Tuesday, August 30, 2011

News Article: Rajasthan: Bagjana residents pledge to protect Commons Resources

(This is a free-hand translation of the scanned copy of the article pasted below)

Diamond India, July 2011

Bagjana, the non-descript village in the Govardhan panchayat area of Mandal Tahsil may be small in area but not for the commitment it has shown for the protection of its common resources. Showing resilience and indefatigable spirit, the inhabitants have reclaimed their commons lands from the clutches of Mining Mafia. Truly, it stands as an epitome of conservation of common lands for all those who are concerned about the protection of such resources.

In a joint meeting organized by Foundation for Ecological security and Paryavaran Evam Jan Chetna Manch, Siloti Madari ( Kareda Rajaji) on 16th April, 2011, the speakers and  villagers came together to deliberate on the importance of commons lands and its conservation through MNREGA. Both- the speakers and the participants emphasized the need to conserve the commons lands and said that it belonged to all.

Commenting on the vulnerability of grazing lands and common resources, many a speakers felt that they could only be saved through increasing awareness and strengthening of local level institutions. While the speakers and the participants believed that monitoring of these resources should be done at the local level, they also stressed the need to plant trees on the commons lands. They also pleaded with the  Panchayat not to allow mining on the common lands, so as to put a stop to the further damage of environment.

The meeting also came as an occasion to revisit Bajgana villagers’ struggle and their eventual success against the mining mafia. Inhabitants who had come to participate in the meeting saw it as a morale booster in their struggle against Mafia who have put the local resources and environment in jeopardy.  Inspired by the example of Bajgana, they pledged to put an end to the destruction of their common resources.

The enthusiasm exhibited by the local folk gathered at the meeting was truly radiating. It seeks to reaffirm faith in people’s collective strength at a time when Land has been reduced to a mere property, stripped of societal and cultural ethoses that have traditionally been associated with it.  Gone are the days when it was looked upon as Mother or giver. Today, the only relationship people have with the land is that of a Property dealer and the Property, forgetting the subtle link that land is like our mother. Thus, what is at stake is not only the land but also our whole way of life.

Attempts to save commons
With the villagers galvanized to protect their common lands from the Land and Mining Mafia, who have their eyes on thousands of Bighas of commons lands, Mandal area is a picture of vibrant mobilization. If the community meeting held on june 5, 2011, at Shiv temple, Chitamba, is any indication, the villagers are geared up to go to any length to save their common resources. In a bid to popularize the recent government initiative, aimed at removing the encroachment from grazing lands, villagers have come up with ingenious slogans.

Foundation for Ecological Security (FES) , with its continued presence in the region, has been in the forefront of the demarcation drive. The organization has helped establish common land protection committee (CLPC) with support from local activists to expedite the process of demarcation. The over all idea behind the formation of committee is to conserve and upgrade such lands for future generation.

That the villagers are serious about the campaign is evidenced by the sheer pace of mobilization. Baluram Gurjar , an activist associated with Majdoor kisan shakti sangathan and a member of CLPC , exemplifies the peoples’ spirit. What he has achieved in the village of Thana, would appear near impossible to many who have been waging struggle for the common lands. Harnath Singh, an activist of FES, was next to get the uncategorized land converted as common land with the active help of Panchayat. The local administration, buoyed by these activities and taking a suo motto action on the matter has freed 80 hectare of granzing lands in Keedimal Panchayat area,  from encroachment and converted the same as commons lands.  The spree continues with Kartha ( Dhunvala)  sarpanch  Premkanwar and villagers drawing a memorandum and taking up the issue with the district collector to demarcate  grazing land and help remove encroachment on it.  The district collector has promised to provide personnel from police force to facilitate the eviction of encroachers.
The Rural awareness society, Bhilwara, has also launched a similar drive against encroachment on grazing lands in Seerdiyas and Sabal pura; and Mahua khurd that come under Mandal and Baneda tahsil respectively. The campaign which started off from Bajgana, has now engulfed several villages across adjacent blocks. The common lands protection committee and Rural awareness society have received as a mark of shared understanding, sustained support from Foundation for Ecological Security (FES) in establishing grass root networks for the ongoing campaign.

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Everyone has rights over the Grazing lands

Bhilwara , April 16, 2011.

Paryavaran janchetna Manch, siloti-Mandariya (kareda-Rajaji) and Foundation for Ecological Security (FES) organized a federating meeting at Bagjana in Govardhan Panchayat area to deliberate on the repercussion of mining on the common lands. The meeting also emphasized the need to link development imperatives of commons lands to MNREGA.

The discussion was set off by Suresh Parashar, field coordinator, FES, who introduced the audiences to the organization and its objectives. Ranjeet singh, village representative of Sukhiya ki Dhani teekha, said that common lands belong to all; hence everyone should have a rightful access to it. He also elaborated on the need to strengthen village level organizations to check degradation of such lands. Speaking about the legal aspects of common lands, shri Balkrishan Kalaal, the naib-Tahsildar, affirmed that common lands must be seen as village land and every inhabitant of village must have equal access to it. Bhanvar Meghvanshi, giving vote of thanks, said that all the villagers should take a pledge to protect commons lands and put a stop to mining activities on them.  

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