Rally in Pollachi
The day began with a meeting with the local media at the office of Aadharam trust. It was followed by a garlanding of the Mahatma Gandhi statue. A rally was organized through the city. The rally ended with a public meeting at Shri Ram Mahal organized by Aadharam trust.
Mr. Jagadeeshan managing trustee of Aadharam trust, Mr. Ranganathan of the Mahatma Gandhi Ashram Anaimalai, Mr. Marimuthu of People Liberation Front, Mr. Muruganandam of the Manual Scavengers Federation, Mr. Murugan, Panchayat president of Govindapuram Panchayat and Mr. Subramaniam Siva of HEKS India participated in the meeting. Ms. Padmini an Adivasi women belonging to the Kadar community of Erumaparai settlement said that for generations they have lived in the Indira Gandhi Tiger Reserve forests. The government has not constructed houses for them. They do not have any water and electricity services. They are unable to collect minor forest produce. She said that if Adivasis are not in the forest, there would be no one to protect the animals or the forest. She further questioned the practice of the government that states that it is not possible to provide water and electricity services deep inside the reserve forests when people request these services but manages to provide electricity and water services to their own offices. The forest department is trying to get the Adivasis out of the forest by paying them 10 lak rupees.
Mr. Jagadeeshan inviting Rajagopal P.V
Mr. Marimuthu said that there have been several struggles for land by Dalits that have not succeeded in bringing a broad based structural change in the system. He expressed his hope that the initiative by Rajagopal succeeds and assured people’s support for this struggle. Mr. Muruganandam said that all the members of their federation are Dalits. 25 % of their members do not have housing patta and none of them have land for agriculture. 90% of Dalits living in cities do not have a house of their own.
Mr. Shanmugham an Adivasi from Malasar tribe said that 150 families live in his village Sumitha Nagar which is in the Diwansapudur Panchayat. People in their village are not aware of the Forest Rights Act. More than half of the families in the village do not have housing patta and those who have patta live in dilapidated homes. They have submitted several applications and petitions with the government officials but there has been no response. The previous Special Tehsildhar told them that the government officials were unable to locate their village. The previous DMK government had a scheme called Kalanjar Veetu Vasadhi Thittam (Kalanjar House Construction Support Scheme) that offered people support for constructing a house. However, the scheme required people to start the construction with their own investment by promising them that the support from the government will come once the basement has been constructed. Many members of their community had taken loans to start the construction of their houses. But the state government changed and that scheme was abandoned. These people are now unable to repay their loans and expecting support from Ekta Parishad to address their problems.
Mr. Murugan of Govindapuram village said that he was elected to the Panchayat president post without any opposition in the election because of his good work during his first term. He seeks to develop his village as a model village and promises to extend all possible help to the Adivasis in his village.
Rajagoppal P.V felicitating Mr. Murugan who won the panchayat election
Thanraj, the state coordinator of Ekta Parishad said that the forest department and the state are not only not implementing Forest Rights Act but are oppressive towards the Malasar Adivasis in the Sarlapadi village in Pollachi taluk. Cases were booked against 6 members of the village for taking tamarind from the forest and were asked to pay a fine of Rs 2000 each. Aadharam trust supported the community in protesting this high-handed treatment of the forest department. In response to this, the department reduced the fine to Rs 100.