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|The Answers are Blowing in the Wind…|
If I wonder about my share of responsibility for the death of Ram Kumar Thakur, what must Sanjay Sahni feel? I have heard Sanjay trying to cope with the murder of his friend and colleague in Ratnauli Panchayat in Bihar, and I can hear a million questions he has, that should be answered by the State, but are left to be answered by the sufferers themselves. The State and most of its functionaries have become brazen, callous and openly dishonest. Even the honest are helpless, and murder has become a pedestrian fact of life. Sanjay Sahni’s story and Ram Kumar’s cold blooded murder needs to be understood, if we are ever going to support the many ordinary people fighting injustice, corruption, and the arbitrary use of power; and stem the attacks on, and even killing of those fighting for justice in this country.
Sanjay, a young self taught electrician who had studied up to the 8th class, had left his village in Bihar to set up a tiny little electric service point in Janakpuri in West Delhi. He had established himself well enough to bring his bright and determined wife, and two young children to come and live with him in the big city. His children had started attending a private “English medium” nursery school, and he had dreams for himself and his family of a better middle class life.
Read more here
|Struggle for ‘work for all’ and ‘pensions for all elderly’|
| Dear Saathis at the Kam Mango Abhiyan (KMA) and the Pension Parishad (PP),
I am writing this mail to you to point out a sad overlap in the struggle for ‘work for all’ and ‘pensions for all elderly’. While the Kam Mango Abhiyan padyatras were happening in Katihar, several of our pad yatra teams would call in saying that what do we do when elderly who get social security pension apply for work? With a meager pension of Rupees 200/300 and no other support system our elderly have no option but to work at MNREGA worksite. They really want this work and so we advised that irrespective of age we help people get work and job cards.
We are sharing stories of some of these elderly who applied for job cards and work, and do not even get the Rupees 200 because they are categorized as APL. These stories were put together by Shomira, a young student from Delhi University who was part of the KMA in Katihar (Bihar).
At this time having viable pensions for all elderly is much needed and it is in this context that over 200 elderly are sitting in the cold in Delhi on a dharna with these very relevant demands.
Read the stories here
|Bringing justice to Ram Thakur|
|Ram Kumar Thakur, a lawyer and RTI activist was shot dead in Ratnauli village of Muzaffarpur district on 23rd March. No arrests have been made in well over three months. He had been actively raising the issue of corruption in his village, Ratnauli, for the last few years, including filing a number of RTI applications on the implementation of the MNREGA and IAY. Most recently, Ram Kumar had filed a case with the State Vigilance Commission on the installation of solar lights under the MNREGA raising questions on the allocation of money under the project and alleged mismanagement of funds by the Mukhiya, Raj Kumar Sahni. Details here.|
|Compassion: Blanket drive in the winter and the disability certification camp in Araria|
|What is the relationship between sangathan and compassion? Vibhore, an active volunter, has been asking this question for a long time. Given the precarious financial situation of our saathis, we are inundated by the news of life-impacting situations everyday. From roofs in urgent need of repairs before the rainy season to life-threatening diseases, the list is endless and overwhelming. But we keep trying our best, and the stories below are two of many examples that show our spirit to help is as strong as the spirit to fight for our rights. Details here.|
|Mobilization for universal pension|
|The elderly from across the country have been assembling at Jantar Mantar during every parliament session since April 2012 to demand universal pension that would enable the elderly in our country to live with dignity. In a first for the JJSS, over 1000 JJSS members and supporters boarded 4 different trains to Delhi to join a national protest organised by the Pension Parishad on 6th March, 2013. Moving saathis in such large numbers from Araria and Katihar to Delhi required a lot of coordination at our end. Details here.|
|The center takes shape|
|The JJSS has been talking about the need to politicize its members, to talk about issues other than NREGA and other survival issues which would help us understand and form a common articulation on the issues of caste, class, gender and religion. Each such effort has been in the form of meetings, held in rented spaces, sometimes with the rent reduced or written off. The plan to have a space of our own finally has taken some shape with our centre, in Araria. Built on 5 katthas (abt 4000 sq feet of land) the centre has three hutments, one being a kaccha hall that can accommodate about 200 people. Details here|
|Fight for minimum wage in Bihar|
On 26th March, the Bihar government released a circular lowering the MNREGA wage from Rs 144 to Rs 138 per day with effect from 1st April 2013. Workers and peasants, who were already facing the blow of delayed payments in MNREGA, were shocked. It was beyond comprehension. How can any Government reduce wages? Nonetheless, it had happened. Bihar Government blamed the Central Government and pleaded innocence for paying Rs. 138.
JJSS started its struggle against this anti-poor measure in three pronged way:
|Insaan hai hum|
|Insaan hai hum – a musical presentation by Vinay and Charul brings out different forms of social, communal, and development led violence in our society and appeals to our inner beings to reflect and question the hate and violence within and around us. It is an appeal for peace and justice. The programme in Araria was organised at the Town Hall on 9th Feb, 2013, also the birth anniversary of play-write Brecht. Though the acoustics were poor and not the kind of quality saathis Vinay and Charul needed, Charul and Vinay sang to an audience of over 500 people seated and an equal number who stood on the sides, people who came to see and stayed to attend the entire programme. The programme ended with a candle light vigil. Details here.|
|India Untouched on Ambedkar Jayanti|
|The JJSS has decided to organise its karyakarni meeting every year on Ambedkar Jayanti, this 14th April, was made special by the screening of India Untouched, a film made by Director Stalin, over a period of ten years document acts of untouchability across the country. The film was screened during a special session of the JJSS working committee meeting on the occasion of Ambedekar Jayanti. Including some special invitees, there were nearly hundred attendees at the Karmchari Sangh Hall, Araria. Read more here.|
|NREGA and related activities|
|Saathi Ranjit was active in organising a kaam maango yaatra in Forbesganj block of Araria in June this year. Large scale works are supposed to be opened on 15th October every year. To make sure that these works get opened, our saathis have already prepared unemployment allowance (UA) letters to ensure that there will be pressure on the administration to open works as soon as possible or they will be liable to pay UA. Along with the Manoranjan Jha Trust the first ever kaam maango padyatra was organised in Saharsa, with saathi Arvind (a young activist from Patna) and Shivnarayan taking the lead. So far, we are waiting for 15th October to see some first real works open in Saharsa. Details here.|
|Building democracy and linkages outside|
|Resources are an important part of building a vibrant and democratic organisation. A panchayat level initiative of Gram Panchayat Chitoriya has set a new and much needed trend. The units in Mohanpur and Chitoriya had been facing a lot of trouble at their local PDS outlet (ration shop). They were like in villages all over Bihar being given less ration and being charged more. In a local attempt to set things right saathis decided to sit-in at their local shop till right amounts at right prices were distributed. The SDO was supportive and on one such occasion the BDO visited to ensure fair distribution at correct rates. At the fifth shop the response was again the same resistance. So this time residents of Chitoriya decided to collect donations from the entire village and send them to the Government to let them know that workers too had dignity and would not take rations as a dole but only as their right! Details here.|
|Our last update ended with the news about the small but important start we made regarding JJSS children’s club in Araria RS. Since then, the club has grown in leaps and bounds in both the number of activities and membership. Any given Sunday morning, there are over 50 children waiting excitedly for the 2-3 hours of fun and learning. The club prayer is now in the memory of a few of the kids though they did not rote learn but just repeated it with the club facilitators over the many Sundays we spent together. “Swayam vidhata ho hai manav, antar mein vishwas jagao. Chalo na mitte padchinhon par apne raste aap banaao.” Our kids can make make lines or circles, to play games, more easily, no adults are needed to organize them into lines and circles, may not sound like a big achievement, but it brought tears of joys to one of our facilitators, who has been there from the first club. Details here.|
|NCPRI State Level Convention 25th Sep at IMA Hall Patna|
|JJSS played a key role in organising the first state level convention of the NCPRI in Patna. Nikhil Dey and Sandeep Pandey were the main speakers. The day started with songs of people's struggle and "Jaane Ka haq". Slogans like "हम जानेंगे हम जियेंगे", "हमारा पैसा हमारा हिसाब", "कमाने वाला खायेगा लूटने वाला जाएगा नया ज़माना आएगा" were raised throughout the day emphasising the basic soul of the RTI act and its struggle. A public hearing on the attack on the whistleblowers and information seekers was also organised the same day. A large number of delegates (400+) from all over Bihar particpated in this day long convention. 10 resolutions were passed in the convention. details here|
|Bagaha (west champaran) Police firing|
|On 24th June 2013 six people were killed and several others were injured when police fired on people in Kataharba village (Bagaha) who were demanding recovery of the body of Chandreshwar Kaji who went missing on 15th June night. A four member fact finding team of NAPM which included two members of JJSS visited Bagaha on 30th June and met the family members of people killed and injured persons. Attached is the report on the killing.|
Sangharsh on MNREGA and other Updates
|Building Democracy within|
|‘Bin lade kuch bhi yahan milta nahin yah jaan kar, ab ladai lad rahe hain log mere gaon ke’|
|Social Audit Reports|
|The ICDS reports have been uploaded at: http://goo.gl/6q4bs (under ICDS_blockwise_reports). Please let us know if you have any issues in accessing the same.|
|Social Audit of MNREGA, ICDS and Old Age Pension Scheme: May-August 2011|
|Mazdoor Satyagraha, 5th February, 2011|
Cooperate where you can
I. Over three thousand people gathered at the MNREGA block office in Araria Block, Araria district. By 12 noon most people had reached the office from far away villages of Araria block. Many people had come walking or on bicycles, while some had hired tractor trolleys to reach the block, but as luck would have it a furious accident had blocked their way, undeterred hundreds left their vehicles in the jam and walked all the way to the block.
The primary focus of the block level satyagrah was the Non-Payment of Unemployment Allowance which was sanctioned in April, 2010. In 2008-09, over 800 workers, of five panchayats in Araria Block, Araria district, had applied for work under the MNREGA. . Their demand was not met and that forced the workers to apply for unemployment allowance. Even this demand was neglected at the district level. The sangathan pursued the matter and it finally reached the secretariat. The Principal Secretary, RDD, passed a progressive order in April 2010, to give the workers their due. However, till Feb 5, 2010, only 48 workers (around 800) had got the unemployment allowance and rest were still unpaid. The Araria administration had been approached repeatedly in this regard but only got false assurances. The sangathan decided that it was time we raised our voice against this injustice. In addition to this demand was the demand for MNREGA entitlements.
In addition to the above national demands, the sangathan also had demands specific to Bihar, especially Araria district:
At the Satyagraha, the Programme Officer, addressed the gathering, with earnestness but was unwilling to give concrete assurances. The satyagrahis stayed on without any food refusing to go without a written assurance. Around 8 pm the JJSS team organized gur, choora and mudi for all. It was heartening to see the administrative team share this snack with all the workers.
Kam Mango Padyatra, 18th-21st November 2010
JJSS organized its 6th 'Kam Mango Padyatra' from November 18th-21st. The Padyatra had six stops in three Gram Panchayats namely Chatar, Chilaniyan and Bagnagar. The padyatra had three main objectives.
|Social Audit in Araria (May6th-July 18th 2010)|
Jan Jagaran Shakti Sangathan and the araria district administration jointly conducted social audit of one panchayat in each of the 9 blocks of Araria. The first audit was conducted in December 2009. The rest 8 audits were conducted between May 6th and July 18th 2010.
|Students from different universities of the country particpated in the audit. Without them the audit would not have been possible.|
|In all the audits people participated in large numbers and NREGA became a hot topic of discussion leading to increased awareness about NREGA entitlements. It was the first time that the panchayat opened its records about the expenses in the gram sabha.|
Summary of the audit
• 9 of the 74 works were found to be ghost works, with no work done on the ground
• Transparency safeguards being flouted with boards present on only 27% of the total worksites
• Fake Muster Rolls found on 70 of the 74 worksites audited • Rs. 79 of Rs. 100 shown as spent on labour in the Muster Roll never reached workers named on the MRs. This fraudulation was found to be more than 90% in Chaukta Panchayat of Jokihaat Block and Halhaliya Panchayat in Forbesganj Block.
• Based on the social audits it is recommended that 42% of the total amount audited (Rs. 93,31,952, Ninety Three Lakhs Thirty One Thousand Nine Hundred and Fifty Two) needs to be recovered.
• In all audits it was found that money has been withdrawn from people’s accounts without their knowledge or consent.
|JJA Update/Report, April 7th 2010|
Highlights of this update:
|download the full report|
Social Audit in Jamua, Araria (23rd December 2009):
(Above: A list of NREGS works carried out being read publicly )
For some time we have been asking the district administration to conduct a social audit along with us to assess the implementation of NREGA in Araria and to bring transparency in the system. The district administration agreed to conduct a social audit in Jamua Panchayat on 23rd december, 2009. This was a new begining in Bihar as social audit in this manner has never been conducted in Bihar. Below is the press release of the event and link to media reports/articles.
|Media Report Links:|
Social auditing reveals Jamua’s dismal show in MNREGS
NREGA Social Audit of Jamua Panchayat, Araria District, Bihar completed successfully
Violence erupts during public hearing
Patna, December 27th, 2009:
December 23rd, 2009, was a special day in the history of NREGA in Bihar, for it was the first time that there was a social audit exercise in Bihar where the district administration along with a people’s organization (Jan Jagaran Abhiyan, Bihar) organized a SA of NREGA works (2008-09) in Jamua Panchayat of Araria district. One hour into the public hearing violence erupted in front of the Block Development Officer and the Circle Inspector, with the mukhiya’s (elected representative of the Gram Panchayat) men brutally attacking a ward member, who was encouraging a local resident to speak honestly about the injustice of receiving lower wages than those recorded in the muster rolls of NREGA works. The scene seemed out of control, the latent violence in Bihar had erupted but the scene changed, as the SDO arrived with the police force, and what followed was a successful hearing in which various malpractices, irregularities and corrupt practices were unearthed based on the courageous statements of panchayat residents.
In all 3 social audit teams went around Jamua Panchayat of Araria block (Araria) to verify NREGA records for 11 works (worth Rs. 8.6 lakh rupees) done in the period of 2008-09. The teams were composed of student volunteers, local residents of Jamua and neighbouring areas, karyakartas of the JJA and volunteers from other parts of the country. One of the team members Ram Rai, a member of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), Rajasthan who was helping in the SA said “I am shocked to know how little money comes into Bihar panchayats back in rajasthan about 3 crore rupees come every year to my panchayat to cater to the labour needs of about 3500 job card holding families of my panchayat.”
The SA exercise started on December 8th, with the administration providing all the relevant information needed for the SA exercise, the JJA team in it’s turn collated the information in a form understandable to the people and took it to the village residents, encouraging, persuading, and mobilizing them to participate in the social audit process. The result was that at the end of a week’s outreach over two thousand residents of Jamua Panchayat attended the final public hearing and deposed in front of a panel consisting of administrative and civil society representatives.
During the days events it was found that fake muster rolls, bills and vouchers were the most common ways of siphoning money from the NREGA funds. The faults in the records were so glaring that it became obvious that the wrong doers had never braced themselves to face a people’s audit exercise. For example names of about 50 people were found on the muster roll and investigation showed that these 50 did not even belong to Jamua. Brijlal Das, one of the 50 named in the muster roll came to the hearing and said “I never worked in NREGA projects in Jamua Panchayat yet the muster roll has my name and money was taken out from the post office using fake signature”. In another glaring case of corrupt practice the records claimed that Sampatlal Pokharia had supplied tent (for shade at NREGA worksites) worth Rupees 10,200 but Sampatlal in his affidavit given to the SA team said had never supplied tent to any NREGA site in Jamua.
One of the major issues that came out of the public hearing and official records was that 76% of the 1710 job card holders of the panchayat did not even get one day of work in 08-09.
Government representatives (SDO, BDO and CI) reassured the audience that action would be taken on erring individuals, the same reassurance has been given by the District Magistrate (DM), Araria, Mr M Sarvanan.
Ashish Ranjan and Ranjit Paswan
(for the Jan Jagaran Abhiyan)
Contact Number: 9973363664
|Update after Mansahi Padyatra:|
|People get work after pressing for demand but have to travel 13kms to the workplace:|
|In our last email communication we had invited you to our padyatra in mansahi block of katihar district. We would like to share with you some recent developments following the padyatra.|
|Work Applications Not Accpeted at Panchayat Level:|
|During the mass contact and awareness program of the padyatra it was more than evident that majority of households had not got work even though they were keen to do NREGA work in their panchayats. People also complained that they don't get to know when and where works are opened, it is only after completion of works that they realize work was done in their panchayat. The JJA team composed of volunteers from Araria and panchayts where the padyatra was held motivated and helped over 900 workers to apply for work under NREGA.|
|300 people had to ghreao block office to get applications recieved:|
|Similar to our experiences in Araria workers were unable to get their application recieved at the panchayat level. In each of the panchayats enthusiastic workers approached their panchayat rozgar sevak (PRS) only to be rebuffed by them. Given the reaction of some of the PRS it became clear that the only way for workers to be heard was through collective action.
On 30th october 2009 about 300 workers participated in a day long dharna and demanded that their application be recieved and works opened. More workers applied for work on the day of the dharna and at the end over two thousand workers had applied for work and were directed to join work from the 9th of November 2009.
|Workers at the Dharna, Mansahi Block Applications were recieved|
|Promise not fully kept:|
|On 9th November only one worksite was opened as against the promised three worksites.When contacted on telephone the program officer of mansahi block said that the other two sites would be opened within two days.|
|A long walk of 13 Kms:|
Chitttoriya panchayat workers who had come in large numbers to the block dharna were asked to join work at this worksite which is 13 kilometers away from their tola. There is no conveyance available to reach the worksite and hence many workers are either getting left out or having to do a rigorous walk to the worksite. Those who have cycles are still able to manage the 26 kms up and down.
|Given this scenario Chittoriya Panchayat workers are presenting the following demands:|
|1. Works be opened in Chittoriya Panchayat|
|2. Till the time work in not opened in Chittoriya Panchayat workers be given travel allowance as per the act.|
|3. Post office/bank accounts for many workers are still pending which would lead to delay in payments and therefore accounts need to be opened in a camp mode.|
|4. The work that has been started is a road which is not seen useful by the local residents and workers on the site. Therefore more useful work needs to be started.|
|Marangi, Pulhara and sahibnagar panchayats where works have not been opened demand that works be opened by tomorrow (11/9).|
|If the demands of all the above panchayats are not met the workers will be collectively visitng the block office on 12th november 2009.|
|We hope that we will have your support and solidarity for what may turn out to be a long struggle. We will keep you updated.
Kamayani, Ranjit, Ashish, Jitender, Deep Narayan and Shibu
Jan Jagaran Abhiyan, Azad Nagar, Araria
Dear Friends as you know the Jan Jagaran Abhiyan has been actively working in Bihar, specifically Araria district spreading awareness about the NREGA and helping workers to organise to get their entitlements under the NREGA. Our first Padyatra was held in November 2008 and since then two more padyatras have been organised in Araria block, Araria district, this is the first time that we are venturing outside Araria district for a padyatra in an effort to increase the organisation’s outreach and base.
The ‘kam mango padyatra’ is being organised from 5th October to 8th October, 2009, in view of the large scale opening of earth work after the monsoon break till 15th October, 2009.
We invite you to join us in this padyatra in Mansahi block of Katihar district.
As you know the JJA is a people’s organisation which runs on individual donations and we would appreciate getting any financial contribution from friends, supporters and wellwishers. For more information about the Abhiyan please do take a look at our website jjabihar.org which has been put together by some friends.
Note: Katihar can be reached by train directly from Delhi and Patna by Seemanchal Express. We would suggest all those wanting to join the padyatra to reach by 5th morning. Katihar can also be reached directly from Calcutta by train. If you are coming from any destination not lying on these routes please contact us. We will assemble at Katihar junction at 2 pm on the 5th.
Kamayani : 9771950248, Ashish : 9973363664, Ranjit : 9771899407
|Click here to download|
|Padayatra took place in five Panchayats of Araria block between 16th and 21st November 2008. The plan for the padayatra was
|Rozgar Diwas Protest:|
|he first padayatra in November focused on spreading awareness about the NREGA and also motivating workers to apply for work. Post Padyatra workers tried getting their applications received at the GP level, failing which a collective meeting with the PO was conducted on December 12th, 2008. The PO received work and job card applications.|
|Clockwise: Rozgar diwas, workers ask for work at GP Sharanpur (29-12-2008) and GP Kismat Khawaspur (28-12-2008)|
|Even when the NREGA states that workers demanding work should be given work within 15 days of their demand no works were opened even when the 15 days were over. Given this scenario workers and JJA supporters gathered at the 4 panchayats, on 29th December 2009, where they had asked for works with the slogan “kaam nahin to bhatta do”.|
|31st January 2009: Work started in Jamua GP, but disrupted by Mukhiya and Mukhiya pati, with their supporters. Next 5 days works opened but each day a new problem is faced like work venue is shifted almost daily, no muster roll is kept on site, workers report for work but are asked to come the next day.
Work also started in GP Chikni but stopped after 5 days.
2nd February 2009: A few elected representatives of Araria block convened a meeting, in Araria Dak Bangla, at which a one sided discourse against the activities of the JJA was made by the Jamua Mukhiya.
7th February 2009: So far works proportionate to demand have not been opened in any of the 6 panchayats from where demand has been made and no communication on the unemployment allowance has been received from the administration.
We were able to raise this issue of Araria block at a Jan Sunwai on NREGA held in Patna on February 9th, 2009, also attended by the Principal Secretary, Rural Development, Bihar Government. We were disappointed to hear the Principal Secretary say that the district administration had informed him that workers who had applied for work don’t turn up for work when notified. However the silver lining to this dark cloud is that the Secretary also informed us that he did not believe the reporting and would send a team from Patna to look into the matter.
So far things look well, given the MP, UP and Jharkhand experience where workers struggles have resulted in granting of unemployment allowance we are optimistic that our struggle will also meet a positive result. But at the same time our priority is to get work, a dire need in this high migration area. Once works open we are also planning to see how quality of works can be improved and useful works done and gram sabhas made functional to ensure this.
|Sangharsh Buland Hai, Nirman ki Tayyari Hai !|
| Latest developements:
Works were opened in all the six panchayats where workers had applied for work (around December 2008), our rough estimate is that works worth 18 lakhs were opened in these panchayats, after the jaanch (16-17th March).
|NREGA Works opened in JJA mobilized panchayats|
|Post Office accounts were opened in places where they had been pending for a long time. For example in Jamua GP no NREGA accounts had been opened till the time of the jaanch, but over 400 accounts have been opened since, meaning payments to workers can be made in these GPs without glitches.
Pending payments were made for works in Sharanpur and Jamua Gps.
These developments came at the end of a long journey, some of which you are already aware of and the rest follows…
As you may recall, from the last update, in a public meeting held on 9th February, 2009 in Patna the Principal Secretary, Rural Development, Bihar Government in a public forum said that the Araria district administration had stated that workers who apply for work under NREGA are not interested in working and so when asked to come to work they do not report. The Principal Secretary at the same time had stated that he did not believe this claim of the district administration and planned to send a ‘jaanch’ team to Araria to find out the truth.
|Report from District administration:|
|Our first focus then became getting a copy of the district administration’s report to the Department of Rural development, Bihar Government. The report, which we got a couple of days later, was a clear attempt at maligning the JJA and rubbishing the whole demand for work under the NREGA as a manipulation by the JJA. The report sent by the District Magistrate (DM), based on the report of the Programme Officer (PO), NREGA of Araria block was sent a day after our collective protest at the Araria NREGA office on 29th January, 2009. Below is a table giving the claims made in the administration’s report and an attempt to give the true picture from the JJA’s end:|
|Given the falsity of the report, we decided to take the report to the workers of Araria block. We spent days in our panchayats sharing the details of the reports. As an annexure to the report we found copies of two Gram Panchayat (GP) Mukhiyas stating that supporters and karyakartas of the Abhiyan like kamayani, ashish, Ranjit and Mahesh ji were ‘asamajik tatva’, meaning anti-social elements, and we shared these too with the workers and village residents. Sometimes the workers just laughed ‘kaam nahin karna chahte to Punjab haryana kyun jaate’ (If we did not want to work why would we go to Punjab-Haryana) but some things made them angry, for example the allegation that JJA had paid for their visits to the block, made many workers angry for visits to the block meant expenses that had to be covered by workers with little income, or long walks and cycle expeditions. After the sharing we would inform everyone about the upcoming jaanch from Patna.|
|An Unpardonable Shame|
|During one of our stays in Jamua Panchayat, we came to know of a sad episode in which the PO, Araria block had used fraud to scare workers of the panchayat to sign on some papers, supposedly stating that they did not want unemployment allowance and had only applied for work on the insistence of the JJA.
On February 5th a few workers from Jamua Panchayat went to an ongoing NREGA worksite. They were amongst the 48 workers who had applied for work but had not got work. They wanted to find out when they would be given work. The NREGA PO was also present at the worksite. In response to the workers queries the PO told them that JJA karyakartas, (Mahesh Kumar and Ranjit) had been arrested. He then rang up someone and put his phone on the speaker. Workers heard someone from the other side pleading for his release. The PO claimed this was Mahesk Kumar, a JJA supporter who had been active in mobilizing workers under the JJA banner. The voice said “mujhe maaf kar dijiye, mein phir aisa nahin karoonga, meri betiyon ki shaadi honi hai …”. The PO then said that a case had also been registered against the 48 local workers but he would ensure that the case was revoked provided the workers signed certain papers. Scared by what they had heard on the phone and believing the PO, the workers signed on papers provided to them by the PO. The PO then took one of them on his motorcycle to his village and got some more of the 48 workers to sign these papers, till a local worker started questioning the PO. Having got some 7-8 people to sign the PO then left the village.
We made the district administration aware of this episode, but did not hear back from them. At the same time we had sent a copy of this letter to the Principal Secretary wanting to be sure that the jaanch team would have a clear idea of the ground reality when they came to Araria.
|The jaanch and Work our priority|
|While the talk about the jaanch started in early February, the jaanch team would take longer to come to Araria than we thought. Around 9th March a little jittery that while the jaanch team was not visiting Araria no effort was being made by the block administration to open NREGA works and meet the local work demand, we decided to meet the Principal Secretary again. We went to talk to him earnestly emphasizing that people wanted work while the jaanch could happen at it’s own pace works needed to be opened immediately so that workers could get some work before works for the year 2007-08 were closed on 31st March.|
|Chandrama Singh, DDC Saharsa during Jaanch in G.P Kismat Khawaspur|
|As before the Principal Secretary's response was very positive and it was arranged that a jaanch team was organized and sent to Araria immediately. On 16th March members of the jaanch team arrived in Araria. The jaanch was transparent and JJA representatives were present during the jaanch procedure. We are not completely satisfied by the jaanch report. Though it pointed out the irregularities of the local administration, it failed to make a case for people’s entitlement to unemployment allowance and did not attempt to look into the intimidation used by the PO. However as of now the state administration has asked the DM Araria to identify those who are responsible for the irregularities found in the jaanch and take action. The state office has also promised us action against those responsible.
We see the jaanch as a fruitful exercise that has finally led to the opening of works in the GPs where a clear demand for work was raised. This is a signal that people’s demand will be heard provided there is a collective action and perseverance, combined with administrative responsiveness.
|Mobilisation for work: The JJA has planned to mobilize for the next round of work under the NREGA for the year 2009-2010. The next padyatra is scheduled in the next few days and will target to reach new tolas of GPs we already have a base in.
Observing worksites: We have tried to keep a record of the works opened in the GPs where works were opened after the jaanch. When we made a tally we found that none of the 14 worksites where works were opened had muster rolls on the site, when JJA supporters and workers visited, though attendance is to be taken only in the MR and the MR is to be kept at the worksite, according to the Act. Boards which are mandated in the Act, were found only on 5 worksites and facilities to be provided under the Act, like drinking water, medicines, shade and crèche for worker’s children below the age of 6, were found to be missing at most worksites. These lacunas are discussed with local workers and residents, making them aware of the gap between their entitlements and the reality. Moreover the local administration is also made aware of the situation.
|Nirman activities have as yet not picked up and their has been no special focus though it is a plan in our minds and we hope something more concrete will happen in the days to come.|