Published on Countercurrents.org, by S.R.Darapuri, 09 May, 2008.
When George Bush is admonishing India for eating too much, Dalits in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh face hunger deaths and suicides
The state of Uttarpradesh (U.P) in India has the distinction of having 3.51 crores of Dalits at 2001 census constituting 21.1 % of the total population (16.6 crores) of the state. U.P. holds 1st rank and the 4th rank in terms of absolute number of SC population and its proportion to total population respectively among all the States and Union Territories. The state has a total of sixty six (66) Schedules Castes. U.P. has also got the distinction of having a dalit lady Miss Mayawati as Chief Minister for the fourth time. U.P. has also won the distinction of being one the most under developed states of India. It has got the largest number of illiterate, malnourished persons, polio, leprosy and TB cases.
The SCs in U.P. are predominantly rural as 87.7 % of them live in villages. Their literacy rate is 46.3 % which is much lower than the national average (54.7 %) aggregated for all SCs. Male and female literacy rates (60.3 % and 30.5 % respectively) among the SCs is also lower than those recorded for all SCs at he national level (66.6 % and 41.9% respectively) …
… The main question which needs immediate attention of all concerned with dalits’ plight in U.P. is the ever increasing number of suicides and hunger deaths among dalits as well as other weaker sections of society especially in the BundelKhand region consisting of Jhansi, Chitrakoot, Jalaun, Lalitpr, Mahoba and Banda districts.
The main reason for this situation is the rain failure for the last five years resulting in loss of crops and wages for the agriculture labourers who are predominantly Dalits of Kol and Sahriya castes. Not only higher caste farmers but even dalit farmers are committing suicides due to crop failure and indebtedness. The agriculture labourers are dying of hunger, malnutrion and unemployment. This region has been identified with Vidharba region of Maharashtra where as many as 4,453 farmers have committed suicides during 2006. It is reported that as many 200 farmers had committed suicides and an other 250 had died of hunger deaths in Bundelkhand during the last five years. Out of this dalits’ share is about 30 % among suicides and 70 % among hunger deaths. 80 % Dalits are on the verge of hunger deaths. As many as 12 dalits in Bundelkhand and 11 dalits in other districts of U.P. committed suicide and as many 25 dalits died of hunger deaths during the year 2007 only … (full text).