India @ 64: Efforts to abolish untouchability in Orissa

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Bhubhaneswar, Aug 12: When India is days away from celebrating its 64th Independence Day, there are parts in the country that practice untouchability and bars dalits from entering temples. The social evil is prevalent in certain parts of Orissa and the Orissa government has decided to act tough on those practicing such social evils.

A senior official in the ST, SC, OBC and Minorities Development department has been quoted as saying, "It was decided to initiate prompt action against the persons delivering inflammatory speeches on the basis of caste besides launching massive awareness campaign against the menace." Plans in this regard was kickstarted through a report submitted by the National Commission for Scheduled Caste (NCSC). The govt also had a plan in place to combat the necessary evils still in practice in the society.

The plan stated, "District administration along with police should move the administration of major temples in the state to issue necessary advisory to managing committees to take all possible steps for ensuing that there is no discrimination between one community and the other so far as entry and offer of puja are concerned."

NCSC chairman P L Punia had earlier expressed great concern over the fact that dalits were being denied entry into a temple in Brahmagiri in Puri district. He visited the temple and sought the government to give equal opportunities to all to go to the temple and offer prayers. The report submitted also states how the district authorities plan to distribute posters, handbills and leaflets to publicize the fact that people of the lesser caste could enter temples and offer pujas.

The report added, "Hoardings need to be erected near temples and conspicuous places of gram panchayats. Steps may also be taken to create awareness through street play and other cultural activities." The government has also decided to discuss the issues of untouchability and dalit's temple entry in monthly meetings of Panchayat Samities and Gram Panchayats and spread the message through curriculums in elementary and secondary schools.

An official has been quoted as saying, "The students of elementary schools should not only be taught about the bad of untouchability but also should be encouraged to ensure that the school becomes an example of for setting a suitable ambience where children interact with each other free from caste-affiliations."

Government also claimed that the social evil was in practice in Kendrapara and Puri districts that barred dalits from entering temples with one such incident reported from Paradip area in Jagatsinghour district.

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