Thamate (literally a Dalit Drum) is a Community Based Organization founded in 2006 working in Tumkuru district of Karnataka with madiga and other most marginalized communities for eradication of manual scavenging practice and comprehensive development of the community. It was founded in 2006 by senior Dalit human rights activists from the safaikarmachari community with the goal of breaking the vicious cycle of caste-based occupation leading to lack of education, poverty, discrimination and exclusion through community-based mobilization.
Madiga community is located at the bottom of the caste hierarchy of Indian society. The community is treated as outcaste/untouchable because of the occupations the people from the community were (and many still are) engaged in like cleaning/sweeping the villages including manual scavenging, disposing of dead animals, processing and tanning of animal skin. Tumkuru district is one of the most under-developed districts of Karnataka. In Tumkuru, the members of Madiga community are largely landless workers while some are engaged in cleaning occupations. Because of lack of resources, the community has remained under developed on various counts including low education among children, employment of youth in non-cleaning occupations, lack of access to government schemes.
80% children from the community drop out at high school (class 8 to 10) level. Denied opportunities to develop any skills, they are compelled to join sweeping work. Girls get married off at a young age and boys start supporting their parents in cleaning work in adolescence only. Not having any role models and guidance to pursue any other occupation, the youth of the community end up taking up cleaning/scavenging work, largely in unorganized sector, where they are denied any social security whatsoever. They start as casual or contract workers and work in the same condition for years before getting permanent employment. Safety equipment’s are not provided, which expose them to dust, wet garbage, hazardous waste, dead animals and other infections. Overall health indicators are low within the community even when compared to dalit community in general.
Focus of Thamate’s Work
Given this context, Thamate’s work is focused on following thematic issues: –
- Eradication of Manual Scavenging Practice including legal interventions
- Improving Education among families of Safaikarmacharis/Manual Scavengers
- Improving Health status of families of Safaikarmacharis/Manual Scavengers
- Organization of community for their rights
A introductory feature on Thamate by Vijay Kumar Seethappa.