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Thousands of landless in support of MDGs

Oct 11, 2007

Over 25,000 people danced, sang and walked, carrying flags, banners and posters in support of the MDGs at the north Indian city of Mathura. These poor, landless people are on a march to the capital to claim their rights from the government.

October 17, 2007, Mathura, Uttar Pradesh: A large congregation of people resumed their march from Mathura to Delhi while raising their voices in support of the Millennium Development Goals. They all stood up with posters and banners especially made to mark the occasion on October 17. Speeches were made to make people aware of the promises made by the government to work towards achieving these goals by target year 2015.

These 25,000 people are part of the people’s march organised by the Ekta Parishad along with 290 organisations from across the country under a campaign called Janadesh 2007 or People’s Verdict, demanding a pro-poor national land reforms policy. The other participating organisations include Aruna Roy’s Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, Sarva Sewa Sangh, Jal Biradari, etc.

Beginning on October 2 from Gwalior, the march is expected to reach Delhi on Oct 28 and the next day, there will be a Parliament march.

These people, old and young, women and children, represent the most deprived people of this country – the tribals and the dalits. They are landless, they are poor. Invisible and voiceless, they have decided to walk all the way to the capital to be seen and to be heard by all those, who in the glitter of neon lights and in the cacophony of blaring horns, have lost the capacity to see and hear.

For the past 16 days they have been on the roads in a five-kilometer long queue – walking, singing and dancing. They carry flags, banners and posters reflecting their woes and their aspirations.

The land and livelihood resources should be primarily used for eradicating poverty and not to protect the interests of the likes of Tatas and Birlas,” said P.V. Rajagopal of the Ekta Parishad.

But the irony is that issues concerning livelihood of the poor are not in the priority list of even the Central Government. The poor of this country are completely voiceless. They are used only at the time of elections for voting the politicians to power, so feels Ransingh Parmar, National Convener of Ekta Parishad.

The question today that we have in front of us is whether the adivasis (tribals) will survive, or whether this country will prosper only by eliminating them, Parmar rued.

Badami, a 45-year old woman from Mona village of Gwalior district had this bitterness in her voice when she described the hardships that they had to face without any land of their own to till. “There is no land, no work and nothing to eat. We are starving there. But this government gives land only to the moneyed people and not to the poor. But now we want our share too.”

With three sons, a daughter and a wife, Raje Lal belonging to Sahariya tribe from Ghatigaon, Gwalior district, works in a stone quarry and earns Rs 80 a day. With no land, they have to rely on the quarry work for survival or else move out to far off places in search of livelihood. In his village, which has a population of 3,000, about 75% people have absolutely no land. The remaining 25% also have small plots of land, which is not at all sufficient to survive on.

“There will be 25 lakh people on the roads soon, if the government does not listen to us,” roared someone from behind.

Back in Delhi at Jantar Mantar where the Ekta Parishad is simultaneously holding a dharna (sit-in) since October 3, some 350 people took out a procession in support of the MDGs from Rajghat, says Manish Rajput of Ekta Parishad.

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