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Dear Netas, Marginal Communities Don't Care About MNREGA or 'Revenge on Pakistan'

These are mostly traditional artisanal communities produced under jajmani systems (caste-based economic systems) and are found among both Muslims and Hindus. One can find them among OBCs, MBCs and SCs.

Badri Narayan |

Updated:April 16, 2019, 7:35 AM IST
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Dear Netas, Marginal Communities Don't Care About MNREGA or 'Revenge on Pakistan'
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The desires and aspirations of marginal social communities living in the interiors are different from those who reside in cities, towns, and villages near highways.

These are the communities that have been on the receiving end of a neo-liberal economy, which is led by an aggressive State. These communities aspire for resources linked to their livelihood and want to live independently. Unlike other social communities, these do not want to depend on the state for resources. They consider themselves artisanal communities, or traditional knowledge communities in modern terms.

The manifestos released by political parties have left them out. The interaction between them and the political class is also negligent.

Many of them don’t want to diversify their livelihood under MNREGA or other schemes, and want to earn their livelihood from their traditional skills.

Their aspirations and demands from state, government and political parties are different. Pension plans, Kanya Dhan, Ladali Yojanas, revenge on Pakistan, Rafael etc are not even on their minds, let alone their priority issues in election season. MNREGA has no appeal for them. These communities are not eager to transform themselves as physical labour under such schemes. Since these communities don’t have their own land, they are not influenced by the discourse of rural distress either.

These are mostly traditional artisanal communities produced under jajmani systems (caste-based economic systems) and are found among both Muslims and Hindus. One can find them among OBCs, MBCs and SCs.

For them, their traditional livelihood and customary rights on natural resources, which are sources of their livelihood, must be preserved and protected.

Desires of Marginal Communities

What do they expect from our electoral democracy? We can find them living in small hamlets along the banks of Ganga, Yamuna and other rivers, either on the fringes or on difficult terrain.

There are communities spanning across identities and categories as created by our state politics like the Nishads, Mallahs, Nats, Tamboli and Dhobis, found among both Hindus and Muslims in these areas. The Nishads and Dhobis want the government to give them an opportunity to practise sand mining in the river belt. Nishads also want to preserve their community right to fish in the rivers. Instead of new benefits or promises, they want to preserve their basic traditional livelihood.

Any other government benefits are secondary for them.

Similarly, there is a community called Sangtarash that does stone carving. They are the ones who make statues out of soft stones from the small mountains of Chunar near Mirzapur in eastern Uttar Pradesh. Their hamlets are located on the roadsides of hilly areas where one can find finished statues — from that of Hanuman to Sardar Patel and BR Ambedkar — for sale.

They buy stones for their occupation from contractors who have acquired the right to mine stones in the area. The community pays a high price for this. More than the Ujjwala Yojana, they aspire for the right to procure soft stones without having to pay for them. They want the right to natural resources to go to them and not to contractors.

Their aspirations are waiting to get space or mention in the election narrative.

(Badri Narayan is a Social Scientist at GB Pant Social Science Institute in Allahabad. Views are personal.)
| Edited by: Ahona Sengupta
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