit children also attend Bhim-shalas.
  • In several villages, theft of scholarship money meant for Dalits by principals and other teachers has been exposed and stopped.
  • In many villages, the youth forums are taking up and resolving issues of sub-caste discrimination.
  • Many parents have been convinced to keep their daughters in school, instead of forcing them to drop out in order to do chores, and then marrying them off at an early age. 
  • About half of the male students at the Navsarjan primary schools were addicted to tobacco before coming to school (even at the age of 10), and now they have all eliminated this addiction. 

Challenges

  • There are certain sub-castes within the Dalits that are not ready to have their girls educated.
  • In villages that are close to towns, upper caste students get private education in the towns, so the teachers do no care to teach anymore, since most of the students left at school are Dalits or other poor people.
  • Some Bhim-shala volunteers who are trained are unwilling or unable to hold regular classes because of financial difficulties, or because of getting married and changing villages. 
  • Migrant laborers often do not keep their children in school.
  • At the Sami and Rayka Navsarjan Vidhyalay primary schools, monsoon season presents outdoor flooding challenges.
  • About half of the students who come to the Navsarjan Vidhyalay primary schools in 5th standard cannot properly read or write, and this presents a challenge to the teachers as there is a large difference in educational level within one class.
  • Some people have been led to believe, incorrectly, that the Navsarjan Vidhyalay schools are Christian missionary schools.

 

 

Minimum Wages Campaign

Impact

  • In large part due to Navsarjan's postcard campaign, the minimum daily wage for agricultural laborers in Gujarat was increased to Rs. 100 from Rs. 80. 
  • Within the labor union, Navsarjan has been successful in maintaining diverse membership that reflects the makeup of the laborers in the targeted areas, and union membership cuts across caste and religion: approximately 25% are Dalits, 50% are Tribals, and 25% are OBC (Other Backward Castes).  There are also some Muslims.  Because of this diversity, Dalits and non-Dalits are becoming closer; they sit together and drink tea together, and fight for their minimum wages together.  This fact has the added benefit of decreasing untouchability practices in the targeted areas.  It may be noted here that Union members pay Rs. 125 to join the Union. 
  • Often, Navsarjan organizes in one village, and then the union spreads through self-organization of the laborers to other neighboring villages.  The laborers see how organizing themselves and working together can benefit them all. 
  • Dalit and tribal women laborers are becoming more vocal, but OBC women are still remaining silent; this is primarily because of Navsarjan’s sustained work with Dalits and Tribals, while Navsarjan has not worked extensively with the OBC community. 
  • Other social issues have come up through the union to Navsarjan for legal support, not necessarily related to labor issues.
  • A particularly important struggle has taken place in Diver village, where the fight for minimum wages began in 2006.  Due to persistent efforts, the laborers now get minimum wage there, and laborers in neighboring villages are also getting minimum wages.  Following this success, local elections led to the entire Panchayat body in Diver being made up of agricultural laborers.

Challenges

  • It is sometimes difficult to convince laborers that joining the union is in their interest, particularly since the membership cuts across caste lines.
  • Successfully implementing strikes for minimum wages is extremely challenging.
  • Politically connected dominant caste landlords put up heavy resistance.  As a result, legal cases and dealings with the government move extremely slowly.
  • There is a high level of illteracy among the laborers.

 

 

Manual Scavenging Eradication Campaign

Impact

  • Many young people from the Valmiki community are choosing vocational training, such as that offered by Dalit Shakti Kendra, instead of manual scavenging.
  • Issues of manual scavenging and sewage work have remained in the media regularly.
  • A landmark court victory in 1996, in which the Gujarat government was forced to admit that it employed thousands of Valmikis to do manual scavenging. 
  • Many practicing manual scavengers are now vocal about the fact that their work is “manual scavenging”, whereas in the past they never talked about it.  They had been afraid to admit that it was manual scavenging, in fear of losing their jobs.  Many have now gained the confidence to speak about their work to the media, government officers, and in the local government offices. 

Challenges

  • It is often difficult to convince manual scavengers to leave their work, which many consider stable because they are government employees and receive a regular paycheck.
  • The government frequently refuses to take action, as it continuously drags its feet and evades responsibility.  Government officers at all levels repeatedly claim that there is no manual scavenging in Gujarat, because accepting that the process exists would mean that they have a responsibility to end it.  They are all comfortable with the status quo.
  • It is often a challenge to convince non-Valmiki Dalits to accept the manual scavenging problem as their own.  Many non-Valmiki Dalits do not want to make manual scavenging a “Dalit issue”. 
  • Loans meant for the rehabilitation of practicing manual scavengers into dignified occupations are given by government officers to people from the Valmiki community who have political connections, but are not involved in manual scavenging.  That way, government officers can claim that they are helping Valmikis, when in reality they are doing nothing to help those engaged in manual scavenging. 
  • Valmikis who are actually engaged in manual scavenging need a certificate certifying as such from the government, but the government officials refuse to grant such certificates.  They provide no support, and often do not give any response at all.  As a result, practicing manual scavengers are unable to get the loans they need to change occupations. 
  • Some manual scavengers who do get loans do not spend the money on finding a new occupation or starting a business, but spend it however they like. 
  • Valmikis who open up a tea stall or some other small shop often face untouchability-based discrimination both from non-Valmiki Dalits and from non-Dalits, and they cannot get enough customers to make any money. 

 

 

Land Rights Campaign

Impact

  • Thousands of acres of land have been awarded to formerly landless Dalit poor.
  • Dozens of housing plots have been awarded to Dalit poor in women’s names.
  • Hundreds of families have joined the Land Rights Army (Jamin Adhikar Sena), a community group dedicated to securing land rights for landless poor.
  • Sustained awareness and training programs, as well as training of Land Rights Army leaders, has led to individuals taking up and fighting cases on their own without Navsarjan's assistance.
  • Seasonal migration has decreased among those families who have gained posession of agricultural land.
  • Untouchability and other forms of discrimination have decreased due to cooperation between Dalits and non-Dalits on this issue.

Challenges

  • Dominant caste members often provide resistance to acquisition of land by Dalits.
  • The Government itself often refuses to actually follow through on its plans for land redistribution, and on its court awards.
  • There is nearly always violence or threat of violence in response to acquisition of land by landless Dalits.
  • Continuous land encroachment and crop damage presents on ongoing problem.
  • Youth are less interested in farming compared to their parents.
  • There is a lack of irrigation infrastructure, forcing small landholders to migrate for a portion of the year. 
  • A large amount of land is being sold by small landholders tempted by high land prices.

 

 

Center for Dalit Human Rights

Impact

  • By intervening in cases of atrocities, CDHR has ensured that cases of atrocities are properly registered and investigated by the police and effectively prosecuted by the government, and that victims of atrocities are sufficiently compensatied.   
  • Through its media advocacy, CDHR has sensitized the media with regards to the number and types of atrocities committed against Dalits.
  • By pressuring government officials to intervene in cases of atrocities against Dalits,  CDHR’s efforts have also resulted in some degree of government sensitization on issues facing Dalits, including the non-enforcement of Dalit-protective legislation.   
  • More urban, as well as rural, Gujaratis are becoming aware of their human rights through community meetings, empowering them to register complaints of human rights violations on their own.
  • Village paralegals are sufficiently trained to register cases of atrocities and combat untouchability on their own.
  • Navsarjan has won major court victories (particularly those of rape and murder), sending the message that those who commit atrocities will be held accountable.
  • The conviction ratio of cases fought by Navsarjan is increasing, and the number of victims who want to accept a "compromise" for money is decreasing. 
  • Training of District Human Rights Defenders (DHRDs) has led to a vast increase in the number of complaints filed with the National Human Rights Commission.  As a result, Gujarat now stands as the state with the second-highest number of complaints filed against it in all of India. 

Challenges

  • While the number of convictions in atrocities cases are increasing, the prison sentences perpetrators face remain lower than what is mandated by law.  
  • A number of obstacles continue to exist delaying the timely and accurate registration of First Information Reports (FIRs)—absolutely crucial for the investigation and prosecution of a crime.  In particular, for atrocities cases:
  1. Police officers seldom care about atrocities cases;
  2. Police officers believe that Dalits are registering false cases;
  3. Police officers are unaware of provisions of The SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act or its existence altogether;
  4. Police officers turn a traumatized victim’s statement into the FIR rather than the carefully drawn complaint submitted by CDHR on behalf of the victim.
  • The State of Gujarat continues to lack a special public prosecutor for atrocities cases, as mandated under The SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
  • Judges and prosecutors often try to relieve themselves of their duty to prosecute and punish offenders by pressuring victims of atrocities to settle their cases out of court. 
  • The accused in atrocities cases often file cross-complaints against Dalit victims, complicating the cases and slowing them down considerably. 
  • The demand for legal assistance exceeds the CDHR's ability to provide it.

 

 

Community Video Unit

Impact

Dalit Issues

  • Because the screenings are held in the village center and are such big events, many people across caste lines attend.  This increases the connection and relationship between Dalits and non-Dalits.
  • In many of the villages in which the films are screened, Dalits never speak out.  But the films give voice to issues that face them, and after the screenings they have a chance to address the mixed-caste audience with a microphone.  This gives them a feeling of empowerment.
  • Non-Dalits who have come to the CVU screenings have begun taking part in other Navsarjan programs, such as foot marches, water meetings, training camps, rallies, and women’s groups. 

Women’s issues

  • Women across castes get together to talk about their common problems (for example, alcohol addiction among men is a common problem, so through the Addictions film, women across caste lines can talk about it.)
  • Female CVU members were instrumental in the creation of 4 women’s rights groups in 4 different villages.
  • Villagers and authorities are surprised and impressed that within the CVU, the women hold the cameras and have leadership positions.

Power and politics

  • Local government and the police have grown to fear the CVU because even they (i.e., government and police) do not know the law well, and the CVU members do know the law well.  The CVU members sometimes even explain laws to the police.
  • After the screenings, people often accuse the village leaders of corruption and not doing anything, and demand action.
  • After seeing the Health film, Panchayats organized the cleaning of the village and school, and the villagers took part. 
  • During filming on the Sanitation film, there were many incidents of people being frightened by the video camera and taking action on their own. 
  • Several village Panchayats organized mass-cleanings of the entire village, designating a space for garbage disposal.

Challenges

  • Some non-Dalit children throw stones at the screen and the CVU members because they are Dalits.
  • In one village, the Sarpanch didn’t come because Dalits were present.
  • Sometimes Dalit women do not come because they are afraid of non-Dalits.
  • Darbars do not want Darbar women to go out and see the films (because of the purdah system, in which women are supposed to stay in the home).
  • Some men who come to the screenings are drunk.
  • There are problems because the screenings are in rural areas (power problems, rain problems, short circuits, etc.).

 

  

Dalit Shakti Kendra

Impact

  • Students take DSK’s message of equality back to their homes and communities.
  • More and more students are coming to DSK, because they see the success of their friends who have come to DSK.
  • It has reached the point that students for some courses have to be turned away because there is not enough space for them, even though we have increased capacity (for example, from 15 students to 45 in the computer course).
  • More female students are attending DSK: the 50% mark has been achieved, and a reduction in gender bias can therefore be seen.
  • More parents are now pushing for their daughters to come, because they are seeing positive changes in their daughters.  They are less afraid to send their daughters because they see that they come back with more maturity. 
  • Students come from more sectors of society, including Muslims, OBC, and Tribals.
  • About twice a month, visitors from other organizations who want to emulate DSK and use it as a successful model visit the campus.
  • Industries of the private sector who want affirmative action instead of reservation have been approaching DSK to help absorb students as employees (TATA, Ambuja Cement, etc.).
  • Employability of students: about 50% plus of students find employment immediately after training. 
  • It is difficult for DSK to find new teachers from the pool past students, because many are employed and do not want to leave their jobs. 
  • Many youth who had been unemployed in their villages have now become income earners for their families.

Challenges

  • Developing plans to set up additional satellite centers to reduce the reliance on DSK.
  • Finding resources to fund DSK is difficult; the students cannot afford to pay the total cost required.
  • Finding new vocational courses to keep pace with changing market demands. 
  • Most students who come to DSK are school dropouts, so finding a balance in competitiveness is difficult.  
  • The correlation between primary education and vocational education is close, so tailoring primary education initiatives to positively affect the vocational training initiative is a challenge.
  • The disparity between boys and girls in both urban and rural societies provides a constant challenge, especially in terms of education level.
  • It is difficult to maintain technical expertise while not leaving behind girls and boys with low education levels.

Local Governance and Political Rights

Impact:

  • Sarpanches (village government heads), Panchayat (village government body) members, and Social Justice Committee Chairmen are becoming aware of what their rights and responsibilities are, organizing and cooperating together, and working actively to benefit their communities through their positions.
  • Especially the youth are becoming more aware of political issues and their political rights. 
  • Social Justice Committees are becoming active and because of that the Village Government Officer and the Village Committee Members are also becoming more aware. 
  • After learning about the Panchayat through these programs, women Panchayat members have been empowered to actively take part in Panchayat business, sitting in the meetings on chairs instead of on the floor as they had done previously, etc.
  • People are becoming aware of government development schemes and programs, and are fighting to have them implemented.

 Challenges:

  • Non-Dalit Sarpanches and Panchayat members generally do not cooperate, so it is necessary to bypass them and go to a higher government department.
  • Many people think that the education provided in the programs is wrong, and it takes them a long time to understand the content.
  • People improperly use the Social Justice Committees, and argue with the villagers.
  • Because the majority dominates, they do not let Dalits in the front.