The adivasis cannot make ends meet through agriculture on their small farms which have become degraded over the years due to soil erosion and the degradation of the accompanying forests due to commercial logging by the forest department. This is mainly due to a policy failure on the part of the state in that investments have not been made in soil, forest and water conservation and augmentation of organic agriculture and instead resources have been devoted to the promotion of green revolution agriculture in the plain regions.
Investments are also being made in large amounts in the neighbouring state of Gujarat in various industries and so the adivasis from Alirajpur are migrating there seasonally to work as casual labourers in the construction industry. These people live in abominable conditions in their work places and suffer from disease and their children too are deprived of health and education facilities. While in Gujarat they effectively do not have any rights as they are harassed by government officials. Nevertheless, they go there in large numbers because on an average a husband-wife unit can bring back about Rupees three thousand a month as net income after deducting all costs. So over a period of a little over three months, which is what they spend in Gujarat over two or three visits, they can bring back Rs 10000 which is a substantial amount for them. This means that the hundred thousand or so families migrating to Gujarat from Alirajpur bring in Rs 100 crores into the district annually.
Yet the Madhya Pradesh Government is loathe to acknowledge this phenomenon and provide these citizens with any facilities. The Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath has been agitating with the government that it set up a labour court in Alirajpur district where it can file cases against the rampant violation of labour laws in Gujarat given that the government in Gujarat is obviously not interested in securing the rights of migrant labourers. However, the government has not acted on this demand. Nor has it acted on the recommendation of the National Human Rights Commission to provide a special rehabilitation package to those labourers who have been affected by silicosis due to working in quartz crushing factories in Gujarat which do not have proper dust catching machinery to protect the workers. The Gujarat Government also obviously has not acted on the recommendation that it provide Rs 3 lakhs as compensation to the surviving kin of those workers who have been deceased after having contracted silicosis after working in the quartz crusher factories. These recommendations have been made only after the KMCS filed a petition in the Supreme Court and the latter ordered the NHRC to look into the matter and give relief to the petitioners.
The government education, health and public distribution systems are riddled with corruption and do not work. Innumerable complaints do not result in any improvement as the higher officials take bribes from those complained against and do not take any action.
Recently the salesman of the public distribution outlet in village Chapria some forty kilometers from Alirajpur took out all the wheat, rice and sugar meant for subsidised distribution to the villagers during the night on 2nd February, 2011 and then lodged a complaint with the Police outpost in Phoolmal village nearby that some unidentified thieves had stolen the foodgrains and sugar. The policemen from the outpost then made a visit to Chapria village on 9th February in search of a person named Kalia and not finding him caught hold of his wife Vechli and gave her a solid caning on her buttocks and thighs and left her writhing on the ground. When her cries brought the other villagers to her house the policemen threatened them with dire consequences if they did not bring Kalia to the outpost and returned.
The villagers next day instead of visiting the police outpost took a circuitous route to Alirajpur and came to the office of the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath. Shankar immediately had an application prepared and went with them to complain to the Collector and the Superintendent of Police. The SP, a woman, was aghast at the purple weal marks of the beating on Vechli's body shown in the picture below and immediately ordered her to be taken to hospital and also ordered that the two policemen on duty in Phoolmal Chowki be called for explanations.
The media too were given the story and the next day the papers were full of it. While all this was happening the people came back to the KMCS office from the hospital with the woman saying that the doctor had said that the wounds were superficial and needed only first aid and no hospitalisation. Shankar had to rush back to the hospital and give the doctor a dressing down to get the woman admitted.
The huge negative publicity in the press forced the administration to suspend the PDS salesman and also announce that special efforts would be made to see that the foodgrains, sugar and kerosene did indeed reach the people and were not siphoned off. The official enquiry regarding the culpable police personnel is still going on.
What all this underlines is the impunity of the government functionaries which allows them to indulge in corruption and oppression due to the lack of exemplary punitive action by higher authorities who are in turn bound less by rules and more by the interests of concentrated capital. A citizenry aware of its rights and prepared to fight for them will also not countenance the rent seeking and profit making behaviour of the capitalists and so despite the existence of a constitution and statutes the tenets of liberal democracy are regularly breached by the government and the administration in favour of the capitalists. There are only a few areas in this country where there are organisations like the KMCS that can challenge this impunity in any effective manner. That the KMCS now has the power to do so is because its members have fought for many years and borne many sufferings to build up this power. Even so this power is tenuous because if the state decides it can at anytime crush the organisation. So democracy is not something that can be easily established when there is a huge centralisation of economic and political power.