BOSTON: The Association for India’s Developmet (AID), MIT and Boston Chapters in association with Alliance for Secular & Democratic South Asia, TwoCircles.Net and Massachusetts Global Action organized a talk on “Organizing Workers for a Democratic and Secular India Challenging Power Structures in Rural Bihar” on Sunday June 18 at MIT campus.
Keerthana Krishnan, an AID Boston volunteer introduced speakers Kamayani Swami and Ashish Ranjan to the audience with their brief backgound and what they are currently working on in Bihar. Kamayani Swami works as a labor activist wirh Jan Jagaran Shakti Sangathan (JJSS) and she was also an AID Fellow. Ashish Ranjan works as a Joint Secretary of JJSS and Convener of National Alliance of People’s Movement in Bihar. JJSS is a registered trade union of unorganised sector workers which is active in few districts of North Bihar.
The two speakers shared their presentation and highlighed in brief what they are doing in Bihar and what issues and challenges they ae facing in helping these marginalized workers in rural Bihar areas. They said that in such areas with local power structures, it is very difficult for these marginalized people to even submit a job applicationunder National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) or get any entitlements provided by the state. This in turn causes millions of rural people to live in abject poverty.They made their presentation very pictorial and fact-based that narrated the real stories existing in such remote areas.
JJSS mobilizes rural poor to demand better services from the government and to get the benefits of existing entitlements. JJSS aims to bring about a larger change in the lives of rural poor by means of “sangharsh” (struggle) and “nirman” (constructive activities). They organize campaign activities like awareness generation, checking if transparency safeguards were in place to check corruption and documentation of irregularities as there is a high level of lack of awareness about NREGA entitlements and social audit checks.
The findings of the local surveys generated a lot of interest amongst local groups and people who are genuinely interested in issues of social change. This interest became the basis of the ‘Jan Jagaran Abhiyan’, Araria and was later renamed Jan Jagaran Shakti Sangathan (JJSS) which currently focuses on NREGA, Right to Information (RTI) and issues of justice. They also organize youth programs and internships for local students to become aware of their activites and become a part of their mission.
JJSS does not take institutional funds but runs its activities on individual donations from friends, supporters and well wishers. If you want to support their activities, you can visit their website at http://www.jjabihar.org/home-page.html for more information.