Gadia Lohar Community, helpless in the lockdown
About a hundred steps from the Hoshangabad collector office, there are 3 slums where thirteen people belonging to the Gadia Lohar community live. This nomadic community has traditionally made and sold iron implements that are used in agriculture.
The Gadiya Lohars are included in the list of denotified tribes made by the Madhya Pradesh government.
In the lockdown following the COVID -19 outbreak, it is evident that they have been neglected in arrangements made by the government. Shankar, a person who belongs to this community, talks despairingly, “In all my life, I have never seen such helplessness. We have always earned and made a living with our skills.”
Shankar talks about how he goes to different villages in Hoshangabad district and makes and sells agricultural implements such as axes, sickles and pickaxes. He does this from April to May, stocking up food grains and earning money to make it last them for the year, but due to the lockdown, he hasn’t been able to continue with this. Shankar is worried,” Whether we die from the virus or not, the worry about how we are going to survive this year has been killing me; by the time the lockdown ends, our seasonal work will be over.”
No efforts by the commission in reaching out to denotified and semi – nomadic tribes
Despite having a commission set up in each district in Madhya Pradesh for Denotified, semi-nomadic and nomadic tribes, sincere efforts to allow relief measures to reach them are not being made. There has also been no financial support for this community.
The government has not made adequate arrangements
Shankar’s wife tells us “Since the lock-down started on 22 March, our family of four has been provided with 12 Kgs of wheat and 2 Kgs of rice just once. Because we couldn’t pay to get the wheat milled, we gave 2 Kgs of wheat as payment and brought home 10 Kgs of wheat flour. Oil, spices, and matches are expensive now. Matchstick that cost one rupee is being sold at three rupees. And even if we do eat rice and wheat, how can we possibly eat it? We are forced to eat rotis with red chillies, salt and water and now we are running out of chillies and salt too.”
Tomar Singh tells us that till ten days after the lock-down started, people would come to give them packets of food but slowly, that began to dwindle and stopped completely. Those packets of cooked food were not sufficient for the entire family. “If the government makes arrangements for us to find employment, we would not have to look to others for charity. But we are people who work on the roads. Though people do come to us out of pity and sympathy, they are not consistent with their responsibilities. We live under a constant, daily fear, wondering whether we would get any food today or not.”
Writer: Pallav Thudgar
Pallav has been working for the human rights of denotified and nomadic communities since several years. He can be reached at email@example.com.
This piece was published on Samvidhanlive in its original form in Hindi. It has been translated into English by Niharika Shenoy.