Update on RTF yatra in Araria

8 am, Gram Panchayat Aamgachi, Block Sikti, Dist Araria, Bihar
All arrangements seem perfect, we are in a mango orchard, the mango trees provide sufficient protection from the sun, thousands of people are expected from different panchayats to be part of the aam sabha called by the Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan to welcome the ‘khadya suraksha yatra’ which is to arrive in this panchayat on its third day of travel. The large numbers are natural, the issue is important to the mostly landless dalit members and supporters of the sangathan, who have now been to Delhi twice in rallies asking for the ‘right to food act’ with the RTF campaign.

The only glitch is that the usually spotless sky in this dry year, is filled with clouds, it rained heavily in the night and the clouds are threatening another downpour. We are testing the Honda genset to activate the sound system, when the rain finally comes, it is a heavy downpour and the genset stops even before starting, soon the ‘kanat’ and the pandal are drenched. The few of us looking at the logistics move with the sound system and jholas to the local zamindar’s verandah.

9am. Mango Orchard
The rain is now a drizzle, it will soon stop, but Deepnarayan ji points out that ‘pachiya beh rahi hai aur mausam ka ab bharosa nahi kiya ja sakta’. We trust him but don’t want to move out of the beautiful orchard, finally we just have to because the weather can’t be trusted. So the Honda genset, the tirpals, banners, are all loaded on different bicycles, proudly displaying sangathan flags and we move to the hawa mahal about a km away. The rain gods are merciful because the downpour comes back only after we have reached the shelter of the hawa mahal.

10 am. Hawa mahal
The sudden move and constant rain has not dampened our spirits, people are coming in the rain, about four-five hundred people have gathered. The yaatris have also come, Rupesh ji, Badri ji, Ritwij, Pawan and Zafar Alam are all welcomed and as they sit talking informally the sound system is activated. Around 10.30 the sabha formally starts, and it goes on till 1.30. In the three hours the local people describe the poor condition of the existing PDS, the corruption, the leakage, they talk about the pension system and its follies, followed by speeches by Ritwij and Rupeshji on the aim of the yatra, the issues at stake and the need to mobilize for a stringer RTF Act. Arvind does the sanchalan and we move smoothly through the programme. The rain changes from a downpour to a continuous slow drizzle and yet about three hundred people have gathered. Towards the end there is some sun and people find place in the shelter and outside in their umbrellas. Saathis from the JJSS Ranjit, Shivnarayan and kamayani among other things repeat two things: one, we can fight our local battles here but for a strong ‘kanoon’ we will have to go talk to the law makers in Delhi. Second going to Delhi means being there in large numbers and so we must prepare and organize ourselves.

A meaningful meeting in an active but distant village, bordering Nepal, will strengthen the campaign, we are thankful to the yaatris for agreeing to come to this far off place even in such bad weather.

Zindabad from the JJSS

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