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Geeta Devi, 35, outside her home in the viallge of Jalhe Bogiya. Geeta lost her husband to tuberculosis five years ago. Tuberculosis is an opportunistic, and sometimes fatal disease that rarely progresses beyond its latent state in people that are not weakened by hunger, old-age or immunosuppressive drugs.

Lack of irrigation and food security lie at the root of the Maha Dalit community's problems in the village of Jalhe Bogiya. In the exploitative and divisive caste system, Maha Dalits are considered the lowest of the low. Ostracized by wider society (including the administration) illiteracy runs as high as 95 percent. Thanks to Oxfam-supported intervention, Jalhe Bogiya now has an - as yet incomplete - access-road built as part of the NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme). And an Oxfam-supported initiative in summer 2010 successfully lobbied the local administration to implement the provision of school midday meals which, by law is the right of every child. It is alleged that the Anganwadi (pre-school) centre administrator, syphons off food meant for young children. Jalhe Bogiya has several hand pumps supplying water but these do not work between the months of May to October. And though the village was connected to the electricity grid six months ago, power-supply is not reliable. Without land-ownership and only irregular agricultural work from which to earn an income, the Maha Dalits of Jalhe Bogiya frequently migrate in search of labour at stone breaking quarries, brick-kilns or undertake menial household work in the homes of the urban middle class in far-away cities.

Photo: Tom Pietrasik
Mohanpur Block, Gaya District, Bihar. India
February 23rd 2011
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©Tom Pietrasik
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Geeta Devi, 35, outside her home in the viallge of Jalhe Bogiya. Geeta lost her husband to tuberculosis five years ago. Tuberculosis is an opportunistic, and sometimes fatal disease that rarely progresses beyond its latent state in people that are not weakened by hunger, old-age or immunosuppressive drugs. <br />
<br />
Lack of irrigation and food security lie at the root of the Maha Dalit community's problems in the village of Jalhe Bogiya. In the exploitative and divisive caste system, Maha Dalits are considered the lowest of the low. Ostracized by wider society (including the administration) illiteracy runs as high as 95 percent. Thanks to Oxfam-supported intervention, Jalhe Bogiya now has an - as yet incomplete - access-road built as part of the NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme). And an Oxfam-supported initiative in summer 2010 successfully lobbied the local administration to implement the provision of school midday meals which, by law is the right of every child. It is alleged that the Anganwadi (pre-school) centre administrator, syphons off food meant for young children. Jalhe Bogiya has several hand pumps supplying water but these do not work between the months of May to October. And though the village was connected to the electricity grid six months ago, power-supply is not reliable. Without land-ownership and only irregular agricultural work from which to earn an income, the Maha Dalits of Jalhe Bogiya frequently migrate in search of labour at stone breaking quarries, brick-kilns or undertake menial household work in the homes of the urban middle class in far-away cities. <br />
<br />
Photo: Tom Pietrasik<br />
Mohanpur Block, Gaya District, Bihar. India<br />
February 23rd 2011