Barbers in Jharkhand are demanding Schedule Caste status, which will help them get reseved jobs and educational opportunities. They are presently classified among Other Backward Communities in the state.
'We are one of most backward communities of society. Our social status and educational levels are very low. To improve our situation we demand inclusion of our community in the Schedule Castes (SC),' said Gopal, president of Ranchi Barbers Association.
Echoing his view, Ganesh Thakur, a barber, said: 'No one can live without our services. Despite serving each and everyone in the country, from urban to rural areas, we are still leading a wretched life. The state government should issue cards to barbers and extend facilities provided to SCs of the state.'
The barbers' demands include free education to their children in schools, inclusion of their community in SC category, subsidy in train and bus fares and soft government loans to open saloons.
There are over 1,000 barbers in state capital Ranchi.
The barbers' association is planning to demonstrate in front of the governor's house to press the demands.
POVERTY in Barber (Nayee / Thakur) Community
(IANS/July/2007) He is probably the youngest barber in India. But seven-year-old Praduman Thakur of Jharkhand is already an expert. And there is always a long queue outside his shop.
Praduman, a resident of Ramgarh in Hazaribagh district, picked up the skills from Ram Tahal, his 65-year-old father, a barber for decades who has called it a day.
As Praduman is his eldest son, the onus of supporting the family has fallen on the boy.
Praduman was just five years old when he began learning how to shave beards and cut hair.
'When I found my father was unable to work and my family was facing problems as there was nobody to earn money, I decided to adopt my father's profession,' said the boy.
The young lad charges Rs.2 for a hair cut and Rs.1 for a shave. He manages to earn between Rs.30 and Rs.35 a day. The low charges combined with Praduman's neat fingers and dedication has won him many clients.
No one really sees him as a child worker.
'Praduman is showing a path to young people looking for employment. I prefer to get my hair cut and beard shaved from him. He talks well and keeps everyone happy with his work,' said Nagendra Mahto, a resident of Ramgarh.
Praduman is a Class 2 student at a local primary school but cannot afford to go to school regularly. He attend classes whenever possible.
His mother Kullo Devi is proud of him but does not want Praduman to become a barber by profession.
'The situation forced my child to work as barber. But I do not want him to continue in the profession for a long period of time. I want to see a pen in his hand instead of the knife,' she said.