KAILALI: Despite living in a municipality, the life of people in the Badi settlement of Balchaur, Chuha Municipality is deplorable.
The settlement has 900 people from 200 households. It was set up around eight years ago and comprises Badi people from 23 districts.
Owing to poverty, most of the male members of the village have gone to India in search of jobs, while the females with their families struggle to eke out a living.
Most of the female members of the Badi settlement walk 14 kilometres to the nearby Chisapani bazaar to grind stones in order to earn their livelihood. In spite of the availability of vehicles, the women choose to walk all the way to and fro to save money.
The ban on the extraction of forest products as part of the Chure Protection Campaign has also been adding to their woes.
Rama Badi, a rights activist of the Landless Badi Rights Struggle Committee, bemoaned the fate of the community. “They give false assurances to placate us each time we claim our rights,” lamented Rama.
According to Khaptad Badi Women Saving Group’s Chairperson Parbati Badi, the erstwhile campaign to collect certain amount as deposit from community members was aborted in view of the lack of any savings.
“Earlier, we would collect Rs 10 per month from each Badi woman. But we stopped the collection in view of the fact that most of the women don’t even have that much amount to deposit,” Parbati said.
“We can’t pursue our traditional job nor can we visit door to door for alms. As the government is digging a canal near our village, we fear we might have to forsake the land where we’ve been living,” she added.
Earlier, Badi women were tagged as prostitutes. Though they abandoned prostitution, life has not been easy.
Parbati said, “In the early days of our settlement in the village, we used to earn our livelihood by preforming dances on special occasions like weddings and various other social and religious rituals. However, technological advancement has made us redundant now.”
Balchaur residents have been heard that the government is allocating lands to freed Haliyas, Kamaiyas and Badi community at some places.
However, they have a morbid fear of being driven away from the place by security forces and have lost hope of being beneficiaries of the land.
Around seven years ago, Uma Badi of Balchaur had led an agitation that lasted 48 days and ended with an agreement with the government. Not a single point of the agreement has been implemented so far.
The local Badi community were not allowed to fill forms of the Squatters’ Problem Solving Commission because they didn’t have citizenship certificates.
Though Rama was inducted as member of National Women’s Commission during the Baburam Bhattarai-led government, she said she couldn’t do anything. “The government launched Janata Awas programme for Badis who had land, but ditched the landless,” Rama said.
Majority of Badi children suffer from malnutrition and are deprived of education. An NGO had picked 110 Badi kids from the village to provide them education in Kathmandu and Pokhara. However, around 180 kids of school-going age are still without education.
Some non-governmental organisations have been working in the field of education, health and drinking water in the area. Their increasing activities have paid off as the awareness level of Badis has increased.
They have got membership of the local community forests, while some Badi women have managed to be appointed in the forest users’ committees and school management committees.
According to Feminist Dalit Organisation (FEDO) Kailali Chairperson Punam Sijapati, they had launched various programmes such as monthly collection of deposits, group formation, and social mobilisation in 10 VDCs, including Balchaur, in the district.