The yatra team visited 4 colonies that were affected by a demolition drive in the city of Aurangabad before proceeding to Jalna. The houses of 119 families in the 4 colonies of Ekta Nagar, Jahangir colony, Al-hilan colony and Jalal colony were demolished without any prior notice between 19th and 24th of May. Most of the houses that were demolished were bordering a canal. The reason given by the administration was that this was to ensure the safety of the community from flooding during the upcoming monsoon season but the community members said that there was no threat to their families from the canal as it was sufficiently wide and deep. The home owners were not even given time to collect their belongings. All these families are now living in make-shift accommodations which are highly unsafe and unhygienic for the children. The anger in the community is palpable. They appealed to us to take up the matter with government officials and help them in getting justice.
Meeting with the activists of Jalna
In all of Marathwada, the maximum of cases of land encroachment are in Jalna. There are approximately 17000 cases of encroachment and land-alienation. Alternative livelihood has not been provided for people whose lands have been acquired for Industrial, housing, infrastructural projects. Wherever landed class fence their lands, access of landless dalits to gairan lands is being cut-off. The fast growing industrialization is bringing down the water table of Jalna and the water that was available for farmers is no longer available.
Monsanto and the Seed Companies
Jalna is called the Seed Capital of India because there are 5-6 seed companies located here. It is known for Sweet lime and Lentils. Monsanto entered India through its tie-up with Mahyco in Jalna. Bejo-Sheetal, a tie-up with Bejo of Holland is working on introducing BT-Brinjal. Mahyco introduced BT-cotton in India. They are now working on introducing BT-Brinjal as well. Krushi-Dhan is another major seed producer. In 2011 at a protest against BT-Cotton as part of a “Save our seeds” campaign during which cotton was burnt in front of the factory. Mahyco has opened an eye-hospital called Ganapathi Eye Hospital in the district as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility. Steel re-rolling was the next wave of industries that were set-up. 5-6 companies have achieved national reputation and brand. Today there are about 50 steel re-rolling companies in the city of Jalna. There is no control of pollution against these industries. The government has closed their eyes to these acts of corportate irresponsibility. Local employment generation has been minimal because most of the labour come from UP and Bihar.
The RSS is very strong in Jalna. The businessmen support RSS and strengthen’s right-wing politics. The Agricultural Produce Marketing committee is controlled by Shiv Sena. Godavari river flows through this district. There are several small rivers and tributaries in the district. There is no control over river sand mining. When local politicians are invited their response is: “Unless we have orders from the top, we will not attend such events” It is a cosmopolitan city. There are Sindhis, Marwadis, Telugus. This is place has two national Bidi brands that come from this district. Most people from Andhra who have migrated to this district are involved in bidi-rolling. Several adivasi groups from Andhra have migrated here. Vandana Shiva came along with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar for a “Save the seed campaign” and this visit was sponsored by the steel industry.