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2012 update

9 Dec

Our last update to you was in May, where one of our volunteers shared the excitement created by the Mazdoor mela in Katihar. Since then, we have organized and participated in several activities, both locally and nationally. Our work can be broadly categorized into five themes:

  1. NREGA and related activities
  2. Strengthening the sangathan by building democracy within
  3. Creating awareness and politicization of workers
  4. Building linkages with organizations involved in the larger struggle
  5. Laying a new foundation, or buniyadi nirmaan, through JJSS children’s club

This update also contains our accounts statement for the last six months. In addition to the membership fees, the sangathan relies on individual donations from friends, supporters, and well-wishers to support our activities. Thank you for your continued encouragement and support. Zindabad!

1.  NREGA and related activitiesWorkers Marching

Summer is the most active period for NREGA as lack of agricultural work makes employment provided through NREGA as the sole means of sustenance for majority of our members. Thus, a large portion of our time is spent in ensuring proper functioning of the scheme, including demand registration, opening of works to cater to this demand, tracking and resolving payment issues. [Click here to read about the padyatras, the firing of Jokihat P.O., the maha-ralla in Katihar, its fall-out, the battle in Parihari, the late payment survey, JJSS mobile radio, moving beyond NREGA, and more…]

2.  Building democracy within

DSC02040

Karyakarini Meet was attended by around 200 committee members of various units

Maturity of an organization can be measured by the way information flows in it and how it leads to the decision making process. Our vision for JJSS was to create a decentralized system where decisions are made at the local level, based on a two-way information flow from rest of the organization. The last update mentioned the formation of the first unit in Choukta; we are now over 26 units strong and closer to the vision of decentralized planning and local decision making bodies. [Click here to read about the karyakarni meeting, the distribution of sangathans’ flags, the evolution in sangathan’s membership drive, and more…]

3.  Politicization of workers

‘Bin lade kuch bhi yahan milta nahin yah jaan kar, ab ladai lad rahe hain log mere gaon ke’

This year we made a concerted effort to reach out to our saathis and talk about the various divides along the lines of caste, gender, religion and class. To get there, we used creative mediums like drama and songs to depict the realities of our lives. We also made some innovative banners comparing salaries and other benefits of Government employees vs. NREGA workers, which had stuck in the mind of saathis who had seen similar banners made in the Rajasthan Mazdoor Hak Satyagraha of 2009. [Click here to read about our first drama workshop and book release, watch our saathis perform, how we are overcoming gender and occupational divides, and more…]

4.  Linkages outside

NAPM Raly in Patna joined by various organisations

NAPM Rally in Patna joined by various organisations

The JJSS works locally in a few districts of Bihar, but to be heard by a system which has little concern for the voices of the poor, organisations like ours need larger linkages. With this in mind the JJSS has been part of larger platforms, alliances and campaigns. [Click here to read about our involvement with pension parishad, RTF campaign, jan sansad, ICDS social audit, NAPM, and more…]

5.  Buniyadi Nirmaan

Nyaya, Samanta. Two flags with these words fluttered near the group of youngsters gathered on this Sunday morning. Did they remember what these words meant? Related to justice and equality, came the reply from Nisha, one of the more active and responsible kids. She and rest of the group is a part of the buniyaadi nirmaan, the new foundation that is being laid through JJSS children’s club in Araria RS. The club meets every Sunday morning for two hours and engages in both physical and intellectual activities. Games like kabaddi, leader-leader, and dodge-ball are followed by educational game where kids have to walk on India’s map and locate the mentioned state, blind-folded. [Click here to read about our hope for the children’s club, their trip to NAPM national convention in Kerela, and more…]

6.  Accounts

For 1st April, 2012 to 19th November, 2012

Expense Head Expense in Rs.
honorarium 140900.00
mazdoor mela 92766.00
travel 68171.70
2 karyakarani meetings 42796.00
printing 30580.00
communication (mobile recharge, mailing etc.) 27793.00
office (with rent for 17 months @1000 per month) 18357.00
food 14821.00
awareness 13880.00
stationery 12994.00
public meeting 12291.00
misc. 6484.00
photocopy 5156.50
audit fee 750.00
Total Expenditure 487740.20

Total Donation: 524733 Rupees (including annual membership of Rs. 50 per member)

Appeal for funds

DSC02048

JJSS saathi making small financial contribution at a meeting

The sangathan has so far not taken institutional funds, it has been running on individual donations from friends, supporters and well-wishers, you can support our activities; you could send us your contribution in Indian Rupees. The sangathan has registered as a Trade Union; we maintain our accounts and issue receipts for the donations we receive.

Donations can be sent in the form of cash, cheque and online transfer.

Send a cheque in the name of “Jan Jagaran Shakti Sangathan” to the following address: A-5 Siddharth Apartment, Jagdeo Path, Patna-800014, Bihar.   For online transfer please write to Ashish Ranjan ashish.ranjanjha@gmail.com or kamayani swami at kamayani02@yahoo.com.

Note: When you send us your donation, please drop us a line. In the past, we have had donations that could not be identified. In case you would want your name to be anonymous, please feel free to mention the same.

December 9th, 2012

For the JJSS, Bihar (www.jjabihar.org)

Ranjit Paswan, Shivnarayan, Arvind Kumar, Prithvichand Rishidev, Tanveer Alam, Arun Yadav, Buchiya Devi, Neela Devi, Deepnarayan Paswan, Krishna Kumar Singh, kamayani swami and Ashish Ranjan

Special thanks to the volunteers (Apoorva, Anindita, Sharan, Sushmita, Vibhore) for their help in writing this update.

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[2012 update] Accounts

9 Dec

For 1st April, 2012 to 19th November, 2012

Expense Head

Expense in Rupees

honorarium

140900.00

mazdoor mela

92766.00

travel

68171.70

2 karyakarani meetings

42796.00

printing

30580.00

communication (mobile recharge, mailing etc.)

27793.00

office (with rent for 17 months @1000 per month)

18357.00

food

14821.00

awareness

13880.00

stationery

12994.00

public meeting

12291.00

misc.

6484.00

photocopy

5156.50

audit fee

750.00

Total Expenditure

487740.20

Total Donation: 524733 Rupees (including annual membership of Rs. 50 per member)

Appeal for funds

The Sangathan has so far not taken institutional funds, it has been running on individual donations from friends, supporters and well-wishers, you can support our activities; you could send us your contribution in Indian Rupees. The Sangathan has registered as a Trade Union; we maintain our accounts and issue receipts for the donations we receive.

Donations can be sent in the form of cash, cheque and online transfer.

Send a cheque in the name of “Jan Jagaran Shakti Sangathan” to the following address: A-5 Siddharth Apartment, Jagdeo Path, Patna-800014, Bihar.   For online transfer please write to Ashish Ranjan ashish.ranjanjha@gmail.com or kamayani swami at kamayani02@yahoo.com.

Note: When you send us your donation, please drop us a line .In the past we have had donations we have not been able to identify. In case you would want your name to be anonymous please feel free to mention the same.

December 9th, 2012

For the JJSS, Bihar (www.jjabihar.org)

Ranjit Paswan, Shivnarayan, Arvind Kumar, Prithvichand Rishidev, Tanveer Alam, Arun Yadav, Buchiya Devi, Neela Devi, Deepnarayan Paswan, Krishna Kumar Singh, kamayani swami and Ashish Ranjan

[2012 update] Buniyadi Nirmaan

9 Dec

Nyaya, Samanta. Two flags with these words fluttered near the group of youngsters gathered on this Sunday morning. Did they remember what these words meant? Related to justice and equality, came the reply from Nisha, one of the more active and responsible kids. She and rest of the group is a part of the buniyaadi nirmaan, the new foundation that is being laid through JJSS children’s club in Araria RS. The club meets every Sunday morning for two hours and engages in both physical and intellectual activities. Games like kabaddi, leader-leader, and dodge-ball are followed by educational game where kids have to walk on India’s map and locate the mentioned state, blind-folded.

Latter turned out to be a great preparation for the six children who accompanied the JJSS contingent to NAPM’s national convention in Thrissur, Kerala. By exposing the children to the larger world out there, we hope to broaden their perspective on a variety of issues. Representatives from 16 states, different types of fruits like cashew and pepper, self-motivation and the command of English language, mountains, elephants, acknowledging gender-based discrimination – when we heard this diverse list of favorite things about the trip from the children, we knew the seed of curiosity had been sown. We look forward to nurturing it through many more activities and spreading it across the district.

[2012 update] Building linkages outside

9 Dec

The JJSS works locally in a few districts of Bihar, but to be heard by a system which has little concern for the voices of the poor, organisations like ours need larger linkages. With this in mind the JJSS has been part of larger platforms, alliances and campaigns.

1.        Involvement with the Pension Parishad and Right to Food Campaign

On January 6th, 2012 a singular representative attended the Pension Parishad mobilisation in Delhi. It was touching to see old people from over 16 states attend the dharna, with the demand for a Two Thousand rupee per month pension for aged people, who had once toiled for the development of the country. When the experience and demands of the pension parishad were shared in the JJSS, it found immediate acceptance and an 80 member delegation attended the dharna held in Delhi on the pension and the Right to Food Act demands. The two day dharna held on 28-29 August, 2012.

APL BPL khatam karo, sab ko ration pension do!

Pension do! Tension nahin!

Is mein na koi shak hai! Ration humara hak hai!

2.      Local involvement with RTF campaign

On 10th Nov 2012, an aam sabha was called by JJSS to welcome the ‘khadya suraksha yatra’ in Aamgachi, Sikti; an active but distant village bordering Nepal. Despite weather trying its best to play spoilsport, a crowd of about hundred people participated in the three hour long meeting. Local people described the poor condition of the existing PDS, the corruption, the leakage; they talked about the pension system and its follies, followed by speeches by Ritwij and Rupeshji on the aim of the yatra, the issues at stake and the need to mobilize for a stringer RTF Act. Saathis from the JJSS reemphasized two points: first, we can fight our local battles here but for a strong ‘kanoon’ we will have to go talk to the law makers in Delhi. Second, going to Delhi means being there in large numbers and so we must prepare and organize ourselves. Read the full update here.

3.      Jan Sansad – Saansads from the JJSS

Niriya Devi and Ranjit Paswan represented the JJSS as jan saansads in Delhi in August, 2012, in the jan sansad organised by the NAPM. A write up and photo of Saansad Ranjit addressing the sansad can be seen at the NAPM site. About a 100 member delegation participated in the rally held on Parliament Street, at the end of the jan sansad on 23rd March, 2012. More recently a group of 53 organisations from across the country, including the JJSS, organised a Jan Sansad from 26th to 30th November, 2012, during the winter session of the Lok Sabha. A ten member delegation of saansads from the JJSS participated in the Sansad. The Jan Sansad started by reaffirming its faith in the Indian Constitution and taking an oath to strengthen it. The Peoples’ Manifesto adopted on the last day of the Jan Sansad, proceedings from each day, press releases etc. can be found here.

4.  ICDS Social Audit in Motihari District

JJSS started the process of social audit in Bihar in December 2009 with Jamua social audit. Since then several audits have been conducted and slowly it has been expanding to cover more schemes (ICDS and Old Age Pension) and more districts. From the beginning it has been a conscious effort to involve multiple groups and to train volunteers so that the social audit is taken up at other places where JJSS doesn’t work directly.  A district level social audit of ICDS was organised in E. Champaran district in May-June, 2012 by ICDS Directorate in collaboration with four organisations including JJSS.  A large number of saathis and student volunteers participated in the SA exercise, which lasted almost one month. Like in Araria, these audits too showed massive financial discrepancies in the Anganwadis (in the tune of 52 % in Take Home ration). More than 20 volunteers from various universities across India participated with great enthusiasm and learnt some hard facts about rural life. Block wise report of the Audit can be accessed here.

Volunteer perspective from Apoorva (DU student)

The extensive social audit done for the ICDS scheme helped all of us to understand the necessity of social audits per se. Several of our student volunteers from Katihar and other places received training in understanding essential schemes, doing fieldwork and building capacity of other organisations and working collectively.  The everyday work of collecting information, interviews, planning meetings and the overall experience offered valuable training to the volunteers. The financial and other discrepancies were revealed in the public hearings that were conducted at the end of the audit in each panchayat. The public hearings became a crucial platform where several locals, especially women, spoke. Also, the Anganwadi Sevikas got to put forward their issues and difficulties of the job. The audit work and the public hearings were both an experience of learning and politicisation for all volunteers.

5.  NAPM Bihar State Convention

JJSS was one of the organizers of the NAPM Bihar state conference held on 14th October 2012 in Patna. Despite a slip disc, Medha Patkar participated in the conference, enthusing 150 attendees from various organizations in the state. We salute saathi Medha Patkar’s spirit. The conference was organized in four sessions: the inaugural speeches focused on the conference theme of politics and alternative development. Representatives from various people’s organizations from across Bihar who attended the conference, addressed the conference during the second session, raising issues of education, displacement, healthcare, water etc. based on their day to day organizational experiences. The organizational structure of NAPM Bihar was finalized in the third session with a 36 member coordination committee, six conveners, and two representatives for the NAPM national convener’s team. At the end of the conference, a strategy of including the marginalized communities in the larger struggle was ratified. We hope this will lead to strengthening of various people’s movements.

6.  NAPM National Convention

The 9th NAPM national convention was held in the Sal Sabil Green School in Thrissur, Kerela from 17th to 19th November 2012. A seventeen member contingent of the JJSS participated in the convention. There were over 500 participants from about 20 states. Along with plenaries, separate group discussions were also held on various issues like land acquisition, people’s control over natural resources, commercialisation of education, gender, and struggles of NREGA workers.  The seven youth participant of JJSS also participated in the special session for youth representatives. Our children had a lot of nice things to say about the organizing school.

7.  Press conference on NREGA

There is a storm brewing in Bihar around the NREGA, fueled by the lack of funds and controversy around the report on corruption. While these controversies can be sorted out, the primary focus of the Government has to be on providing 100 days of employment to workers who desperately need work. With this aim, a press conference was called by JJSS in association with other organizations. Some of the main demands raised were: the Government should acknowledge that there is corruption in NREGA and transparency measures like regular social audit needs to be implemented. Here is the press release.

[2012 update] Politicization of workers

9 Dec

‘Bin lade kuch bhi yahan milta nahin yah jaan kar, ab ladai lad rahe hain log mere gaon ke’

This year we made a concerted effort to reach out to our saathis and talk about the various divides along the lines of caste, gender, religion and class. To get there, we used creative mediums like drama and songs to depict the realities of our lives. We also made some innovative banners comparing salaries and other benefits of Government employees vs. NREGA workers, which had stuck in the mind of saathis who had seen similar banners made in the Rajasthan Mazdoor Hak Satyagraha of 2009.

1.       Drama workshop in Araria

With the help of saathi Shiv (from Alaripu) and Saathi Shanker ji (from MKSS), we conducted our first drama workshop in Araria. Trainees included: Kalanand Mandal, Brahmanand Rishidev, Prithvi Rishidev, Chandeshwari Rishidev, Johan Marandi, Siken Yadav from Raniganj block; Vimlal Sada, Shivnarayan and kamayani from Araria; Deepnarayan Paswan, Jiten, Chettan Rishidev, Laldev Rishidev and Dallu Rishidev from Katihar. Our first play was a nukkad natak on the plight of migrant workers and was enacted at Chandni Chowk, Araria. This was followed by enactments at the karyakarni meeting in Araria, and meetings in GPs Mohanpur and Parihari. The script and original songs were composed and written by our saathis during the course of the workshop. The rawness of our worker turned actors, who are essentially reenacting scenes from their lives, connected very well with the audiences in all these places.

The workshop itself helped us think not only of acting skills and the ease with which we communicate with the audience, but why we had come together, what the sangathan wanted to achieve etc.

According to Saathi Shiv the strengths of the Sangathan are:

humari sankhya, humari takat!

(matbhed ho par saathiyon mein manbhed nahin hona chahiye )

— kaam ka uddeshya saaf hona chaahiye

— jaankaaree honi chahiye

— sansadhan hone chahiye

2.       Sangathan ke geet

Another outcome of the drama workshop, our first book of songs was released at the working committee meeting in Araria on Sep 22, 2012. It is a collection of songs by our own saathis like Jiten, Shivnarayan and sometimes a collective effort of saathis, and also a collection of songs from sangathans across the country. The book has been received very well by our members, selling out at each of the events. We have sold almost all the 1500 copies of the first print, each at a suggested contribution of Rs. 10.

3.       Overcoming the gender divide

Whether it was the increasing number of female saathis taking leadership positions in the sangathan, or their independent journeys without male companions, the sangathan took some important steps in overcoming the gender divide. Probably the most noticeable case was of that of our female saathis overcoming the doubts of their male counterparts by traveling alone in the ladies coach from Delhi to Katihar, after a rally in Delhi. Not stopping there, three female saathis independently traveled to the UN women’s dialog on “women’s participating in NREGA” in Lucknow, aptly represented the sangathan, and returned safely much to the disbelief of the male members J Hopefully, these episodes will lead to a more equitable role playing in the future and a realization that adult women can define their own paths!

4.       Bringing mazdoors and kisans on the same platform

Senior socialist leader, Sunil Bhai of Kisan Adivasi Sangathan of Madhya Pradesh, spent time on 8th Nov 2012 with representatives and saathis of four units in GP Chittoriya of Katihar. In this meeting he talked extensively about the need for a common school system, and it was an immediate hit with our saathis as it resonated with their default setting.

The second meeting was with a group of small peasants of Chittoriya. Though their economic condition is similar to those of our members, they have not been able to join the sangathan as they see the sangathan as only an organization fighting for NREGA entitlement. We were able to break the ice with our mazdoor-kisan saathis with Sunil bhai talking about the crisis in Indian agriculture, and sangathan painting the larger vision of a just and equitus society. So far the commitment is to hold a larger meeting of the small peasants and members of the union in January 2013, hoping that we could come together in the larger struggle.

[2012 update] Building democracy within

9 Dec

Maturity of an organization can be measured by the way information flows in it and how it leads to the decision making process. Our vision for JJSS was to create a decentralized system where decisions are made at the local level, based on a two-way information flow from rest of the organization. The last update mentioned the formation of the first unit in Choukta; we are now over 26 units strong and closer to the vision of decentralized planning and local decision making bodies.

1.       Connected at all levels

During the past six months, meetings were held at all the levels of the sangathan. At the district level, a karyakarni meeting was held in Araria on Sep 22-23, 2012. This was attended by the core committee of JJSS, working committees of 20+ local units, and many regular members. Terapant bhavan, a regular venue for sangathan’s yearly meetings, had aptly morphed into sangathan’s headquarter, with posters adorning its walls, and 200+ members in its premises. Despite the crowd belonging from different parts of Araria, Katihar and Purnea, one could sense the familial atmosphere, and a bond that develops over regular interactions and joint efforts. Over eight sessions spread over two days; attendees discussed work done during the last six months, challenges faced, and developed near-term action plan. Some of the other highlights of the meeting included release of Sangathan’s first book, and two external attendees: Madhuresh bhai, National organizer for NAPM and Pasharul bhai from Bengal.

At the block level, working committees from Araria met in Kismat Khabaspur on Nov 11th to follow-up on their September resolutions. This meeting was attended by the local P.R.S. who wanted to be relieved of one additional panchayat that was placed under him, and also informed us that the delays in measurement and opening of works stemmed from having only one Junior Engineer (J.E.) for the entire block, while four are officially sanctioned. This overloading of implementing agency staff is a major reason for delays and the same was highlighted in our meeting with the Secretary, Rural Development.

2.       Our flags, our cards

Sangathan members have proudly carried their membership cards as a link to a larger association. This year, the link has been strengthened by the addition of the membership flag. These flags were distributed to the unit-level working committees, and it has been heartening to see them hoisted over member’s houses across the district. Additionally, membership renewal drive was conducted in several GPs, and new cards were issued to recently joined members. Some lessons – increase the size of the flag and every member should fly a flag not just committee members.

3.       Growing through local units

Another step in sangathan’s evolution is when its growth becomes a distributed process. This year, we noticed lessening of dependence on full-timers for membership drive as same is being taken-up by active local-level volunteers. Family and village-based connections carry a lot of weight in rural India, and as members talked about JJSS within their circles, requests for holding awareness meeting started coming-in. Following this process, unit in Choukta led to the formation of new unit in Pachiyyari Pipra, and Amgachhi unit reached across relatives in Kursakata block to organize an awareness and membership drive in Laxmipur and Shankarpur panchayats.

Parihari: Finding a balance between the Hare and the Tortoise

Most Parihari villagers heard about JJSS for the first time during this summer’s padyatra. By September, over 600 membership cards were issued by handful of local volunteers, and a large contingent reached the working committee meeting in Araria, onboard a tractor! They followed it by a meeting in Parihari on Sep 28th where six local units were formed, and their working committees elected. But it became evident during the meeting that many had got the card out of a habit of getting such cards (job card, smart card, aadhar card – Govt. does its bit to inculcate this habit). So another meeting was called for Oct 18th, and an open discussion followed about sangathan, what it stood for, how it works etc. It was decided to temporarily stop membership enrollment, and focus on getting full NREGA entitlement for the existing members.

[2012 update] NREGA and related activities

9 Dec

Summer is the most active period for NREGA as lack of agricultural work makes employment provided through NREGA as the sole means of sustenance for majority of our members. Thus, a large portion of our time is spent in ensuring proper functioning of the scheme, including demand registration, opening of works to cater to this demand, tracking and resolving payment issues. Here is a summary of these activities:

1.       Padyatras for creating awareness

Active saathis of the sangathan, including whole timers took the responsibility of reaching out to unorganized workers in new areas through padyatras. During these, workers were informed about NREGA, the entitlements provided by the law, and applications for job card and demand registration were filled on the spot. In the padyatras we reached out to workers in over 30 Gram Panchayats, and written demand registration was done for over 5500 workers. A summary table of the same can be found here.

Getting started in Purnia district!

We have been trying to expand our activities in neighboring Purnia district. After conducting 2-3 meetings, and explaining the process of getting employment through NREGA, we were able to submit demand application. But no work got opened. So, we met the P.O. (Srinagar) regarding opening of new works. A new problem showed up after work was opened, when many first time NREGA workers without job cards and passbooks came to the worksite. Some of them even worked for a week before it was realized that they didn’t have the requisite documents. Again, we convinced the P.R.S. to accept job card applications on site, and once the paper trail was complete, 156 workers got their first 2 weeks of employment under NREGA. The next padyatra in Purnea is planned in the second week of December.

2.    Getting workers their dues

While demand registration and opening of new works is a constant struggle, it is the delayed or non-payment of wages that remains the most highlighted issue. In Choukta GP, Jokihat, 37 workers had worked for 6 days in May, but only got paid last week, a delay of over 6 months, after repeated intervention from JJSS. What is bothering about such situations is the continued apathy of concerned Government employees. In this case, Programme Officer (P.O.), Jokihat continued to give misinformation regarding the payment status to both JJSS and the District Magistrate (DM) Araria, who ultimately decided he had enough, and dismissed the P.O. from service on grounds of non-performance. But the story does not end here under pressure the mukhiya has been making payments and has already paid 14 workers, but has kept the payment of the rest pending.

Like the Choukta mukhiya there are also other elected representatives who are responsible for payment issues. One such story came out during the summer survey in Kharhat GP, Raniganj, where it was found that the ward member, Kulanand Rishidev, had withheld partial payments from workers. It was decided to have an open meeting on June 25th, 2012, where over Rs. 14,000 of withheld payments was distributed to 18 workers in presence of the P.R.S., elected representatives, and JJSS members. Interestingly Kulanand has been a saathi of the JJSS and had even been to the Shillong convention of the NCPRI, with the JJSS team, but has been defaulting since he became a ward member.

3.     The Katihar Protest (July 19th, 2012)

Non-availability of works, pending payments, and hearing without redress were some of the reasons that drove thousands of workers on the streets of Katihar on 19th July 2012. For a long time, Katihar had not seen such a large street protest. Upon seeing thousands of workers march through the streets of Katihar, visual media commented “why this maha-ralla?” We have little support in the town of Katihar and our work is primarily identified with the villages around the city. And so, when one of our saathis went to find out which was the designated place to protest outside the DMs office, she was told by the local tent-house that “all protests involve 100-200 people and sit outside the DM’s gate”. When we reached, we were over 2500 people, so we walked right through the gates, and waited for the DM to come out. But the magistrate had no time to meet the so few of us.

Workers Marching

The DM ignored thousands of workers who demanded his time, but obliged those who pleaded for his time in the junta durbar.

Despite a heavy downpour, all of us stuck together and waited for the delegation to come back, and only left after assurance of action was given. Some action resulted from the protest (hundreds of workers’ wages were paid), but the most important thing was that we were able to assert our fundamental right of collective protest in a public space. This space has been shrinking across India, especially in the small towns, as can be seen when the DM didn’t deem it fit to come and meet the protestors. In a lighter vain, we want to share a phrase that we coined at the protest: “DM hum se sharmata hai, milne se ghabrata hai.” This is different from the usual slogan: “DM hum se darta ha, police ko aage karta hai”. But there were no armed forces in preventing us from entering the premises.

Fall-out – Jariban in Jail!

Marangi’s mukhia is much feared in the area, but one women saathi, Jariban Khatun, had the courage to invite the sangathan to her tola during the mobilization for the protest. She fearlessly mobilized for the protest and vocally stated that mukhia and his middlemen had kept the passbooks and withheld payments for a long time. On the day of the protest rally, she was one of the vocal leaders, and gave a written statement which implicated the mukhia. Soon after the protest, Jariban was framed in a false criminal case of abetment of a rape. Jariban has been denied bail from the district court and has been in jail for the past one month. We are helping her fight for bail in the Patna High court.

4.     Speaking-up against the landlords

Parihari is like one of those nondescript villages shown in the movies. It belongs to a different era. A Brahmin zamindaar turned mukhia lords over the majority dalit population in this interior village (which takes an hour to get there from Ranigunj block). The recent buzz around sangathan activities (see section 2.3) didn’t get unnoticed by the local power structures, and they exerted their control by threatening JJSS members. “Tumhe tumhare baap ki tarah goli maar denge” and “tumhara doosra haath bhi tod ke Punjab bhej denge” – Bablu Jha, mukhia’s middleman, tried to scare away Subodh Yadav and Parmanand Rishidev, two of the active members. The P.O. Ranigunj was immediately informed and asked to attend the public meeting in Parihari on Oct 16. There, in addition to the above threats, several other issues of delayed and withheld payments, job cards without passbooks, and ward member acting as implementing agency were highlighted by the hundred strong crowd. P.O. has assured resolution of these complaints, but this battle for changing existing power equations and entering a new era, is just getting started.

5.       Late payment survey

Three padyatras and a late payment survey were conducted this summer by JJSS members and student volunteers. The survey covered 7 panchayats. Muster rolls and pay advices for about 36 works were first collected from the P.O. at the block. Volunteers then visited the households of sample of workers from each pay advice and verified payment against their statements and entries in their passbooks. To calculate delays at various stages, date of completion of muster roll, date of submission of advice, date of credit in workers’ accounts and date of payment according to workers were compared to track the flow of final wage payments to beneficiaries. These are some of the preliminary findings:

  • It takes about 37 days to make payments as opposed to the 15 day limit stipulated in the Act.
  • The main delay is in the preparation of the Payment Advice which takes 26 days on an average
  • The Post Office takes about a week to process payments

Pay advices for bunched muster rolls i.e. more than one muster roll typically take a week longer. However, the post offices seem to work considerably faster on these musters thereby cutting down the difference between bunched and non-bunched musters to a negligible 3 days. In 40% of the cases muster rolls were bunched. Delayed wage payment compensation has been filed for Mansahi Chittoriya and Mohanpur GPs in Katihar district; Baghnagar, Chatar, Jamua, Sharanpur, and Choukta GPs in Araria district.

6.       Phone radio to going online: strengthening communication via technology

As part of NREGA, each state is required to maintain its expenditure records online. These contain valuable information about wages paid, ongoing project expenses etc., but are not practically accessible by the rural population who are the main stakeholders in NREGA. JJSS is partnering on a research project initiated by LibTech at Stanford University to make such information accessible to the workers over mobile phones using voice and text based mediums. The system will also be designed to receive feedback from the worker. As part of the initial pilot, Vibhore, who also happens to be an active JJSS volunteer, provided hardcopies of printed reports to sangathan members. The same were received quite enthusiastically by the members.

Another technology trial involved using Awaaz.De based voice messaging system over mobile to improve the information flow within the sangathan. The ability to have their voice message broadcasted to 300 numbers simultaneously really excited our saathis, and they have used the system to record meeting notifications, updates, feedback, and more. In the future, we hope to roll out the system to all our members. Click here to listen to a broadcasted message from Ranjit ji on meeting update.

Using IT to get a road made!

When the printout of ongoing works was given to the unit members of Rampur Kodarkatti, Araria, they immediately pointed out that no RCC soling was done on the road between Prasad Singh’s and Navin Singh’s house (RC/340), even though an expense of Rs. 3.78 lakhs for bricks was shown in the list. Upon contacting the PRS, he admitted to the mistake and promised to start the RCC soling immediately. We also met the new mukhiya who was quick to call the PRS and get his name cleared (the money was withdrawn before his term). Within few weeks of raising the issue, the PRS got the bricks delivered and the RCC soling completed!

7.       Making Gram Sabhas work

Individual asset creation has been made a focus for NREGA 2.0. For 2012-13, new projects like toilets, animal shelters, vermi-composting, and poultry were added to the approved list of works. Since there was hardly any awareness about these changes, including at the P.R.S. level, we made it our responsibility to create awareness before the 2nd October, Gram Sabha. Using brochures, discussions in meetings, and mobile radio messages, we informed a large percentage of our members about these schemes. When Gram Sabhas in the entire state were reconvened on Nov 22nd to complete necessary paperwork, we ensured that information about the same reached out to the GPs, and followed it up by personally monitoring some of them. The gram sabhas made us so clearly realise how many sangathan members could not apply for individual works in NREGA, because saathis own little or no land, has been one of the reasons for the land survey going on in GP Sharanpur (since 8th Dec., 2012), with the help of student volunteers Chandan and Sambodhi (from DU).

8.       Mobilizing beyond NREGA

There are no easy pickings in the life of a landless laborer. Every bit, from health to education to employment to social security is a constant struggle, with land ownership being the most cherished and elusive. Having mobilized our members to get their entitlements under NREGA, we’ve started doing the same for these other issues.

In Koshkapur Uttar, Raniganj, 29 families were given patta (title) for 8 decimals of land about 5 years ago. But possession of the land remained elusive as the concerned officials were unwilling to measure and identify their piece of land. So, we met with the Deputy Collector Land Reforms (DCLR), Circle Officer (C.O.), Circle Inspector (C.I.) or Siyahi, Karamchari, and Ameen to resolve the problem. After repeated follow-ups during the last six months, 20 families were given their piece of land, and the remaining 9 families will get it soon. In addition, 94 families have been given 3 decimal land pattas.

Similarly, concerted effort on resolving other problems like non-payment of pension, obtaining certificates under RTPS, disabled benefits, and legal cases was done from our end. And there are many more battles to fight!

Reclaiming the lost land of Baidyanathpur School!

Our saathis in Araria found that the land belonging to a school in their own ward was getting encroached, and decided to vigorously pursue this case with the local administration. Even though the school had been donated 120 decimals of land, its possession was limited to just 30 decimals as the rest was being cultivated by the donor’s family. After repeated complaints and follow-up with the administration, the DM finally issued an order to the concerned officials to identify and measure the land. There is still some way to go before the school gets its rightful share.