For 20 years he has worked relentlessly to bring education to Dalit children, but brick kiln labourer Banwasi Musahar finds himself up against the caste barrier again.
Honoured by HT with a cheque for Rs. 1 lakh last October for outstanding community service and being a change-maker for the residents of the impoverished Akorhi Mahadalit basti, Banwasi is yet to get his money.
Located in the Ramgarh block of Kaimur district, the basti is home to 70 families who make a living from farming and brick-making.
When the 58-year-old went to the Ramgarh branch of the Bank of India, the manager not only refused to accept the cheque but also insulted his caste.
He claimed to be a Mahadalit and held a zero-balance account (for below-poverty line families), so where did he get Rs. 1 lakh from, the banker allegedly asked Banwasi. “Ek lakh ka cheque kahan se aa gaya (Where have you got this Rs. 1 lakh cheque from)?” he allegedly said, telling off Banwasi.
A local photo journalist, Sanjay Kumar Jaiswal, intervened and the cheque was finally deposited on December 12.
The bank asked for his permanent account number (PAN) to credit the money into his account.
On January 7, Banwasi returned with the PAN card but the manager asked him for a photocopy of the cheque. Jaiswal had to step in again. He told the manager the cheque was deposited December 12 and Banwasi had a pay-in receipt for it.
"Till Thursday evening, the money had not been credited to my account," Banwasi told HT.
When reached for comments, there was no response from the office of the bank's CMD.