New Delhi : Elaborate planning had gone into organising the massive rally by 25,000 landless tribals to the Indian capital, with collections and financing for the foot march beginning three years ago.
The planning was enough to ensure that the legion of marchers had enough logistical support to continue their struggle for a long time.
Ekta Parishad, the main organiser of the rally, had asked their branches in the villages and districts across the country to start the collections for financing the foot march three years ago.
“Every family gave one rupee and a fistful of grains every week for the last three years,” said Rajkumari Chauhan, a district organiser from Madhya Pradesh.
With hundreds of villages in each district contributing to the cause, the organiser had to organise godowns to store the food grains. “We had collected about 400 sacks of grains from about 500 villages,” said Munish Kumar Gautam of Madhya Pradesh’s Morena district.
The stock registers were kept at various levels – by jat nayaks, leaders for a group of 500 people, and dal nayaks, in-charge of about 1,000 people. The next in line on the organisation structure were the ‘shivir nayaks’ (camp leaders), who looked after 5,000 people.
Further, each group of 1,000 had been provided with two trucks to store the provisions, two water tankers and a generator.
“We had divided the marchers into five ‘shivirs’ (camps), which we named after rivers Ganges, Narmada, Kaveri, Chamba and Mahanandi,” said Krishna Kumar, a ‘Kaveri’ group leader from Kerala.
The marchers had set up makeshift kitchens along the side of the Ram Lila grounds under canvases drawn between trucks. Gas cylinders lay strewn, as big vats of oil were heated to fry bread, while some men stirred large vessels filled with vegetable curry. “We have 25 cooks travelling with us, who only look after the food preparations,” said Gautam.
In case the provisions start running short, news is immediately sent to colleagues looking after the godowns. “We send back the truck, which then comes back laden with more grains,” he said.
Mani Bai, 65, was an indefatigable ball of energy as she raised slogans on the sound system to keep up of the morale of her group at Jantar Mantar as they waited in the morning for the main rally to meet them there.
With her husband, three children and grand children in her village in Madhya Pradesh, Mani Bai has been one of the driving forces for organising the rally in her area. “My family has been trying to regularise our land of two acres for the last 60 years. The only movement occurs when we are moving between forest and revenue departments with our petition,” she said.
As Mani Bai kept up the spirits, organisers walked around with registers of names of their group and took down their fingerprints for distribution of the morning breakfast of bread fritters.