The JJSS works locally in a few districts of Bihar, but to be heard by a system which has little concern for the voices of the poor, organisations like ours need larger linkages. With this in mind the JJSS has been part of larger platforms, alliances and campaigns.
1. Involvement with the Pension Parishad and Right to Food Campaign
On January 6th, 2012 a singular representative attended the Pension Parishad mobilisation in Delhi. It was touching to see old people from over 16 states attend the dharna, with the demand for a Two Thousand rupee per month pension for aged people, who had once toiled for the development of the country. When the experience and demands of the pension parishad were shared in the JJSS, it found immediate acceptance and an 80 member delegation attended the dharna held in Delhi on the pension and the Right to Food Act demands. The two day dharna held on 28-29 August, 2012.
APL BPL khatam karo, sab ko ration pension do!
Pension do! Tension nahin!
Is mein na koi shak hai! Ration humara hak hai!
2. Local involvement with RTF campaign
On 10th Nov 2012, an aam sabha was called by JJSS to welcome the ‘khadya suraksha yatra’ in Aamgachi, Sikti; an active but distant village bordering Nepal. Despite weather trying its best to play spoilsport, a crowd of about hundred people participated in the three hour long meeting. Local people described the poor condition of the existing PDS, the corruption, the leakage; they talked 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. Saathis from the JJSS reemphasized two points: first, 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. Read the full update here.
3. Jan Sansad – Saansads from the JJSS
Niriya Devi and Ranjit Paswan represented the JJSS as jan saansads in Delhi in August, 2012, in the jan sansad organised by the NAPM. A write up and photo of Saansad Ranjit addressing the sansad can be seen at the NAPM site. About a 100 member delegation participated in the rally held on Parliament Street, at the end of the jan sansad on 23rd March, 2012. More recently a group of 53 organisations from across the country, including the JJSS, organised a Jan Sansad from 26th to 30th November, 2012, during the winter session of the Lok Sabha. A ten member delegation of saansads from the JJSS participated in the Sansad. The Jan Sansad started by reaffirming its faith in the Indian Constitution and taking an oath to strengthen it. The Peoples’ Manifesto adopted on the last day of the Jan Sansad, proceedings from each day, press releases etc. can be found here.
4. ICDS Social Audit in Motihari District
JJSS started the process of social audit in Bihar in December 2009 with Jamua social audit. Since then several audits have been conducted and slowly it has been expanding to cover more schemes (ICDS and Old Age Pension) and more districts. From the beginning it has been a conscious effort to involve multiple groups and to train volunteers so that the social audit is taken up at other places where JJSS doesn’t work directly. A district level social audit of ICDS was organised in E. Champaran district in May-June, 2012 by ICDS Directorate in collaboration with four organisations including JJSS. A large number of saathis and student volunteers participated in the SA exercise, which lasted almost one month. Like in Araria, these audits too showed massive financial discrepancies in the Anganwadis (in the tune of 52 % in Take Home ration). More than 20 volunteers from various universities across India participated with great enthusiasm and learnt some hard facts about rural life. Block wise report of the Audit can be accessed here.
Volunteer perspective from Apoorva (DU student)
The extensive social audit done for the ICDS scheme helped all of us to understand the necessity of social audits per se. Several of our student volunteers from Katihar and other places received training in understanding essential schemes, doing fieldwork and building capacity of other organisations and working collectively. The everyday work of collecting information, interviews, planning meetings and the overall experience offered valuable training to the volunteers. The financial and other discrepancies were revealed in the public hearings that were conducted at the end of the audit in each panchayat. The public hearings became a crucial platform where several locals, especially women, spoke. Also, the Anganwadi Sevikas got to put forward their issues and difficulties of the job. The audit work and the public hearings were both an experience of learning and politicisation for all volunteers.
5. NAPM Bihar State Convention
JJSS was one of the organizers of the NAPM Bihar state conference held on 14th October 2012 in Patna. Despite a slip disc, Medha Patkar participated in the conference, enthusing 150 attendees from various organizations in the state. We salute saathi Medha Patkar’s spirit. The conference was organized in four sessions: the inaugural speeches focused on the conference theme of politics and alternative development. Representatives from various people’s organizations from across Bihar who attended the conference, addressed the conference during the second session, raising issues of education, displacement, healthcare, water etc. based on their day to day organizational experiences. The organizational structure of NAPM Bihar was finalized in the third session with a 36 member coordination committee, six conveners, and two representatives for the NAPM national convener’s team. At the end of the conference, a strategy of including the marginalized communities in the larger struggle was ratified. We hope this will lead to strengthening of various people’s movements.
6. NAPM National Convention
The 9th NAPM national convention was held in the Sal Sabil Green School in Thrissur, Kerela from 17th to 19th November 2012. A seventeen member contingent of the JJSS participated in the convention. There were over 500 participants from about 20 states. Along with plenaries, separate group discussions were also held on various issues like land acquisition, people’s control over natural resources, commercialisation of education, gender, and struggles of NREGA workers. The seven youth participant of JJSS also participated in the special session for youth representatives. Our children had a lot of nice things to say about the organizing school.
7. Press conference on NREGA
There is a storm brewing in Bihar around the NREGA, fueled by the lack of funds and controversy around the report on corruption. While these controversies can be sorted out, the primary focus of the Government has to be on providing 100 days of employment to workers who desperately need work. With this aim, a press conference was called by JJSS in association with other organizations. Some of the main demands raised were: the Government should acknowledge that there is corruption in NREGA and transparency measures like regular social audit needs to be implemented. Here is the press release.