It’s 7 pm on a cold winter night of Rajasthan and in the quiet village of Sohangad in Taal panchayat of Devgadh block, a bus followed by three vans makes its entry. For a village with history of great fights, this is a welcome sight. The javabdehi yatra, traveling through Ajmer, Beawar and Bhim amongst many other districts, entered the village and there is instant enthusiasm all around. People gather around the vans and bus, knowing that the country has come calling again for their support, knowing that the sangathan is back to its birth place. The same place where the fight against the feudal landlord over land rights had been taken up by the women of the village in 1988 and ended up in the creation of the today well known Mazdoor kisan shakti sangathan. Lal Singh, a long time activist from this very village welcomed the yatra, as along with Hira Singh ji. In turns, Mohan ji from Bikaner, Naurti ji from Ajmer, Nikhil ji from the MKSS and Lal Singh ji spoke and explained the plan of the yatra.
Today Rajasthan has the Right to Information and Right to Hearing acts but there is no strong accountability act that lays down the timeline for the work that the government servants are to do to earn their salary with proper checks and timely punishment. The 100 day yatra organised by the Soochna evum Rozgar Adhikar Abhiyan (SR Abhiyan) that is to travel through the entire state demanding and drumming up support is heading towards Rajsamand for a jawabdehi mela. The Jawabdehi mela is a one day camp in every district headquarter where grievances of the people will be written down and then given to the district collector so that action can be taken on people’s grievances. It will also be entered into online tracking portals not just of the government but also those created by the Digital Empowerment Foundation IT team that is accompanying the yatra. The government’s efficiency and accountability to the people will also be tracked. The Rajsamand mela will be held on dec 7 and we will spend the night here in Sohangad.
Songs were composed and sung on the irony and injustice of social spending being cut while the salaries of government officials and public representatives are being dramatically increased. They referred to the recent 7th pay commission and decreasing labor wages in Nrega and the new way in which dacoity takes place today. The song goes – “pehele vaale daku bandookon se maarte the, aaj kal ke chor kalamon se martein hai raj choron ka”. Songs were followed by the “jamboora” natak, where the story is that of a goat that does all the real work, provides milk and sustenance is beaten and abused. While the monkey pretends to do all the work and steals all the resources is applauded.
A large round of claps and laughter of the kids indicated the end of the natak and Lal Singh ji wasted no time in explaining what this natak truly meant for everyone’s life. He also called upon the people of the yatra for rounds of claps for the hosts for having the courage and dedication to devote time for such a cause and having come to Sohangad with this message. Our hosts expressed their support for the yatra by promising to attend the mela in Sohangad on 7th. Even before the meeting could end, people were seen asking yatra members to come to their respective homes and have dinner.
Everyone could not come on the yatra and dedicate 100 days to it but they were determined to help out by making sure that the yatra members did not go hungry and would have the energy to carry the message to the many villages, chourais and tehsil towns that are still unaware of the approaching yatra.
The next morning the huge crowd of women waiting to register their grievances was a familiar sight and has been the experience of the yatra everywhere till now. Ration not being given every month with the reason of low quota from top being cited by the ration dealer, pension that has been stopped for the last few months and the problem of directly transferring pension money to banks is what troubled the women and old citizens the most who were relieved to find an avenue through which they could register their grievances.
95 more days and many more such experiences and support will surely awaken all of Rajasthan to a strong and vibrant movement to fix responsibility and demand accountability.