2012-2013

Annual Report – April 2012 to March 2013

Name of the Organisation: Elgar Pratishthan

Programme – UUHHJIF-Elgar Pratishthan: Strengthening Community Organisations

Status of the Document: Prepared by Secretary with inputs from Director and key staff members, Sanctioned by President

Reporting period – April 2012- March 2013

 

  • Highlight of Last Year 

The major highlight of last year was the surge in the anti-liquor movement. On 12th December 2012, more than ten thousand women from Chandrapur marched to Nagpur at the state assembly. The Chief Minister met the representatives of the women and assured to take decision on their demand within a month. When the government did not take action the women performed Satyagraha on 26th January 2013 at Chandrapur. Several hundreds of women and men were arrested. Since the district prison did not have space 97 women were sent to Nagpur central jail. The men were incarcerated at Chandrapur prison. All were released on 1st February after the Home Minister withdrew cases against the activists.

During this year the membership of the organization reached 14,000 with a majority of women. The General Body meeting of the peoples’ organization was held at Mul which was attended by around a thousand representatives.

The organization got four awards in the reporting period. (i) Lokshahir Vithal Umap Mrudagangh Puraskar – This was given at Mumbai by the Umap Pratishthan. (ii) Mahatma Gandhi Vyasanmukti Puraskar – This was given by the Government of Maharashtra, Social Welfare Department, for the work done by the women of the organization to stop illicit liquor in the villages. (iii) Late Haribhau Mogalkar Samajik Puraskar – This award was given at Wardha by a well-known social group. (iv) Sansthapika Puraskar (Founders’ Award) – This award was given at Nagpur by the renowned social work institute Matru Sewa Sangh in the name of their founder Smt. Kamaltai Hospet, who was a freedom fighter and a tireless worker for the cause of women and poor. We thank all those who gave recognition to our work and encouraged us for the future.

  1. Internal Organisation

Womens’ Organisation

During the reporting period 78 women approached the counseling centre for assistance. Out of these in 26 cases there was an understanding reached between the family members. 4 cases ended in divorce on mutually acceptable terms. In all the four cases the organization helped the women to recover the streedhan and other expenses incurred during marriage. A total of Rs.64.000, materials worth 2,60,000 and around 2 tolas of gold ornaments was returned. In one case the matter has led to divorce suit in the civil court.  In two cases the organization helped the woman to file complaint in the police station under relevant sections of the IPC as well as Domestic Violence Act. In one case the husband had forcibly taken away the small children from his separated wife. The organization helped the woman to get back the children through mediation.

In the reporting period the organisation has worked on the following aspects of the programme with an emphasis on group activity.

Women across Chandrapur district participated in thousands for the demand for liquor ban in the district. They also organized at the village level against illicit liquor and worked closely with the local police stations for this purpose. The village which did outstanding work are Nimgaon, Pathri, Rajoli, Majri, Varora, Ambe Dhanora etc. In several places like Mul block headquarters, women organized to demand for freeing the streets and public spaces of consumers and drunkards. In Mul this led to setting up of barricades outside liquor shops to ensure that buyers do not crowd on the streets. This was great safety measure for women. In October 2012 the women conducted a postcard campaign in which more than 80,000 women wrote to the CM reminding of the assurances regarding liquor ban. A public function was organized chaired by Dr. Rani Bang on the day when the postcards were posted collectively. Hundreds of women courted arrest and were released on 1st February. Representatives from womens’ organizations as well as women representatives from all political parties welcomed the women outside the prison. On women’s day (8th March 2013) Smt. Lilatai Chitale, aged 84 years, Gandhian-socialist freedom fighter, and other women organization leaders from Nagpur came to our office and felicitated the women activists who went to jail and assured them full support in this fight.

Because of the continuous campaign of the women the police department has increased its actions against illicit liquor and liquor smuggling. Several rich liquor dealers were arrested for smuggling. The district administration also initiated a drive to ensure strict compliance of conditions for bars and restaurants. It was found that several did not have parking space and they were closed down. The police department wrote to the government requesting the cancellation of licenses of more than 40 liquor shops and bars on the grounds of law and order problems and violation of license conditions. These matters are pending before the government. 

Regular meetings of the SHG groups were organized. Through the SHGs women organized for village-level amenities. For example in Ambe Dhanora in Pombhurna block there was no hand pump. Women demanded for this problem to be included in the agenda of the Mahila Gram Sabha and also passed the resolution. Based on this a hand pump was installed by the Panchayat Samity, Pombhurna. Women have also organized for accessing PDS and kerosene oil on government rates. In village Ghodewahi, Saoli block the PDS shop owner did not heed the womens’ repeated requests. He was not opening the shop on most days, indulged in black marketeering, and used to threaten women. The women took a resolution against him in the Gram Sabha but initially the administration did not respond. In fact, the Revenue Commissioner, Nagpur Division passed an order that the shop owner should not be removed because he did not have any other source of livelihood. The women fought the case and proved that the shopkeeper had 15 acres of land, thresher machines, tractor, and shop and therefore it was not true that the PDS shop was his only source of income. In protest 144 women returned their ration cards to the Tehsildar. This action was widely reported and the DSO conducted an enquiry and the misdeeds of the shop owner were reported to higher authorities. Finally, the shop was transferred to another person who is running it properly. 

SHGs –

The organisation is working with 152 womens’ self help groups. Monthly meetings are held to discuss issues of the women. 

 

SURVEYS: Elgar has conducted survey of 20 villages in the district which are located in forest area. Although the report is being prepared, the survey was an opportunity for the organization to gain insight into the problems being faced by the villages in these areas. The villages can be categorized into three groups: (i) those located inside Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve and are in process of being rehabilitated. (ii) those located on the buffer zone of the tiger reserve. This comprises of 79 villages. (iii) those located in the jurisdiction of the regular forest department. The problems faced by each of these categories are quite distinct. (i) two villages, Kolsa and Botezari, have already been rehabilitated. One village Navegaon is in the process of rehabilitation. In the case of Navegaon, the rehabilitation site is located close to the forest area of village Khadsangi which has been traditionally used by villagers for grazing and collection of minor forest produce (MFP). Since this area has been reduced Khadsangi villagers have started entering forest in the vicinity of village Khambala. This has created hostility between the three villages. (ii) the government has forced the buffer zone down the throats of the villagers. According to the reports obtained through RTIs filed by the organization, out of 79 villages only 3 gave the consent, 12 were silent, and the rest 64 gave Gram Sabha resolutions against the buffer zone. In spite of this the forest department went ahead and marked the buffer zone. This has meant a restriction in the freedom of movement as the department is setting up gates at various points. In village Mamla the forest which used to be with the Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra (FDCM) has been handed over to buffer zone and this has hurt the availability of employment in this village. The villagers mainly belong to Dalit community and are nearly all landless and therefore dependent on the forest department for employment. (iii) In the regular forest department area the villagers reported that they had all participated in the Joint Forest Management Programme initiated by the department between 1998 – 2005 and many of them were eligible for the 20-50% share in bamboo, timber and other produce sold by the department over the years. But they had not been paid a single paisa because of which many of them had stopped in the conservation processes like patrolling and taking care of plantations.

 On 21st March, the Principal Secretary, Forest Department Mr. Praveen Pardeshi met representatives of the organization to discuss some of these findings. It was decided that the shares of the JFM committees would be calculated immediately and distributed without delay. The next week a District level meeting was called by the Chief Conservator of Forest (CCF) at Chandrapur organized at the Rangers’ College. Here the issues regarding payment of shares was discussed with representatives of the JFM committees and a time-bound plan was framed. Accordingly, a process of RFO level meetings have been initiated in which representatives of villages and organizations sit with the forest department officials and calculate the shares. This process has taken place in Brahampuri division, Chichpalli range, Kothari range, Warora range and Bhadravati range. The total shares expected to be paid to village JFM committees is around Rs.1 Crore.

Community Level Programmes – Six programmes were expected to be held and they were organized as under:

  1. Public Meetings on Importance of Women’s Gram Sabha – Public meetings were organized at village Ambe Dhanora (Pombhurna Block) and village Khadsangi (Chimur Block) on the importance of women’s gram sabha. In both the meetings we explained in simple terms through cultural programmes the legal provisions regarding women’s gram sabhas, their mandatory nature and the right of women to include relevant issues in the agenda. The meetings led to increase on women’s gram sabha participation and in Ambe Dhanora it led to discussion on water and road issues.
  2. Women’s Day Celebration: A three days celebration was organized at village Chitegaon (organisation’s campus) in which 250 women participated. The programme included discussion on women’s issues, games, and cultural programme. On the last day the women were addressed by freedom fighter Ms. Lilatai Chitale and other senior women activists from Nagpur.
  3. Gandhi Jayanti (Mahatma Gandhi’s Birth Anniversay) – the programme of Gandhi Jayanti was organized at Chandrapur in which more than 1000 participated. The meeting was addressed by Dr. Rani Bang, Dr. Rajani Hajare, Adv. Wamanrao Chatap, Smt. Jayashree Kapse and others.
  4. Labour Day – Labour Day was organized at village Bhatari, taluka Pombhurna. In this village the tribal labourers had worked under MREGS and not paid by the forest department for around 18 months. They organized and the department paid Rs. 40,000 to the labourers. The meeting was held on labour day to discuss rights of labourers under MREGS and other issues. The representatives of forest department attended the meeting.
  5. Independence day was celebrated at Chitegaon and Mul offices. It was also celebrated at Rajoli where the Elgar Women’s Bank is located. Women and children of the area attended the celebrations.

BLOCK LEVEL MEETINGS: Block level meetings were organized as planned and as an outcome of the meetings the organization took up the following issues:

Labour issues: 

  1. 87 labourers from Chhatisgarh as well as local villages had worked under Jharan Range Office of the FDCM and were not paid for five months. The migrant labourers could not go home because they did not have the money. The organization intervened and Rs.1.90 Lakhs was paid to the labourers. 
  2. In the case of labourers who had worked under the RFO Kanhalgaon for bamboo harvesting, they were assured Rs.3.50 for cutting per bamboo, but when it came to payment the RFO offered only Rs.2 per bamboo. It also came to the fore that the RFO was taking signatures and thumb prints of the labourers on false documents and therefore the RFO was immediately suspended and departmental enquiry is going on against him. The labourers were paid according to the rate that had been assured to them. A total of Rs. 6 lakhs was paid to the labourers many of whom were from Chhatisgarh. After the incidents at Jharan and Kanhalgaon, the FDCM started to make better arrangements for living quarters, crèche and water for the migrant labourers. 
  3. Women labourers had worked under Ballarpur range office in the plantation of the forest department and were not paid for four months. After the intervention of the organization Rs. 1 lakh was paid.
  1.  Labourers from villages Phulzari, Janala, Agdi, Nagala, Kagrvan, Tolewahi, Khalwaspeth, Kawadpeth, Mandatukum etc. in Mul block had worked in Phulzari forest for bamboo harvesting for Ballarpur Paper Mill. However, the mill was paying them only Rs.11 per bundle. The organization helped the labourers to mobilize and demand for raise in wages and a ‘jungle strike’ was conducted. Finally, the mill paid the labourers at the rate of Rs.12 per bundle.
  2. 11 labourers had migrated from Sindewahi block to Aurangabad district to work in a factory. They were not paid and were abused severely. They were also not allowed to return by the owners and contractor. The organization complained to the district police in Chandrapur and with the help of the police released the labourers and also ensured payment to the labourers.

Issues related to Cooperative Department

The Assistant Registrar of the cooperatives department in Chandrapur district in charge of the registration and supervision of animal husbandry, fishing and dairy cooperatives was indulging in corruption and malpractices. The organization mobilized the members of various cooperatives in villages Minghari, Bailampur, Itoli, Vadhona, Saoli, Samda, Kelzar, Chichpalli etc. and registered complaint against the registrar who was transferred immediately. In Itoli all the members of the fishing cooperative are tribals. Inspite of maintaining records, accounts and audits properly they were harassed by the registrar for bribes with the threat that the coop would be closed down. Our organization helped the coop to survive and continue with their livelihood.

Eviction of Kolam (Most Vulnerable Tribal Group) by Forest Department

34 Kolam tribal families had to leave their original hamlet which was partially submerged in the Dongargaon medium project. They migrated and set up huts in Comp.No. 126 of the Virur Forest Range and were living here since 2007-08. On 5th May 2012 the forest department suddenly descended on the hamlet and forced the tribals to dismantle their own huts and took away all the materials like tin roofs, timber, bamboo etc. The 34 families with small babies, old people and women were left under the trees with no support. As soon as we came to know of this incident the activists rushed to this village. On 6th May the activists and tribals walked in protest from the hamlet to the office of the Chief Conservator of Forest, Chandrapur about 20 kms. The tribals sat outside the CCF office for two days demanding that they should either be rehabilitated or allowed to go back. The district administration and media took cognizance of the situation and the Tribal Development Department organized for immediate relief for the families. After two days the police organized for buses and the tribals returned to their hamlet. The forest department returned the materials and the TDD provided cash and food support. Since that time the tribals are living in the C.No. 126 without disturbance. This agitation was supported by several social and tribal organizations in the district who extended solidarity to the victims.

Land Rights

44 tribal families of village Lohara were organized into a cooperative in the 1950s and land was given to the coop for collective farming. However around 1957 the coop dissolved and individual members were assured that the land in their possession would be given in their name. The Collector of that time ordered that the relevant mutations should be made. In 1960 the village, part of Chandrapur district, became part of Maharashtra and the matter did not progress. The land remained in possession of the tribals but they were not given the titles and the title remained in the name of revenue department. In 2002-03 there was a demand from a NGO in Nagpur that the land should be handed over to them for construction of a hospital and the Collector issued public notices in this regard. The tribals objected to the process and a civil suit ensued which the tribals won. Inspite of this the land was not mutated in the names of the tribals. The tribals approached the organization for help and thereafter the mutations have been made and the tribals were distributed the pattas.

In village Yellapur of Jivti block, some non-tribals attacked Kolam tribals to dispossess them of their land. There was a demonstration outside District Collector’s office and the accused were arrested under the Atrocities Act.

 

Organising in Factories

There are three factories in Mul taluka, (i) Greta Energy a biomass based thermal plant (ii) Prithvi Ferro Alloys a coal-fired thermal plant and (iii) Rajuri company a steel plant, in which we are in the process of organizing the labour. All the labourers are through contractors and therefore work under extremely exploitative conditions. During the reporting period the labourers working in Greta energy agitated continuously for minimum wages, wage card, masks, boots, and 8-hour work shift. The labourers struck work twice. The organization made complaints to the Assistant Labour Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner for Health and Safety. As a result of negotiations the management increased the wages from Rs.140 for 12 hour shift to Rs.160 for 8 hours shift. They also provided boots and masks as demanded. The contractors have provided the wage card as demanded. The organization also registered complaint with the Pollution Control Board as Greta was dumping its fly ash in agricultural field and near the state highway. Thereafter the company has made provisions for proper disposal of fly ash.

 

Illegal Sand Mining

The organization helped villagers at village Antargaon, Saoli taluka to make complaints against illegal sand mining from the river bed near the village. The police confiscated the tractor and machines and registered offence against the miners.

 

Cooperatives

 

  • Farmers Cooperatives: The three farmers’ cooperatives at Jivti, Pombhurna and Sawli continued their business like last year. The cooperatives purchased fertilizers and seeds and distributed it to the members on no profit no loss basis. The cooperatives like every year followed certain key principles while doing business.

 

  1. Advances were collected from every member early in the agricultural season and bookings were made directly to the main supplier so that the retail prices could be kept low. The fifty percent of the amount was collected as advance and the remaining offered as loan to the members. The process of collection of advances also allowed us to ascertain the quantity that members needed. E.g. Jivti cooperative society collected Rs.4.50 Lakhs as advances and Rs.3.35 Lakhs were used from the society’s fund to purchase seeds and fertilizers. 
  2. Provision of hundred percent loans to very poor farmers to buy seeds and fertilizers. The interest charged on these loans was borne by the society and not by the individual farmer.
  3. Women members were given special facilities by way of transportation organized by the society. 
  4. The society not only sold chemical fertilizer in the taluqa but also acted as bulwark against speculation in the prices which used to be rampant. The directors of the society took personal interest in keeping the prices under control no matter how serious the scarcity looked like. In the Sawli and Jivti taluqa this was done by collaborating with the government agricultural department in ensuring the regular supply by arrangement through Federations and Dealers. The societies forced the Federations to route their supply through coops rather than through private dealers so that profiteering could be controlled.  
  5. This year the societies also purchased agricultural produce from the farmers mainly cotton and rice and made an attempt to offer minimum support price. 
  1. The Women’s Cooperative added more than 30 SHGs with the bank taking the total number to 150. It continued to give small time critical loans to its members and also disbursed agricultural loans to SHGs. The cooperative works on the principle that number of SHGs linked should be increased so that their savings with the cooperative would increase their credit worthiness. The cooperative with the help of Elgar Pratishthan is planning to start a short term course with Yashwant Rao Chavan Open University for its SHG members.

Training

The details of training programmes and workshops organised during the report period is as follows:

S.No. Name Number of men participants Number of women participants Total Contents
1. Foundation Training 12 26 38 Constitution, need for social change, main problems in villages and what the youth can do?, RTI, PDS.
2. Labour Rights (Contract Labour Act and Interstate Workmens Migration Act) 40 40 Problems faced by labourers in the district, difference between organized and unorganized sector, basic labour laws, why we should organized.
3. Liquor Prohibition (Mumbai Prohibition Act) 12 50 62 Why women want prohibition – the social and health costs of liquor, the laws and why they fail to address women’s concerns, organizing through gram sabhas, working with police and excise department.
4. Women’s Training (Domestic Violence Act, Health and Reproductive Issues, Family Counselling) 120 120 Overview of women’s problems in the villages – domestic problems, health issues. Basic of DVA, government schemes, organizing in villages for zero tolerance against violence.
5. Community Forest Rights (Chitegaon, Padasgaon and Dewai) Three Villages 300 Discussion of past experience in Joint Forest Management, difference between JFM and CFR,  importance of FRA, linkage between Gram Sabha and CFR, can we manage our forests?
6. Joint Forest Management 60 80 140 Past experience in JFM, legal provisions regarding JFM. Managing forests through JFM, rights and duties under JFM.

 

Newsletters

 15 newsletters were brought out during the report period. Apart from this following publications were brought out:

  1. Annual report of peoples’ organisation.
  2. Website of Elgar Pratishthan, www.elgarindia.org

 

Sane Guruji Nagar Vachanalaya (Public Library) 

The library and the study circle activities continued as in previous year with not much change. The number of youths attending both these centres increased marginally. The organization arranged for a discussion on Community Forest Rights which was addressed by Shri. Mohan Hirabai Hiralal.

Childrens’Activities

Elgar Pratishthan has started children’s activities through a ‘Science and Environment Centre’ since the last few years. This year the organization decided to initiate a programme called   ‘Learn about Rivers at Rivers’ (Nadit Nadi Shikuya). Children from the nearby villages were taken to the river or water source near their village for a day long outing and through an interactive exercise they were encouraged to observe the source and also study it. In several places the exercises ended with the children and facilitators cleaning the source or surroundings of plastics and garbage, collecting pebbles, etc. The children also wrote about their experiences in a handwritten magazine.

Reflection

This year was a success in mobilization around various issues like women, labour, and forest. The anti-liquor had great resonance with public because it is a matter of grave concern for the women. Our organization is very democratic and if an issue is consistently raised by women at various organizational meetings and forums then the organization takes it up seriously. Often we have been challenged by city people that the anti-liquor campaign raises issues of moral policing and is restricting the rights of the individual, but we have taken these opportunities to explain the situation in the rural areas where violence against women (not only domestic violence but constriction of the public space to which women have safe access) is linked to liquor. It is also linked to mafia-like activities, politics, elections and corruption. Recent murders in bars, arrests of liquor smugglers and police reports have only vindicated our stand. Secondly, far from being a moral issue with us, it is a power issue and therefore we emphasise on the importance of gram sabha, on linkage with the police, on holding administration accountable and debating ministers for their actions in this regard.

The anti-liquor campaign has greatly increased the reach of the organization in the nook and corner of the district. In all areas we organize on various other issues also especially labour payments and labour rights. This year the recovery of labour payments, demand for timely payment, and wage negotiations went up to the tune of more than Rs.1 Crore which is a substantial sum for a single district and for a single organization. 

As industrialization is reaching some of the rural areas, labourers in these factories are approaching the organization for unionizing. Thus, in units outside the Chandrapur-Ballarpur industrial area, for instance in Mul and Brahmapuri, factory labour is approaching our organization. One reason for this is that the labourers themselves are from villages where the organization is already working on other issues. Another reason is that the organization has been able to create a platform for local people to raise grievances or rights-based issues that they want. 

This year the organistion was visited by Mr. Ashutosh Salil, SDO Chandrapur, Ms. Manisha Varma, Member-Secretary NAC, Dr. Abhay Bang, SEARCH Gadchiroli, faculty and students of various colleges of social work at Chandrapur, Chimur, Wardha and Amravati.