‘Voices of the grassroots’ to reach prime minister

March 26th, 2008 - 8:42 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, March 26 (IANS) Over 500 people from 15 states gathered here Wednesday to draw up a list of “demands from the grassroots”, addressing various issues like education and land rights, that will be submitted to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Thursday. A two-month ‘Jann Hakk Yatra’ (march for people’s rights) was conducted in 15 states since Jan 23 that concluded in the capital with representatives of each state voicing their needs and demands. The yatra was organised by the National Alliance for Fundamental Right to Education (NAFRE), in association with Child Relief and You (CRY).

“The focal point of the yatra, the second of its kind since the one which concluded in Ahmedabad last year, is to give a platform to the voices of the grassroots. This comes especially at a time when elections are around the corner,” Saibal Baroi, deputy general manager (development support) of CRY, told IANS.

“It is a people’s movement. The four key points of the yatra are implementation of the common school system, which calls for inclusive education, issues of the displaced people, those affected by special economic zones (SEZs) and communalism and fascism,” he added.

The yatra that took place in states, including Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Manipur and Jharkhand, saw people voicing their demands on a range of issues. It had the support of nearly 500,000 people from across the country.

Some of their key demands are demolishing the patriarchal and Brahmanical structure, protection of child rights, repealing the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and implementation of the Common School System.

Subhash Purohit, convenor for Rajasthan, said that although the yatra had the support of over 72,000 people from his state, only 30 participated in the meet here.

“Thirty representatives from each of the states took part in the meeting, but the yatra has many more supporters. For us, education and water shortage, which leads to a whole lot of problems, are the main issues.

“We are going to put all that in our list of demands to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tomorrow,” Purohit said.

“We feel that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act should not be there at all,” said Rouf, one of the participants from Jammu and Kashmir.

“So many families have been devastated because of this Act. Men, who have been killed on the basis of suspicion, have left behind wives, children and aged parents in the hands of fate…they don’t get rehabilitated. What’s the point of such a draconian power?” he asked.

NAFRE was constituted in 1999 and its main aim was to make education a social issue. Over the years, the group has earned the support of over 6,000 NGOs. It now works on other issues like livelihood programmes, child rights, SEZs, displacement and communalism as well.

“Over a period of time it was realised that education can’t be looked in isolation. There are so many issues associated with it that have to be looked at in order to push the education scenario.

“But education has remained our primary focus and in this regard we will submit the list of demands drawn up by the people,” Baroi said.

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