2015-2016

  • The high-point of the last reporting period was the decision taken by the newly elected state assembly to impose prohibition in Chandrapur district. This decision was welcomed by large sections of society in the district especially by rural women. However, several petitions were filed by the liquor association in Chandrapur and one by a liquor company in Ahmadnagar.  The petitions were filed in High Court which admitted the petition but did not stay the prohibition. Thereafter the petitioners went in appeal to the Supreme Court. Separately, the company producing the liquor also filed a petition in the Supreme Court. 

In January 2016 the petition came up for hearing in the High Court and was argued by the Advocate General. The High Court upheld the prohibition on constitutional grounds. In May 2016 the Supreme Court confirmed the High Court order.

An important development in this reporting period pertained to the hearings in the Supreme Court of the prohibition-related petitions. The apex court sent the petitions to High Court with the direction to give final orders within a certain time period. The High Court heard the matter for three days continuously (18th to 20th November). Elgar had the opportunity to assist the Advocate General of Maharashtra Mr. Shrihari Aney who was defending the government’s prohibition policy. On 7th January 2016 the High Court dismissed all the petitions and upheld the state’s policy of imposing prohibition based on the demands by the people of the district. 

The organisation has been active in demanding certain policy decisions such as formation of peoples’ committees at the village/block/district levels such that prohibition does not remain a police matter alone. After sustained follow up by the organisation the district collector ordered the formation of village level committees headed by the Sarpanch. The organisation has helped in the formation of several committees in the district.

 Further, we have demanded for forensic science labs (at present there is only one lab at Nagpur) because convictions depend upon forensic reports. We have also demanded for changes in the Maharashtra Prohibition Act, 1949 specifically pertaining to provisions regarding bails.  We have made substantial progress in these demands as they have been principally agreed to by the government.

At present the responsibility for implementation has fallen on the police. Overall the police has performed efficiently. Before prohibition there was a supply of 2,00,00,000 bulk litres of alcohol in the district. This has fallen drastically since prohibition especially in the rural areas. Bootlegging is however taking place especially in the city areas and borders.

The organisation handed over names of around 200 bootleggers to the police. Women volunteers in several villages like Kirmiti, Pathri, Dewada (Jungaon), Ambedhanora, Chandapur, Saoli, Kisannagar, Mul, Mokhada, Nimgaon, etc handed over bootleggers to the police. 

Mul police station was not taking action against bootlegging in Mul city. Inspite of our continuous follow up there was no response from the police station. We even requested the Inspector General of Police and Superintendent of Police to remove the Inspector in Charge. 

The activists also started to catch bootleggers and hand them over to the police. This was obviously not welcomed by Mul police. In one incident a Police Inspector publicly slapped an Elgar activist for informing him regarding illicit liquor. The activist filed complaint against the police inspector. 

In a second incident, Elgar activists came to know that a bootlegger was going to transport liquor in the night. A group of Elgar activists kept watch and informed the police. In the attempt to stop bootlegging the activists were attacked by bootleggers. Instead of helping the activists the police registered offence against both parties. The activists were booked under section 307 I.P.C (attempt to murder) along with other sections. 

The organisation lost precious working time due to this case. Firstly, the activists had to procure interim anticipatory bail and thereafter final bail. The vehicle was seized which had to be retrieved through court orders. However, our organisation faced a serious backlash from the liquor dealers at the ground level when several of our activists were falsely accused of attempt to murder.

We have approached the High Court for quashing of the false FIR. The High Court has admitted the petition and issued notices to the police. 

We have made progress in the issues regarding access to bamboo, housing, labour and women’s rights as described under.       

Bamboo: Under this activity three indicators were planned and the results are as under:

We had planned to form 55 committees of bamboo workers: We have formed 45 committees in the reporting period as follows:

 

Name of Block Number of Committees
Chimur 12
Mul 6
Saoli 3
Chandrapur 7
Nagbhid 3
Brahmapuri 4
Sindewahi 10

 

We had planned to help bamboo workers to access bamboo cards. We have begun the work in this direction. In the reporting period we have helped 1200 bamboo workers apply for bamboo cards. We helped bamboo workers fill applications forms, gather the required documents and file the application before the Range Forest Officer. The applications have been filed before 7 Range Forest Officers.

Accessing bamboo at subsidised rates: At present the rate of bamboo in the forest depots is between Rs.12 and Rs. 18 per bamboo. This includes extraction and transportation cost which comes to around Rs.9. We have argued that if bamboo workers are ready to cut and transport bamboo themselves then the cost of bamboo should be reduced by Rs.9 i.e. each bamboo should come to between Rs.3 and Rs.9. As an experiment we helped bamboo workers in village Mohadi to cut bamboo and transport the same. The forest department initially took Rs. 18 per bamboo and after much follow up reimbursed Rs.9 per bamboo. We were informed by the forest department that this delay is because first Rs.18 per bamboo is deposited in the revenue account whereas the reimbursement has to be sanctioned from the forest department account. We are trying to persuade the forest department to change their method of payment.

Rally :- Although we had prepared for a rally of bamboo workers in December, 2015, it was delayed because of the cases instituted against the activists.

Study of 25 villages in forest area: Instead of randomly choosing 25 villages for study, we have concentrated on villages where there are bamboo workers. In effect we conducted a massive survey of bamboo workers covering more than 7500 families. The survey has mainly covered Chandrapur district but we also had a good response from Gadchiroli and Bhandara districts. We have collected data about workers who do not have bamboo cards, their relationship with forest and forest department, and their problems regarding accessing bamboo as well as marketing. We are going to bring out the report in January 2016 in a big programme. This study will help us to strengthen the campaign for the rights of bamboo workers. 

 

Womens’ Training Camps: For better access to social security schemes we have started to organize groups of women eligible for social security benefits at the village level. At present the number of groups in various blocks is as under:

 

Name of block Number of groups
Mul 25
Sindewahi 8
Brahmapuri 10
Nagbhid  15
Pombhurna 6

A total of around 1000 women are members of these groups. We have formed these groups with the main objective of taking forward the campaign for increase in social security benefits and accessibility of the schemes.

Three training camps of the leaders of these groups were organised which was attended by around 200 women leaders.  

Identification of Issues: We had planned to identify two issues. The first issue that we have identified is that of the implementation of the Street Vendors Act, 2014. We have started work in Chandrapur, Ballarpur and Mul cities on the issue of street vendors. In all these cities the street vendors were being evicted. In Chandrapur a stretch of road side was being cleared by the forest department. The department issued notices to the vendors against which the organisation helped the vendors to file their objections. The organisation also helped the vendors to apply to the district court for stay order on the notice. This application was partly allowed. Thereafter the organisation helped the vendors to file appeals before the High Court. 

In Mul the municipal corporation and the public works department conducted a joint operation to clear the entire city of street vendors. The organisation protested against the drive and organized a public rally on the issue. 

In Ballarpur also the municipal corporation removed street vendors. Here too the organisation intervened on behalf of the vendors and demanded that the Central Act should be implemented. 

The organisation translated the Street Vendors’ Act into Marathi in question answer format. It also organised a programme at the district headquarters which was attended by vendors from various parts of the district.

The organisation discussed the issue of street vendors with the Member of Parliament, Mr. Hanraj ji Ahir and he ordered the Revenue Commissioner, Nagpur division to ensure implementation of the legislation.

 

The second issue that we identified pertained to the closure of 5 model schools in Gadchiroli district. Gadchiroli is the poorest district in the state and one of the poorest in the country. It is tribal-dominated, educationally backward and affected by Naxalite violence. In 2011-12 the central government had started English medium middle schools in educationally backward blocks of the country. A total of 43 schools were started in Maharashtra of which five were started in Gadchiroli. In 2014 after the new government came into power at the centre, a decision was taken to stop centrally sponsored schemes – of which the Model School Scheme was one. As the central government stopped the funds, the state government also decided to close the schools. After the parents and students of the schools agitated the government announced that no new admission would be taken such that the schools would close down once the present batch had passed out.

The organisation helped the parents to meet the Governor of Maharashtra as well as the Education Secretary and Finance Minister. However, since the government did not take any positive steps, the organisation helped the parents to represent their case through a writ petition before the High Court.

Housing issues: We had planned two indicators. The first was to help organise those who had applied for housing in the past five years. On September 30, we organised an agitation on this issue at the district collector’s office. We were informed that the central government has cut funds for rural housing from 1,70,000 houses in Maharashtra to 70,000 houses. Thus, from around 4500 houses every year in Chandrapur district the number has come down to a mere 1200. We are following up on this issue.

Taking forward the issue of housing for Korku tribals in Mul city we organised three meetings with the community and three meetings with the Tehsildar Mul and CEO, Nagar Palika Mul. As a result the Nagar Palika and Revenue Department have agreed to support the rehabilitation of the Korkus. The organisation has helped the Korku families to procure the required documents and file them with the Tehsildar. 

We have consistently followed up on the issue of the rehabilitation of Juni Berdi but the administration is yet to take a decision regarding whether they want to go ahead with the project or not. We have had several meetings with Commissioner and district collector but this matter is yet to be resolved.

Labour Rights: Labour Issues: We were approached by a new constituency comprising of young men from small city areas like Mul, Bhadravati, Warora, and Saoli. Two sets of such men approached us with two different issues. The first set comprised of about 150 men who own tractors. Till last year the agriculture department used to register their machinery and provide them with work. Typically the work consisted of paddy bunding and soil conservation works on agricultural fields in the villages. The tractor owners were paid according to the work completed. From this year the method of work was changed completely by the government. The government decided to provide the work to contractors through computerized e-tendering process.  As far as tractor works were concerned the agriculture department announced a policy that the work would be contracted out to three categories of contractors – 33% to labour cooperatives, 33% to unemployed engineers and 34% to others. Now, they also specified that the labour cooperatives should be registered with the agricultural department and the unemployed engineers with the public works department but they did not specify where the ‘others’ should be registered. Since registration is a precondition to participation in the e-tendering process it is crucial for the tractor owners to get registered. This matter was taken up and discussed several times with the district collector and district agriculture superintendent. The district collector wrote to the agriculture commissioner for specific guidelines regarding registration. This matter was forwarded from the agriculture department to soil conservation department where it is pending.

The second category comprises of owners/drivers of taxis and autos who ply their vehicles on short distances. Their business was threatened by private buses who started plying the same routes. Motor Vehicles Act (MVA) prescribes regulations for the issuance of permits for large capacity buses. The rules and permit fees for these buses are designed to allow them to ply only on long distance routes. This would mean that there are only limited buses that can be accommodated in a single such route. The bus owners and large fleet owners tend to form monopolies by increasing the number of buses on different routes, by not paying the requisite amount of taxes that they are supposed to pay and thereby increasing the margin of profit, by manipulating and affecting huge fluctuations in the fares both for long distance and short distance and by driving out small and medium vehicles owners through concerted fare manipulation. It is obvious that they are able to do this only through the active connivance and corruption of Road Transport Officials. Also once the other small vehicle owners are out of business these buses choose to ply only on the lucrative routes. The State Transport Corporation is unable to meet the demand for buses and the worst affected lot are the people from the interior villages who commute to the taluqa and district towns on an everyday basis. The agricultural and daily wage labouring class is also affected by the steep rise in fares. It is our members in these villages who brought this matter to the organisations’ notice for the first time and we started working on this issues since June of this year.

We have effectively used the Motor Vehicles Act to reduce the number of buses on the road and have prevented fare increase. Since this is a pervasive problem all through the district the auto and taxi owners have become active members of the organisation. In Chandrapur city small minivan owners and small transport vehicle owners who transport vegetables and departmental store items have also become members of the organisation after our successful intervention in the taxi issue. Apart from the MVA we have also used RTI to hem in the local transport department. Using the vehicle registration and other information through the RTI we involved the local police and convinced them about the thorough illegality of the system in which these bus owners were operating. All this has added a new segment to the trade union and in urban areas we are getting a lot of help from this segment in further expansion of our work.

  • There is a large segment of our work that comprises individual issues of members of the union. They are sometimes standalone problems of the members at the local administrative level such as the tauqa tehsildars’ office, block development officers’ office, collectors office (and other administrative offices surrounding collector at the district level) and local electoral bodies like panchayat samiti and zila parishad or problems comprising small groups in a village regarding access to various government programmes and schemes, documentation and certification work at various stages and wage related matters. Some representative sample of this kind of work is enumerated below. This work is significant because it is from here that larger issues are identified and campaigns are built around. In this report we are taking three blocks and the work done here.

Mul Block

Some contractors along with local leaders encroached upon the homestead land of Daulat Shende, a member of the organisation. The organisation helped Daulat and his family to approach for help to the police station and also the Taluka Inspector of land Records to measure his land. At the first attempt the local leaders did not allow the TILR to measure the land. At the second attempt the TILR measured the land between 12.30 p.m. and 7.p.m. However as soon as the TILR officials left the village, the leaders appeared with machinery and forcibly constructed a road through the premises of Daulat Shende’s house. Chhaya Sidam a tribal woman activist protested and she was badly beaten up by the leader and his goons. This matter became a police case. After Chhaya registered offence at Mul police station, the local leaders propped up a Dalit woman to register false FIR against Chhaya and other activist of Elgar under the sections of Atrocity Act. The organisation was compelled to file a writ petition in the High Court for quashing of FIR. The High Court has stayed investigation into the offence and ordered the police to file their reply.

  • Sindewahi Block

26 women applicants having problems regarding Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar Yojna and Shravan Bal Scheme were helped and their application expedited. 

Mandabai Kamde in Navargaon was helped in claiming insurance of her crop that destroyed in a fire.

In Dhanora block 37 women labourers wages were cleared from the local forest department that were pending for three months.                

Rekha Gajbhiye and Shobha Badubandhe were helped in claiming wages pending for almost four months.

Asha Vijay Borkar was helped in getting her documents certified in Tehsil office regarding the issuance of her caste certificate and claiming the accident benefit.

Gayabai Dange, Tanukabai Dange and Subhadra Samuskade were helped in getting her PDS cards made at the Tehsil office.

Sumita Meshram was helped when gram panchayat people blocked the approach road to her house. 

  • Nagbhid Block

11 women from Sonurli village were helped in accessing health card benefits. 

Gangubai Sukare was harassed by the liqour smugglers in her efforts to stop sale of illegal liqour in her village. She was helped in getting a police complaint registered.

Sita Shravan Shende was helped in her PDS card renewed.

Koshlya Meshram was helped regarding Shravan Bal Scheme.

Shankutla Meshram a tribal woman from Bhivapur town was dispossessed from her land, she was helped in filing a police complaint and court case.

  • Sawli Block

Gita Haridas Madawi and Madhuri Nemendra Sorde were helped in accessing food security schemes.

Pending wages of Rukmabai Shende and 10 other women were released for the MREGS work.

10 applications of Shravan Bal Scheme were cancelled without giving any reason they were restarted after organisation intervened at the Tehsil office.

35 applications of Savitribaikanya Scheme were pending for 6 months they cleared with the help of organisation.

Court cases filed on behalf of Sunita Kotnake and Jyoti Borkar regarding domestic violence.

  • Jeevti Block

Land pattas under Forest Rights Act to Marubai Jangu Kotnake, Dayabai Madawi, Nagubai Uike, Turpabai Sidam of Narpathar village, Gudsela village MREGS payment to Lakshmibai Manikrao Madawi, Marubai Raju Madawi.  Laxsmibai Devrao Madawi was helped in securing an agricultural loan from the 

      Tribal Development Department.                                              

Domestic violence cases – We are regularly running the counseling centre. Within the reporting period there were 77 cases handled at the centre. We have started a new Chandrapur and here too women approach the organisation for help. Six cases women were helped through this centre.

Legal support details are as follows.

 

Name of the Court Name of the Petitioner Case Summary Stage
1)Rajura (Taluqa Court) Sunita Kotnake Domestic Violence Case under section 12 of the Domestic Violence Act  Case admitted and notices issued
2)Brahmapuri (Taluqa Court) Jyoti Borkar               “           “
3)Chandrapur (Sessions Court) Vinod Borkar Hindu Marriage Act; Section 09            

           “

4)Sawli (Taluqa Court) Vijay Korewar  Indian Penal Code; Civil Defamation, Section 500 and Section 34 Notices issued to Managing Director Lokmat Media Newspaper
5)Mul (Taluqa Court) Paromita Goswami Indian Penal Code; Criminal Defamation under Section 451              

            “

6)Chamorshi (Taluqa Court) Indira Gohne IPC Section 125 Case closed and appealed in taluqa court
7)Chamorshi (Taluqa Court) Indira Gohne IPC Section 125 Evidence stage
8)Nagpur (Minimum Wages  Commissioner) Vijay Korewar and 42 others Minimum Wages Act Evidence Stage
9)Chandrapur (Labour Commissioner) Vijay Korewar and 11 others Contract Labour Act Evidence Stage
10)Chandrapur (Labour Commissioner) Badu Gedam and 85 others Employees Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act Judgement Stage
11)Nagpur (High Court) Kalyan Kumar and 9 others Regarding quashing of FIR Notices Issued
12)Nagpur (High Court) Shramik Elgar PIL regarding closure of Model Tribal Schools in Gadchiroli district Notices Issued
13)Nagpur (High Court) Shramik Elgar PIL regarding explotatation of Data Entry Operators working in gram panchayats Notices Issued
14)Nagpur (High Court) Prabodhan Sanstha Violation of Maharashtra Town Planning Act and Maharashtra Municipal Councils, Nagar Panchayat and Industrial Township Act Argument Stage
15)Rajura (Taluqa Court) Diwakar Krishna Amne Tribal Land Restoration Case Notices Issued
16)Rajura (Taluqa Court) Tarabai Gedam Tribal Land Restoration Case Notices Issued
17)Rajura (Taluqa Court) Sunanda Gajanan Sidhimeshram Tribal Land Restoration Case Notices Issued

In the reporting period we have reached more than 40000 women and 20000 men in the rural areas, and around 5000 men and 1000 women in the urban areas.