Dhangadi, November 24
Voters of the marginalised Badi community in Kailali have sought a pledge from election candidates to provide them permanent settlement in return for votes in the upcoming parliamentary and provincial elections. The impoverished community is faring very badly amidst lack of a permanent settlement and other basic necessities.
Parbati Badi of Balchaur in Lamkichuha Municipality-3 shared her plight of being excluded from the state-launched People’s Residence Programme for want of land ownership certificate. “As ours has been a pathetic life without a permanent settlement all these years, we have agreed to vote for candidates who can guarantee land ownership certificates and permanent settlement to us in this election,” she said, adding, “We were too naïve in the past to believe that leaders would do something in our favour. They never came to us to understand our plight once elected.”
Balchaur alone has over 260 Badi households. As they don’t have land ownership certificates, they have not been benefited by the government-launched programme that ensures residents to the impoverished lot.
Over 7000 Badis are living in Kailali, in places such as Muda, Satti and Tikapur, besides Balchaur. Though a few families are living permanently, others are living as squatters in forests and roadside.
Rupa Badi of Muda, on her part, bemoaned repercussions of their poor lifestyle on kids’ education. “As managing two meals a day is an ordeal for us, there was no way we could afford education, quality or not, to our kids on our own,” she said. Most of the kids of the Badi community study up to Grade V only as they are provided scholarships up to Grade V in government schools. Further, she said she was going to vote for the candidates who would guarantee them work and free education to their kids.
In fact, the community had launched a nation-wide agitation nine years ago that had concluded into an agreement with the government. “The government then had pledged for work and free education to the Badi kids up to higher secondary level, but implementation of the agreement is nowhere to be seen,” said Dalit Commission member Rama Badi, who is, nonetheless, positive to some extent about how a Badi woman has secured her place on the list of proportional candidates from a political party this time.
“There are many problems in my community and I hereby pledge to do my level best in order to address these problems if elected to the Parliament,” said Uma Badi, who is a proportional candidate for the parliament from the Nepali Congress.
A version of this article appears in print on November 25, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.