For the Badi community of Achham, festivals are a grim reminder of poverty

Tanki Badi, a 60-year-old woman, has been living in a makeshift tent with four of her brother’s children near the district headquarters, Mangalsen, for a few years. For Tanki’s family, the festivals come with a reminder of their abject poverty.

“When festivals come, I feel extremely sad,” Badi said. “The kids are asking for new clothes and good food, but I can’t afford to buy any.”

Badi’s brother went to Mumbai for work two years ago, and now he is out of touch. His wife also left soon, leaving the children to Badi to take care of. Badi herself has no home and no money to raise children.

For members of marginalized communities like Badi, no government help seems to be forthcoming. Tired of begging for her survival, Badi says all she wants from the government is to guarantee them their basic rights. “If they could give me a job so that I could earn a living, I could take better care of these children,” she said.

There are 40 to 50 Badi in Mangalsen Municipality and none of them have a place of their own. The municipality occasionally provides them with 5,000 rupees when they go to ask for help, according to Badi. And that’s really all the help they get from the government. Many members of the Badi community of Mangalsen beg for a living.

Supari Badi, a 65-year-old woman who lives down the street near Mangalsen Market, also has a similar story to share.

“In the past, our people survived by begging, but now we don’t have that option,” Supari said. “People don’t treat beggars with empathy anymore. They ask us to find a job but who is going to give us jobs? Festivals are a somber reminder of the difficult lives we live every day.

Sita Badi, a 45-year-old woman who lives on a street corner in Mangalsen-7 municipality, is also a political MP in her community. Sita, who was elected as a district member at the 12th Nepali Congress convention, has held political office but her livelihood has not improved. Even remembering that she is a member of the party district, she feels sad. Sita herself regrets not being able to fulfill her children’s little wishes whenever they want, especially during the festival.

“Being a former district party member who has to go door to door begging is embarrassing,” Sita said. “Some even pass lousy comments on my face when I go begging. As a district member, it’s hard to beg, and there’s also the issue of what to eat if I don’t go. I have severe pain in my left hand and I can’t even move it properly I don’t have a situation where I can earn a living by working.

According to Sita, the Badi community, which professionally takes on dance and entertainment contracts at parties and weddings, is forced to live on begging after this profession also fell into crisis. The men of the community made musical instruments and the women danced and sang. Gradually, this practice also disappeared. All men and women of working age go to India to work and the women live on begging.

The local unit says it has endeavored to improve the condition of the Badi community as much as possible. Padam Bahadur Bohara, Mayor of Mangalsen Municipality, said the local unit delivered land ownership certificates to eight families in the Badi community in the 2019-20 financial year through the People’s Housing Scheme. .

“The municipality has done everything in its power to make life comfortable for everyone in Mangalsen,” Bohara said. “The municipality has supported people financially and morally so that they can change their way of life to have a better life.”

Bohara added that his office is also developing a plan to provide land to the rest of the Badi families soon and has prioritized employment for the Badi people. “The Badi community has also been given priority during the Covid-19 pandemic as they are the most vulnerable people during such a difficult time,” Bohara said.

Badi is one of the poorest and most marginalized Dalit communities in the country. The community is believed to have migrated from the Kumaon and Garhwal divisions of Uttar Pradesh in India and, as reported by the descendants of the ancient kings of the many smaller Salyan fiefdoms, initially settled in the hills of central western Nepal .

Apart from musical performances, male members of the Badi community are traditionally involved in fishing and pottery. Female members even involved themselves in prostitution to earn a living. The new generation is venturing into more “respectable” trades and businesses.

According to the 2011 census, there are 38,603 Badis in Nepal, less than one percent of the total population. Today, Badi settlements are spread across districts in the mid-western region, mainly in Kailali, Bardia, Surkhet, Bajhang, Salyan and Dang.