Published: 17th July 2020
You have money to go to court, but not to buy a laptop?: Panchayat members ask Kerala Dalit family, after court rules in their favour
Two weeks ago, the Kerala High Court had asked the Nedunkandam panchayat to issue laptops to Dalit sisters Anakha and Ardra
On June 30, the High Court of Kerala had heard a writ petition filed by two sisters Anakha Babu and Ardra Babu. Hailing from a poor Dalit family in Nedunkandam in Idukki, the duo had been running from pillar to post for the last two years, to get two laptops approved by the panchayat, which they were entitled to under the Scheduled Caste Laptop scheme. The court had ruled in their favour, asking the panchayat to issue separate laptops to both sisters, within five weeks. However, the family now says that the panchayat is still delaying the delivery of laptops.
The judgment reads, "There shall not be any further delay in providing laptops to the petitioners herein, who belongs to SC/ST community, and especially in view of the COVID-19 pandemic issues, most of the educational institutions are following the online method and as the petitioners cannot financially afford to purchase such equipment, it shall be ensured by respondents 1 and 2 (the village panchayat and the panchayat secretary) that steps are immediately taken with the KELTRON to get the laptops and such laptops shall be provided to the petitioners herein within five weeks from the date of production of a certified copy of the judgment."
Two weeks later, Anakha and her mother Rajani allege mental harassment and insult from the panchayat members who told them that providing the laptop is not their responsibility and can deliver it only when KELTRON (Kerala State Electronics Development Corporation) delivers it. In an audio recording shared with us, a panchayat member is heard asking Rajani, "Didn't you go to the court? Where did you get the money to file a case and pay the lawyer?" The member goes on to say, "You could have used the money to buy your own laptops. No one is stopping you from doing that. There is no point in asking us. We don't know anything."
When we spoke to Anakha two weeks back, she was elated with the judgment. A student of Sree Shankaracharya University of Sanskrit, she told us how she had submitted her final year Master's project through a friend's old laptop, which would hang constantly and a few keys also did not work. "My family cannot afford to buy a laptop. My father is a daily wage labourer and my mother is ill. Our house too isn't in good condition," she then said. Her sister Ardra is a student of physiotherapy. They had first applied for laptops in 2018.
However, right now, this 22-year-old does not know what to do. "I had filed the writ through the NGO Dhisha, of which I am a part. It paid the lawyer Rs 2,000 for the writ. I do not have the money to buy a laptop," she says. "This is unfair," says Rajani. "After two years of struggle and a favourable judgment, the panchayat is being evasive. They are furious that we approached the court. But, that was our last resort," she says.