The Punjab government on Wednesday hammered out a compromise in a village between upper caste landlords and Dalit labourers who endured a month-long social boycott and loss of work for demanding “just” wages.
But the truce — on paper — at Maha Singh Wala village in southern Punjab’s Sangrur district, 142 km from Chandigarh, appeared unsteady to Dalits as well as the landlords who had enforced the social boycott in the first week of June.The landlords had also declared at a kangaroo court that villagers maintaining ties with Dalits would be fined Rs 5,000 each.
Trouble had erupted after Dalits demanded Rs 2,000 per acre as “justified wage” for sowing paddy. The landlords had said they would pay Rs 1,500. Later, the landlords gave the sowing work to migrant labourers at higher wages than what Dalits had demanded.
“Police pressured a section of Dalits to reach a compromise,” said Dalit labourer Satnam Singh who did not find work in paddy sowing season along with fellow workers. “Officials acted to save their skin.”
Jai Singh, patron of Dalit Movement Against Servitude, said, “We have decided to protest on July 16 in front of the deputy commissioner’s office.” He said the case would be settled only after the landlords were punished.
A landlord who did not want to be named said they had “made up their minds” to continue giving work to migrants. Sub-divisional magistrate Subhash Chander, however, deemed the issue “settled”.
He said the administration had taken affidavits from both parties for settlement with due consent.