06 July 2012

Food March In Burdwan Yields Results

As the continuation of the State-level Campaign on ‘Right To Food and Work’, coordinated by the Jesuits-run Udayani Social Action Forum, Kolkata, a rally and dharna was organized at Kalna Town of Burdwan District on the fourth of July. 

Around 400 women from self-help groups and around 100 men from farmers’ club from about 53 villages from Kalna block I & II gathered at two different spot at 11 a.m. braving rain and the heat. Some activists from Kolkata and Nadia joined the gathering to encourage and support women and men demanding their rights to life.

The rallies started at two different places (Kalna I from the Bus Stand and Kalna II from Kalo Dokan More) and merged at Tetul Tola crossing (close to Christo Seva Ashram) and walked to the Sub-Divisional Controller of Food and Supply through the crowded markets and Police Station shouting slogans. They shouted like  ‘Tala Kholo Khabar dao’ - Open the door and give us food- ‘Churi Bando Koro’ – stop stealing- ‘Keu Khabe Keu Khabe Na Ta Hobe Na’- some eat and some don’t shouldn’t be - with conviction. 

The pale and malnourished women carrying empty plates and posters in the hand was a sight for the town and administration. Many agreed saying, ‘this is a just fight for survival and I support fully’. Some passers-by joined the catchy slogans voluntarily. The posters had demands like, ‘Open the ration shop for 51/2 days, Give us 100 days’ work, Stop stealing our food, No BPL and APL give food to all equally, Give bills for the ration given’.

The police, though informed well in advance, neglected to be present at the start of the venue but when they saw the crowd shouting slogans pass by suddenly sent a team. The neglect of the economically weak and socially lower class and caste by the administration is not news any more. Once the march reached the venue of the Sub-Divisional controller, the activists encouraged them and enlightened them of their basic rights with food and how the Government and Administration were indifferent and wasted foodgrain while people died of starvation and hunger. 

Since neither the controller nor any other official came out to listen to people, the women decided to force their way into the office and ‘gherao’ the officers. The small office could not contain all the women and soa delegation went in with local demands, while rest squatted in the office premise and outside demanding immediate action. A two-hour ‘gherao’ yielded results as the officials gave out the allotment list and the price of each item and promised to  receive complains and application for new ration card on Wednesday of every week. They also promised to work diligently hereafter. 

The women, now sure of a little more of their ‘Rights’ with regard to food programs, said: “We shall come back in bigger number if the promises are not kept”. Udayani Social Action Forum will organize two more mass awareness programmes for Hugli and Bankura districts in the coming weeks together with other NGOs, Networks and Activists. 

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