2013-2014

Elgar Pratishthan

Annual Report – April 2013 to March 2014

The highlight of the year was the Shramik Mahila Matadar Adhiveshan – Worker Women Voters’ Convention held on 8th March 2014 at Chandrapur. More than 10,000 women from Chandrapur and Gadchiroli participated in this convention. The convention was chaired by Ms. Mayatai Wankhede, well known activist of the women’s movement who was the first woman Sarpanch of Maharashtra. Ms. Shubhada Deshmukh of Amhi Amchya Aarogyasaathi, Gadchiroli was a guest of honour. The convention focused on the various social issues in the two districts and it was resolved that these issues would be highlighted by the women during the forthcoming general elections. 

Womens’ Organisation

During the reporting period 81 women approached the counseling centre for assistance. Out of these in 66 cases there was an understanding reached between the family members. 8 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.1,44.000, materials worth 2,00,000 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. 

Kusum, a 35 year old woman in Mul block committed suicide by setting herself on fire. The staff members of the organization rushed to her village and helped her to the hospital. They also informed the Executive Magistrate to record dying declaration as she had suffered 90% burns and according to the doctors she would not survive. Based on her statement the husband was arrested for abetment of suicide.

Pooja, a young student in Sindewahi block was harassed and stalked by a man who threatened her on phone. The organization helped her to file offence at the police station and the man was arrested.

Anti-liquor Movement: Meetings were conducted in more than 100 villages in Gadchiroli and Chandrapur districts on issues that women voters wanted to highlight during the general elections. A list of common issues was made which included the following:

  1. Declaring Chandrapur as dry district.
  2. Housing for the homeless especially tribals.
  3. Bamboo rights for tribal artisans
  4. Dalit status for Bengali refugees.

All these issues, especially the demand for prohibiting liquor was raised by women before the candidates and leaders of all major parties during election campaign. In many villages women put up hoardings and posters demanding that the candidates should answer their questions before asking for votes. As a result of this sustained campaign, on 2nd April 2014, the Chief Minister announced in his public rally that after the elections the government would take a decision on the liquor issue. Although the women were not convinced, they were happy that this was the first time in four years that the Chief Minister had publicly addressed this issue. There was also a meeting with the Chief Secretary to discuss the various aspects of implementation.

 

SHGs

The organisation is working with 146 womens’ self help groups. Monthly meetings are held to discuss issues of the women. One of the greatest achievements was the first ever agitation by Muslim women in Ballarpur block for ration cards and social security pensions. More than 50 women participated in the morcha and demanded ration cards. Demand for PDS was also raised by women in villages Phulzari and Moharli. In Phulzari which is a tribal village, the ration was not distributed in the village as per government orders. After the efforts of the women now the ration is available in the village. In Moharli the names of more than 40 families had been deleted from the PDS list. Around 30 families were not receiving ration for more than 15 years. The organization raised this issue strongly and agitated. All the ration cards were handed out and they started to receive ration.

 

SURVEYS

Elgar conducted survey of 20 villages in the forest area in Mul, Sindewahi and Saoli villages where bamboo artisans produce mats, baskets and other small items. The survey was around the problems faced by the artisans. There are around 2000 families in Chandrapur district who work as ‘burud kamgars’ i.e. bamboo workers. In the 1990s the government had issued bamboo card to some of the families against which the family should get 1500 green bamboo on subsidized rates from the forest depot. However, green bamboo is never available in the depot. As a result the workers directly enter the forest and cut bamboo ‘illegally’. Since the bamboo is procured illegally the products cannot be sold in the market openly as transport requires a money receipt from the forest department to show that the bamboo was procured from the depot. Since the bamboo available in the depot is dry and extremely expensive the tribal workers do not buy these. Instead some bamboo is purchased by middlemen from the depot against the bamboo cards which they get from the tribals. Thereafter the middlemen procure the products from the tribals at an extremely low price and sell them in the market at a 100 – 150%  profit. The findings of this survey were shared with the Principal Secretary, Forest at a meeting in Chandrapur.

Thereafter this issue was raised several times with the forest department and led to demands from the organization that (i) bamboo cards should be issued to all burud kamgars (ii) green bamboo should be issued against the cards to the tribals at the village and not forest depot (iii) the bamboo should be made available at a nominal price of Rs.4-5 which is affordable and not at the exorbitant price or Rs.40-50 per bamboo. With the help of the Principal Secretary this issue was taken forward and the Forest Minister announced on 10th February 2014 that all taxes would be cancelled on bamboo and it would be made available at Rs.4-5 for bamboo artisans. However, the organization is still following up on this issue.

As a follow up on previous year’s issue on payment of shares to JFM committees, the organization agitated at several places and people even forced the forest department to cancel auctions in the district. Finally, the shares were paid which came to around Rs.80 lakhs for the Chandrapur district.

Through the newspapers the organization came to know that a National Forest Academy was being constructed at Kundal in Sangli district which is the constituency of the Forest Minister. The organization took strong objection to this because Sangli district has less than 2% forest cover and no forest personnel. The organization demanded that the proposed academy should be built anywhere in Vidarbha region which has maximum forest cover and if possible in Gadchiroli where many social experiments on community forestry etc. have been conducted. Other organizations and politicians in the districts also joined the demand as a result another forest academy has been proposed in Chandrapur.

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

  1. Public Meetings on Forest Issues – Several public meetings were held to discuss forest related issues especially in Doni, Phulzari, Satara Tukum, Satara Bhonsle, Gilbili, Pendhri etc. The meetings were aimed to organize communities against corruption by lower level officials, getting JFM shares, access to bamboo etc.
  2. In village Chichkheda women demanded for closure of country liquor shop. Three community meetings were held to prepare for the Mahila Gram Sabha and discuss how the matter would be taken up with the bureaucracy. As a result of careful planning the Mahila Gram Sabha was a success and the shop was sealed.
  3. 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: 

 

  • In Kanhalgaon forest labourers agitated for wages which had not been paid by the forest department. The amount recovered was Rs. 130000. 
  • In Rajuri Steel company the organization led a strike of workers for minimum wages. The wages were raised from Rs. 110 per eight hours to 130 per eight hours. Additionally the Company agreed to pay overtime to the workers. 
  • Tribal labourers from Doni village had not been paid for the road construction work that they had done. The organization helped them to get Rs. 65000 from the PWD department.
  • In Saoli block the labourers working on stone quarries were not paid minimum wage and the owner was also indulging in smuggling. The organization complained to the authorities against the smuggling and the labourers were also paid wages. Illegal quarrying was stopped in the area and FIR was filed against the owner.
  • In village Mamla labourers were not paid for road construction under MGNREGA. The labourers were organized to get around Rs. 40000 from the forest department.
  • Women working in chilly separation units in Bhiwapur block were not paid for two months. The organization helped them to file complaint with the police station and owners were made to pay the wages. The owners also agreed to construct toilets for women working in the units.
  • A company called Ajaydeep Constructions working in Saoli block for building minor irrigation projects did not pay labourers to the tune of Rs.150000. The organization intervened and the contract labourers were paid.
  • In villages Pardi and Kotgal of Gadchiroli district 18 labourers were not paid for construction work. The organization intervened with the Gram Panchayat and the entire amount of Rs.35000 was paid.
  • In Greta Energy Company the organization negotiated with the company on behalf of the workers and the wages were raised from Rs.160 to Rs.190 per day.
  • In Brahmapuri MGNREGA workers took out a rally against the local level corruption and with the intervention of the Deputy Collector the matter was resolved. 
  • Similarly, in village Londholi the local level officials had added fake names to the muster rolls in MGNREGA and the villagers agitated against this corruption to remove the names.
  • In village Belghata the forest department had employed both men and women for plantation work but did not pay the women equal wages. The women organized and demanded equal wages and got it. 
  • Labourers of village Antargaon agitated in Saoli Panchayat Samity for work under MGNREGA as well as for wages.
  • In village Pimpalkhut the agriculture department paid Rs.100 to women and Rs.200 to men for the exact same work in construction of minor irrigation project. The women agitated with the help of the organization till midnight. The next day the officials paid the women the full amount due to them. There was also corruption in the raw material procurement and there was an inquiry into this matter also.
  • In December 2013 the organization raised the major issue that there was disparity in the wages paid by the forest department, the FDCM and the Ballarpur Paper Mills for the same work of bamboo extraction. The forest department pays Rs.15.18 per bamboo bundle, the FDCM pays Rs.9 per bundle and the Paper Mill pays Rs.11 per bundle. The organization has raised the issue that according to the wage board which takes into account the minimum wages set by the government the amount should be Rs.15.18 in all cases. The organization has filed complaint with the Labour Commissioner against all: the forest department, the FDCM and the Paper Mill. Prima facie the labour commissioner has accepted the argument that the wages should be the same in all three cases based on the wage board but the final order is yet to be passed.

 

 

Land Rights

  1. Eight tribal families in Jivti block who were dispossessed by non-tribals and in all eight instances the organization represented their cases before the Tehsildar. The orders were passed by Tehsildar directing the non-tribal to hand over the land in presence of the police. In all eight cases the tribals were put in possession of their land of which seven are still in possession.
  2. In village Nandappa a tribal was beaten up by nontribals for entering his land. The matter was reported to the Superintendent of Police and the land was restored to the tribal. The non-tribals were arrested under Atrocity Act.
  3. The organization has been following up since last several years for the rehabilitation of village Berdi which is in the submergence area of Dongargaon medium irrigation project. During the reporting period the organization presented the case before the Principal Secretary, Rehabilitation and Divisional Commissioner, Nagpur. The problem is that 54 tribal houses are located on the land of a tribal person from the next village and therefore these tribals are not technically eligible for compensation. The organization is demanding a special package for these tribal families without which the tribals have decided not to move.

 

Cooperatives

Full Name: Elgar Mahila Bigar Sheti Sahkari Pat Sanstha (Elgar Women’s Non Agricultural Credit Cooperative Society), Branches – Rajoli and Mul.

 

Establishment Date: 23 January 2003

Registration Number: CHD 418

Members: 523 (Female:523)

Statistics for 2013-14

Total Number Self Help Group Linked with the Society: 146

Share Capital: Rs. 257,000.00

Total Deposits: Rs. 7402,415.00 

      Savings Deposits: Rs. 4130,085.00

      Fixed Deposits: Rs. 247,000.00 & Rs. 365,800.00

      Daily Savings Scheme: Rs. 2276,830.00

      Recurring Deposit: Rs. 349,300.00 & Rs. 33,400.00

Loan Disbursements from 1 April 2010 to 31 March 2011: Rs. 1759,000.00 

Loan Recovery: Rs. 1159,013.00

Society conducted regular village meetings of all the SHGs. One General Body Meeting of the society was held in January. The focus of the bank has remained the women members and also women who are not members but are connected to the society through the SHGs. The highlight of the bank for this year was emergency loans provided to women who were interested in starting a business either in retail or trading. The society has decided to follow up with these loans and closely monitor the progress and provide help if needed to strengthen them.

 

Full Name: Jiwati Taluka Sheti Vikas Sahakari Sanstha (Jiwati Block Agriculture Development Cooperative Society) Jiwati.

 

Establishment Date: May 2007

Registration No: 5/957/08

Members: 245

Share Capital: Rs. 48,500.00

The cooperative has not done any business in the financial year 2013-14. It focused on the recovery of loan amount from the farmers. The total amount of loan recovered for this year would be Rs 434,000.00

 

Full Name: Elgar Kisan Bahu Uddeshiya Sahakari Sanstha (Elgar Farmers Agriculture Development Cooperative Society), Sawli.

 

Establishment Date: September 2009

Registration No: 001/2009

Members: 157 (Female:77, Male:80)

Share Capital: Rs. 19,400.00

According to the 2013-14 balance sheet; Total Purchase of Seeds and Fertilizers is Rs. 110,000.00 and Net Profit is Rs. 30,000.00. We have added 50 women members to the cooperative and plan to induct 50 women members each year. 

This year we specifically focused on Sawali society as it is a paddy area and the experiences have been different from Jiwati which is a cotton growing area. Also compared to Jiwati the members insisted on cash transactions in the sense that commodities were not given on a loan. The cooperative also conducted trainings where agricultural experts were called and members discussed about lessening the use of chemical fertilizers and increasing the use of organic methods in farming. Through these discussion forums we were able to reduce the anxiety in the minds of the farmers that without the use of excessive chemical fertilizers better yield is not possible. Printed matter was also handed over to the members about water conservation.

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 16 24 40 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) 35+35 10 70 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) 13 45 58 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) 40+35+34 109 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. Advanced organizing training 35 13 48 Leadership, Building membership, addressing local issues, communication.
6. Childrens Science Programme 13*10

130

Experiments in Physics and Chemistry. Classes about environment and pollutions.

 

Newsletters

 10 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. 

Childrens’Activities

This was the third year for Childrens’ Science Centre. The effort is to increase awareness about science in the school going children who usually do not get access to laboratories and equipments. We have trained three volunteers (Lomesh Madawi, Dinesh Ghate and Manoj Bhurse) to make Childrens Science Groups in the villages. The group meets in the villages under the guidance of these volunteers and discusses various aspects of science, use of logic and reasoning in explaining natural phenomenon and conduct small experiments with tools that these volunteers carry with them (Charts and Models). Some of the Chemistry experiments that require materials and infrastructure are done at the Chitegon training centre where these groups meet as part of the childrens training programme. For this we have set up a small laboratory to conduct experiments at the centre. Like last year we not only focused on the teaching of interesting science experiments to school children but also talked about environment and pollution related issues. Up till now we have made 13 Science groups in the nearby villages and the response has been satisfactory. We have realized that it is important for us to go to the villages instead of inviting children to the training centre.  

Reflection

This year the entire country was involved in the general elections and our work area was no exception. We decided to use the elections as an opportunity to further the issues faced by the poor in the area and we succeeded to a great extent. Through endless meetings and discussions we identified the five core issues that were to be stressed by members across Chandrapur and Gadchiroli. Even the process of identification of the issue was an empowering one for everyone in the organization as well as the communities we work with. As a result of the convention on women’s day, candidates and leaders from all major parties had to face questions from women during their campaign. All the candidates had to address the issues in the public rallies and speeches. 

This year we made good progress on forest related issues as the JFM shares were paid to the villagers. We also initiated the campaign for green bamboo at affordable rates for tribal artisans. This campaign has the potential of changing the policy around access to bamboo. We also raised the issue of forest academy in Vidarbha region which other organisations and media also supported.  

We also saw a rise in crimes against women and girl children in the district and there is a discussion in the organization that the counseling centre run by the organization is not enough. The organization needs to take up a campaign for social commitment for zero-tolerance for violence against women. This will be an important part of work in the coming years.