The state review started with a brief round of introduction by about 40 participants. The participants on one hand were the Jam Samwad Yatra team, and also the same number of participants from local struggle groups and NGOs. As a starting thought it was shared that since the Yatra has not visited all the districts where the Dalit Alliance is active on the issues of land rights of the people, the sharing of the group will be also shared with the entire membership of the Dalit Alliance. The Yatra has mainly visited sites of SEZs, Nuclear Plants and Land Acquisition, however there are other areas of concern such bauxite mining which also have to be included in the larger canvas of the struggle.
Some issues in the state as a whole with relation to the marginalized communities are:
- Land alienation in the name of development programs and infrastructural development
- Making poor further vulnerable by not settling the disputes well in time, threat to legal position on land ownership
- Alienation from assigned land
- Land distribution issues
- Forest Land Issues
The meeting also reviewed in detail each area visited.
It’s hard to thank the friends of Andhra Pradesh for the untiring efforts all put into organize the Yatra and programs at the districts. Ten years back a discussion on land issues was not so appreciated as it was considered to be a non-issue, whereas today land has become an agenda internationally. There is a huge concern about land grabbing across the globe especially in the countries of Africa. The estimate shows that the amount of land grabbed by different countries is equal to the size of France. So it very appropriate for us to see that land and livelihood are not grabbed by the powerful, but are used to strengthen the poor. Even in a country like France where only 5% of people are on agriculture, they believe that 70% of people need to be sent to agriculture to sustain the lives of the people. When we were in Kerala, known for land reforms, we noticed that the land was largely given to the middle men and not the tiller. Hence the land reforms in Kerala also remain an unfinished agenda. In Tamil Nadu the discussion was on the cross-cutting issue of Panchami Bhoomi (land of the depressed). This is a common issue between Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
Traveling through Andhra Pradesh, was like feeling more and more deeply the pain and distress people have been exposed to. The agenda of disposing of a dead body never came so sharply as it has come in Andhra Pradesh. The issue of sanitation keeps on popping up everywhere, which further amplifies the suffering and the level of deprivation. It only shows how insensitive the mainstream society can be towards the lives of the other classes of the society. The challenge is to how tilt the power relationship and the control over land and livelihood resources with the marginalized people. There are certain things that have emerged as areas of possibilities in Andhra Pradesh. It is more important to be shared on a larger platform to understand that the issue is well understood:
- There is a strong movement for the rights of the poor and deprived people in Andhra Pradesh. How strong this process is, is a secondary issue, but by and large we are happy to see this happening.
- There is a willingness to relate with each other. The capacity to network with each other apart from personal differences is notable. In a highly conflicting group it is an exception where people want to work together.
- There is a very strong advisory group in Hyderabad such as people like Yugandhar Ji and Gopal Rao Ji, who are putting their efforts to strengthen peoples’ movements. There is also an institutional base, who are committed to rural India in the interest of the oppressed class.
- Apart from Kerala and Tamil Nadu we felt that the officials in Andhra Pradesh are more sensitive. We are of an opinion that government officials are of a pro-poor nature. This can be because of their own personal will or also because of the pressure these movements have built up.
- There are some good issues , such that in Warangal where the collector and joint collector are personally taking interest in the land reforms agenda. As a contradiction in a state like Madhya Pradesh, its practically impossible to state one such name.
- Another opportunity in hand is the Telangana and Rayalsema Movement; this has helped people bring their issue on the agenda of the political groups. There are various dynamics happening in the state that need to captured to bring the issues of the poor and marginalized on the forefront.