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Modi’s India: Villagers In Himachal Pradesh Refuse To Give Food And Provide Shelter To Muslim And Scheduled Caste Bus Drivers and Conductors

Villagers in remote Kullu villages are also taking “social fine” from Muslim and scheduled caste bus drivers and conductors if they stay or ask for food at any local place.

Bus drivers and conductors of the Himachal Roads Transport Corporation (HRTC) belonging to scheduled caste and Muslim communities plying to far-flung villages in Kullu have been allegedly facing discrimination caste- and religion-based discrimination.

The Times Of India reported that villagers refused to provide food and accommodation to drivers and conductors who were either Muslims or belonged to scheduled caste. Reportedly, the villagers have also been threatening to claim a “social fine” from scheduled caste and Muslim bus drivers and/or conductor, if they stay back at any local’s residence for a night, or ask for food. The daily cited the example of Hem Raj who had to pay Rs 10,000 because people from Khanipand village of Kullu came to know that he belonged to the scheduled caste after he spent a night there.

DK Narang, the HRTC regional manager has reportedly received several complaints from drivers and conductors who have requested him to change their route citing the problem. According to the TOI report, Narang has written to the Kullu Deputy Commissioner (DC) informing him that the bus service could be stopped in light of such incidents and repeated complaints.

In his letter, Narang wrote, “We are connecting remote villages at all seasons, but the staff, especially those belonging to scheduled caste are being harassed in some villages and are not allowed access to basic necessities. Our drivers and conductors halt at village for the night and bring the bus back next morning. The winter season has started and they need a room to spend the night. They also need to eat.”

He added, “Whenever villagers get to know a particular driver or conductor belonging to the scheduled caste, they don’t offer him accommodation and meal. Such complaints are coming from Khanipand, Shangad, Kamand and a few more villages.”

Emphasising that it would not be possible for HRTC to deploy drivers and conductors based on caste and religious grounds, Narang noted, “Instruct remote panchayats to provide all basic facilities to the bus staff. Otherwise, in view of increasing cases of caste-based harassment against our staff, we may be forced to stop the bus service to such remote villages.”

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