World Of Dalits In Poorvanchal
By Vidya Bhushan
25 July, 2007
so-called War against Hunger started at the 1997 Rome Summit where world
leaders pledged to support programmes to eliminate hunger and alleviate
poverty to half of that time’s below the poverty line people who
do not even earn 1 USD a day. That time the number was estimated to
be 864 million and half of them were in South Asia. It is strange that
since 1997, these world leaders have started forcing the third world
countries to comply with the norms that are essentially anti poor. Social
security is an old word of socialist era and considered to be out of
date in India. The Hindutva government that time was going crazy over
the India shining approach just ignoring a vast number of masses who
were dying of hunger and starvation. In fact, those of us who were bringing
these issues to the public domain were discouraged. Media did not want
to broadcast and publish the stories which spoil the taste of their
subscribers in the morning.
Background of the
work on hunger
That way 2004’s general
election was a watershed. It was an election fought on the false premise
of India shining. Despite hunger and starvation deaths in various parts
of India particularly Orissa, Rajathan, Chhatishgarh, Maharastra, Madhya
Pradesh, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar-Pradesh nothing moved much
in the government front. People’s Union for Civil Liberties filed
a petition in Supreme Court in 2002 against the hunger deaths in 7 states.
The Supreme Court issued notices to these states and their anti poverty
programmes and as a civil society follow up of the entire case National
Right to Food Campaign took birth. The Supreme Court issued various
directives to the governments particularly in relation to Public Distribution
System, BPL Cards, Widow and aged pension schemes, Integrated Child
Development Programmes. The hearing continue but the real changes do
The campaign was launched
on the premise that Food Corporation of India’s go downs were
overflowing with grains ( in fact grain got rotten ) while people were
living in abject hunger and poverty was a shame to India.
In the 2004 elections therefore,
when the UPA government came to power in Center, it looked as if it
has learnt a few lessons from the past government. A National Advisory
Council was formed with eminent names like Jean Dreze and Aruna Roy
were made members under the chairpersonship of Mrs Sonia Gandhi. The
government decided to renew the anti poverty programmes. Since fund
were never problems with the government’s finance ministry went
out to woe the rural masses. Campaign was launched for a bill like the
Maharastra’s Employment Guarantee Programme so that every one
gets employment. The government’s bosses also felt that this programme
could be a good idea to implement their own liberalization and privatization
process and ‘purchase’ the people with one hundred days
One hundred districts were
selected for National Employment Guarantee Scheme for the first phase.
Now new districts have been added to the list but violence continue
in rural India. A large part of India is under the Naxal influence and
it is growing day by day. People are still dying of hunger despite millions
of dollars being pumped by the aid agencies and the government. We must
ponder over this situation otherwise India’s poor will revolt
one day and trash everything that we call democratic.
It is rather unfortunate
that despite a clear verdict of the masses against the concept of privatization
and economic liberlisation, the rulers do not want to change their track.
Earlier after the elections we saw over throwing of the government in
Haryana, Punjab Andhra Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The biggest turn around
was Uttar-Pradesh. While the analyst might claim that it was Mayawati’s
Brahmin-Dalit combination that got her victory, it would be simply generalizing
the facts if we ignore the fact the UP people also voted against Uttar-Pradesh
Shining and policy of private crony culture of Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav
and his government.
Therefore, when Uttar-Pradesh
was shining, just a few months back, I was getting lot of information
related to hunger and starvation deaths in the Eastern Part of Uttar-Pradesh.
During the past five years in particular, having spend a lot of time
with activists and villagers, I realized that the aid agencies, the
government and the so-called civil society organizations are far removed
from the grassroots reality. Even the media was not reciprocating it
at the national level while the local papers were reporting incidents
of hunger deaths.
Four districts of Poorvanchal
(Eastern Uttar-Pradesh) namely Maharajganj, Kushingar, Deoria and Gorakhpur
witness the dance of death every year. Two of these district Kushinagar
and Gorakhpur were selected for the NREGA programme while Maharajganj
has also been selected for the same from this year. All these districts
saw a large number of deaths due to hunger and malnutrition despite
all these programmes. The pattern was similar yet nothing happened.
When we decided to move on a Padyatra in these districts, it was in
fact a reiteration of our earlier stand about the failure of not only
aid agencies and government but also civil society. Let us investigate
some of these programmes and international campaigns.
18 tribal children died in
Raup village of Sonebhadra district in 2004 and the National Human Rights
Commission issued notice to the state government. A very senior activist
Late M.A.Khan would always question the ‘national’ campaigners
who would come for a day in Sonebhadra and disappear after ‘attaining’
everything. These national organizations destroyed the local initiatives
by creating division in them. Khan died an unsatisfied man, a man who
would have got huge funds to support his work on hunger yet remain penniless
till he breathed his last. A mobile library in his ownself, Khan’s
work was used by many for their projects in the area.
What irked Khan was that
Sonebhadra has a large number of NGOs with ‘National’ outlook.
These days apart from being from the ‘press’ get you exclusive
sitting at most important places, a tag from human rights also give
you strength to manipulate things. With international human rights organization
jumping in local fray and acting as a party, the human rights have become
abusive term. Agencies write letters on every individual cases of ‘dowry’,
‘rape’ ‘sexual harassment’ and everything under
the sun. These organizations are not running any systematic campaigns
but are totally depended on the fancy of a few individuals who not only
manipulate things but also pretend as if they are the sole protectors
of the civil liberties in their area and their life is under the ‘threat’
from the landlords. The agencies who support such propagandists forget
to ask their own background as a majority of them have established background
and it is rare that they would speak against their own family and caste
men. Activists from Uttar-Pradesh are rather smarter in this. They claim
to have been fighting against ‘caste’ system but do not
give any idea to local communities and people as what is the panacea
for it. These are provided to international masters only who present
them to their donors as their ‘work’ in India. Most of these
international fellows have got strong support from their own communities,
as it is rare they would speak against their own community. Hence if
you are a Thakur, you will bring the cases of Brahmins, Yadavas, Kurmis
for oppressing the Dalits terming them as ‘feudal lords’,
while if you happen to be a Brahmin, the cases would be different, so
will be the case with Kurmis and others. Everybody try to save the interest
of their own community making the other community oppressing the Dalits.
So, the downfall of Uttar-Pradesh is in the nepotism and propaganda
that these human rights fellows unleash through internet and emails.
The National Right to Food
Campaign became a tool to further their own interest and you do not
know how many of them exist in Uttar-Pradesh. The politics in the NGOs
is more rampant in Uttar-Pradesh. In the name of so-called advocacy
and lobbying they make every criminal case as a human rights violation
case and if their activists are involved in local feud, it is termed
as a threat to their life.
community centered approach
Aid agencies flocked to Sonbhadra,
Varanasi, Kushingar, Bhadohi, Bundelkhand and other such ‘poor’
district to ‘eliminate’ hunger yet despite all this people
continue to die of hunger. In Kushinagar district’s Koilaswa village
became the hub of activities for aid agencies. Number of community organizations
were created and their only visible work was ‘wall writing’
related to the rights of Mushahars. One must ask these agencies and
their partners as where has the money gone and why even a village with
about 500 Mushahar families still have largest number of hungry people
and unsafe huts. This village saw 18 children dying of Kalajwar several
years ago. Most of the Mushahars here live in huts. Very few of them
have got the NREGA card to get some work. None of them can claim to
have got even 10 days work under NREGA. Last year, when I visited to
this village, a large number of huts were burnt due to fire but this
year some of these houses were being constructed under Indira Awas Yojna.
The Sarpanch, the secretary of the Panchayats is corrupt say the people
but where are the organizations working. Why do they not organize people
and take them to the district magistrate and show them them the condition
of the NREGA schemes in the area. The fact of the matter is that we
claim to create a civil society in the poorest areas. My question is
whose civil society it would be ?
How come the work being done on Mushahars, Scavengers do not have persons
heading from these communities? It is here the aid agencies have defaulted.
They promoted Dalit groups in the name of Dalit identity but rarely
bothered to check further whether the same kind of identity which different
caste groups are demanding have been accepted by them. When we talk
of scavenger or Mushahars or Rajbhars why is that it is the people from
other communities leading the movement and not from them. The argument
that these communities do not have ‘leadership’ skills is
racist and brahmanical in nature and need to be questioned.
It was this long thought
that came in mind trying to analyze the caste scenario with poverty
that I realize that developmental agenda would have to be community
based. Fifty years programmes of development never reached the people.
The targets were not specified clearly. They were vague and not according
to the demographic set up of the villages. Hence Mushahrs, Bansfors,
Rajbhars, Pasis and Chamars remained at the margin. Though people might
argue that after Maywati’s ascendance to power Chamar have been
‘empowered’, this notion itself is wrong. The community,
no doubt, is politically assertive, yet economically very marginalized
in the Eastern Uttar-Pradesh and Bundelkhand.
Hunger is not natural but
man made with deep socio-cultural dimension. When the major district
of Poorvanchal, the rural poor do not possess enough grain to cook two
time a meal, the forces of rightwing Hindutva are equally powerful.
Just when Navratris are finished, the Goddess Tarkulha Devi’s
temple witnesses thousands of goats being slaughtered to please the
goddess. And it is not just one goddess, such temples exists all the
districts. Kushingar is famous Buddhist center as Buddha preached here
for 20 years and died at the end. Japanese, Thai, Barmese, Korean temples
are present here. More and more religious groups are coming here to
spread their wings. Not only the famous Gorakhdham peeth headed by BJP
MP Mahant Aditya Nath have made great inroads among the communities
but not on working against hunger but hatred. You can find posters of
Hindu Yuva Vahini everywhere. At a place during our Padyatra when I
asked to a villager, as ‘which community he belonged to ?’,
the emphatic answer was that only
‘Hindus’ live here. Which clearly indicate that they were
not keen on speaking on poverty on hunger but on anti Muslim rhetoric’s.
In Deoria, we went to a village called Mundera Mishra where a large
number of fishermen community live apart from the powerful Brahmins.
As soon as we started talking about anti poverty programmes, about the
ration cards and other such schemes, the people from Brahmin community
came and started altercating with us. ‘ As long as you will allow
the Muslims to eat everything that our country produces, we can not
alleviate poverty’. I was shocked to hear this as there were no
Muslims in the village and we were talking about issue of fishermen,
ration card and anti poverty programmes in the village.
Walking towards Rudrapur
from Deoria, we met with a group of boys catching rats. They belonged
to Rajbhar community. As mentioned earlier three communities of Mushahars,
Rajbhars and Chauhans are living in pathological hunger and forced to
eat rats. The children who should have been going to school actually
were grazing the cattle’s on a rainy day. None of them go to school.
The food situation in their house was difficult. They caught several
rats and took us to a school to roast them like Kababs. One could see
the glee in their faces as they enjoyed their lunch after such hunger.
One wonders where the aid agencies have gone. Rajbhar and Chauhan community
does not come under the Scheduled Caste category but their condition
can not be regarded as better than the Dalits. Yes, they are MBCs and
are forced to live in isolation and ostracisation. It was village Sarora
where I did not see a single rajbhar house which could be pucca.
On the road we met a Rajbhar
tractor driver who was not very happy with the turn of events in Uttar-Pradesh.
Clearly, his thoughts were not with Behenji and were saddened with the
demise of the Rajbhar party of Om Prakash Rajbhar. I asked them as why
don’t they organize community for their socio-economic-cultural
benefit. Why we need to politicize all the issues when the basic issue
of hunger and poverty have not yet resolved.
Tragedy in Uttar-Pradesh was that while people were politically assertive
may be they have sold their conscience to their caste identity but beyond
that nothing is moving. Normally, no body question their political leaders
for the work they are not doing. People do not seem to be interested
in listening to other communities. If you belong to same community they
become over enthused. This actually has resulted in a generation of
middlemen who sale the community for small pie.
In the Vindhyawalia bastee
of fishermen, I did not find a single house to be pucca. The fishermen
have lost their habitat because of soil erosion brought out by the river
Chhoti Gandak. In the absence of fishing people migrate to other states
particularly to Goa for sand mining. We saw many of those exploited
hands during our visit. It was shocking to see how the mining has not
only made them entire generation of fishermen slave to several diseases
including skin problems and breathing problems.
In many Mushahar bastees
children do not go to school. At one village out of nearly 300 children,
I could speak to only two who claimed they were going to school. The
schools are quite far and most of the time the parents have no money
to pay the school fee and hence are unable to send them. Moreover, the
exploitation is so much that children once scolded by the teachers seldom
go back. Local liquor is a daily routine. Most of the women are involved
in making liquor. During summers Tadi is favorite drink. Even the children
drink it for Rs 5/- a glass. They remain hungry during the entire day.
Japan government and world
bank are working on Maitryee Project in Kushingar which will displace
about several hundred small farmers as it need to acquire over 600 acre
of land to build biggest Buddhas of Bamiyan type. It is very unfortunate
that while Kushinagar and all these nearby areas are witnessing Tandava
of hunger for the past 10 years, none of the so-called religious groups
ever bothered about their fate. Superstition is very high in the region
and poverty is linked to fete and the bad karma of the previous birth,
therefore justifying the current structure of injustice and exploitation.
That is one reason why during
our padyatra, we made it a point to raise the issue of right over people’s
resources and for dignity and freedom. Our campaign was not just limited
to land redistribution but against the exploitative nature of our society,
our caste system and ritualistic religious values which dehumanize the
It is strange that the environmental
degradation and its impact on communities such as fishermen and farmers
have rarely been raised in Poorvanchal. Perhaps because during the past
few years environment has become a subject for the urban elite to discuss
where they can think of throwing the communities like tribal away from
the forest. But, in Poorvanchal, the issue is real and the threat as
ever. All the major rivers of Poorvanchal, Rapti, Chhoti Gandak, Gurra,
Amy etc are thoroughly polluted. They have turned to gutter as the sewage
water of the distilleries and sugar factories flows into them. There
is no anti pollution measures and one wonder what is UP Pollution Control
Board is doing. In Kaptanganj and Ramkola towns of Kushingar district
the local sugar mills and distilleries are throwing huge chemical waste
in the river Gandak. The sewage water spills into the fields thus destroying
the crops. In fact many time there have been agitation against the same
in Ramkola where farmers are genuinely agitated over the destruction
of a vast track of their land. The drinking water is contaminated and
most of the people in area suffer from various diseases. In March 1999
an agreement was signed in the presence of district magistrate along
with farmers and UP Sugar Corporation Ltd under which the sugar mills
had to develop sewage water treatment plant and would pay compensation
to the farmers. It was also agreed that in Mathura Nagar area of Ramkola
over 7 people had died during 1999 with drinking contaminated water.
Things have not changed yet after so many years. One can see the burnt
field with stinking smell which make any one sink.
About 6 kilometer away from
Chaurichaura is famous Sardar Nagar owned by Sardar S.S.Majithia whose
terror also run in the village. Without any treatment plant the sewage
is drained into river Gurra, a tributary of Rapti. Farmers are agitated
over it and fishermen have lost every thing, as there is no fish catch
these days. Now, the village people are planning to approach the court.
When our Padyatra approached the Sardarnagar distillery and was taking
photographs and video shoot of the area, the company stalkers started
haunting us. ‘ Why have you come here ? Who are you ? Show us
your identity card ? I told the person that we are on a Padyatra and
are looking the environmental hazards of the sugar factories and other
mills in the area. And that people are complaining and they have a right
to seek redressal. The person threatened us not to take further photographs.
‘ We have certificate from UP Pollution Control Board’ he
said and I retorted back as why he was worried then?
Sardarnagar factories do
not have sewage line. A large number of sweeper who live in the vicinity
have been working on contract labour for the past 20 years and their
salaries have not gone beyond Rs 3000/-. They were shown the door when
they question for more salary and bonus etc . It is no secret that manual
scavenging is prevalent inside the campus of the sugar mill and distillery
as the toilets are kuchcha. While the company may make the pollution
control people fool by saying they have now flush toilets, the fact
is that inspite of that, these toilets and their pits need to be cleaned
annually and it is the local Hellas (Muslim Scavengers) and Bansfors
who are doing the cleaning work.
Apart from chemical waste
in the rivers, the other threat to the rivers of Poorvanchal is from
the mechanized sand mining. Rivers particularly Chhotigandak has gone
deep down with sand mining and it is adding to the woes of farmers every
year during the monsoon as often it change the track and erode the different
area. Many localities, villages have been permanently submerged because
of this soil erosion by river Gandak, and Ghaghara.
They are considered to be the most dangerous rivers. In Gorakhpur district
river Rapti often play havoc and people still tremble narrating the
horrific tale of flood in 1999 and 2002 when hundreds of villages disappeared.
Thousands of hectares of land is now turned sandy and farmers have no
other choice but to migrate and become labours.
Navami is 25 years old. He
has three sons and two daughters. Living as an encroacher on the road,
he has turned saffron these days after a cow hit him on his leg. The
family went to a local Jholachaap doctor for the treatment who has in
fact destroyed his feet. He has become virtually disabled and is barely
able to walk. Navmi’s father lives about 200 meter away from his
Jhopadi in the Mushahar Bastee of Bishanpurwa village in Premwalia Panchayat
of district Kushingar. Bishanpura is predominantly a Dalit habitat in
which a substantial chunk of Chamars and Mushahars live. Chamar because
of the politicization process in the past 15 years are relatively better
organized and aware of their conditions but Mushahar because of their
lesser numbers as well as worst economic conditions remains on margin.
At a distance of about 8 kilometer from the town Kasaya, Bishanpura
present two different world, one of the upper castes, mobile backward
communities and the other of Mushahars and Chamars.
Though the village activist
claim that the condition of Mushahar in this village was relatively
better than anywhere else but a visit to their thatched hut reveal the
truth. It is not just the war against a corrupt society but cultural
practice which has subjugated them for years. Entering at many houses,
I found people cooking snails. At many houses the morning break fast
was not ready yet.
Like many others, Navami
does not work and his physically challenge father earn livelihood for
him. His wife Akali is at the later stage of pregnancy. Looking at her,
one wonder, how healthy would be the child when born. ‘We keep
fast for most of the days as Navami is not able to work’, says
Akali. She adds that he is not interested in the family, as he has now
become a saint. “ But how come despite being a saint, you became
pregnant, I ask. Don’t you think that it is also your duty to
minimize your burden? Her small hut does not have anything. They do
not possess any ration card. None of them know about National Rural
Employment Guarantee Scheme under which every unemployed male or female
in a village would get a minimum of one hundred days work. Now the UP
government has increased the minimum wages to Rs 82/-. But see the irony
Navami has none of these cards. It would not be surprising if in the
absence of any government aid he and his family starve. One can imagine
as what would be the fate of his unborn child. Navami’s elder
daughter is at the field behind their hut doing some work. I ask her
about whether she has eaten any thing. The answer is in the negative.
She inform me that the family does not cook and that she and her brothers
remain hungry. By the time, we were conducting our interview with her,
Akali was going to beg the left over food for their lunch.
B: Leelawati Gupta is a young widow living in a small hut in Deoria
district. Her husband died of tuberculosis about eight months ago. Gupta
was a Halwai who could not afford the family of five children. The family
left for Siligudi in the hope for better future. The debt compounded
and therefore the local debtors took over the house of the family in
lieu of their debt. Gupta died of tremendous pressure. The family did
not have anything to eat. A good Halwai family turned into a completely
workless family. There was nothing to eat for the children.
eldest daughter is also left by her husband. She live along with small
daughter at her mother’s hut. Half of the week, they keep fasting.
No help came from any quarter. Leelwati moved from one place to other
but of no help. They did not have a ration card to procure food items.
There was no help from any where. The children for not going to school
but working. Four months after the death of her husband, the Panchayat
thought of her giving her a BPL ration card. She sales the rice from
the village and earn around Rs 35 a day but that too in kind form. There
is no other source of income. The young daughter left by her husband
is equally baffling her. The family is on the brink of collapse and
may use escapist tendencies to survive.
Idrish Ansari has a small
rehari shop of eggs. With a small gas stove, he make omelet for the
customers and also sale boiled egg. In the small town of … one
does not know whether he would be able to take care of his family of
9 children. He has got a small house under the Indira Awas Yojna but
that house cannot accommodate all the family members hence 7 of them
sleep in an under construction under ground floor of a house owned by
a local landlord. Idrish has a buffalo as well as horse for marriage
parties. But these days when the parties hire cars and electronic items,
the bridegroom in horse is becoming rare day by day. The resources are
scant day by day. Idirsh does not possess a ration card and his condition
show that the family and children are going to face very difficult time
in next few months if the help does not come.
In the Deoria town we visited the urban slums. In the Ambedkar Nagar
bustee we met a number of Bansfors. The families are living in miserable
condition. I met many children and none of them go to school. Most of
the people work part time and have no source of income. The women and
children are involved in manual scavenging. In the family of Six children,
I find them eating Sattu for their lunch. One of the child was epileptic.
He was unable to open his eyes. The wife presented a miserable picture.
There was no food. No government scheme has reached the village. There
was no ration card to procure subsidized rice from the market. It was
surviving on the edge and one can rarely describe them to narrate. The
child in the family was in danger if not takes care properly. They are
three families and the card of Above the Poverty Line is issued to their
mother. It was a tragic site as how the sweeper community is facing
not only indignity but also ostracisation and starvation. The people
claiming to work on hunger are rarely reaching them.
36 families of Bansfors are
living in miserable condition on the road at civil lines. They weave
basket and barely earn Rs 30 per day. Most of them used to sleep on
the road till one day the district administration decided to shunt them
away to another place without thinking whether human conditions prevails
in that area or not. A number of women still cry, as they have no other
source to live.
Hunger is everywhere. The
only difference is that your eyes and heart need to be sensitive enough
to hear those pains and miseries. NGOs have turned hunger into a project
for their own self without ever evaluating their own work. It is rare
to speak about urban hunger since most of these cases occur in rural
area but the Sweeper community in many of these places is suffering
in silence. Manual Scavenging is going well without any stoppage. How
do you stop without providing alternative to the people? Most of the
families were eating Sattu and children do not go to school. No government
scheme reach them and very few of them had got ration cards.
In Rudrapur, I found a happy
scavenger mother telling me how her 9 years old daughter Arti takes
care of the family every day. Arti was grinding Mashala when I met her.
Afterwards, her mother took me to her hut and showed that their girl
can cook. It was shocking when I ask why were they imposing family burden
on a young child. Arti’s father was a Rikshapullar and their earning
was not enough to sustain the family. They were not able to send their
children to school.
We visited many homes and
saw their condition. Writing about hunger make you some time repeating
things but then it is the issue and we need to focus more on them. In
most of the municipalities including Laar, Rudrapur, Deoria, Gorakhpur,
Chaurichuara, Mau the condition need to be assessed carefully. That
manual scavenging is going on uninterrupted because the government has
failed them to provide any help and the organizations of civil society
used their plight for their own purposes without making community feel
that there is a discrimination and they should stand up against the
same is a national disgrace and we all must take the blame.
In most of the municipalities,
many of the Balmikis were kept under contract labour by Mulayam Singh’s
ordinance. In towns like Laar, they had not got their salaries till
date after their appointment forcing the people to reengage them in
Right over resources
can not be compensated by NREGA and PDS system
It is ironical that campaigns
to eliminate hunger are not talking in terms of livelihood. If situation
has to be seen in this perspective, most of the Mushahrs are dying because
they are landless. They used to depend on forest but that too has been
out of reach for them now, as forest department is getting murkier day
by day. Rajbhars are another community which is totally landless and
live in complete isolation. Their power of vote can not change much
of the Panchayats local political equations. We have seen how the NREGA
and food for work programmes are being appropriated by the powerful
communities of the village. Fishermen are dying of hunger because they
have lost everything. Their lakes are drying up and sewage water has
killed the fishes. Other communities like Chamars, Pasis, Chauhans,
Mushahars are totally landless and therefore workless. They are just
political in terms of their caste identities but their political class
seems not be interested in raising these issues of livelihood. Even
the workers of their community do not seem to be working on socio-cultural
revival of the community. Identity is fastly becoming a tool for the
political Dalals to mobilize people for their own nefarious goals. This
culture of considering communities as pocket borrow will have to be
changed in Uttar-Pradesh and that could only happen if the agencies
work wholeheartedly on an emergency basis with community’s social
organizations. Advocacy and Lobbying for greater ‘national’
cause can not be bigger than the local cause of the communities. Uttar-Pradesh
does not have infrastrcture. Schools are without teachers and toilets.
The public distribution system is in complete mess in Uttar-Pradesh.
This is accepted by the advisers of the Supreme Court in their report.
Most of the eligible people never got the entitlement and again the
power elite in the rural structure grabbed all these opportunities.
But it is also a fact there is nothing in the PDS which any good person
would like to purchase. Most of the people never get kerosene, and sugar
on their cards. In fact, the activists are now asking that it need to
be like supermarket where people should be allowed to procure all other
items like stationary, books, masalas, and ration on a subsidized rate.
Government need to focus
on education, electricity and drinking water only then Uttar Pradesh
will shine for all. For the civil society organizations, it would be
better not to consider people as showing their strength in Lucknow and
Delhi but do some concrete work at the village level, sharing their
agonies and making them feel as part of civil society but not as their
leaders but developing leadership qualities in each of these communities.
Hunger will not end unless we challenge the very basis of karma theory
and bring people out of the religious rituals, which make them bonded
to thugs and tantriks. Hunger will not end unless the government and
organization feel that it is really not an issue of charity but right
over resources. Give the fishermen better rivers and lakes and they
will not ask for NREGA. Protect the farmers from the onslaught of the
spoiling factories and they will do wonders. And finally do fill your
promises to redistribute land to all landless communities and I bet
they will shine for us all. If we do not learn lesson from other parts
of the country and violence growing there, the day will not be far when
we will witness same war in Uttar-Pradesh and peace would be the biggest
Land, Dignity and Freedom footmarch which covered around 140 villages,
7 urban slum in four districts of Maharajganj, Kushingar, Deoria and
Gorakhpur district, It started from Tilakwania village in Ghughali town
of Maharajganj district on June 1st, 2007 and culminated at Chauri Chaura
on June 22nd, 2007 with a total of 370 kilometers. Organised by Uttar-Pradesh
Land Alliance and led by Shri Vidya Bhushan Rawat, Director, Social
Development Foundation, Delhi, the Padyatra raised the issue of hunger,
land, water and sustainable development. Nearly 20 Padyatris including
women and girls from the marginalised sections of society walked this
distance in scorching heat for full 22 days. It raised the issue of
the failure of the previous government to deal with the issue of livelihood
of marginalised communities and their continuous marginalisation through
hunger, malnutrition, poverty and depression. It also voiced its concern
over growing communalisation process as well as spreading of superstition
among the poorer sections of society. At many places the marchers spoke
to small gatherings, met people, visited affected areas and conducted
social audits of schemes like NREGA.
At the culmination of 22 days padyatra at Chauri Charua, we demand the
1. The government must take special measures to improve the condition
of Mushahars, Rajbhars, Bansfors, Nonias, Machchuaras, Dom, Swachchakars,
Pasis and Chamars. These communities are living in abysmally degrading
conditions and need special measures.
2. In the Eastern Uttar-Pradesh the Sand Mafias are controlling the
rivers like Chhoti Gandak, Gurra, Rapti and Ghaghara. The mechanized
sand mining has resulted in soil erosion by these rivers during monsoon.
Thousands of hectare of land has turned infertile. In Brahmapur region
Rapti has destroyed Ranapar area. In Kaptanganj and Ramkola towns in
Kushinagar district are facing severe soil erosion due to sand mining.
We demand immediate halt of mechanized sand mining and ask the government
to allow the fish worker to do the same but government should fix up
a limit for the same.
3. In many villages of Eastern Uttar-Pradesh powerful local people have
illegally grabbed the land given to Dalits and Most backward communities.
In many villages, the Dalits are not even allowed passage to move out.
Government must ensure that every person live with dignity at his/her
land that every one has a right to access road in his/her house.
4. The Sugar factories and distilleries in Ramkola, Kaptanganj, Deoria,
are throwing chemical waste in the rivers like Chhoti Gandak, Rapti,
Amy and Gurra resulting in heavy pollution in the rivers. The fish workers
are facing hunger, as the fish catch is almost nil. Apart from this,
the waste has spilled over to a vast agricultural land turning them
completely barren and dangerous. The ground water in most of the eastern
UP town is contaminated which is a severe threat to public health. We
demand immediate action against these factory/mill owners and ask the
government to compensate the farmers who have lost their land to these
mills. The Pollution Control board should be asked to explain as why
they continue to allow such hazards industries to run.
5. In Kushingar and Gorakhpur the condition of National Employment Guarantee
Scheme is a matter of grave concern. It has not been implemented accordingly.
We found work being done through tractors and people without work despite
having the valid card. The scheme seems to have failed because of the
connivance between the village Pradhans and block officials. We demand
severe action against erring officials to implement the scheme and ask
the government to form a monitoring and evaluating committee which should
include civil society representatives.
6. In Poorvanchal, we found lot of discrepancy in the distribution of
ration cards. Those who should have been eligible for the cards have
not got it while others have got it. We demand strong action the Sarpanches
and officials who are involved in nepotism and corruption. We also demand
from the government that the reach of the Public Distribution System
should be expanded and it must include important edible items, books,
and cloths, Masalas etc so that the poor can benefit from this.
7. Hunger and starvation are prevalent in Eastern Uttar-Pradesh. A majority
of families do not ration for two times. The children have uncertain
future. It is shameful that children from Mushahars, Chauhan, Rajbhar
etc are eating rats and fishermen are forced to survive on snails. We
demand the government to focus on these communities with special programmes
particularly developing schools in the villages with mid day meals and
other incentives for school children and their parents.
8. The government must form special Land Courts to settle land disputes
and implement the land reform measures strongly and effectively. The
government must concentrate on giving communal entitlement. We also
demand that women should be given priority in allotment of agricultural
land and all new entitlement whether residential or agricultural should
have joint entitlement.
Today on the day of culmination of Padyatra we commit ourselves to continue
our struggle for Land, Dignity and freedom. We will continue to make
government aware of the ground situation while fighting for our rights
democratically. We also want to make it clear that this war of independence
is not possible with out the support and alliance of anti caste, anti
communal, anti superstition and progressive forces in which the role
of women, Dalits, Most backward communities and tribal have an important
role to play. We also feel that this for dignity and freedom we have
to take inspiration from Baa Saheb Ambedkar, Jyoti Ba Phule, Savitri
Bai Phule, and EV Ramaswamy Naicar. They remain our icons and role models
in our struggle for the creation of a civil society.
Following organisations signed the resolution
Uttar-Pradesh Land Alliance,
Social Development Foundation, Delhi
Food for Hungry Foundation, Delhi
Dr B.R.Ambedkar Gramodyog Sansthan, Deoria
Swachchakar Kalyan Samiti, Ghazipur
Smt Sonia Gramin Mahila avam Bal Kalyan Samiti, Deoria
Lord Buddha Trust, Kushinagar
Hitkari Sewa Samiti, Deoria
Jan Kalyan Sansthan, Chauri Chaura, Gorakhpur
Palanjivi Samiti, Rudrapur, Deoria
Mushahar Shakti Sanghthan, Deoria
Tharu Development Society, Lakhimpur Khiri
Tal Ratoy Machchua Jan Kalyan Sansthan, Mau
Bharatiya Jan Seva Ashram, Jaunpur
Chitrakoot Sewa Ashram, Chitrakoot
Dalit Mahila Mukti Morcha,
UP Machchua Adhikar Manch, Rudrapur
and number of others
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