Friday, November 13, 2009

Gujjar children most deprived lot

Children day

Over 5 Lakh Gujjar tribal Children live in utter deprivation in Jammu and Kashmir due to usual neglect and are being mostly exploited in terms of physical because of limited source of income and they are forcibly put to labour by their parents because of limited source says a study conducted by Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation a National Organisation working on Gujjars

“The parents of most neglected Ajhari and Manjhi Children are not aware of the schemes launched by the government for their education and social uplift as they in far-flung areas and are nomads moving from one place to another,” said Dr Javaid Rahi, national secretary, Tribal Foundation.

The foundation carries out studies on tribes and cultures and will shortly come out with a survey on the condition of Muslim Gujjars in Jammu and Kashmir.

Gujjars, a nomadic tribe, constitute as much as 20 percent of the state’s population of about 12 million and mainly live on cattle rearing. In the summers they live in the higher reaches of the state, and come down to the plains in winter.

Dr. Rahi said the facilities provided to the girl child in this community were inadequate. “This can be understood from the fact that there is only two Government Gujjar Girl Hostels in Jammu and Srinagar in the whole state for about 1.2 million Gujjar women.”

The community also feels the pinch of insufficient educational opportunities for Gujjar girl students. Rahi said, “Only eight girl students could make it to the university this year for postgraduate studies.”

The foundation reveals that very few girls from the Ajjhari and Manjhi sub-tribes of Gujjars were sent to school, and there is a very high dropout percentage due to compelling economic or domestic reasons and early marriages.

According to the foundation studies, extreme poverty, child labour and early marriage are “pushing the future of Gujjar children into darkness”.

Rahi said their survey had revealed that out of 100 Gujjar children in the age group of 7 to 15 years, about 75 are engaged in “physical labour”. They are being exploited due to lack of resources and poverty, he said.

According to the survey, “the worst condition is of the children belonging to the Ajjhari Gujjar (shepherds) and Manjhi Gujjar (buffalo keepers) - 83 percent of whom have not seen school while 17 percent are getting an education in religious institutes.”

A large number of these children are working as domestic helpers in the households of rich ones. “At least 17 percent Gujjar children inherit bonded labour from their forefathers.”

Rahi also said that “early or even child marriage prevalent among the tribe was also one of the reasons for not being able to study and progress”.

There are over 2.5 million Gujjars in the state, of whom about 1.2 million are women,.“Female Gujjars are more in number than men as their birth rate is high and mortality rate is low.”

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