EMPOWER PEOPLE Blog
As the Centre and the Nitish Kumar-led state government continue to fight to take credit for poor-oriented schemes, the Musahars of Bihar, the legendary rat-eaters who are at the bottom of the social ladder, are wondering what the debate is all about. Whether it is MNREGA or benefits promised under Kumar's Mahadalit initiative, development seems to have passed them by.
According to Musahars themselves, there is no other scheme which has failed them more than the high profile and ground breaking MNREGA. Right from Danapur near Patna to Jehanabad and Gaya in central Bihar, there is no dearth of Musahars who mouth expletives at the mere mention of MNREGA.
"We were promised 100 days of paid work under the scheme but can you see a single entry in my job card? Despite having made several complaints to local authorities including the BDO, nothing has changed," Ramnath Manjhi said squatting outside his mud hut at the Musahar Toli in Purushottampur near Naubatpur Bazaar in Patna district. He and his brother Laloon display their job cards with no entry at all.
The story is similar in the Musahar Toli at Raja Bigha village in Gaya district. "Despite repeatedly asking for it, there is no work. We were told that there would be some unemployment allowance too but nothing has happened," said Jitendra Lal of the village.
According to Munna Manjhi, a resident of the Musahar Tola on the road leading to Shivala Crossing from Danapur station, though, Rahul Gandhi cannot be blamed for continuously praising MNREGA during his election campaign. "We believe the state government has not implemented it well. We have complained so many times to the BDO and other local officials but it seems nobody wants to listen to us at the panchayat and district level at least," said Munna, surrounded by many others who too said they were yet to get any work.
Musahars were included in the Mahadalit category but even this doesn't seem to be of much help. According to these Musahars, the inclusion of other educationally better off communities like Pasi in Mahadalit section in 2009 has further hurt Musahars. "The Tola Sewak of this area happens to be a Pasi when the fact is that we are more than double their number in this area," said Laloon. A Tola Sewak is appointed at the village level with a salary of Rs 1,000 per month to help members of dalit communities.
Musahars account for close to 16% of the total SC population of Bihar and are generally regarded as the most backward and illiterate among all communities of the state. Manjhi and his brother Laloon said Musahars of their village, which falls under Bikram constituency, will vote for the LJP candidate even though the party is dominated by Paswans.
For most Musahars, paldari or carrying load on their shoulders in local markets remains their main occupation. "For us, a good day is earning Rs 60 through paldari," said Laloon.