Some Thoughts on Land and Dignity of Life

t kaithangThe inspiration for writing this piece came from an article I came across in the 9th October(2012) Mint paper. In the article, I read about a man named P.V.Rajagopal who is leading a march  called the Jan Satyagraha  from Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh to Delhi. The marchers numbering  about 50,000 are expected to swell to 100,000 by the time they reach Delhi, sometime around 28th  October 2012. The marchers occupy one lane of the highway (allotted by the Police), stretching for 4 kilometres long as they sing, dance and shout slogans on their way.  One of the slogans is “Zamin ka ladai mei sari dunia ek hai(In the fight for land the world is one).

Rajagopal is the president and founding member of Ekta Parishad, an organisation that represents the poor and the landless labourers. He is a Gandhian, and believes in walking as the method of protest. He has been organising this form of protest a number of times. He had participated in the protests led by Anna Hazare, but left as he believes that he has to fight for  the needs of the poorest of the poor and the landless. Rajagopal has covered about 352 districts across the country and has walked more than 80,000 k.m. in preparation for the Jan Satyagraha.

A protest procession of this size calls for high level logistics. The  procession is completely peaceful. All participants are volunteers who believe in the peaceful nature of the protest. Money for the huge expenses involved comes from donation both in cash and kind – grains, potatoes, cooking oil, etc. Marchers are divided into platoons of 100 each under a leader. Each is provided with an ID Card which is slung across the neck. As they walk along the highway, they take their lunch prepared by volunteers along the highway. At night, they camp along the highway only to begin the next march the following day.

What is the objective of the march? Ekta Parishad demands that the government should make a piece of land available for all, even the poorest of the poor. Land is more than commodity. It affords dignity to the individual. A landless person has no dignity, no self-respect. Landlessness means that the person has no stake, no reason to be patriotic or protective.

During a recent short trip that I made in a part of Bihar, I was told about the helpless situation of the lower caste people who are not allowed to own land. They live in a cluster, a clump of ground in or near a paddy field, without owning a piece of land the size of a latrine. No wonder when some well-meaning NGOs gave the community ready-to-use, readymade latrine to the families,  they just did not know where to put the latrines because they do not own the land they dwell upon. The latrines eventually end up as almirahs while their intended beneficiaries return to the age-old practice of defecating in the open.

Rajagopal further says that landless people tend to migrate to towns and cities for socio-economic reasons. Making them landowners  will make them stay in villages and prevent their exodus.

Sounds familiar? Perhaps there is something our communities back home may ponder upon.