Date: October 12th 2011
In continuation to my last letter in which I proposed some possible actions I would like to bring some more items forward for consideration. In the district of Alapuzha, we visited an organization called Gandhi Smaraka Gram Seva Kendra headed by Mr. Jagadeeshan. This organization is undertaking various activities to create employment for 1000s of women. This is a good organization to visit to understand how Gandhi’s spirit is being carried forward in real economic action. For example, they are now going to begin a milk project to create more employment for rural women. Anybody interested can contact Mr. Jagadeeshan. This is also a good training place for organizations wanting to promote rural employment. They can be reached at (0478) 2865493, firstname.lastname@example.org
We participated in an agitation organized around the Mullaperiya dam issue. According to the local people this dam has developed cracks. It can be dangerous as the area is earth quake prone. Unfortunately this has become a contentious issue between Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Those who have some understanding of inter-state disputes or water disputes should use their skills and capacities to mediate between Tamil Nadu and Kerala. While political parties across the border are using this for political gains the local people are suffering without knowing what will happen to their future. This might also be an opportunity for the student/research community to get involved in by carrying out research projects that will help the community in its advocacy. Father Joy Nirappel (+91 9446577915) or P.D Joseph (+91 9495910396) can provide more information.
Idukki has many land struggles. This is a hilly area where adivasis have lost their land to the settlers and plantation companies. Implementation of Forest Rights Act is weak and the tension between the settlers and adivasi community can be felt in the air. On the one hand, we need to give them political support in addressing their issues with the government, there are also looking for legal support to take up their case in the legal court. Other than legal advice and legal support, they need financial support to engage the right kind of lawyers. There is also a need for a study in Idukki to understand how much land is being held by plantation companies, how many of them are legal and how many illegal. Those with research and documentation skills can get involved in this task. Some of the local adivasi and dalit leaders are very bright and articulate.
We visited a farmer called Phillip in Vazhathope Gram Panchayat who was sitting on the road side for more than 550 days against an act called Sarfaesi act. This is an act that allows the bank to auction the land and property of a farmer to recover their loan. Because of this particular act, many farmers have lost their land, and many have committed suicide because of shame. This freedom given to the bank needs to be challenged. Anyone interested in the small farmers’ issue needs to get involved with this community. This is one method used by the bank to transfer land away from marginal farmers to the powerful ones. For those of us who are speaking about pro-poor land reforms, it is important to protect the land of the small farmers while providing land to the new tillers. This being a policy matter, it is important for us to take up this matter with Government of India as well as the Reserve Bank of India. Those who can guide us in this matter may do so, so that together we can think of a strategy to deal with this issue.
We were with Dharma Bharathi Ashram for two nights. Swami Sachidananda and his team have built a very good centre in a village called Mulamthuratty about 25 kilometers away from Cochin. They have a centre for poor children and they also have accommodation for about 20 people who come for value education. Swamiji has agreed to construct facilities for 50 people to organize on-going training programs for young people in value education. After the training program, they can become good social workers. On the last day of our stay, a foundation stone was laid for a proposed training centre. Young people from all over from Kerala can come for training and this will give us an opportunity to expand our work for a non-party political formation. Those who are interested in this proposal may contact Swami ji. You are welcome to provide ideas, technical support as well as financial support into this process by contacting them at http://navasrushti.org/contactus.php
A meeting with the homeless and landless women in Ernakulam was a shocking incident. Because of our focus on rural poverty, the workers of Ekta Parishad were not exposed to urban poverty. Four hundred women from all religious and caste backgrounds participated in the meeting. They were complaining about their life situation in the city of Ernakulam and Cochin. It was a mind boggling exercise. Those who are providing services to the rich people in the city are provided with no service. They do not have a decent place to stay. They have to spend major portion of their income on rent and they are treated very badly by their employees and home owners. Towards the end of the meeting we suggested that we will help them in creating linkages with Dignity International, Seva Bharath, National Slum Dwellers Federation, and will also take up their issues with the district administration. Kindly help us to find other possibilities and linkages to strengthen these women and their organization. Organizing the women into groups, providing them with exposure and also providing them training and other skills are all important areas. Your guidance and support in this matter will be very valuable. If some volunteers are interested to go and work in Ernakulam with these women, we will be happy to facilitate that process.
You can’t imagine thousands of acres of land under water. Please visit Thommana village in Thrisoor district. Mr. Thomas Vergeese will take you through 7000 acres of land affecting 5 panchayats and 14000 families. Just because of bad planning by some engineers, very fertile paddy fields are under water for many years. Now the mining mafias and land mafias are actively trying to grab this land. About 4000 acres of land is already in the hands of mining companies. Because the natural backwater drainage system was destroyed, the water is becoming increasingly saline. There is an urgent need for intervention in order to protect the land and the small farmers. The promises made by the government are not kept. So a letter from you to the Chief Minister of Kerala drawing his attention to this project will be of great help.
An anti-liquor campaign in Tamaraserri is drawing great attention. This is in Calicut district and is a situation in an area where the population is predominantly Muslim. The board outside the liquor shop says that it is a bar/family restaurant. But the local people are highly agitated. The meeting attended by the Jansatyagraha team had participation of men and women and the participants were committed to get the bar closed. Alcohol is a big problem in Kerala. Many families are totally ruined because of alcoholism. The Kerala prohibition council headed by Iyacheri master is playing an important role. Please send letters and e-mail to the Chief Minister of Kerala to revisit this agenda of earning revenue from liquor by destroying the new generation as well as the culture of the state. Letters especially from international tourist who have visited Kerala or who are wanting to visit Kerala will help.
On the 12th of October we visited Karunyatheeram, a centre for mentally challenged children. A group of young people mainly from the Muslim community have come together to take up this challenge to provide love and care to children who are mentally challenges. At the moment they have 30 children and are fast expanding in order to take more. Many people are making generous contributions to build this centre as they appreciate the commitment and team work of these young people. They are seeking our support-material and financial – both. Anyone interested to work with these children are welcome to come and do so. Those who can find material and financial support are also welcome to be active partner of this institute. More information can be obtained at www.healthcarefoundation.in
With thanks and warm regards,