January 23rd, 2012 : Thousands of workers associated with the JJSS marched through the streets of Araria town in support of the Lok Shakti Abhiyan. Slogans like 'ladenge! jeetenge' 'office office bhrashtachaari' 'duniya ke mazdooron ek ho' 'kamaanewaala khayega! Lootanewaalaa jaayega! Naya zamaana aayega! Kaun laayega hum laayenge!' 'har haath ko kaam do!kaam ka poora daam do!'' 'hum sab! Ek hain!' filled the air. You can capture a glimpse of the rally here
The rally started from the Town Hall grounds in Araria. Before the rally the situation of those gathered was illustrated by the fact that when the gathering was asked 'How many of you donot have agricultural land?" and 'How many are waiting for their MNREGA wages from over two weeks?" almost all three thousand hands went up. It was clear that the poor, marginalised, landless workers of Araria were working for a government which was too poor to give them work or wages on time but just rich enough to implement the Sixth Pay Commission for it's employees, making wages of one principal secretary over 1,00,000 rupees a month, about 3300 rupees a day as against the wage of 144 for unskilled manual labour. And this is where the immense support from the JJSS for the lok shakti abhiyan, which among many issues has questioned where the principle of equality and socialism that was to guide the Indian nation according to the constitution has gone. This is especially relevant today on 26th January 2012... sixty two years after the Indian constitution was enacted and the preamble of the Indian constitution was given as ...
"WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:
JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;
and to promote among them all
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation;
IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION."
The rally culminated in an aam sabha held at the Town Hall Grounds, Araria. The aam sabha was addressed by those travelling with the Abhiyan from outside Bihar, Madhuresh (National Organiser, NAPM), J P Singh (Samajwadi Jan Parishad, UP), Rajendra Ravi (Delhi) and Roshan lal Agarwal (Chattisgarh). Other saathis travelling with the yatra included Pushpraj, Nagesh Tripathi, Arjun Singh, Thakur Devendra, Ashu, Amar and Ashok ji. The rally was also addressed by victims and survivors of the Forbesganj police firing Md. Farooq Ansari, Bibi Tahiran, Md Anjar Alam and Dayyan (Anhad). On 24th Jan, Medha Patkar, who couldn't make it to the Araria meeting on 23rd, met the people of Bhajanpur. You can watch her interaction here
In this age of growing inequality, corruption, centralised planning the Lok Shakti Abhiyan was started by the NAPM (National Alliance of Peoples' Movements' on December 20th, 2011 and reached Bihar in it's third phase on January 23rd, 2012. Though senior activist and national convenor of the NAPM Medha Patkar was also scheduled to come to the rally and aam sabha organised in Araria, she was unable to reach as she was delayed by a series of three accidents she met with. Medha ji escaped unhurt but was thrown out of schedule. In her address to the rally over the phone, she promised to be there in the future.
Social Security Pension Social Audit and after
Scheduled to be held in July-August, 2011 the pension social audit could not be done as scheduled because of non-availability of information. Due to a positive intervention by Mr. Paundrik, one of the few responsive officers in the current administrative hierarchy, the information related to the SA was finally made available in December, 2011 and the social audit was done in the transition from 2011 to 2012, and the final public hearing was held on 5th January, 2012 in Araria RS High School Grounds, Araria. The social security entitlement in these pension schemes is a paltry sum of Rupees Two Hundred per month to the old, physically and mentally challenged and widows. And there is cheating and fraud in even in this paltry amount. The SA team found that over five lakh rupees shown as given to the beneficiaries in the last six months, had actually never reached the beneficiaries. The Post Master in whose period these transactions were done was known as a drunkard and died in June, 2011. He had not maintained any ledgers in the post office and this was over looked by the then postal Inspector, who has since been promoted and has moved on to Purnea Head Office. Even though beneficiaries complained about the bad behaviour met out to them by the local staff Mr. Baldev Sah, no action was taken on the day of the public hearing even when the entire public hearing happened in front of the Sub-Divisional Officer (SDO), Araria and representatives of the Postal Department, Nagar Parishad and Social Security cell, Araria. A complete report highlighting the findings is attached. Megha Behl a Masters student from Delhi, who volunteered in the Social Audit exercise has also written a small report (attached) The only disciplinary action so far has been that Sri Baldev Sah has been suspended and an enquiry is being undertaken by the Postal Department.
On the day of the public hearing a camp was announced to receive applications from those who were eligible for the pensions but had been left out. This camp was held by the Nagar Parishad on January 20th, 2012 and over 400 applications were received. About 10 nagar parishad karamcharis worked non-stop receiving applications from 10.30 am to 4 pm, and over two local volunteers helped people on filling applications and attaching complete documents. We shall keep you updated on the progress of these applications.
ranjit, shivnarayan, kamayani, arvind, jiten and ashish