They are not allowed to sit on the benches at tea stalls in Nilphamari town. Tea or water is served to them only if they turn up with their own glasses.
The restaurants also do not allow them to have lunch on a table. They need to bring their own plates and wait in front for the restaurant boys to serve the food.
The barber shops are no different. They too treat people of the Harijan community the same way.
The ancestors of the Harijan community settled in Saidpur upazila of Nilphamari district about 150 years ago. They found employment as cleaners at Saidpur Railway Workshop, established in 1870.
As new townships started to grow, the Harijans were called up to take the cleaners' jobs and their successors spread to other upazilas.
A total of 310 Harijan families now live in Nilphamari's six upazilas – Saidpur, Kishoreganj, Joldhaka, Domar, Dimla and Nilphamari Sadar. The discrimination makes it easy for one to identify them in the localities.
Although the younger generation of Harijans is availing the opportunity of education, the social stratification and poverty still holds back their development.
Sajal Basfur, a ninth grader of Nilphamari Government Boys' High School, said: “We do not face discrimination in availing education, but drug and alcohol addiction is still a menace to the community.”
Moreover, the quota of cleaning jobs in government institutions that are preserved for the Harijan community are also proving to be inadequate with the passage of time. There have been widespread allegations that even the people of this marginal community are required to pay bribes to dishonest officials to get the job.
Jyoti Rani Basfur, a Higher Secondary Certificate student of Nilphamari Government Women's College, alleged that her father had failed to get a permanent job at Nilphamari Sadar Adhunik Hospital over the last decade only because he was unable to pay bribes.
Preferring anonymity, a cleaner at the hospital also echoed Jyoti's comment saying people of other castes and religions have been appointed as cleaners in exchange for bribes.
Nilphamari Civil Surgeon Ranajit Kumar Barman, however, denied the allegations. “The quota fixed for the Harijan people are filled up during recruitment for any institution. There is no scope of any type of irregularities.”