Economically backward Dalit and tribal students at a college in Madhya Pradesh are seething over a bag they have received under a government welfare scheme. The black bags have "SC/ST Welfare Scheme" prominently written on them, identifying the students as Scheduled Castes and Tribes. Many of the students in Mandsaur's Rajiv Gandhi Government PG College say they feel hurt and humiliated. But they say they don't have an option but to use them.
"I have to accept this as I cannot afford a new bag," said one of the students, Lokesh. "The government has helped us by giving this bag but at the same time has humiliated us... Because of this, other students discriminate against us."
So far, 250 of the 600 SC/ST students at Mandsaur College have received these bags. Since August, 250 of the 600 students belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Tribes -- undergraduate and post-graduate levels -- have received these bags as part of the study material they are allotted by the state's BJP government. The bags contained a calculator, pen and notebooks.
The reaction of the students has apparently taken the authorities by surprise. They claim they were acting under government orders. "On the orders of the state government, these bags have been procured with the print," said Dr BK Nalvaya. "I feel it is not a big deal, but now seeing the feedback we will erase the prints from the bags."
But the opposition Congress is not having any of it. The party's local unit has held protests on the matter. They demand that these bags be recalled. "By giving these bags, the BJP government has tried to poison equality in society," said Prakash Rathde, the chief of the local unit of the Congress.