Issue of Dali land
Initial mobilization (in 1991) took on the issue of Dali Land (land on the hill slopes wrongly classified as forest land and hence considered encroached land). On this issue they joined hands with other sangathans in the area under the banner of Shoshit Jan Andolan. It pressurized the state government to undertake surveys, to implement the resolution that the lands would be restored to the tribals. As things stand today the state government has agreed in principle to transfer the land to the tribals. The clearance from the central government is awaited as the Supreme Court has stayed any regularization of forestland encroachments for the time being.
Prevention of Land Alienation
SJA has successfully taken up numerous cases of land alienation by companies, hotels and real estate investors and developers. Various frauds in connivance with corrupt government officials have been perpetrated by the companies to dupe the people of their land, illegally use government land and illegally withdraw water for industrial use. Many times the cases would only come to notice when the construction would start and the companies would forcibly take over land from the tribals.
In Sukeli village (on the Mumbai – Goa highway 80 kms away from Mumbai) SJA fought against Jindal Seamless Pipes to get justice for the Katkari tribal hamlet whose land was taken without any compensation. After almost a 4 year long struggle the company had to provide alternate land (new gavthan) & construction expenses for the houses. In this case sangathan has achieved a full success. In the Suman Motels resort case, judicial proceedings were initiated and SJA won the case against Suman in favour of the tribals. SJA has successfully solved hundreds of cases like this.
Correction of land records and titles
SJA took up many cases for correction of land records and land titles. The land transfers had not taken place even though the farmers had been tilling land for years. In spite of the law, the govt officials in connivance with the landlords did not transfer the land to the actual tiller. SJA has taken up these cases and have been successful in getting land records corrected. SJA also took up land ceiling cases.
SJA has also taken up the issue of streamlining the PDS system in the area in collaboration with the state level rationing Kriti Samiti. In 2001, during the indefinite fast for Dali land, SJA activists utilized the time to study the budget thoroughly to take on the government on the issue of PDS. After identifying the lacunae in the budget, they decided to take it up in the upcoming budget session and also create a demand for increase in food subsidy. After analyzing the budget, SJA conducted a shibir for the activists of various people’s organizations in Maharashtra who had come to Mumbai during the budget session to meet MLAs and discuss the budget. Despite their best efforts, SJA and its associates could not bring the issue on the floor of the house for discussion. As a result of which the food subsidy was further reduced. However, they decided to take up the issue of PDS in big way.
The most significant achievement of the PDS andolan was that the state government raised the income limit poverty line for ration cards from Rs.4000 per year to Rs.15000 per year. Approximately, 10 lakh families in the state additionally got yellow ration cards (BPL) due to this decision. In the tribal area where the SJA is active, thousands of tribal and non-tribal families benefited from this decision.
SJA also participated in a state level seminar on challenging the government definition of the poverty line. Several trade unions, representatives of political parties participated in this seminar. The struggle still continues in streamlining the functioning of ration shops.
Since the inception of the Sangathan, 3 election for state assembly and 2 panchayat elections have been held. All the elections have been a learning experience for the sangathan. In the initial years due to lack of finances and non recognition of the sangathan as pro – poor resulted in the sangathan candidates losing out to others. But over the years SJA has become a political entity and the votes of the Katkaris are considered essential by all candidates to win the elections. SJA takes up voter awareness campaigns and serious discussions are held on which candidate to support. Along with the Shoshit Jan Andolan, people’s manifesto has been brought out and given to different parties to solicit their views and support. By and large the SJA rejected the candidates belonging to BJP/Shiv Sena. The decision to support the candidates was taken after studying his track record, personal character and support to the people’s demands. In the 1999 assembly elections the candidate SJA decided to support the NCP candidate and he won. The NCP candidate provided support in many issues. In 2004 assembly elections, a rival candidate has won who also happens to be the minister for food supplies. SJA is continuing its struggle for streamlining the ration shops and are keenly waiting for the minister’s response to demands.
Religious and caste-based coexistence
SJA has continuously taken up issues of untouchability and discrimination. Recently it took up the issue of denial of drinking water to Dalit families in a village very close to Mahad where Dr.Ambedkar had lead Dalits towards their right to access water almost 60 years back. SJA mobilized people and even got the government to respond to the question in the state assembly. Though Dalit families have been allowed to take water, such cases of discrimination continue to crop up.
SJA has also been fighting against rampant communalism in the area and has been victim of communal politics where SJA has been branded as a Christian organization undertaking conversions of tribals. SJA successfully fought against this victimization and emerged victorious. They have also tied up with other groups fighting against communalism, having serious discussion with people.
National Movements and Campaigns
SJA has consciously networked with other struggle groups & state and national level movements. SJA is part of state-level Shoshit Jan Andolan and Rationing Kriti Samiti and national-level NAPM. SJA has extended support to other movements. Likewise SJA participated in rallies at the Konkan region as well as in Mumbai. SJA also planned and participated in the Jagar Yatra orgainsed under the banner of NAPM. Sangathan tried to involve the MSEB Union, Dock Workers’ Union, the Bank Employees’ Union and the ST Workers’ Union. This action gave a new direction to the organization. For the core group and other SJA volunteers, shibirs are conducted to understand the process of globalisation.