I normally do not go to the village meetings much these days but this time in an effort to mobilise more people I visited many villages that I had not been to for more than twenty years. It was great to meet people whom I had known as a youth, when they too were young. We have all become old now with grey hair and wrinkled faces!! The common refrain was that I should not have run away from Alirajpur like I did leaving them to their devices! Person after person lamented the fact that they had become inactive in the absence of the regular meetings and analysis workshops that used to be a hallmark of the KMCS in its heydays. One lady who had been a great beauty when she was young, was now a haggard old woman from the rigours of bearing fifteen children. I found it very difficult to adjust her present looks to the memory I had of her from twenty years ago.
Anyway efforts put in by all resulted in a big build up to the public rally which was covered well by the media during the past month leading to the administration getting into high gear and doing work that had been pending for more than a year in some cases. The big problem as always is with the MGNREGS. There are not enough staff to sanction work, evaluate it when it is completed and then make payments and so there is an inordinate delay which provides ample scope for the officials to engage in malpractices. The turnout at the rally finally was pretty good especially with a considerable number of women taking part as seen in the picture below.
The experience of this past month of intensive mobilisation shows that there is no alternative to going back to the grind of village level work for securing the rights and entitlements of the poor and powerless. Facebooking and such other social media networking may be good enough for the middle class but for the vast majority who are out of the ambit of the Internet, especially tribals, we have to trek dusty and hilly terrain to get them to come out of their remote fastnesses and hold the administration and the government to task. All in all it was a nice way to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the KMCS.