Most of the Dalits and ethnic minorities in Bangladesh face discriminations and deprivation in accessing services and rights, according to a study that TIB released on Sunday. The study titled ‘the indigenous and Dalit communities in Bangladesh: challenges of inclusion in terms of rights and services and what should be done’, as New Age reported on Monday, provides a picture of discriminations faced by these people. Members of these communities are still deprived of their fundamental rights and living an accursed existence because of the negligence of successive governments, even more than 46 years after the adoption of the constitution, which enshrines equal rights and status for all citizens irrespective of their religious faith, ethnicity and gender.
Society’s culture of treating them with revulsion has been reflected in providing local services to these people. What is totally unacceptable is that they are being discriminated against in society quite overtly. As for Dalits, still there is a belief in society that these people are meant to perform only the most unpleasant tasks such as unclogging drains, removing corpses, sweeping and cleaning toilets. Cleaning is still an extremely degraded occupation in Bangladesh and the fact that cleaners are ghettoised is an unmistakable sign of their being stationed at the lowest rung of social ladder. No doubt, in the social context of a liberated Bangladesh this unfortunate situation for Dalits and ethnic minorities is an unacceptable proposition. They also face discrimination in establishing their right to lands. For getting healthcare services, they have to pay Tk 20 to Tk 100 illegally at outpatient departments, Tk 100 to Tk 200 at emergency departments, Tk 100 to Tk 450 for diagnosis of their diseases, Tk 500 to Tk 3,000 in accessing services during pregnancy and Tk 100 to Tk 9,000 for child birth. They need to pay Tk 500 to Tk 5,000 for getting cards of allowances for elderly people, Tk 1,000 to Tk 5,000 for physically challenge people’s card, Tk 500 to Tk 2,000 for widow allowance, Tk 100 to Tk 2,000 for VGF or VGD cards and Tk 6,000 to Tk 20,000 for house building allowance. As these disadvantaged people do not have adequate access to health, education and dignified jobs, they are extremely vulnerable to the scourge of poverty and other harrowing experiences. It is, therefore, imperative to introduce a law that will facilitate elimination of this discrimination and consider the antiquated practice of treating them with hatred a crime. Definitely, the onus lies with the government.
The government needs to realise that it must ensure proper education for their children in schools, allocate special funds in the national budget for their development, arrange special quota in jobs for these communities and ensure their constitutional recognition, in order to bring them into the mainstream of life. In addition to it, the social attitude towards them also needs to be changed.
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