Sky-rocketing prices of onions and dal, back-breaking cost of living, the drought-famine crisis—and the people are supposed to be enjoying the pleasures of “achhe din”! Through the alleged “sabka sath, sabka vikas” (development for all) the governments at the Centre and State are implementing policies to deprive the poor and fill the coffers of big corporate houses and companies and give them free license to loot. For the rest of the people, what remains is “Mann ki Baat”, announcements, assurances, and rhetoric. The situation is going from bad to worse, and hard fought people’s welfare laws and schemes are being sought to be weakened or removed. The AIPF, through a Jharkhand Jan Adhikar Yatra (People’s Rights Drive) from 1 October to 10 October, appealed to the people to fight against this conspiracy and to raise voices in unison in order to defend people’s rights.
The AIPF and several other people’s organizations jointly conducted the Jharkhand Jan Adhikar Yatra and studied and analyzed the ground situation by visiting different villages in North Chhota Nagpur, Palamu, South Chhota Nagpur and Kolhan. They called for the people in the villages to agitate in a united struggle for their rights. During this Yatra, leaders from the AIPF and other people’s organizations organized village level meetings, nukkad meetings, and night meetings which were attended in good numbers by adivasis, women, youth, and people from different sections of rural society.
In Chhotanagpur zone, the Yatra began from Bagodar on 1 October with a huge gathering of people. After paying tribute at the Birsa Munda Samadhi in Ranchi, the Yatra in South Chhotanagpur zone was flagged off with the resounding of drums played by the Jharkhand Jan Sanskriti Manch, led by AIPF leaders Dayamani Barla, Anil Anshuman, Nadeem Khan, Xavier Kujur, film maker Meghnath, Aloka and prominent persons from people’s organizations.
In Palamu zone, the Yatra started from Tihri (Badgad Bhandariya) on the Jharkhand-Chhattisgarh border, led by noted economist Jean Dreze, Ravindra Bhuian, and leaders from people’s organizations. The Jan Yatra proceeded through hundreds of villages in remote hills, dense forests, as well as plains in various districts and blocks, and culminated in a public meeting at Raj Bhavan on 11 October.
The Jan Adhikar meeting began with people’s songs sung by Jan Sanskriti Manch. Throwing light on the aims and objectives of the Jan Ahikar Yatra, AIPF national advisory committee member Jean Dreze said that the issue of struggle for people’s rights should be an issue of daily struggle for us. He pointed out that all rights regarding land, food, forests, education, employment and information are rights which have been won after hard fought battles. The present central government is bent on ending these rights; therefore we must struggle to save them. The Jan Adhikar Yatra has succeeded in making the people alert and conscious. In the days to come, we shall fight together and win.
Com. Vinod Singh said that this Yatra is a symbol of the struggle of the oppressed and marginalized people of Jharkhand. The rights regarding food, forests, MNREGA that the government has so far given the people are not favours granted by the government. During this Yatra we saw how the government machinery is openly flouting all laws, causing much anger among the people of the villages. The overwhelming support given to the Yatra shows the resolve of the people. The meeting was also addressed by Dayamani Barla, human rights activist Fr. Stan Swamy, Afzal Anees of the United Milli Forum, Jhamas President Devki Nandan Bediya, and representatives from different people’s organizations. Conducting the programme, Anil Anshuman of JASAM said that this Yatra is the beginning of our fight for our rights and that there are many battles that lie ahead. James Herenj (NREGA Watch) and Subhadra Devi lent active cooperation in conducting the programme. Giving the valedictory speech, AIPF advisor and senior journalist Faisal Anurag stressed the need for a struggle based on a pervasive unity.
The Jan Adhikar Yatra raised and discussed the following issues: the government’s assault on land rights and employment guarantee; false cases and imprisonment of thousands of innocent people; food security bill, social security pension, and forest rights guarantee. The AIPF, Campaign for Right to Food, Adivasi-Mulvasi Raksha Manch, Bagaicha, Jharkhand Jan Sanskriti Manch, Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti, Ekta Parishad, Gram Swaraj Abhiyan, Jangal Bachao Andolan, NREGA Watch, United Milki Forum, Jharkhand Jan Sangathan Morcha and other people’s organizations participated in the Yatra. A resolution was passed to start a statewide agitation on the issues raised in the Yatra.