Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Community Associations

Seeking change from within
The gradual exposure and integration of Nomadic and De-notified Tribes with the mainstream society is making them introspect their cultural rigidities that have for long barred them from making progress. Last year some of the Communtiy Associations or the Gnayati Panch were restructured to accommodate some progressive ideas in the communities.
The Bajaniyaa Community Association is making some remarkable progress in this direction. The youth of this community is working towards making some radical changes in the dictates that govern the community and  in the traditions and customs followed.
Child Marriages: Child Marriage is an age-old custom that is still practiced in this community.  The most important side effect is that parents resist sending their children especially girls to school. The instances on separation and divorce are also high because they children when they grow up do not wish to stay together because of mental and physical incompatibility.
The Community Association with consent of community elders has brought a ban of m
arriage of underage children. The girl will need to be 18 years old and boy 21 years old at the time of marriage.
Alcohol Consumption:  Consumption of alcohol is rampant in this community. Be it occation of  marriage, death or other social event,  the men of these community never miss the opportunity to get drunk. The host has no option but to spend generously on buying liquor on such occasions. The Community Association inspite of protests and abuse has decided to ban serving and consumption of alcohol on social and public events. Those breaking the rule will be fined Rs. 200 and Rs. 500 if a community elder or leader is found breaking the norm.
Seeking Consent: The community members will be required to take permission from the Community Association for arranging any marriages, social or religious event. The Association will check the l, need, funds to be spend on revelieries  etc. of the occasion. Those who fail to seek permission will face community boycott.
It is aimed that such measure will help in curbing unnecessary expenditure on such events. The families in such marginalized communities are always reeling under some or other debt.
No Police Complaints: The disputes in the community are now redressed by the Community Associations. Earlier all petty or major disputes went to nearby police station and the police were more interested in benefiting from the situation rather that solving it. The new requirement has simply stopped the quarrels going to the police.

Restricting Condolence meets: The practice of visiting the grieving family during the first 12-13 days of   death and spending on the mourners has been banned.  The reason being the family could not go to work to earn daily living and had to spend heavily on tea, alcohol, food, cash etc.  Only the bare minimum rituals are allowed. All the practices that required spending lot money have been banned. 

Friday, January 24, 2014


This year VSSM  has launched the  process of collecting and collating baseline information on demographic, economic, social, infrastructural parameters of the settlements it has been working in. One of the glaring fact that has surfaced is that not many people were found to live beyond 55 years of age. Extreme poverty, wandering lifestyles, harsh living conditions, lack of access to quality health care are some of the reasons responsible for such overwhelming scenario.

Other glaring revelation that needed attention was adults of both gender and children of very young age were found to be severely addicted to vices like alcohol, bidi smoking, tobacco chewing, gutka, applying tobacco based powder called chikni etc.  The habits of consuming these products is so rampant and compelling that they spend substantial amount of their meager earnings on it. There have been instances when they would not spend Rs. 20 to contribute towards processing charges for acquiring certain basic documents of their entitlements but  would spend them for buying these vices.
Putting two-and-two together it was felt that addictions along with back breaking labour could be one of the major factors behind the early deaths in these communities.

VSSM tried to tackle the issue by demanding assurance from the community and involving their leaders. It was felt that talk on leaving the habits should come from people they believe in the most. Each of these communities has their own Bhagat/religious leaders. VSSM has been approaching the religious leaders of these communities and briefed them about the issue of addiction. We are requesting them to start talking about the ill effects of these vices and preach the communities to abstain from consuming them.  Quite a few leaders have been receptive to the idea and have begun talking about the concerns during their discourses and events. Organizationally, we are asking for a promise of de-addiction when they welcome us in their settlements, a commitment to abstain from any such habits is the fee we will be charging for helping them process their citizenry documents. VSSM also assists with clinical support in case there are individuals who are not able to kick off the habit on their own. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Citizen at 70….

70 years old Babubhai Dafer is a happy man. For the first time in his life he will be exerciseing  his franchise to vote in the forthcoming  Loksabha elections. Along with Babubhai 11 other adults of Dafer families residing  in  Laxminagar village of Surendranagar’s Limdi block, have acquired the Voter's ID cards as a result of collective efforts by VSSM and Chief Electoral Officer of Gujarat Ms. Anita Karwal. These individuals had been striving to get the Voter ID card for  last three and half years.
They had no proofs or support documents that are required to process the application. Add to it the community they belong to - the Dafer. These facts became the reasons  for the officials to deny processing the applications. Why do Dafers require a Voter Card?? they would question. VSSM had tried to resolve the issue  but it was impossible to change the attitude of the local administration. We later brought this issue to the notice of Ms. Karwal,  whose intervention ultimately made it possible for the individuals to acquire the Voter ID cards.