Letter from Rajaji to friends
Today is the sixth day of the yatra. There is a lot to write but I am trying to do a brief write-up to inform you about what is happening. We are twenty in number from different parts of India as well as different parts of the world travelling together on the roads of Kerala, a southern state in India. The weather is good; it is neither hot nor cold. We are being fed by friends everywhere with local food. Rice soup is a common food in this part of the world. Some of our friends tasted it for the first time. Rice soup is basically rice cooked with a lot of water. If you want to make it tasty you can add a little salt to it. This is what I ate during my childhood because those were the days when poverty was rampant in Kerala and people could not afford anything beyond rice soup. Today people eat it not because of poverty but they think it is light and it is good to have light food in the evening.
During the last six days, we must have travelled more than five hundred kilometers. We have visited two Gandhian organizations doing very important work. Both of them are involved in resettlement of dalit and tsunami affected people as well as providing employment for them. It is always good to see Gandhi’s ideas being used effectively to reach out to the poor sections of the society. In one of these organizations, they organized a very important discussion on dalit issues. Dalit and adivasi perspective in planning for India was an agenda I was trying to promote in the last several years. In Gandhi’s talisman, he has advised his followers to look at the poorest and weakest before initiating any development plan. The economic constitution made by Mahatma Gandhi as back as in 1928 speaks about redistribution of resources as a major agenda. India has gone completely in the wrong direction by ignoring his advice and finally ending up in a situation where the deprived people are accusing him for all the mistakes.
We were also visiting struggles. We went to Alappad, a tsunami affected villages. More than 350 women who are victims of tsunami are still waiting for support from the government to construct a house. There are many reasons why the government is slow in acting but there is no guarantee that the government is going to every act. People have waited long enough and are now very frustrated. I told them that I will talk to the government and will also look for international organizations that have some left over money of tsunami rehabilitation. Please tell me in case you have any idea in this connection.
The second struggle that we witnessed was related to sand mining in the tsunami belt. According to the local people they already lost 1.5 km of the land between the sea and the back water during the tsunami. The sand mining will further reduce their land space and will finally put them into danger of larger area of land disappearing. We are told that the sand mining is done because this particular sand contains uranium. This sand is highly cancer infested. By mining there is a danger of greater radiation and more and more people getting affected. The group working in this village has agreed to do a detailed survey. They need political and financial support. In this if you have any ideas of groups working on such issues please pass on.
We have just completed a visit to a land struggle in an area called Chengara. More than 6000 families have occupied land in a rubber plantation of 7000 acres. These are dalit families and they are struggling for land for the last seven years. This is difficult to understand why the government should allow thousands of acres of land to plantation companies to grow tea, coffee and rubber whereas the poor people have to fight for years to get one acre. This is beyond any common sense. In spite of repeated requests, recommendations and struggles, government is committed to give land to industrialist lobbies and corporate lobbyist and not to the poor to fight poverty. This bias against the poor and marginalized is a common problem across the world. How do we fight this mindset ? In a globalizing world, where market and capital is aggressively in, this is becoming a greater problem. Can the middle class who are enjoying privileges today wake up to this reality and do something? If not I am afraid violent groups may spread their wings.
With Warm Regards,
President, Ekta Parishad
Member, National Land Reform Policy.