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SHUBHDA CHAUDHARY | 5 MAY, 2016

Drought-hit Nomads in Maharashtra forced to sell their Girls, Government Silent


NEW DELHI: The egregious and heart-wrenching drought in Marathwada, Maharashtra is witnessing a new turmoil. The mayhem in the drought-hit district has escalated to such an extreme degree that now destitute nomads are forced to sell their girls.

Kamalibai, a nomad in Osmanabad region of Marathwada revealed with great pain, “Thanks to the beef ban no one wants to buy her (cow). Since I can’t sell the cow I had to sell my daughter Kaveri.” For years, Kamalibai served as a devdasi to Goddess Yellamma, following century old tradition which was started by upper caste men for lower caste girls. Later, unfortunately, these girls either became slaves or prostitutes. As if the detrimental and obnoxious fate was not enough for these girls, their family had to resort to pimping or begging to make their ends meet.

It is great insensitivity of the government’s policies that thought that processes like Selfie with Daughter and Beti Bachao Andolan have failed miserably. The mere fact that girls, as young as 9-10 years are being sold in flesh trade and the government is not paying heed to it. Along with it, the nonchalance has aggravated to the extent that the government officials are not even accepting that such a phenomenon is going on in Marathwada.

For example, MK Kulkarni who is the Belgaum district officer of Devadasi Rehabilitation Programme openly stated that “We have not had any such complaints. Our officials and the temple priests are vigilant. We immediately inform the police and take the child into protective custody if we get details.” In fact, he admonished the fact that senior Devdasis have to resort to this trend as there is no evidence of it. Currently, there are 50,000 devdasis as per the data of union ministry of women and child development but the government is not paying any attention to their welfare by incorporating any scheme for them which can empower them from the abysmal morass.

Aazeen Kirmani writes that “An achiever indeed Modi is, being a PM of an imaginary superpower where 330 Million people are on verge of starvation, girls are being sold in place of cattle to feed families, and the government machinery is chronically constipated for preventive measures on both the fronts.”

Adding another twist to this spectacle, Rajendra Singh, Water Conservationist and winner of Stockholm Water Prize 2015 opined that India’s drought is ‘man-made’, a result of non-seriousness about water scarcity. Several researchers have delved deeper into the drought situation in Maharashtra and have investigated how the state spending and relief policies are not able to even reach the farmers, leave the nomads. The farmer’s widows live a life in penury, which is traumatic yet inevitable. The government policies have not worked towards improving the irrigation facilities, crop produce, water harvesting features and other measures that can make the situation better.

‘You have reserve police, you have reserve army, but you have no reserve water. This is the biggest policy failure’ says Rajendra Singh. Economist H M Desarda, who is the former member of Maharashtra State Planning commission, said that the drought is an ‘ideological failure’.

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