Karnataka state welfare department set to open govt-run salons to fight caste discrimination
Bengaluru: Karnataka’s Social Welfare Ministry has proposed setting up government-run barber shops following continued media reports of Dalits in the state being discriminated over basic needs such as a haircut.
BY ROHINI SWAMY
According to the plan by the social welfare department, officials have already begun identifying places where these shops can be set up and have recommended that local village panchayats compile lists of those who would be ready to be hired as barbers on a contract basis.
“This is an effort to fight caste differentiation and atrocities against the community. The social welfare department has recommended this as we have taken note of a series of cases that have been reported as well as the cases that have occurred over the years where Dalits and OBCs have been denied their basic rights,” said a senior official from the social welfare department. “To put an end to all the differentiation, the department has come up with this plan.”
The government’s moves come on the back of media reports of Dalits and OBCs being shunned at salons.
Last week, a Mysuru-based barber Mallikarjun Shetty alleged he was being boycotted by upper castes and was asked to pay a fine of Rs 50,000 for catering to customers of the Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and Other Backward Classes.
Shetty, who lives at Hallare village of Nanjangud taluk, has lodged a police complaint. “They (upper castes) even asked me to charge a lot more money from Dalits. They asked me to charge them Rs 200 for a shave and Rs 300 for a haircut. I argued that I cannot do so because my prices were the same for all,” Shetty told ThePrint. “But they said that only if I price it high they (marginalised section) will not come to the salon. But then they decided to avenge this and forced my son to drink alcohol and dance naked.”
Discrimination in the state
There have been other reports of Dalits being discriminated against over their basic needs.
On 25 June 2019, media reports talked of how Dalits of Hulikal village in Hassan district had to walk eight kilometres to Arkalgud to get a shave or a haircut.
The local Dalit organisations had decided to get a barber from a different area to set up shop but that has never materialised. Hulikal, with a population of around 3,000, has about 150 Dalit families and has seen several instances of discrimination.
Hulikal Rajashekar, a Dalit activist and retired educationist who has been fighting for the rights of the community, recalls submitting a memorandum to the gram panchayat requesting them to allot a place to run a barber shop.
“Leaders fought to get Dalits entry into the Venkata Ramana Temple located in the village,” he said. “After years of fighting for the cause, the restrictions were removed, but the plea to open a barber shop still remains unfulfilled.”
Yet another instance of discrimination was reported in 2017 from Haranagiri in Ranebennur district of Karnataka. Members of the Madiga community, the term used in Karnataka for more than 50 Dalit sub-castes, demanded that they be allowed to enter barber shops.
They alleged that they were being forced to seek services 20 km away in Ranebennur town.
Courtesy : The Print