The government says it is concentrating on providing land, not livelihoods for freed Haliya, but this threatens their health, education, employment and very survival. Matadevi Damai of Dipayal received seeds, hen, sewing machine and tailoring training from various charities, but life is still a struggle.
Sabitri Bhul in Sanfebagar of Achham has two sons, one of whom sends money home from India, while another studied to be an agriculture technician, but is jobless. She asks: “What is the use of education, if nobody trusts us?”
Then there are reports of some Haliya lapsing back into debt slavery, and going back to work for their old masters out of sheer desperation.
“Much progress has been made in the past ten years but it is very slow, and one reason could be because they are Dalit,” says Hari Shreepaili, former CA member and coordinator of the Committee on Haliya Rehabilitation. “
Indeed, up to 94% of Haliya are Dalit, and caste discrimination adds another layer of injustice to their lives. Back in Baitadi, Basanti Tiruwa automatically splashes her feet and drinks water from a tap set aside for Dalits, and does not touch a tap meant for the ‘upper’ castes.