(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
August 23, 2009
Famished Rural Poor Lay Siege on District HQ
ON August 17, the CPI(M) organised a huge rally of thousands of drought affected NREGA workers and small farmers, including a large number of women, at the Bidar district headquarters in Karnataka. CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat, Karnataka state secretariat members K Neela and Sriram Reddy (former MLA) led the rally which laid a siege to the office of the deputy commissioner for five hours.
These workers and farmers were demanding the payment of wages due under the NREGA work and unpaid for last two months, immediate expansion of the NREGA works, drought relief in the form of foodgrains distribution and compensation to the small farmers.
Addressing the rally, Brinda Karat strongly criticised the central and state governments for their callousness towards the drought affected districts. She said, “Good intentions declared from the ramparts of Red Fort will not fill the empty stomachs. The utter failure of the government to control the prices of essential commodities has made the impact of drought all the more severe.” She demanded immediate action on the demands of the rally. She called upon the rallyists to join the nationwide struggle that the CPI(M) is organising for the right to food and for a universal public distribution system.
The deputy commissioner and the district incharge of the NREGA later met a delegation of the CPI(M) and assured the redressal of grievances. In the next two days following the rally, the payments had started to the jubilation of NREGA workers.
The rally was the culmination of a two months long campaign of house to house contacts and mobilisation around the demand for work under the NREGA. All party leaders and workers were out in the field, directly going to the NREGA sites, interacting with the workers, identifying their problems, and holding meetings in villages. Women responded in large numbers. As both the BJP government in the state and the Congress led UPA government at the centre have ignored the problems of lack of work and the huge impact of drought in the district, the response of the affected workers was overwhelming.
Bidar town had never witnessed such a huge and militant rally. All roads were blocked as the numbers swelled. Commenting on the mobilisation, the DC had to remark, “The problems must be very urgent and genuine for so many people to come.”
The CPI(M) has now planned to take the struggle forward.