Bhopal: Tens of thousands of landless labourers, peasants and tribals, who set off from Gwalior on October 3 for Delhi, crossed Dholpur in Rajasthan on Monday. The contingent is marching to the national capital to press for their demands of land and employment opportunities.
This is the biggest march by landless poor in recent times. The contingent plans to cover the entire 350 km stretch from Gwalior to Delhi by the end of this month. The protesters say that they have been invited by the Centre for talks to find a solution to their problems.
The tribals started the march under the umbrella of a Gandhian organisation, Ekta Parishad, after their talks with Union government's representatives, including Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh and Minister of State for Industry and Commerce, failed. The organisation had threatened to stage a march on October 2 to highlight their problems, following which some Cabinet ministers had been deputed to mollify the group at Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh.
Ramesh, Scindia, Social Justice Minister Mukul Wasnik and Panchayati Raj Minister Kishore Chandra Deo met the tribals led by activist PV Rajagopal but failed to pacify them or arrive at an agreement. Ekta Parishad, a people's movement headed by Rajagopal, had announced that people, representing different rural communities, especially tribal, landless and small farmers, "will walk in formation together 350 km from Gwalior to New Delhi". Rajagopal said the Jan Satyagraha 2012 march campaign is a non-violent walk.
"The people will raise the issue about land being a key asset in development and poverty reduction, and that high levels of landlessness and deprivation need to be reduced for achieving positive national and global development. In effect, land and livelihood rights are instrumental to all people's freedom," the organisation said.
Rajagopal, who also met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, said Singh had agreed to the demand that poor be given the access to land and the fundamental issue of Right to Shelter should be addressed.
"Prime Minister has assured me that his government would come up with a land reform policy in six months. He has also agreed to make long standing demand for Right to Shelter a fundamental right," Rajagopal, who is a member of the Prime Minister-chaired National Council for Land Reforms, said.
The Prime Minister has also agreed to another demand that a land pool should be created in which government lands and Bhoodan land recovered from powerful will be kept for distributing to landless poor, he said.
(With additional information from PTI)