Gwalior: At least 50,000 landless people from at least 25 states have begun a 350 kilometere-long march from Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh to New Delhi.
Under the banner of Ekta Parishad, a non-violent social movement working on land and forest rights, the marchers representing different rural communities, especially tribal, landless and small farmers.
They hope to highlight 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.
Ekta Parishad hopes to put pressure directly on the central government which they feel is resisting reform and structural change. The structural change that the Parishad is calling for is a complete land redistribution to enable the marginalized and downtrodden, to get out of poverty.
The Centre had appointed the Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh and Minister of State for Industry and Commerce Jyotiraditya Scindia to hold talks with the activists led by Ekta Parishad chairman P V Rajagopal on the issue.
After the discussion with the ministers, yesterday, Rajagopal clarified that they would still go ahead with the planned march to Delhi as no concrete assurances were given to them on the issue.
He alleged that an attempt was made by the government to weaken their agitation by offering small concessions.
However, Ramesh said that he had invited the agitators to New Delhi on October 11 to hold further talks with him on all the issues raised by them.
"We have assured the protestors that the government will consider all their demands sympathetically and try to fulfill them in totality," the minister said.
He also said that in the next six months, he would discuss the matter with the state governments and the agitators to find out an amicable solution to the problems.
The minister also agreed with the agitators` demand of setting up fast-track courts for settling land-related disputes and added that he would discuss the issue with the states on priority.
Ramesh also assured them that on October 11, the government would try to come out with a proper strategy and take a decision on implementing it.
Rajagopal said that even though he would not be able to attend the meeting on October 11, other representatives of the organisation would do so.
"Nearly 50,000 people will take part in the march and the number would cross one lakh by the time the protestors reach the national capital," Rajagopal claimed.
He claimed that besides people from several states in India, those from nearly 13 countries including Germany, Switzerland, Nepal, France, Canada, Finland, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Russia, USA, Sri Lanka, Senegal and Columbia are also taking part in the march, he said.
Rajagopal, who met the Prime Minister last week, had said yesterday that Singh had agreed to the demand that poor be given access to land and the fundamental issue of Right to Shelter should be addressed.
With PTI inputs