31 October 2012

Jamshedpur Rally On World Food Day

On World Food Day five thousand people from Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal gathered in Jamshedpur. The day began with a rally from Bistupur to Ram Mandir Maidan in Jamshedpur. This was the culmination of the yatras which began on 2 October. Hundreds had joined at each stop of the yatras which had passed through 27 districts of Bihar, 18 districts of Chhattisgarh, 17 districts of Jharkhand and 16 districts of West Bengal. The rally and the public meeting were full of energy with the Satnami dancers of Chhattisgarh dancing all the way from the railway station to the Maidan where they spread their colours by making all others dance as well.

The meeting started in the backdrop of the harsh reality of millions of Indians, with the reporting of the hunger death of 55-year-old Jayanto Suri from Dheklapara Tea Garden in Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal. The irony being that he died around the time when the Food Minister Jyotipriyo Mullick of the West Bengal Government had gone there as a part of an initiative to distribute 5kg of foodgrain to 5000 units for each district of the state on the occasion of World Food Day. Along with this there was also the announcement of the launch of a scheme in which every Primitive Tribal Group household of the state would be given 8 kg of free grain a month.

While these schemes were an acknowledgment of hunger and malnutrition in the State which the Yatra had exposed, the Minister has however been denying hunger deaths in West Bengal, said Anuradha Talwar, trade union leader from the Pachim Banga Khet Mazdoor Samiti. She also added that despite godowns overflowing with 82 million tons of foodgrain, there was widespread hunger, which was unacceptable.

Speaking on the occasion economist and policy advisor to the Jharkhand Government Prof Ramesh Saran, said that this yatra had connected people of the eastern region of the country in order to strengthen the struggle for rozi aur roti. He said this battle should also aim at changing the attitude of the planners and policy makers, whose policies actually increase the hunger of the people. He said that all subsidies and waivers was for the rich and not the poor. This had to change and the yatras were a step in that direction.

Speaking on the occasion Rupesh, from the Bihar Bhojan ka Adhikar Abhiyan said that a few years ago, 14 people of Jalhe Bongiya village in Gaya district were forced to dig out and eat a dead goat because of hunger. This led to the death of seven people, some of whom did not have a ration card. He strongly advocated for removing the distinction between APL and BPL categories from the National Food security Bill. This was unacceptable in the Food bill. He added that to for nutrition, apart from providing wheat and rice, the PDS also need to supply millets, pulses and oil.

Powerfully presenting the woe of the farmers, tribal leader Ganga Bhai from Chhattisgarh said that wherever he went the hungriest person was the farmer whose sweat and blood fed the nation. He also should widen its alliance with other organisations working with non-violent means and strengthen the struggle for a hunger-free farmer. Balram, coordinator of the meeting at Jameshpur and a representative of the Jharkhand state campaign in the Steering Group of the Right to Food Campaign, said that the yatra gave a platform to widespread anger against the reality of hunger amidst plenty. People wanted a strong PDS and ICDS.

People rejected the current draft of the National Food Security Bill. Kavita Srivastava from Rajashan and convenor of the Campaign’s Steering Group said that the enthusiastic response and vibrant rally and yatras had given a clear message that the fight for a hungerand malnutrition free Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal was actually a fight for the elimination of hunger and malnutrition in India. She added that similar yatras also took place in Gujarat and Rajasthan with other states preparing to start similar yatras. She gave a call for the Campaign to intensify in villages and at block and district levels for a National Food Security Bill which links production, procurement, storage and distribution. A demand for a universal PDS, maternal entitlements and a strong and independent grievance redressal system was reiterated. People would now travel to Delhi in the upcoming winter session of the Parliament to raise its demands in front of the Parliament and the Government.

The meeting was also addressed by Kapileshwar from Bihar, Clement Kujur from Jharkhand, Ramapati from West Bengal, Kashinath from Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti and Murlidhar Chandram from Adhyaksh Saubhagi Manch. The meeting was coordinated by Gurjeet Singh from Jharkhand.
Ankita and Dheeraj
On behalf of the Right to Food Campaign Secretariat

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