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The Bazigars, who appear in the list of scheduled castes of the Panjab State, have a population of about half a million in the State. This community has not been able to make much improvement in their economic status inspite of the various facilities available to the scheduled castes and is still at the lowest rung of the society. One reason for this may be that they differ from other scheduled castes in the social milieu of the rural society because of their past as well as present occupation.

The Bazigars trace their origin to the Rajputs of Rajasthan and according to them, they had spread throughout the North-West India during the last two centuries. Originally nomads, a large number of them started settling in Punjab, mainly in Sialkot and Shiekhupura Districts (now in Pakistan), during the beginning of this century. After partition of the country, most of them migrated from Punjab (Pakistan) to Indian Punjab alongwith other Hindus and Sikhs. Immediately thereafter, they remained in camps in Amritsar and other places awaiting rehabilitation. During the 1950s they were provided Panchayat land in villages to build houses. Having settled in colonies or on common village land during the 1950s and 1960s, they became part of the rural population.

The fact that the Bazigars remained gypsies for centuries and settled only in this century, is a matter of great significance in respect of socio-cultural change in the community. In the past they were moving from one place to another and kept themselves almost isolated from other social groups. They had only transitory interaction with the people, where they camped and did odd jobs like rope dancing and acrobatics, but had never developed enduring relationship with other groups. However, when they settled in villages, they were in continuous socio-economic interaction with other caste groups of the village.

In the present setting their traditional profession of making bazis (jumps and somersaults) was not sufficient to maintain them. They, therefore, had to take up unskilled and manual occupations (mainly agricultural labour) which other backward and under-privileged castes followed in the villages. Since the main occupation for them now was agricultural labour, their socio-economic position in the villages also was at par with other castes in the identical occupations.

The agricultural labourers are at the lowest rung of the social and economic ladder and the Government is, therefore, concerned about their economic conditions. It has, however, been observed that the various programmes and schemes meant for scheduled castes have not been able to ameliorate their conditions to a significant extent. In case of the Bazigars, again, these measures have been very little effective, because of a misunderstanding with the lower level functionaries and others that they do not belong to this class although they were declared as such by the Punjab Government. This arises from the fact that this community is not socially as isolated from upper castes as the other scheduled castes are.

Some studies have indicated the present socio-economic conditions of the Harijans, but no study has depicted the condition of the newly settled Bazigars in rural Punjab. Since the community is one of the economically backward ones of the rural Punjab, it is considered necessary to bring into focus their socio-economic life; how they have adjusted themselves in their settled life and their attitudes and aspirations.
 

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