Nationwide Program by AIARLA Calls for Urgent Steps to Mitigate Rural Distress

A nationwide program by All India Agricultural and Rural Labourers Association (AIARLA) was held across various districts and blocks on March 27 demanding urgent intervention by governments to mitigate the increasing rural distress. The demonstration were held across the country in the background of increasing inflation and employment, Modi government’s attack on MGNREGA scheme and PDS system, increasing debt burden and rampant evictions of poor from their houses.

In Uttar Pradesh, memorandum of demands was given to the administration in 17 districts and demonstrations were held in Deoria and Ballia. Programs were also held in 32 blocks of 11 districts of Bengal. Jharkhand also witnessed large scale demonstration across the state. Programs were also organised in Odisha,  Assam, Tamil Nadu. Programs were held in about 180 blocks/zones of 28 districts of Bihar, in which more than 20 thousand dalits, poor and rural laborers participated.

Satyadeo Ram, the President of AIARLA, said that the Mahagathbandhan government in Bihar must seriously consider bringing in a Housing Rights Act and called for survey of land facing evictions. The Government must assure that no one will be evicted from their homes without a proper plan for rehabilitation. However, we see that the “bulldozer raj” culture of the BJP is being implemented in the State, where the Dalit and poor people who have been living in one place for over several decades are being evicted. This must be stopped and this is the expectation from the Mahagathbandhan government.

The protest in Bihar also demanded for the release of all those imprisoned under TADA and the Bihar Prohibition Act, a majority of whom are Dalit and poor. All the 12 CPIML MLAs held the protests in their constituencies.

Dhirendra Jha, General Secretary of AIARLA said that the protest is historic as the Dalit and poor people of Bihar have stood up against the “bulldozer raj”. He said that the protest is being held with the demand that the right to housing be made a fundamental right, the MNREGA wages be increased to Rs. 600 per day, along with waiving off the outstanding electricity bills of the Dalit and the poor, and providing 200 units of free electricity.

He added that the Grand Alliance in Bihar has forgotten about the issues plaguing the Dalit community and the poor people. The MNREGA wages in Bihar is abysmal, as also the pension given to the old, specially-abled and women. The growing assault on Dalit and poor, and women and children is not eliciting any measures from the government. Farmers are caught in a vicious cycle of hunger, poverty and indebtedness, which is the reason they are dying by suicide, despite which, the government is ignoring their plight.

At the protest, the arbitrary policy decision of the Bihar Government to release prisoners selectively was also condemned. There are prisoners languishing in jail for 22 years under TADA, whose immediate release was sought, along with those who have been imprisoned under the Bihar Prohibition Act, a majority of whom are Dalit and poor. 

Memorandum to the President of India

A memorandum was submitted to the President of India calling for urgent steps to mitigate the issues faced by rural poor. 

Following demands were submitted as part of the memorandum: 

  1. Make housing right a fundamental right. Give titles for homestead land to people who have been living on the land for decades. Conduct a complete survey of all unauthorized settlements and make new housing laws. Stop the demolition of houses without alternative arrangements. Ensure rehabilitation of those affected by river changing course and erosion. Ensure forest rights of traditional forest dwellers.

  2. Introduce a Central legislation for agricultural and rural workers. Ensure a system for increasing the minimum wages and its effective implementation. Declare the minimum wage of Rs. 429 fixed for unskilled laborers by the Government of India as the minimum wage of MNREGA. Ensure payment of minimum wages fixed by the states to the MNREGA workers be not less than ₹429 at any cost. Stop digital attendance in MNREGA.

  3. Strengthen Food Security Act in view of India's worsening condition in Hunger Index. Bring legal provision for provisioning of rice, wheat, pulses, oil, vegetables, sugar, milk etc. Stop the political use of this constitutional provision. Remove GST on food items.

  4. Guarantee mandatory monthly pension system of Rs. 3000 to all old people, disabled and women above 60 years of age.

  5. Increase the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana assistance to Rs 5 lakh and put an end to brokerage and bureaucratic loot.

  6. Waive off the government and money lender loans of all Dalit and poor labourers. Make arrangements for institutional loans of upto Rs.5 lakh without interest. Reduce the interest rate of self-help groups and micro finance companies and declare forced loan recovery as a cognizable crime.

  7. Waive off the electricity bill of all Dalit, poor and BPL families for the Corona period and 200 units of free electricity should be given to these families.

  8. Put an end to life threatening inflation. Stop the steady rise in the prices of food items, medicines and treatment. Bring a provision of dearness allowance for the poor labourers also!

  9. Stop privatization of education and health. Ensure quality education for poor laborers. Guarantee scholarships for all boys and girls, at every level!

  10. Stop the increasing attacks and atrocities by feudal and domineering forces on dalit, poor and women.