We want computers, not rat farming, say Bihar’s Musahars

December 4th, 2008 - 10:35 am ICT by IANS  

Patna, Dec 4 (IANS) The Musahar community in Bihar is up in arms against a government proposal to promote rat farming for their uplift, saying the move would keep them where they had always been - at the bottom of India’s socio-economic heap.They have urged the state government to abandon the project. “We want to use the computer mouse rather than adopt rat farming. Times have changed; we are eager to change our lives through information technology,” Rashtriya Musahar-Bhuyian Vikash Parishad convener Umesh Manjhi told IANS.

“At a time when people were talking about India’s moon mission Chandrayaan-1, it’s unfortunate that the Bihar government is planning to start rat farming for Dalits. We will oppose it,” he said.

Manjhi said the government’s move to start rat farming would end up keeping them backward.

The community derives its name from the practice of eating rats and usually hunt for them in paddy fields.

An estimated 2.3 million Musahars live across Bihar in extremely poor condition. Less than five percent of them are literate and most of them make a living as labourers. They are still considered social untouchables despite a law against it.

The government had announced its intention to popularise rat farming in the state by involving Dalits to help improve their economic status.

But the Musahar community is unhappy. “The poor among the Dalits need education, vocational courses, and not rat farming,” said Parishad general secretary Rajender Manjhi.

The state government has announced a pilot project to popularise rat meat in Bihar.

Commercialising rat meat is part of the state government’s efforts to uplift Dalit communities that constitute nearly 15 percent of this eastern India state’s population of 83 million.

“Rat meat is available in the Mokama riverine areas and roadside hotels in Danapur in Patna district. It is called ‘patal-bageri’ and is in good demand,” social welfare department principal secretary Vijay Prakash said.

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