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Banara Basti

A Factual Report on “Banjara Basti”

“Banjara Basti” is a village near the town Sikar in Rajasthan, India. It has a population of over 2500 people with more than 500 families. It is purely inhabited by the low caste people mainly from the wandering (Gipsy) communities.

These people have been living a mobile life for generations.
They used to move from one place to another to search for their livelihood. Most of them used to depend on begging from the villages and towns. Of course, some of the communities had small skills so; they sometimes could earn some money from the upper caste people.

Due to steep hike in the population and unorganized industrialization in India, these people nowadays don’t find easy to earn their livelihood while keep on wandering from place to place. As such, they have constructed some kind of temporary shelters near the towns and cities so it’s easier for them to earn their livelihood either by begging or working.

It is quite common in India that the localities of low caste people have to be little away from the residencies of higher caste people. Low caste communities are not allowed to participate in any kind of social or religious ceremonies organized by the high caste people.

The people in Banjara Basti belong to many castes, mainly to the following: Banjara, Swami, Bawari Chowkidar, Bhopa, Kalbelia, Dholi or Nat, Kunchia, Giwaria and Dakot. People of all these castes are commonly known as Gipsies because of their similar living culture but their customs and traditions are based on the caste they belong to.

How do they live in Banjara Basti?

Living conditions of the people of Banjara Basti are quite poor. They lack the very basic needs of shelter, water, electricity, education, employment and a hygienic way of living. Most of them have no knowledge and skills to earn enough money for their livelihood.

They use some bamboos and pieces of old clothes, used cement bags and waste material to make temporary shelters/huts for safeguarding themselves from extreme cold, rain and heat.
But, most of the times they sleep/live in open area.

There is no school in this village and parents don’t promote their children to go to schools which are located at distant places because of lack of awareness and safety reasons.

Instead they engage them in helping to earn their livelihood, either by taking the cattle to fields for grazing or take care of their younger brothers and sisters when their parents go to work outside. None of the adult family members has been to school in their whole life. As such, they don’t realize the importance of education and development of skills.

Due to a great lack of awareness and also due to lack of resources they are not able to pay enough attention towards their personal health and hygiene.

Most of the families have more number of children as they are not aware of adopting small family norms. Unluckily they promote early marriages of their children, to shoulder them with the responsibility to feed themselves.

Sources of their Income

The source of income depends mostly upon the caste they belong to. People of Banjara Basti belong to the following castes:

* Banjara - 250 families – physically they are strong. Most of them work as labours on construction sites. Some of them keep cattle to support their economy, the ladies and children take the goats to the fields for grazing.

* Swami - 35 families – the main source of earning their livelihood used to be begging, but nowadays they have started doing other small jobs as well.

* Bawari Chowkidar - 18 families – in olden days they used to work as security men for the landlords and businessmen. Now they are working as guards at farms, factories and business installations.

* Bhopa - 36 families – they used to entertain the people by playing with their musical instrument “Rawanhatta”. The man and women both sing good songs; especially the ladies have lovely voices.

* Kalbelia or Snake Charmers - 26 families - their profession is to catch snakes from the fields to earn their livelihood by begging while showing snakes at public places as well as in residential areas.

* Dholi or Nat - 15 families – they play with drums on occasions of social and religious celebrations like marriages, child births etc to earn their livelihood.

* Kunchia - 15 families - their profession often is to give acupuncture treatment to earn the livelihood.

* Giwaria - 20 families – they work as vendors to market women’s products like cosmetics, beauty items and other household items while visiting house to house.

* Dakot - 15 families – they beg on the name of safeguarding the people from the evil effects of the God Saturn.

* Muslims - 55 families - earn their livelihood by making handicrafts, potteries, toys making etc.

In common, most of them are still continuing their old professions whereas others have learnt some new skills to earn their livelihood.

Many people in Banjara Basti, including women and children, are in a habit of taking alcohols, chewing tobacco, smoking and gambling. Of course, this is very big problem for their destitution!
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