Even aid looks at caste: structural inequality in disaster risk reduction policies
By Pallabi Dutta
India is a very diverse country with different castes, cultural groups and language groups, where all these groups evidently do not enjoy equal rights and facilities as everyone else, and hence, due to this vast diversity, representational policies are of the utmost necessity to address and satisfy the needs of different caste groups. This is especially because of the fact that the social needs of different groups differ in context, quality, and quantity.
The structural inequality persisting in the multilayered caste-based hierarchical society is one of the reasons for these differentiated requirements, demands, and responsibilities. A disaster risk reduction policy, which is framed and formulated keeping in mind the needs of only one section of society or by generalising the needs of people, will prove to be inefficient and unsatisfactory when implemented.
The state authorities, in their Disaster Risk Reduction policies and the Disaster Management Act, have not been able to address the issues and concerns of underprivileged, of those belonging to the so-called lower castes, especially the Dalits and tribal groups in disaster-prone areas. The poor Dalits, or the ‘untouchables’ due to societal pressure which is mainly exerted by the upper caste, have to settle on the outskirts of villages and other marginalised areas despite being aware of the fact that such areas might be at risk of facing natural hazards.
During post-disaster rebuilding or reconstruction process, such classes are not able to provide documents of land ownership or even citizenship mainly because of their illiteracy, lack of awareness and impoverished condition. The Disaster Risk Reduction policies refuse to give compensation, reconstruction facilities and insurance to such people who aren’t able to show land ownership documents. For example, share-croppers are not covered in crop insurance. In places such as Tamil Nadu and Gujarat where casteism is reported to be higher in function, lower caste people were not able to take advantage of basic facilities such as safe drinking water provided by UNICEF for all, irrespective of caste, due to social caste discrimination. Another instance is of the discrimination faced by Dewar Caste at the hands of upper caste people in Odisha during Super Cyclone in 1999.
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