Over 80K Devadasis in Karnataka, say NGOs

Sources said the state government has dropped its demand of a resurvey, possibly due to financial crunch.

BENGALURU: It is an irony that the state government believes that pushing girls as young as seven into the Devadasi tradition has stopped, and they are all rehabilitated. In reality, more than 40,000 women are forced to continue the Devadasi system and who have not even been counted. Reason: There has been no survey in the past 18 years. The last survey by the state government was in 2008, according to which there are 40,600 devadasis. However, NGOs working with the community, and a study by the Karnataka State Women's University in 2018, show more than 80,000 Devadasi women in all.

Agreeing to this, Udupi-Chikkamagalur MP Shobha Karandlaje said, "A resurvey has to be done, and I will request the state government about this."

She was speaking at the inaugural of a media consultation programme on Protecting Children From Sexual Offences, organised by Child Rights Trust, Karnataka Women Journalists Association & Children Empowerment for Getting Out Of Devadasi system (GOOD), an NGO, to create awareness about devadasis and place their demands before the government to ensure their names are included in the list of beneficiaries. 

Sources said the state government has dropped its demand of a resurvey, possibly due to financial crunch.

Former High Court judge Justice (retd) HN Nagamohan Das who is also heading the HN Nagamohan Das Commission, which was formed to look into the demands for increasing the reservations percentage to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, said at the event that a delegation of Devadasi communities recently met him seeking reservations in education and employment for Devadasi children.

"The request has been made in front of the commission. Meanwhile, I have also heard about the existing problems these women have been facing in availing those benefits and how many of their names have been exempted from the list of Devadasis as the survey done has been way back in 2008. Several are denied to be included when they say they have a husband or their children mention their father's name in the records. And without which the schools do not admit the children," Justice Nagamohan Das said.

Meanwhile, the Devadasi children who were present at the event demanded financial aid for their higher education and hostel facilities so that they can move away from their respective villages, where they are more vulnerable to be exploited.

Speaking to audience, Shantala Dharmaraj, president, Karnataka Women Journalists' Association said, "it is very important that media is sensitised about the status of these women and participates in a workshop like this so that they understand how not to sensationalise issues but report it sensibly considering the problems the community or the NGOs might face after our reports."

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