Field Notes – 15th September 2010

Field Notes

The Mazdoor Haq Yatra was conceived by the S R Abhiyan as a set of truck yatras of 20 – 30 people each (grassroots activists, volunteers, peasants, workers etc.) across different parts of Rajasthan for a fortnight (Sep 15 – Oct 1), and culminating in an indefinite ‘Dharna’ in Jaipur from Oct. 2nd. Five such yatras were planned for five different zones of Rajasthan (comprising 3 – 4 districts each). The aim of these yatras was to generate awareness about NREGA workers’ issues and problems, and to mobilize support from the masses so as to pressurize the state government on the following:

• Raising the Min. wages per day from Rs. 100 to Rs. 200 for NREGA workers with immediate effect
• Linking of Min. wages of workers to general inflation / consumer price index, so the wages increase with the general price rise.
• Recognizing the fundamental right of NREGA workers to form unions, and to get them lawfully registered
• Strengthening the checks and balances in the NREGA set-up so as to effectively deal with issues like corruption, partial and / or late payments to workers, job card delays etc.

With these aims in mind, different teams had to prepare a set of activities that they would showcase, perform along the yatra. These included: puppet shows, street plays, songs, speeches, and slogans. A novel concept of making graphs, charts and other visual aids depicting rising salaries of Govt. employees, skyrocketing prices of daily necessities, and the Rajasthan state income and expenses, were added to the repertoire.

The MKSS team was supposed to cover the districts of Rajsamand, Bhilwara and Pali in their yatra.

Our journey started from Bhim on 15 Sep, around 11 a.m. We went around with our slogans and songs. We then presented some statistics about rising prices, increasing salaries of government servants and the pathetic state of Rajasthan Govt. revenue and expenditures (by Nikhil Dey). Also showed a short play. The response in the Bhim market where this happened was quite good. We collected Rs.14 from people towards donation for the Yatra.

Next stop: Badnor. We sang songs; speech by Lal Singh. Good response of people (around 50 – 60). Fund collection: Rs. 42. People complained about low wages in NREGA (50 – 60)

Stopped in Ajitgarh en route, distributed pamphlets, and made announcements on our truck loud speaker.

Stayed the night at Jwaja. Review meeting at night, another play rehearsal. Feedback from yatris.

– Aditya Vikram Rametra, A volunteer with MKSS in the yatra travelling in Rajsamand, Bhilwara and Pali

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