Stuartpuram (Andhra Pradesh): Seventy years after the primary impartial authorities of India de-notified the communities criminalised by British colonisers below the Prison Tribes Act, 1871, members of the Erukula group in Andhra Pradesh are nonetheless in dire want of rehabilitation.
In Stuartpuram, a colony positioned on the margins of Nationwide Freeway 16 that hyperlinks Kolkata and Chennai, 6,000 households of the Erukula group nonetheless reside with the social standing thrust upon them greater than 100 years in the past by the British as members of ‘a legal tribe’. Although this designation was eliminated in 1952, it stays key amongst a number of components that hold the group down, despite the fact that some amongst them have risen to nice heights in fields equivalent to forms, politics, drugs and sports activities.
For instance, Karreddula Nageswara Rao, a rickshaw-puller turned legal who confronted 70 costs of grave dacoity in his time and surrendered to the police in 1984, is a lot at a loss for a way of incomes a dwelling that he’s considering a return to crime. In the meantime, his spouse, Marriyama, additionally a former legal, is so determined to seek out work for her 45-year-old son that she approaches any new face within the colony for assist.
“We gave up the career we inherited from our ancestors and we’re not in a position to take up various livelihoods. We at the moment are at a crossroads,” Rao informed The Wire. “I needed to begin a timber depot once I gave up crime. For that, I anticipated monetary assist from the federal government, but it surely failed to come back by means of. Although I used to be given 70 cents of cultivable land on lease in Stuartpuram (70 cents = 0.70 acres) and 200 yards for a home as a part of the rehabilitation bundle, agriculture did not be viable for various causes. Later, I used to be compelled to promote the land to lift cash for my daughter’s weddings.”
A historical past of ups and downs
Stuartpuram has been a rehabilitation colony for members of the Erukula tribe since 1910, when Harold Stuart, the house member of the then Madras authorities, tried to enhance the lives of the group by offering them with land for agriculture and employment on the Indian Leaf Tobacco Restricted firm. The colony was one in all 11 settlements established for the welfare of the tribe, together with Sitanagaram in previous Guntur district, Bitragunta in Nellore district and Aziz Nagar in South Arcot district. An elementary college was established there on the time of the British, which was later upgraded to a highschool, and a cluster of intermediate and diploma schools got here up at Cheerala and Bapatla, simply seven kilometres away.
On the entrance of Stuartpuram, an arch bearing the names of Harold Stuart and Hemalatha Lavanam, a social activist who strove to reform the so-called legal tribe, welcomes guests to the colony. Beside the arch is an imposing statue of Ekalavya armed with a bow and arrow, because the Erukula folks determine with this icon of forest and hill tribes within the epic Mahabharata.
The colony occupies 12,000 acres of land on the tail finish of the Krishna canal system, which makes cultivation fraught with threat. It doesn’t assist that Nageswara Rao, like many others within the colony, has by no means been an agriculturalist because the Erukula individuals are primarily nomadic.
Within the 112 years of its existence, Stuartpuram has seen its settlers thrive and fail. Some large names within the Indian polity and forms have emerged from the colony, together with Chitturi Koteswara Rao, the primary Indian Police Service officer from the group. Chitturi’s household produced an officer of the Indian Administrative Service too, in addition to an Indian International Commerce officer. The late Karreddula Kamala Kumari, who served because the Union welfare minister within the Congress authorities of 1991, additionally hailed from the colony. Different success tales from the settlement embrace medical doctors, engineers, financial institution officers and state and Central authorities officers. However as with many marginalised and downtrodden communities, just a few members handle to climb the rungs of social hierarchies. In Stuartpuram, nearly all of the inhabitants reside with the stigma of criminality.
A sure popularity
The stigma persists maybe as a result of the federal government settles solely members of the Erukula tribe in Stuartpuram. No different communities are accommodated on this colony, which provides it a sure popularity.
“The stigma we inherited from our forefathers nonetheless makes our lives depressing,” stated Mogili Madhu, a resident of Stuartpuram. “I needed a mortgage for a two-wheeler. However the personal financier I went to denied me the mortgage, saying it was as a result of I’m a resident of Stuartpuram.”
Madhu stated he performed kabaddi on the nationwide degree, however did not get a job by means of the sports activities quota. So he joined the Residence Guard within the police service. “I felt compelled to resign from the job as a result of senior law enforcement officials tried to make use of me to launch a crackdown on our colony attributable to its popularity,” he stated. He’s now an activist with the ruling YSR Congress get together in Andhra Pradesh.
Each time petty offences like chain snatching happen in areas outdoors Stuartpuram, the police search Stuartpuram first, stated Mogili Hari Babu, president of the mandal parishad and resident of Stuartpuram. “Monetary establishments deny us loans by underlining any Stuartpuram deal with in pink ink,” he added.
Elsewhere within the colony, Madhu Ragala, a kabaddi participant and weight-lifting champion with 14 medals to his credit score, feels simply as let down as Mogili Madhu. Representing the primary non-criminal era of his household, Ragala groomed his two sons to be sports activities champions, however although they’ve completed properly, they haven’t obtained materials recognition from the federal government. His elder son, Venkat Rahul, a weight-lifting champion, gained two gold medals within the Commonwealth Video games and his youthful son, Varun, additionally a weight-lifter, participated within the Asian Video games. Former chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu had promised Varun a authorities job and land for a home, however nothing got here of this when the federal government modified, Ragala complained.
Mogili Madhu’s declare that the police choose Stuartpuram by its popularity was strengthened on December 16 when a posse of police personnel from Bapatla and Cheerala, accompanied by personnel from the prohibition and excise division, performed a raid on the colony to confirm the actions of ex-criminals whereas investigating pending circumstances associated to the brewing of illicit liquor.
In accordance with specialists, members of the Erukula tribe turned to crime after the British established rail and street networks by means of the Madras Presidency within the 1850s, depriving them of their conventional livelihoods as itinerant merchants.
“The members of this group have been mainly merchants in grain and salt, working between the coastal areas of the presidency and the inside districts. The commerce was carried out on the again of donkeys and bullocks. They have been displaced from their ancestral commerce after the introduction of rail and street networks and compelled to take to crime as a way of livelihood,” noticed Meena Radhakrishna, writer of Dishonoured by Historical past: ‘Prison Tribes’ and British Colonial Coverage, in an insightful article printed within the Financial and Political Weekly. “Additional, the famine in 1877 additionally devastated their salt commerce. Their grain commerce was hit exhausting and their cattle, the chief medium for execution of the commerce, died because of the famine,” she wrote.
Prathipati Devavaram, who served as a physician in Stuartpuram for a very long time, informed The Wire that the mechanisation launched within the Indian Leaf Tobacco Division additionally displaced numerous the Erukula.
Except for the federal government coverage of settling former criminals from the Erukula group in locations like Stuartpuram, the one rehabilitation bundle accessible to members of the group comes from the police and covers solely those that make illicit liquor.
“The police recognized half a dozen individuals making illicit liquor from Stuartpuram for monetary assist to get into various livelihoods like dairy and petty companies,” Vakul Jindal, superintendent of police, Bapatla, informed The Wire.
Because of this P. Samuel Jonathan, the Proper to Info commissioner, highlighted the necessity for steady intervention from the state to make sure that members of de-notified tribes are correctly built-in in mainstream life.
“The absence of such interventions might drive members of the tribe to return to crime,” Samuel informed The Wire. He stated he would request the district collector to implement welfare programmes in a convergence mannequin solely for Stuartpuram to introduce vocational trades for unemployed youths, draft girls into self-help teams, assist with housing and so forth.
Nageswara Rao lamented that even the cash he robbed in his years in crime had did not bail him out of poverty.
“It’s solely the police, gold retailers and attorneys who profit from our booty,” Rao noticed. “Have a look at my spouse. She is just not even carrying ear studs, although I stole gold and money in enormous quantities inside and outdoors the state for greater than twenty years.”