Social Welfare Department has come up with a recommendation to set up government-run barber shops to end cases of discrimination at salons in different parts of rural Karnataka.
The proposal is along the lines of Kerala government, which started government barber shops in villages, where Dalits were shunned from using a common salon.
Since barbers deny service to Dalits in several villages, atrocity cases are being filed. “Therefore it is appropriate to open barber shops, run by the local body, in all gram panchayat limits. The Social Welfare Department can sanction the required funds,” the proposal said.
While the government is yet to take a call on the issue, it was, however, part of the agenda tabled during the recent review meeting on SC/ST Atrocities Act, chaired by Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa. Sources said that the recommendation was placed during the meeting, but was not taken up for discussion, even as the CM directed authorities to increase the conviction rate in cases of atrocities against SC/STs.
The humiliating practice is still prevalent in few rural pockets of Karnataka and cases are reported frequently. In October 2019, police and tahsildar had to step in to diffuse tension between Dalits and other communities, stirred after barbers refused service to Dalits. Similar cases have been reported in districts such as Koppal and Dharwad.
Sources told DH that though the government was yet to take a decision on the issue, it was under consideration and could be taken up in the coming days.
MLA N Mahesh, who was part of the meeting, confirmed that the issue was part of the agenda. “The problem is largely in north and central Karnataka districts. The government should tackle the problem,” he said. Mahesh represents Kollegal, a SC reserve constituency.
Among other key proposals in the meeting was a joint operation of Revenue, Muzrai and Police departments to prevent discrimination at temples in a few villages, where Dalits are denied entry.