India has good laws, including Article 17 of the Constitution prohibiting the practice of ‘untouchability’. The problem is implementation. To help Dalits access their rights and participate fully in society, Karuna funds legal aid centres and organisations responding to atrocities suffered by Dalits.
One such organisation is the Sadhana Institute, working with – amongst others – the scavenging and tribal communities at the Dehu Road ‘cantonment’ in Pune. The cantonments are areas associated with military bases, where people who provide basic services live. Caught between the Ministry of Defence and the national government, neither of which take responsibility for their welfare, cantonment residents (most of whom are Dalits) have become a ‘forgotten’ population, excluded from mainstream services and entitlements.
The project enables the civilian population of 7 cantonments in Maharashtra to improve the quality of their life by empowering them to mobilise effectively and to demand and access their entitlements. The project arms the civilian population to benefit from state welfare schemes and proper education and health facilities as well as water and sanitation.