VILLUPURAM: Villupuram stands second in the number of villages in the State that practice caste-based discrimination as of 2021, reveals recent RTI data.
This was data produced by the Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) of the Social Justice and Human Rights division in response to an RTI filed by S Karthik, project director of Madurai-based organisation The Fact. The questions related to the number of villages still prone to caste atrocities and number of awareness meetings held by the district administration.
Replying to the RTI, a report from the ADGP office stated that Madurai stands first in caste atrocities with 43 villages followed by Villupuram and Tirunelveli with 25 and 24 respectively. Vellore and Thiruvannamalai follow, and Chennai is in last place with only one village. A total of 445 villages had been identified following discrimination across the State, the report stated.
Responding to the data, R Lalitha, a human rights activist from Social Awareness Society for Youth (SASY) in Tindivanam told TNIE, "Even as the pandemic curbed normal life for all of us, caste atrocities were high in Villupuram. It is no shock as it is listed as the second largest district."
She further added that the reason is not with the people involved. Rather, it is the negligence of police and revenue officials."No caste-related case had been dealt with independently or fairly by the police here. Every time the NGO or the victims need to fight to get the FIR filed with SC/ST (PoA) Act. If the protectors of the constitution itself are biased, how can we expect justice for the oppressed?" she said.
Subsequently, 341 villages have been identified as villages where untouchability had been brought under control according to the RTI. A total of 597 caste atrocity awareness meetings or visits were held in 2021, with the highest number in Trichy having held 42 meetings, said the report. During the same period only 15 meetings were held in Villupuram.
Reacting to the report, Collector D Mohan told TNIE, "The district administration is taking steps to spread awareness against caste atrocities and holds activities geared by the social welfare departments. The district is constantly observed by the officials to prevent caste atrocities and cases related to caste discrimination has been brought down fairly well, in the recent months." Officials will help bring the number of cases down and the villages that practice caste will be brought under special reformative schemes, Mohan added.
Suggesting a few recommendations to the State government, activist Karthik said,"The Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare Department, the ADGP in collaboration with the Social Welfare Department should take steps to create greater awareness and social harmony in villages in the top 10 districts where untouchability is high." Further, the Tamil Nadu government must allocate special funds for the awareness programmes. Steps should be taken to develop 445 villages identified as Untouchability Violence Villages as Model Reconciliation villages, he said. An incentive of up to `25 lakh each should be given to such model villages to encourage social development, he added.
Top three villages reportedly practising caste-based discrimination in 2021
1. Madurai- 43 villages
2. Villupuram -25 villages
3. Tirunelveli - 24 villages
*Untouchability had been brought under control in 341 villages
*597 caste atrocity awareness meeting held in State