“The hut leaks when it rains, we don’t have any money to buy a tarpaulin,” said Keshri Devi, adding, “the two bars of soap are not going to last forever.”
New Delhi: Days after the house of a slain BSF soldier was given a temporary ‘makeover‘ to make chief minister Adityanath’s visit to the family more comfortable, media reports claim that Dalit villagers in Uttar Pradesh were given soap, detergent and shampoo to ‘clean’ themselves before the Uttar Pradesh CM’s recent meeting with them.
“I got the soaps from the Anganwadi women. I didn’t get the shampoo, but others did. I was told to take a bath with the soap before going for the meeting. We already use soap which we buy from the local shop. What’s going to change with just two bars of soap,” a villager told the Indian Express.
Musahar Dalit families are the primary residents of UP’s Mainpur Deenapatti village in Kushinagar district. The community is discriminated against for being ‘untouchables’. Adityanath visited the otherwise neglected slum as part of an encephalitis vaccination campaign.
“The hut leaks when it rains, and we have to seek shelter in the corners of the hut all night. We don’t have any money to buy a tarpaulin,” said Keshri Devi, adding, “the two bars of soap are not going to last forever.” She lives in a thatched hut with her husband and five children.
The ‘mini swachh abhiyaan’ wasn’t just limited to the residents. ”New toilets were constructed…dusty roads were made pitched and lights were installed within no time,” a villager told the Deccan Herald.
Meanwhile, the authorities have dismissed the controversy, claiming it was a programme to promote cleanliness.
“We have not distributed these items but if somebody has done so, it must be for a good cause. The local administration is running a cleanliness campaign in slums and is sensitising locals as Musahars are not aware about cleanliness and hygiene. They are prone to contracting diseases like encephalitis as they defecate in the open,” Andra Vamsi, Kushinagar’s district magistrate, told the Hindustan Times.
The incident triggered a barrage of criticism. Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Yadav tweeted, “Such is the state-of-affairs when a yogi is a CM. The next time you visit the poor, try to understand their hardship”.
“The incident at the village of [the] Musahar community has depicted the true face of BJP, the RSS and in particular of their CM. They have insulted the entire community in that village but more importantly they have most importantly insulted the very concept of Dalit in this country,” Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi told ANI.
“Appropriate case must be registered under the very specific and powerful and wide provisions of ST/ SC act against this brazen and shocking form of untouchability and the CM and the officials must immediately unconditionally, comprehensively apologise to the entire community,” he added.
However, not all villagers were upset with the incident. “Earlier, many children used to get Japanese Encephalitis. Many got tuberculosis. The situation has become slightly better in the last few years. Officials have assured us that they will do something. This is the first time that there is focus on our locality. We have also been given new ration cards to help us get wheat and rice,” a farm labourer told the Indian Express.