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ठकवा मुसहर की पीठ पर

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मुसहर किसी जाति को नहीं
दुःख को कहते हैं

मुसहर / अच्युतानंद मिश्र

who is musahar ?

Musahar is a Dalit community that is mainly found in four states of India: Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal, as well as in Nepal. They are also known as Banbasi. The other names of the Musahar are Bhuiyan and Rajawar. Their name literally means ‘rat-eater’ due to their main former occupation of catching rats, and there are many who are still forced to do this work due to destitution and poverty.

Bihar has the maximum concentration (88.6%) of Musahars. Though they are settled in the various districts of the state, a majority of them are now found in the districts of north Bihar. The Census data show that there has been tremendous growth in the population of Musahars in Bihar and now their number is 2,725,114 (Census 2011). They constitute around one-sixth of the total Scheduled Caste population which is 16,567,325 (Census 2011) and about 2.6 percent of the total population which is 103,804,637 in Bihar (Census 2011).

Almost all Musahars live in rural areas, with a mere 3% living in the city. In the rural areas, Musahar are primarily bonded agricultural laborers, but often go without work for as much as eight months in a year. Children work alongside their parents in the fields or as rag-pickers, earning as little as ₹25-30 a day. The Musahar literacy rate is 3% overall and falls to an abysmal 1% among women. By some estimates, as many as 85% of some villages of Musahars suffer from malnutrition and with access to health centers scant, diseases such as malaria and kala-azar are prevalent.

India after Independence initiated and implemented a number of highly funded schemes such as Swarn Jayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana, the Integrated Rural Development Programme, the Jawahar Gram Samridhi Yojana, the Jawahar Rozgar Yojana, the Employment Assurance Scheme, Pradhan Mantri Gramin Awaas Yojana, the Drought Prone Area Programme and the Pradhan Mantri Gramodaya Yojana to develop the conditions of the rural poor. The Musahars are supposed to be the main beneficiaries of these programs. But the ground reality shows that the government measures to alleviate the conditions of Musahars have hardly reached them. Musahars are often unable to access government schemes and entitlements owing to discrimination at government institutions, widespread corruption, negligence of government officials or service providers, exploitation by people in power, and a lack of awareness of their rights. This has resulted in maintaining illiteracy, under-nutrition, lower immunity, distressed migration, livelihood insecurity, indebtedness, low self-esteem, joblessness, lack of confidence, and disharmony within the Musahar community. Development is still very far away from them.

Photo: Ayush Anand 

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