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Brahmin Poverty in Andhra Pradesh

Brahmin Poverty in India

Vaartha editorial, Sunday 10, February 2002:  Telugu Version (Click here for English Translation)

The Mouths that Recited Vedas are Grieving

Brahmins played an extraordinary role in the spread of knowledge and vitalizing the Indian society for millennia.  Recently, in the freedom movement and national revitalization movements they proved their merit by playing their traditional role as usual.  The Brahmins whose goals have been the enlightenment and prosperity of the society are leaving mainstream social, political and economic fields nowadays.  Having merit is not enough to garner the positions in various fields and seats in schools in today’s society blighted with reservations and quotas.  It is high time they raise their voice against the injustice and get together to fight by blowing the conch of awakening (clarion call), says Parusuram.

Brahmins lost their traditional jobs such as karaneekam (clerk/accountant) and agraharas (land endowments). (It should be noted that Brahmins are not the priests in every temple.  Temples like mutyalamma, poleramma, mahankali etc., where animal sacrifices are a norm, Brahmins are not priests. Further, only members of a few sects of Brahmins traditionally practice pourohityam (priesthood) and the rest are in various intellectual and non-intellectual avocations, which have dried up for Brahmins today.)  Those Brahmins who are still in the field of pourohityam are also in trouble.  These Brahmin priests are ridiculed and made fun of their traditions and practices (such as vegetarianism) and have become isolated.  Poverty stricken Brahmins are unable to send their kids to schools and feed them properly.  Brahmins, once considered a class at the top of the society, are now a new backward class.  Their social status evaporated, but their pride didn’t.  They still talk about their past greatness and sagacity that they managed to make bitter foes into friends and forced goats and tigers to drink water from the same pond as great Brahmin Chanakya did with Chanakya neeti (political acumen).  However, it is high time that they realize that dwelling in the past is not going to help them. They must come together and fight against the discrimination in every field in the modern Indian society.  Brahmana Sadassu (Brahmin society) is calling on all Brahmins to wake up and fight the injustice today.  Brahmins should put aside their tribal differences among the plethora of Brahmin tribes and sects to come together as one Brahmin family to fight for justice and their due share in the society. 

Brahmins played an extraordinary role in the spread of knowledge and vitalizing the Indian society for millennia.  Recently, in the freedom movement and national revitalization movements they proved their merit by playing their traditional role as usual.  Brahmin tribe’s contribution in fighting against the British imperialism was immense. One can give innumerable examples of Brahmin contributions. Their role and participation was great in various legislative bodies.  For a short time after the independence, they maintained good positions in various fields.  However, within a few decades they lost their prominence.  Their role and participation slowly dwindled down in every aspect of power structure.  They lost completely in political arena. Brahmins, who influenced and organized infinite numbers of people into action by pouring all their energies and efforts, now have no place and role in the society.  Almost all castes and tribes have become active and are fighting for their due share in the society and are succeeding.  However, Brahmins are loosing in this fight for survival and soon will become extinct.  Everybody recognizes that violence, crime and retaliation has become a norm of the life in politics and Brahmins whose fundamental goal has been peace and prosperity of the society are leaving social, political and economic fields.   Everyone agrees that the culture of money power is dancing demonically in these fields and Brahmins are loosing in this game.  Due to quotas and reservations, even meritorious Brahmins are loosing in all aspects.

The Brahmin disappearance from the prominence from the society will be quite evident if one considers the statistics of 1933, 1947 and 1975.  For many Brahmins the hereditary vocations became compulsory for survival.   But, in this modern society those vocations have no place.  As a result Brahmins are migrating to cities for survival.  They sold all their lands in the villages. Even the religious vocations like priesthood are not helping Brahmins anymore.  Seventy percent of Brahmins are relying on their hereditary vocation. There are hundreds of families that are surviving on just Rs. 500 per month as priests in various temples. Devaadaya Sakha (Department of Endowments) with an income running into billions of rupees and politicians who perform prayers and pujas on a large scale don’t care for the poor Brahmin priests.   Priests are under tremendous difficulty today. They are forced to beg for alms for survival.  There are innumerable instances in which Brahmin priests who spent a lifetime in studying Vedas are being ridiculed and disrespected.  Even under such difficult situations, Brahmin priests are still preaching the importance of religious character and good moral character and the advantages and importance of such character in individuals for the society.  Such Brahmin families that are financially downtrodden are forced to send their children into family vocation even though there is no income in those vocations.

Brahmins are a considerable and decisive force in about 56 constituencies in the state of Andhra Pradesh.  Visakhapatnam, Pendurti, Toorpugodavari, Kakinada, Amalapuram, Anaparti, Rajamandri, Narsapuram, Eluru, Tanuku, Krishna, Vijayavada, Machilipatnam, Sattenapalli, Singarayakonda, Ongole, Nelluru, Kavali, Karnool, Adoni, Proddutur, Kadapa, Badvelu, Anantapuram, Hindupuram, Kadiri, Chittoru, Madanapali, Tirupati, Adilabad, Kareemnagar, Manthani, Miryalaguda, Warangal, Hanumakonda, Mahboobnagar, Nagarkarnool, Medak, Sangareddy, Siddipeta, Nirmal, Karimnagar, Huzurabad, Khammam, Madhira, Kottagudem, Khairatabad, Malakpet, Himayatnagar, Secunderabad, Vijayanagaram, Srikakulam, and other constituencies Brahmins are in a position to decide the outcome of elections.  To discuss all these issues Barhmins are assembling.  Telangana Archaka Samakhya, Archaka Congress and  Archaka Sevasamiti are participating in this endeavor.  This Mahasabha is calling on all Brahmins sects like Smarta, Pancharatra, Vaikhasana, Saiva, Veerasaiva, Lingadhari, Vaishnava, Srivaishnava, Madhva etc. have to come together setting aside their differences and proceed forward in unity.

Brahmins pray everyday by saying “sahanabhavantu, sahanoubhuvanktu, sahaveeryam karavavahai lokassamasta sukhinobhavantu” … for the prosperity and peace in the world. Now it is time for the society to discuss the sad state of these Brahmins.  After a half-century of freedom from slavery, we don’t need gimmicks of numbers and statistics to figure out the fall of Brahmins from glory.  We can show our strength by being united and by participating in the elections to determine the fate of politicians.  We may not win any elections, but we certainly can determine the fate of candidates based on their policies. Then only all parties will recognize our existence. Then only the path becomes easier and clearer to take our due share.  In every aspect of the society Brahmins are loosing their ground. By resorting to the blame game of trying to find who is responsible for this sad state of Brahmins, by biting nails and sitting idle one can achieve nothing.  To succeed in this competitive world, it is important to take the stock of the situation, bring all Brahmins into one group and discuss the problems and solutions, and help each other. We should prove to the world that we are united and blow the conch of awakening (clarion call).

(It is sad to note that Brahmins are very individualistic.  The relationship between fellow Brahmins is usually one of rivalry rather than cooperation. They are poor as a group despite the fact that nine of the past 12 years have seen Brahmin Prime Ministers at the helm (Venkata Narasimha Rao Pamulaparti and Atal Bihari Vajpayee); for five years there was also a Brahmin President (Shankar Dayal Sharma). The current Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi is a Brahmin, as are three chief ministers (of Uttaranchal, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal). The Brahmin roll call among top civil servants is even more impressive: National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra, Cabinet Secretary Kamal Pande, Home Secretary N. Gopalaswamy, Finance Secretary S. Narayanan and Central Vigilance Commissioner P. Shanker are the leading lights among two dozen Brahmin secretaries at the Centre. The chiefs of the Army and the Air Force, Gen. S. Padmanabhan and Air Chief Marshal S. Krishnaswamy, are Brahmins. Brahmins are in top corporate positions, or straddling the heights of the culture and entertainment worlds. Why, four permanent fixtures in the Indian cricket team-Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble-are Brahmins! Yet, Brahmins are  poor as a group and millions of Brahmins are struggling to survive as reported above and below.)
Francois Gautier

Are Brahmins the Dalits of today?

May 23, 2006

At a time when the Congress government wants to raise the quota for Other Backward Classes to 49.5 per cent in private and public sectors, nobody talks about the plight of the upper castes. The public image of the Brahmins, for instance, is that of an affluent, pampered class. But is it so today?

There are 50 Sulabh Shauchalayas (public toilets) in Delhi; all of them are cleaned and looked after by Brahmins (this very welcome public institution was started by a Brahmin). A far cry from the elitist image that Brahmins have!

There are five to six Brahmins manning each Shauchalaya. They came to Delhi eight to ten years back looking for a source of income, as they were a minority in most of their villages, where Dalits are in majority (60 per cent to 65 per cent). In most villages in UP and Bihar, Dalits have a union which helps them secure jobs in villages.

Did you know that you also stumble upon a number of Brahmins working as coolies at Delhi's railway stations? One of them, Kripa Shankar Sharma, says while his daughter is doing her Bachelors in Science he is not sure if she will secure a job.

"Dalits often have five to six kids, but they are confident of placing them easily and well," he says. As a result, the Dalit population is increasing in villages. He adds: "Dalits are provided with housing, even their pigs have spaces; whereas there is no provision for gaushalas (cowsheds) for the cows of the Brahmins."

You also find Brahmin rickshaw pullers in Delhi. 50 per cent of Patel Nagar's rickshaw pullers are Brahmins who like their brethren have moved to the city looking for jobs for lack of employment opportunities and poor education in their villages.

Even after toiling the whole day, Vijay Pratap and Sidharth Tiwari, two Brahmin rickshaw pullers, say they are hardly able to make ends meet. These men make about Rs 100 to Rs 150 on an average every day from which they pay a daily rent of Rs 25 for their rickshaws and Rs 500 to Rs 600 towards the rent of their rooms which is shared by 3 to 4 people or their families.

Did you also know that most rickshaw pullers in Banaras are Brahmins?

This reverse discrimination is also found in bureaucracy and politics. Most of the intellectual Brahmin Tamil class has emigrated outside Tamil Nadu. Only 5 seats out of 600 in the combined UP and Bihar assembly are held by Brahmins -- the rest are in the hands of the Yadavs.

400,000 Brahmins of the Kashmir valley, the once respected Kashmiri Pandits, now live as refugees in their own country, sometimes in refugee camps in Jammu and Delhi in appalling conditions. But who gives a damn about them? Their vote bank is negligible.

And this is not limited to the North alone. 75 per cent of domestic help and cooks in Andhra Pradesh are Brahmins. A study of the Brahmin community in a district in Andhra Pradesh (Brahmins of India by J Radhakrishna, published by Chugh Publications) reveals that today all purohits live below the poverty line.

Eighty per cent of those surveyed stated that their poverty and traditional style of dress and hair (tuft) had made them the butt of ridicule. Financial constraints coupled with the existing system of reservations for the 'backward classes' prevented them from providing secular education to their children.

In fact, according to this study there has been an overall decline in the number of Brahmin students. With the average income of Brahmins being less than that of non-Brahmins, a high percentage of Brahmin students drop out at the intermediate level. In the 5 to 18 year age group, 44 per cent Brahmin students stopped education at the primary level and 36 per cent at the pre-matriculation level.

The study also found that 55 per cent of all Brahmins lived below the poverty line -- below a per capita income of Rs 650 a month. Since 45 per cent of the total population of India is officially stated to be below the poverty line it follows that the percentage of destitute Brahmins is 10 per cent higher than the all-India figure.

There is no reason to believe that the condition of Brahmins in other parts of the country is different. In this connection it would be revealing to quote the per capita income of various communities as stated by the Karnataka finance minister in the state assembly: Christians Rs 1,562, Vokkaligas Rs 914, Muslims Rs 794, Scheduled castes Rs 680, Scheduled Tribes Rs 577 and Brahmins Rs 537.

Appalling poverty compels many Brahmins to migrate to towns leading to spatial dispersal and consequent decline in their local influence and institutions. Brahmins initially turned to government jobs and modern occupations such as law and medicine. But preferential policies for the non-Brahmins have forced Brahmins to retreat in these spheres as well.

Caste shouldn't overwrite merit

According to the Andhra Pradesh study, the largest percentage of Brahmins today are employed as domestic servants. The unemployment rate among them is as high as 75 per cent. Seventy percent of Brahmins are still relying on their hereditary vocation. There are hundreds of families that are surviving on just Rs 500 per month as priests in various temples (Department of Endowments statistics).

Priests are under tremendous difficulty today, sometimes even forced to beg for alms for survival. There are innumerable instances in which Brahmin priests who spent a lifetime studying Vedas are being ridiculed and disrespected.

At Tamil Nadu's Ranganathaswamy Temple, a priest's monthly salary is Rs 300 (Census Department studies) and a daily allowance of one measure of rice. The government staff at the same temple receive Rs 2,500 plus per month. But these facts have not modified the priests' reputation as 'haves' and as 'exploiters.' The destitution of Hindu priests has moved none, not even the parties known for Hindu sympathy.

The tragedy of modern India is that the combined votes of Dalits/OBC and Muslims are enough for any government to be elected. The Congress quickly cashed in on it after Independence, but probably no other government than Sonia Gandhi's has gone so far in shamelessly dividing Indian society for garnering votes.

The Indian government gives Rs 1,000 crores (Rs 10 billion) for salaries of imams in mosques and Rs 200 crores (Rs 2 billion) as Haj subsidies. But no such help is available to Brahmins and upper castes. As a result, not only the Brahmins, but also some of the other upper castes in the lower middle class are suffering in silence today, seeing the minorities slowly taking control of their majority.

Anti-Brahminism originated in, and still prospers in anti-Hindu circles. It is particularly welcome among Marxists, missionaries, Muslims, separatists and Christian-backed Dalit movements of different hues. When they attack Brahmins, their target is unmistakably Hinduism.

So the question has to be asked: are the Brahmins (and other upper castes) of yesterday becoming the Dalits of today?

Francois Gautier
Hatred of Dalit Christian Ilaiah Kanche against Hindus and Brahmins:

Click here for recommendations to maintain contnuity of Brahmin heritage and culture.

Om! Asatoma Sadgamaya, Tamasoma Jyotirgamaya, Mrityorma Amritamgamaya, Om Shantih, Shantih, Shantih!
(Aum! Lead the world from wrong path to the right path, from ignorance to knowledge, from mortality to immortality and peace!)

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