Mary Holmes of Action Village India recommends a Guardian article and writes:
“In summary the Indian Government seemed amazingly helpful & 4 ministers came to Gwalior to talk to Rajagopal . Although in principle Jairam Ramesh, the Development Minister, agreed with most of Ekta’s points he didn’t want to sign anything or make formal commitments. So the march went ahead”.
Tens of thousands of landless peasant farmers gathered in Gwalior in north India on October 3rd to march to the capital, New Delhi and demand their right to land.
Jairam Ramesh, the minister for rural development, travelled there to convince the marchers to abandon their plan to walk to Delhi.
Delay after delay? He promised a draft for a national land reform policy within 6 months time, which could then be discussed and finalised.
At a public meeting on Tuesday, he listed measures which he said the government had taken to help India’s rural poor and invited Rajagopal to a meeting in Delhi in nine days.
But the organisers refused to abandon the march and it went ahead as planned. Around 50,000 protesters from 26 states hope to draw the Centre’s attention to the plight of the landless poor. They will have covered a distance of about 320 km by October 28.
In 2007 a similar march resulted in a series of measures which helped, they said, but did not go far enough or were not fully implemented.
Legislation has long been pending to simplify India’s complex mechanisms for compensating those forced to quit land to make way for the major projects.
Ramtha Yadav, 26, had travelled for two days twith nearly 500 other landless labourers from Uttar Pradesh, where many social and economic indicators are worse than in parts of sub-Saharan Africa. He said: “We need to march because we cannot trust the government, whatever the minister says. He talks about new laws but how will they actually be enforced on the ground? We have no land even for a shelter, without even thinking about farming. When it rains we live under trees.”
On October 2nd, a senior leader of Ekta Parishad, Ramesh Sharma detailed the demands of Jan Satyagraha. The 19 demands to be addressed and discussed with the government include undertakings:
- to formulate a land reform policy,
- to pass a law ensuring that every homeless family get homestead land,
- to effectively implement laws in favour of Adivasis like the Forest Rights Act,
- and to set up fast track courts to address the land issues of poor people, giving equal rights to land for women and men.
Zee News reports that, to express solidarity with the landless tribals, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Wednesday joined the march in Agra. He reached Agra this morning [10th] and addressed the protesters.
A petition was launched yesterday by Avaaz. This is a great opportunity for Jan Satyagraha to get more visibility and to put more pressure on the government to address the demands of marginalized communities of India seriously. Sign the petition online, and spread the message! www.avaaz.org/Jan_Satyagraha_2012