Swachchakar Dignity

A blog to give you first hand reports on the conditions of Swachchkar community, their issues and concerns. A campaign for complete abolition of scavenging practices and brigning forth the growing voices of change with in the community.

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Learning through working. Working at the grassroots made me realise the big difference between those who claim to represent communities as well as the communities themselves. Common man is crushed between the ambitions of various individuals to lead and dominate. The dominant and high numbered communities will always dominate our discourse and the most marginalised are losing in this entire discourse. That is the reason why Mushahar remain at the marginalised and the issue of manual scavenging still not on our top agenda and to eliminate that the community has to decide its own organisations..


I am devoted to freedom of ideas and expression. I personally feel that we in the subcontinent want to dominate and control our discourse and each one of is a ultra nationalist in terms of their caste and community. Nationalism is not just national and political but it is equally in term of religion and caste. I feel each kind of nationalism is a dominant discourse which deny the dissenter a right to speak.

At the end, we all want to listen the truth suitable to us.. we have become expertised in the art of speaking truth of convenience. As long as that remain hall mark of our society and we speak to already converts, this society will remain stagnant, it will always try to control our ideas and choices. We need to oppose any such perception, ideas that want to control our mind and victimise us.

To understand India further, I feel, it is good to do foot walk, ( Padyatras) to various parts of the country. I have so far done it thrice covering nearly 1500-2000 kilometers. It is always interesting to see how people are coping their issues and what is the reason of their exploitation.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Submission of petition related to Laar scavenger to NHRC


Justice Dr Shiv Raj Patil,
Member,
National Human Rights Commission,
Faridkot House,
New Delhi April 19, 2007

Re: Lack of rehabilitation of scavengers in Laar town, Deoria

Sir,

Laar is a small town in district Deoria of Uttar-Pradesh. A visit to this town revealed that the manual scavenging is still prevalent in the area. As per our information more than 119 families identified by the municipality for their inability to switch over to new mode of toilets, which is either flush mode or some other mode as prescribed by the Nagar Palika, has resulted in the continuous practice of scavenging. A group of 10 women’s are still involved in this degrading profession. Most of them complained the complete apathy on part of the Nagar-Palika, Laar.

We also found that some of those who were promised a job in the municipality did not get the job in lieu of leaving the dirty work of carrying nightsoil. The community blames the official for involvement in corrupt practices and no vision to eliminate this practice. Perhaps the politics does not allow the Nagar Palika leaders to take action against those who have not converted their toilets into flush latrines.

It is also shocking that about 33 people were appointed in the municipality after the UP government’s notification. Some of them belong to non-safai communities. Equally disturbing is the fact that the non-safai community people were given work of office assistants and supervisory work though they were recruited on ad-hoc basis for sweepers, while the safai communities i.e. Valmikis/ Rawats continue to suffer in the indignity here. None of the women who were involved in the manual scavenging got the job despite promises made by the municipal authorities.

We are also bringing to your notice that all those 33 who got the ad-hoc appointment in the Nagar Palika have not got a salary till last month which is six months since their appointment. We are giving you a list of women involved in the manual scavenging whose condition is deteriorating day by day, as they have nothing to eat and survive.

We would also like to bring to your notice the big fraud in the Sanitary Mart Scheme, which is another government scheme to rehabilitate the scavengers. DUDA, the District Urban Development Authority is looking after the ‘rehabilitation’ of the scavenger community. One does not know how far it has succeeded but the pain and agony of the community has increased. No efforts have ever been made to speak to the community. Under the pretext that women and men of the community will get new employment, the DUDA official along with some of the middlemen of the community formed a group of 10 people and got them a loan of Rs 1, 58,000/- (Rupees One lakh Fifty Eight Thousand only) to start a Sanitary Mart. With out going into the depth whether this Mart would be successful or not or whether the persons whose name figures in it have really shown their interest, the Shop was opened. And usually happens in such cases, the Mart closed in just three months. Speaking to the community people whose names have been issued notices, one finds that they were not at all involved in the entire process. Many of them, did not even know that there existed a Mart.

It is therefore expected from the National Human Rights Commission to take strong action on this and ask the authorities to clarify their position.

The issues of manual scavengers need to be tackled on two fronts. One their immediate issues such as non-payment of their salaries in the municipality and other related issues which we have highlighted in this letter and my article yesterday. Apart from this, the all other issues of the community remain the same and need a comprehensive plan and action. NHRC would do well to involve the civil society and community people to bring out a complete plan to eliminate manual scavenging.

For immediate action, we repeat the points:

Immediate halting of scavenging with complete rehabilitation of the 10 women who are doing it. Please request the officials not to threaten the families but to provide them alternatives.
Take action against the erring municipal authorities as why those Safai karmcharis, who got appointment in the municipality have not got any salary for the past six months. This is strange that after appointments people have not got their salaries so far.
Why did the uppercastes/backward/Muslims occupants of the sweeper’s job are not doing the cleaning/sweeping work. Why no one from the sweeper community is deemed fit to be supervising his community work.
Strong action against those houses who have not switched to flush latrines.
Thorough probe as why the Sanitary Mart scheme failed and who were responsible. Action must be taken against the officials of DUDA. National Scheduled Castes Financial Corporation and Nagar Palika, Laar, and not just against the some of the community persons who played to the officials allurement.


We hope NHRC will be prompt in its action and will let us know about the action it has taken. In the meanwhile, we assure you that we will continue to unearth the corruption and condition of manual scavengers all over the country and come back to you as soon as we have further information.

Thank you,

Yours Sincerely,
For Social Development Foundation


Vidya Bhushan Rawat
Director



The List of Manual Scavengers in the Town Area-Laar, District Deoria, Uttar-Pradesh


S.No. Name of Father/Husband

1. Sunita W/o Kailash
2. Subhavati Devi W/o Ram Pyare
3. Sushila W/o Ramchander
4. Kamala Devi W/o Basant
5. Basanti Devi W/o Krishpa
6. Manju Devi W/o Kailash
7. Shankuntala Devi W/o Late Shyam Babu
8. Gauri Devi W/o Bechu
9. Vidha Devi W/o Harender
10. Mamta D/o Ramchander
11. Geeta Devi W/o Dilip
12. Jalreva W/o Vishawnaath



The list of sanitary workers in Laar who did not get their salaries so far.

Rajendra Rawat s/o Ramchandra Rawat
Ramchandra Rawat s/o Late Swaminath
Jitendra s/o Kailash
Raju s/o Harendra
Krishna s/o Vishwanath
Parvati Devi w/o Lalsaheb
Mamta w/o Shankar
Ramesh s/o Baijnath
Ramesh s/o Mahesh
Vimla w/o Late Lallan
Ram Pyare s/o Swaminath

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Scavenging in Uttar Pradesh


Status of manual scavengers in Laar, Deoria

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat



Laar is a small town in Deoria district of Eastern Uttar-Pradesh. Like any other town in Uttar-Pradesh, this town also has substantial chunk of Dalit population. The dusty gullies, the filth all around and the stink in the market makes a perfect town to reflect the idea of Uttam Pradesh so loyally advertised by Mr Amitabh Bachchan, the superstitious Bombay star who perhaps did not bother to check about the fact that the state at the moment is completely and the anarchy that runs the state.

No body can match Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav, the chief minister of Uttar-Pradesh as far as announcing compensation, jobs etc is concerned. He promised to reserve 300000 seats of the Safai Karmcharis i.e. sanitation workers for the family of the scavenger communities. This was another soap by the chief minister who miserably failed to protect the Dalits of the state and the announcement was only intended to wean away the Valmikis from switching their loyalty elsewhere before the elections. The day he made this announcement the upper castes also decided to jump into the fray. With in several days, we received a number of reports in not only newspapers but also electronic channels, which suggested that India was going through a social change as now the Brahmins, Thakurs, Kayasthas too are joining the sanitary profession. It is another fact that Mulayam government failed to pay a single rupee salary to these people and through out the state the sanitation workers never get their salaries on time. Apart from this, Uttar-Pradesh’s record on total elimination of manual scavenging is questionable. Immediately after the announcement of the chief minister, reports of other communities applying for the sweeper’s job in the municipalities, the enthusiasm of the upper castes was termed as ‘historical’ by the media.

Upper castes as Benami Sweepers

While, I wrote a rejoinder immediately on this story under title ‘Brahmin seeks Dalit jobs’, knowing fully well that it was an upper caste mischief. Unfortunately, the media which was making this a historical thing never bothered to inquire and investigate on the reasons of the ‘upper caste’ change of heart. It is important to find as how even in Delhi such things existed much before the media ran the story. This issue could be termed as benami sweepers, where the upper caste apply for the job in municipalities, railways and hospitals and sign regularly on the register and take the salary cheque. The Valmiki who is unable to get a job takes on sublease and does regularly his job and get a paltry sum from the upper caste ‘sweeper’. Therefore, these benami Safai karmcharis work not only in municipalities but also in Railways and no action has been taken against them. Perhaps no efforts were made to find the truth. The government and its officials feel that beyond the data and funds they have no official responsibility.

Now the condition of the scavengers in Laar town has brought this fact as how the other castes who have joined the profession are actually doing the office work and now really are involved in cleaning and sanitation work.

Ramesh has been working with the Nagar Palika for past six months and total salary comes to Rs 2130/- per month. It is a daily wage work, which does not include social security like insurance, provident funds. Contrary to this, on any holiday or ailment, our salary is deducted. We work for more than 8 hours. We clean the streets, the sewer line.

According to Ramesh, a total number of 33 people got job in the Nagar Palika Laar, but none of them have got their wages till this month. I have five sons and a daughter. Earlier, I was doing some work and earning but now the governments’ move has made our conditions worst, we are neither here nor there.

Ironically, eight upper castes (Muslim upper caste included) also got appointment along with the sweeper community. The fact is that the upper castes were given the job of supervision. They do not clean the street or jump into the sewage line.

According to Ram Chandra who himself got the job, the eight people who have joined as sweeper supervisor belong to Muslim, Rajbhar (MBC), Brahmins and Thakurs. All of them refuse to work as sweeper while taking salary of a sweeper and doing the Babu work of supervision. Ram Chandra is shocked to inform that the municipality never felt that ‘we too can do the supervisory work’. I have eight children, now without salary, I cannot survive. The local shopkeeper gives us daily needs items on debt. My wife is still doing ‘manual scavenging’.

Rehabilitation: Work hard yet get no pay

Leelawati says that she left her job two years back. I wanted to do work in the municipality but there is no work. Her husband is a labour who is involved in ‘Gara-Mati’ work which means basically he is in the road construction work and get Rs 60/- for one full days work which is simply tiring. When I went to the Secretary of the Nagar Palika, one Mr Bakhsi, he said that I have not filled the form and hence I can not get the job.’

Prashanti has five children. One has been adopted by her husband’s brother’s wife and rest four live with her. Her husband is a daily wager worker with the Nagar Palika, Lar whose salary is 2,130/- per month. It is shocking that after his appointment, he has not got any salary so far. Says Prashanti, “ I could not get any work. Actually, when I was doing the scavenging work, I was told that all those who are doing dirty work must leave the work and they would be provided new work. None among the women got a job with municipality. Those who got the work have not any salary and therefore most of them have returned to doing private work.

Prashanti is an angry woman who felt that government has no right to seize their work unless it helps them with alternative work. ‘ Let the government rehabilitate us. I am ready to shun the work if I am given a new work. I feel bad about the empty and false promises. What option do we have? I go to work at 7 am and return by 9.30. I am also working in a college and get Rs 200/- for my work for two hours. My children are going to school as we want to educate them.

Sheela Devi got a loan in her name under the sanitary mart scheme. Interestingly, she got loan on the thing she claims that she neither saw nor heard about. Well, she mention clearly that she was not at all involved in the Sanitary Mart Scheme which has become one of the major factors of discontent in the scavenger community in Laar. ‘ An Officer came from Deoria, the district headquarter, and said that we should leave the work as government was keen to give them loan. Second time, the officer came and took some money. He wanted me to get involved in the works, which I declined, but now I have RC in my name. Frankly speaking, I do not know anything including shop. When my name was not there in the beginning, why should I worry about it? We did not get anything. The scheme is an absolute failure. I never signed any deal. I did not get anything and still I got the notice. It was only after my fight that the notice was withdrawn.’

‘I do work manual scavenging, said a woman. ‘ As long as I do not get any job, I will do the job. I did not get a job; I applied for it but did not get anything. We are doing it in compulsion. I have young children. My son cries yet I have to get out to do the work. I have 8 daughters and two sons. I do work in 10 families and the earning is very little. My husband used to work as a labor, stone- cutter work on the road but after municipality recruited him on the daily wages, he has not got anything. It is the story of every one who is working with the municipality. How are we expected to run our families without receiving any payment?

Sushila says it is the condition of starvation. ‘We have to beg for our food from the houses of the people we clean. All my children go to school. I get worried about my society. What to do, its Gods wish. We are unlucky people. Who can erase the misfortune? The government must do something to rehabilitate us. And if they want new work, or us to rehabilitate please ensure that we get salary every month and not like this where it is over six months we have got nothing. What does government think of? Can they liberate us this way? Most of the people will not believe in the government. The other community people are getting our work but not doing the work. If they cannot clean and sweep, why is the government giving the job, which is meant for us’, says Sushila.

The tragedy of the locality of the Rawat community of sweepers in Lar is that it is another dumping ground for the waste in the town. People come here to defecate and the women who clean shit, throw it here. During the rains, it stinks. The municipality has not even made a toilet for us. We clean the city but live in the most unclean and highly unhygienic place.

Shubhwati is doing private work in six houses. She gets Rs 10/- to Rs 20/- per house depending on the size of the house. ‘ I leave my children at home. My husband works in the town area. I also filled the form for the municipality job but did not get it. We can’t leave the work unless assured of another job. We do not have any instrument except a small tray/ pan to clean the toilet. If the government is serious to remove this practice then it must provide us an alternative.

Bhanwari Devi work in 12 houses and finishes her work in less than two hours and the earning is as high as Rs 20 and lowest side is Rs 5/- depending on family size. She has four children. Her husband works in the cinema hall. His earning is not sufficient to run the family. The earning is not even Rs 300/- per month. He has not got salary for the past three months. I have to beg for my work. They do not give a full meal, just two pieces of bread.

Manju is another community woman involved in cleaning the night soil. Her problem is similar to others, who say that Earlier, I had got some work in the municipality but after working for 20 days, I was dismissed without any compensation because they said that my son too was working with the municipality and according to them only one person could do the work. I go early in the morning. The houses are not in the nearby vicinity but quite far away.

Working as a scavenger in the private homes takes around 5-6 hours. In the morning we start our core work from 7 am and finish it by 9 am. The total earning remains Rs 50-60/- per months. Now not all houses have dry latrines. I left the work some six months back when the government said that they would give me a job. But I did not get it. Sushila, Vidyawati and Subhawati have not got jobs in the municipality despite our application. We were promised but did get nothing. We are workless at the moment. My husband is a labor and my children are students of Class IV, Class IX and Class XIIth.

If you give us employment and work, we will leave this work and would be happy to work.

It is 11 am in the morning when the women have come from cleaning. I ask them whether
They still remember things they do in the morning.’ Yes, it is difficult to forget what you do in the morning, they say in the Unison. We feel suffocated and like vomiting. It is only after some hour of taking bath, that they cook. Still, they have developed many psychological problems. Apart from this, they suffer from various diseases like skin problems, gastroenteritis etc. In the absence of any facility from the government they suffer in criminal silence, exonerating the state from its biggest shame and failure to protect them. Most of them now feel, it was their bad luck, which forced them to do this work. The power elite which rules over them and give false ideas of India’s shining abroad, must hang its head in shame over this mischief.

Government’s lies will not change the system: How Sanitary Mart Scheme Failed

The rehabilitation scheme of the government would not work if there were no sensitivity to resolve this crisis. The half- hearted measures of the government only help the petty officials and few middlemen of the community who turned handy for them to exploit others. A proper monitoring and evaluation mechanism need to be developed with serious participation of the civil society and intellectuals. The issue of manual scavengers is not just economics, it is a fight against the feudal culture and traditional values which have kept them subjugated for years. Government, unfortunately, bosses upon the people and show them the strength of money without changing the basic thinking of their staff and advisers. Let the government officials visit and see through eyes the reasons for its inability to eliminate the manual scavenging. Vishwnath is a retired sweeper. He says that the work has reduced now but still many people are doing it because of an uncertain future and inability to rehabilitate them. The Municipality has not given any work to the community and that has resulted in depression and starvation in the community.

Rajan Rawat is a student but could not complete his high school because his parents did not have money. He is unmarried. After chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav announced that there will posts for sweepers, some of the community persons got employment but not all. Those who did not get the job have no option except to clean the latrines and the total monthly income does not go beyond Rs 30-50/- He suggest that the government must support their programme. Unfortunately, the Sanitary Mart scheme of the government failed. Many people joined but never felt an ownership of the mart.

The son of an old man whose name is now in the list of those who have received loan in the name of Sanitary Mart says, “ People never knew how the money came. My father was part of it. Notice came to him to return the money. It was Rs 11000-Rs 12,000/- per head. The culprit is now in town as he has left for Kolkata and we are suffering in his absence.”

Anil Kumar Rawat is a young aspiring student of 11th standard. His face reflects the agony and frustration of the youth of the community. His father died several years back. His grand father gave them some land to live and mother applied for the municipality job and got it. Unfortunately for them this job could not bring any joy in their life as life become more miserable. There is no social security. Where do we get money to buy our daily ration? ‘I want to study BA/MA. I do not want to do this work. But how do I study. She used to clean latrine earlier but now whatever was the source of income has gone, as the municipality has shamelessly not paid anything so far. I have two brothers and 5 sisters. How do we live? I do get some scholarship in the school. My friends do not know that my mother is in this profession otherwise all of them would reject me in the school. I would become thoroughly isolated. Since, I have not informed them about my mother’s work and hence they all are my friends. I fear if my identity is exposed to them, I would be devastated thoroughly. .

Indian government has presented a report to Human Rights Council, in Geneva. On the issue of total sanitation programme the government report says:

273. The Central Rural Sanitation Programme launched in 1986 restructured into a community led and people centered Total Sanitation Campaign with emphasis on Information, Education and Communication for demand generation of sanitation facilities. School sanitation and hygiene education is a prominent component of the Total Sanitation Campaign for bringing about attitudinal and behavioral changes for relevant sanitation and hygiene practices from young age. All schools must have toilet facilities and under the scheme of education for girls, separate toilets for girls are to be provided. Due regard is also given to needs of women. A TSC project originates from a district, which conducts a base-line survey of existing sanitation facilities in the district and draws up a Project Implementation Plan and forwards the same, through the State Govt. and takes the approval of to Government of India. A TSC project runs for a duration of 4 years. The main physical components sanctioned in the projects include construction of individual household latrines, toilets for schools, community sanitary complexes, toilets for Balwadis Anganwadis, Rural Sanitary Marts and Production Centers.

One only hope if the government of India had accepted in its report presented to Human Rights Council in Geneva the miserable failure in eliminating manual scavenging in the country. Government cannot fool people with imposed data and high figures about its work for the rehabilitation of the sweeper community. Time has come for all of us to scrutinize government’s programmes and action to eliminate manual scavenging and take the officials of the department to task. India’s 9% growth rate or shining India is absolutely farcical if this large community remains outside the ambit of global change. It is time for change. How long India will allow people to carry this burden over their soldiers. It is time for emergency measures to deal with it. We will follow up this article with a report of those involved in manual scavenging as well as those who are trapped in the sanitary mart scheme in Laar, in the hope that government will do the needful to rehabilitate the manual scavengers.





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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Profile : Dr Bachchu Lal Valmiki


Valmiki's illustrious son challenges the hegemony of knowledge and merit in India

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Reservations are back in debate. Every body is talking of brain drain with All India Institute of Medical Sciences and its upper caste doctors taking the lead to denigrate and question the merit of others, it is time to respond with hard fact. While the 'liberals' try to explain how the Dalits have fared and that they too are 'human' and 'meritorious' students, they are quickly countered by the castiest petty fellows who feel that everything related to Dalits is not only clumsy but ridiculous too. So merit is basically a problem with the Hindu mind in India which refuses to acknowledge that Dalits too can possess that. Perhaps not many of them knows the hard facts that in most of the cases Dalit's marit as defined by the caste Hindus, is better than them. It is time to bring some hard facts to the front where merit defined by the caste Hindus is also conquered by the Dalits despite all the obstacles they have proved themselves better than any one else. This is the situation when opportunities do not come easily and caste bias remains intact. Imagine, if the caste hurdles are done away with and prejudices remain a thing of past, Dalits would do wonder. Lives of people like Dr Bachchu Lal Valmiki brings immense knowledge and understanding of what ails our system and how can we tackle the situation in our country. Despite all our ill wills, America and Europe still provide us better opportunities with out a caste bias which Dalits have to face regularly in the name of merit.

Dr Bachchul Lal Valmiki is a faculty in the Faculty in the Department of Neurology, Johns Hopkins University, Schools of Medicine Neuro-Oncology Lab, Kennedy Krieger Institute Baltimore, USA Not many have known his struggle who is now inspiring thousands of expatriate Ambedkarites to combine their energy and contribute jointly for the welfare of Scheduled Castes in India. Yes, Dr Lal was one of the founder members of the newly formed Dr Ambedkar NRI Association, in the United States, which has now decided to work to strengthen Ambedkarite movement in India and abroad and provide Dalits a new socio-economic vision to face the challenges of 21st century.

Born on July 1, 1954, in a scheduled caste, sub-caste Valmiki, family, living in one of the slum areas of Lucknow, Dr Lal's parents were totally illiterate and were doing menial jobs. In a family of four brothers and three sisters it was very hard to survive without strong financial support. It was his mother who was certain that education of the kids would bring real change in the lives of children and she did her level best to provide them the same but it was beyond her capacity. In 1960 his family moved in a small village in a government hospital, Lakhimpur Kheri, a nondescript town in the Tarai region of Uttar-Pradesh when his father got job of sweeper-cum-chowkidar.

His elementary education started there along with other brothers. For the middle education he and his brother were moved to his grandmother's home in Sitapur district. His grand mother was working in a school named Ujagar Lal Inter College, as sweeper. It was hard to survive during my elementary education but he passed class 8th in 1967 as average student in second division. Again he passed class 10th in 1969 in second division as a science student. Those days Second division was itself a rare phenomenon in the UP Board examinations and for a boy coming from the Valmiki community, it was simply outstanding.

The caste discrimination was rampant those days and he has to face it with great courage though with deep disgust and disappointment. "When I was in class 5th, in a remote village, one teacher tried to use me to do some menial job in the school but instead of obeying teacher, I ran to home and my father came immediately to beat the teacher in the school. Although my father was sweeper but he had some kind of strength to handle these kinds of situations. When I was studying in class six in city Sitapur, then an art teacher who was a caste Hindu, was not touching my copy to check. He asked me to hold the copy in my hands and open the pages to let him check or mark the copy.'

The ideas of Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar inspired him to take education seriously as it is the biggest weapon to strengthen your community and to achieve this he felt that economic independence was essential. It was equally important for him to delink himself from his traditional occupation, which had degraded the community. Therefore, he opened a bicycle repair shop in 1970 with the help of his brothers, in a hand made wooden box on the side of road, under open sky. With an investment of Rupees Fifteen they soon started getting Rs.10 – 15 per day and this money was a good financial support for the family. Within three months they were able to upgrade it with a wooden shop and started earning Rs.20 -40 per day. He diligently pursued his education and passed class XIIth in 1973.

As usual, this was time for parents to intervene and his father started looking for a suitable match for him. Ultimately, he married in 1974 to a community girl Sumitra Devi, whose father Mr. Lalta Prasad was a social worker and first educated Valmiki person of Lucknow. Lalta Prasad ensured that his daughter got education for her better future. Sumitra Devi had completed her 10 th standard before marriage. No doubt it was a revolutionary step by a father whose social concerns and commitments got him termination from his job. Marriage therefore opened a new horizon for Bachchu Lal. He moved to Lucknow along with his wife, to pursue his bachelors in science. Not to be considered as a burden on the in laws, Bachchu Lal started teaching kids from level zero to class X. The money they earned helped them sustain in Lucknow and his wife too started taking teacher's training courses. Before he completed his B. Sc., he got a Job in Industrial Toxicology Research Center Lucknow as Laboratory Technician, in 1976. Now, he dropped the idea to finish B.Sc. and joined job. Finally, he passed B.Sc. in 1977. With strong support of his father in law, his wife too passed teacher training and class XIIth.. With her huband's support and her own indomitable spirit Sumitra Devi completed her graduation from Lucknow University.

Bachchu Lal had always dreamt of becoming a medical doctor but poor finances could not help him. Though always a serious student, he got scholarship till his graduation days but medical education was too difficult to complete without financial support. Yet, Bachchu Lal's determination to conquer all the horizons made him focused on his study. He completed his Master's in Science while working in ITRC, in 1983 and Ph.D. in July 1989. Discrimination did not leave him as a teacher put his PhD degree on hold for 13 months. Says Dr Lal , "One very important incident happened with me, when I submitted my thesis (April 1988) for the award of Ph.D. My thesis was send to Allahabad University to an Associate professor. He was high caste. As my name looks like scheduled caste name, So When I did not get the report of the thesis in six month then I went Allahabad and met with this professor. Instead of giving my report he invited me to attend a meeting in his University and also assured that he will send the report soon. I went to attend the meeting and again requested him to send the report. Even then he did not send the report. After 13 months delaying my report by this professor, I became really angry and the used my way to get the report, and then he gave the report by hand and I got awarded Ph.D. in July, 1989".

In September 1989, he was appointed as scientist B, in ITRC in an open selection, (none of the permanent employee of ITRC got post of scientist B in open selection in ITRC history till today, he was the only who did this). The caste remarks hurled at him because of the job further strengthened his resolve to prove his credentials and scholarship. It also gave him ideas to respond to upper caste contempt. " Yes it was true that it was a reserve post but I was qualified for this position compare with any general candidate. The reason was this that for the post of Scientist B, basic qualification was M.Sc. First class or Ph.D. When I was M.Sc., second division, then, I did not get even interview letter for the post of Scientist B. After doing Ph.D. and having several years experience, I was a perfect candidate for the post of Scientist B. These comments provoked me to get POST DOCTORAL POSIATION IN USA and I did. I came USA in December 1992 at Johns Hopkins University that is number one in the world. In conclusion, I would like to say that during my service in ITRC, I learned to handle these so called high caste people and still I do have very good reputation in ITRC.'

In December1992 he moved as a Post Doctoral Fellow, in Department of Neurology, Johns Hopkins University, School of Medicine, Neuro-Oncology Lab, Kennedy Krieger Institute, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA, but came back India, in 1994. Joining a prestigious institute in USA was not on his agenda but the continuous upper caste remarks related to his merit and caste were perturbing and he decided to respond by his own way. If in India, he was condemned as a reserve category student, in USA he went by dent of his hard work and scholarship.

The red tapism and caste bias force Dr Bachchu Lal to return to USA in 1998. He himself explains, 'I came USA in December 1992 and went back India in October 1994. When I went back in 1994, from USA then I was happily working in ITRC but I was also affiliated with departmental employee associations. During this period, I had dispute with Director of ITRC and then I decided to again go back to USA and settle in USA. During my first visit of USA, I noticed that India is still far behind from USA especially in science. In USA you will get the benefits if you are a good worker compare to India where most of the positions will be filled on the basis of recommendations and bribery or cheating. People from all over the world, working in Johns Hopkins University, they never discriminate any one on the basis of caste or religion but if we meet with Indians then they will ask about the caste and will discriminate. Yes I have faced discrimination several times when I told Indians that I am from a sweeper community. I am proud of my self and my caste.'

Dr Lal is still working as scientist in Johns Hopkins University, on brain tumor therapy and developing new treatment strategies for incurable brain Cancer.

Dr Lal is worried about the growing differences among various Dalit communities and feel that inter caste marriages could play an important role in uniting the society. As far as the political leaders are concern, with the sole exception of Late Kanshi Ram, most of them are at the mercy of their party leaders and have been corrupted and co-opted.

On the question of his identity Dr Lal proudly inform every one that he hails from the Valmiki community. Yet he explains his philosophy, " I will call my self as Scheduled caste (dalits) and human who believe in humanity because if I call my self Ambedkarite, then I will be separated from others because every one is not Ambedkarite. The reason is this that still lot of dalits do not know that what Baba Saheb did for the community specially in scavenger community. If I call my self as Buddhist then, I will be talking about one religion. We need to distribute a book on Dr. Ambedkar's life history and his work, in brief, in all languages free among dalits so that they can understand about that what dalits need still to do in India.

On the condition of his community, Dr Lal feels that ultimately it has to come from with in the community and education is the only tool. " Scavenging is very big problem and question at this time and answer is only illiteracy and lack of confidence. I also proved in my life that if I did not want to do menial job then no one could force me. My brothers and sisters are not highly educated but they are not doing menial jobs. Education is the only tool that can help us to stop scavenging."

It is essential for the Valmiki community to join the Ambedkarite movement and for this, Dr Bachchu Lal feel that the people have to spread the movement otherwise the community will remain in dark. He says, "My feeling is that this community was most oppressed and illiterate compare to other dalit communities. I am sitting in USA and reading about the Dr. Bhagwan Das now otherwise I was never told about Dr. Bhagwan das. Valmikies are still in Hindu folds because they go and clean the houses and get food easily from all high caste community, so they were not caring for any thing. Now things are improving in the big cities but in the villages, conditions are still worst. Valmiki people should move in ambedkarite movements and focus on their kids education and give up alcohol and meat.'

He wants the community people to develop alternative for themselves. Education is the biggest tool. Those who have not been able to get enough education must shift to technical jobs where no food touching is involved. Says he, 'If you are auto-mobile mechanic then no one will ask about your caste but if you open a restaurant then every one will inquire about the caste. So the Valmiki community people must focus on education and technical businesses.

Dr Bachchu Lal says ' Women are the back bone of the society, especially in valmiki community because while living between our valmiki communities, I noticed that most of the illiterate men were coming home in the late evening, after drinking alcohol whereas women were coming home early after work and were cooking food, doing shopping and taking care to the kids. I would like to say that women must come forward in the education, so that they can better care to young generation.

He is ready to provide his guidance and particularly to his community people. His idea is the formation of Women's saving groups so that they are not depended on loan from outside. 'Women must also form small societies within their community to save some money every day for the future unknown emergencies. Let's put it like this, if 10 women make a society and save only one rupee per day, so they will save rupees 300 per month and rupees 3600/= per year. Once if one society have this much money, they can use it at any emergency without any interest and they can return money at their convenience. So this way they do not need to go to the money lenders and if they will keep saving money like this then after some time they will be able to save laks of rupees and then they can spend this money to start business. I am willing to match the same amount up to 10 societies each year. It will cost me Rs. 36,000/= per year.'

Dr Bachchu Lals' life is an inspiration for all those who aspire to rise high despite all the disabilities of caste and community. He comes from the lowest of the low community among the untouchables in India and yet his determination has resulted in his current position as one of world's premier Nureo institutions. His message to new young of his community is-' Young boys and girls of Valmiki Community must take an oath that they will do best in his studies and will keep away, them self from bad elements in the school. After getting education we will also think about the progress of our community and family. We will also teach our new generation to provide respect to our older people.'