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  • What empowers us in Raigad, Maharashtra

    27 Nov 2018

    “Will this Jansunvai hear my cry?” asked Mathi Rama Waghmare a 50 year old Katkari tribal widow from Shedashi hamlet of Pen block, Raigad (MS). She had applied for Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar Anudan Yojna 3-4 times but failed to get benefits because, she did not have certificate for her husband’s death. Apparently, her husband had died 15 years ago when they had migrated, in search of work at the brick kilns. Since the place of death was far-off in another district, the death was not registered. She required a death certificate along with ration card, BPL certificate, domicile certificate, etc. to avail the benefits of this pension scheme. After a few years registering her husband’s death was a tedious process. So much so that this illiterate migrant laborer found it more challenging to prove husband’s death than to do back breaking work in her old age to survive. This was a common theme in the experiences of widows who either had no death certificate or did not have Aadhar card which government officers are ‘insisting’ on, or whose names are not listed in the voters/BPL list. Particularly vulnerable tribal group of Katkaris form 12% of the population of Riagad District. Migration is part of their lives.

    In this background, organizing a public hearing which the government views as a non-mandatory process, as it is not prescribed by the Act, has been a great learning. Animators, co-ordinators of Lokmanch, Maharashtra had many queries which need to be elucidated. Just one month before public hearing Ankur Trust organized workshop in which Dr. Vaishali Patil simplified how the democratic space within the structure of Act which could be made use of. This workshop not only gave clarity about why we want to have Jansunvai, but inspired and infused enthusiasm among the animators. This is how NFSA became part of human rights campaign.

    Behalf of Lokmanch all 4 partner organizations had conducted a survey on right to food earlier this year. Identifying the missing factors in the previous survey, a new survey was conducted, focusing on the missing benefits of pension, maternal benefits, widows, people with disability, etc seeking to reach the most vulnerable within the society. Enthused by the efforts of Ankur, various organizations pledged their participation in the Jansunvai like each local NGO promised to mobilize 100 women. The Vaghai Ghar Kamgar Molkarni sanghatna (Domestic Workers Union) decided to put forward the cases of single women who are in distress and working as domestic workers, but not availing ration entitled to them. Special children and their mothers from the Aai Day Care are going to put forward their cases. Child Haven – Home for Destitute and Orphaned Children expressed their desire to put forward the issues faced by the children and their families in the context of food security.

    The Jansunvai on 16th December had a huge response. There were 16 organisation working with not only tribals but single women, destitute, special children, Dalit, nomedic tribe etc send representation .All though Lokmanch Maharashtra( Ankur trust,Janhit Vikas.,Inst. For social service, Vishwa mandal sevashram) had aimed at 800 people and 40 depositions finally more than 3000 people from all spear of life not only participated but did more than 100 depositions too.

    Huge and colorful rally was organised at Pen in which along with slogans, placards tribals played their traditional instrument. Katkari tribals had benjo set and what was more attractive was Pawara adivasi dance. As rally moved in Pen town citizen of town came out curiously to know what the demands were. Volunteers were distributing pamphlets in which short description of charter of demands was mentioned. Next day all local language news papers published description of rally saying ‘ In spite of hunger and denial of constitutional rights Tribal can sing and dance’ Electronic media highlighted demands of this Jansunvai too!

     Panelist of this Jansunvai were renounced Ex.High court judge Mr.B.G.Kolse Patil,Retired session court judge Mr.D.P.Mhatre, Nirmala Niketan college of social work principle Dr.Lidwin Dias, Senior journalist Mr.Prabhat Sharnam and Tribal representative Bhaklibai Pawara along with district supply officer Mr.Dhupare who came along with Pen Tahsildar and block supply officer.

    What was very interesting when animators and volunteers  were taking practice of oral depositions old people, widows were hesitant to even say their names and were not confident to put forward their issue. As hearing started by deposition of one young Katkar tribe  widow Janki Waghmare age 34 years who showed her husband's death certificate, below poverty line certificate along with last 2 years applications demanding Antyodaya and widow pension it was shocking as she had filed application, written remainder,complain to district ombudsperson, finally filed online complain but still no Antyodaya nor pension worst was not even acknowledgment of her complain was given by any authority. Panelist asked her to produce documents all though she didn't know to read and write she had everything to show.This inspired so many people that big que was formed as many wanted to come to mick and express their frustration than anger.

    This definitely created an embarrassment to higher government officer as electronic media took a note of it too.

    Ex.justice B.G.Kolse Patil made his comments about there is constitutional provision, there is an act impacted, structures created but it doesn't simply work unless mass movement is created malnutrition death won't stop. Nirmala Niketan interns of Ankur trust presented a panchanama of how states toll free number of food and supply doesn't work. Since all call details of 15 days along with statement of an individual who tried to get support on toll free were presented   government had no other option than to accept and was forced to make this system active. In this Jansunvai most pathetic was grievances by special children mother. They were given seal of handicapped on ration but no grains. One mother of special child Amol Mhatre broke down as her husband was suffering from cancer, son mentally and physically challenged but since long it seems quota was not sanctioned family was starving. Such kind, so many oral and written depositions were made. Next few days Jansunvai made a head lines and there were total 16 follow up news published by press.

    Some visible impact of this Jansunvai as follows

    • Huge and active participation of women made this event effective and brought hope and confidence.
    • Large media coverage made district collector issue an order to initiate camps for destruction of new Antyodaya cards in Raigad.
    • Issue of malnutritional death and Antyodaya was admitted in legislative assembly of Maharashtra state assembly by opposition MLAs.
    • State food and supply department s toll free number has activated now at least queries are answered
    • Complains and report filed on online portal of government has been taken seriously by officers.
    • Community leaders are taking lead and filing application s for mention scheme s and Antyodaya etc.
    • Issue of age certificate by medical officer for which senior citizens had to pay Rs.50 - 100 has been sorted out.
    • Pressure is developed on ration shop keeper to give full quantity of grains.