Madigas’ fight for equitable quota benefits shows caste still rules in India

Madiga, reservation
Till date, the reservation benefits under the Scheduled Caste category has been skewed against the Madigas in Karnataka and Andhra | File Photo

Harijana Nagendra Harijan, 37, migrated from Andhra Pradesh’s Gorantla to Bangalore about 15 years ago. Unable to find a job in the city, like many of his community members, Nagendra ended up working as a sewage and tank cleaner. Today, he’s hired by the sewerage board (BWSSB) and residents of Bangalore on a contract basis for sewer cleaning in the city. Occasionally, he still resorts to manual scavenging, though banned in India, at least twice or thrice a month as he’s left with no other choice. His wife works as a garbage picker in the city’s municipal corporation.

Having studied till Class 10, Nagendra says poverty forced them out of the village, and when they landed in the city, they were willing to take up any job that came their way. But considering the caste legacy, he says many ended up as waste pickers and sewer cleaners in the early 2000s, when the Bangalore municipal corporation was expanding and hiring people.

“The land that we have is barren. We need at least ₹3 lakh to dig a borewell and start cultivating. Arranging such a huge amount will be difficult. So, going back to the village and getting back to farming is not an option for me,” says Nagendra. Had they stayed back in the village, they would not even have gotten this job, he adds.

“In those days, people gave nice jobs only if we came through referral (influential person). We knew none and got no good job. We were offered no other job except this.”

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