Thinking about Baran, December 2010

I got a chance to speak about my experience of reporting on bonded debt among Sahariya tribals in Baran in Rajasthan at May Diwas celebrations organized by Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) in Rajsamand district in May 2011. MKSS organizes a mela for May Day every year at Bhim in Rajsamand.

285 from Anumeha Yadav on Vimeo.

Roughly translates to: I had first traveled to Kishanganj and Shahbad blocks in Baran in December 2010 after listening to 16 Sahariya agriculture workers at a MKSS dharna in Jaipur for minimum wages in MNREGA. They said they had been in bonded debt since years, in some instances since two to three generations to rich landlords who were charging interests on small loans at rates between 60 to 70 percent. At the time, Rajasthan government ordered that these 16 families be freed of their bonded debt. Two weeks later, the administration handed each of them Rs 1,000 under a centrally-sponsored bonded labour rehabilitation scheme that has not been revised since 1978. But even this instance was not enough to goad the administration into acknowledging the problem. District officials continued to refer to “hali” system as a traditional agriculture practice in Baran and tried to wash their hands off the responsibility for a district-wide survey saying the agriculture workers had migrated from the neighbouring state Madhya Pradesh.

The extent of feudal exploitation in Baran is still unraveling. Since November 2010, more than 165 families have fled landlords’ farms with their families, in some instances walking over 80 kms over two nights to reach Eklera (the village where the first 16 families started work under MNREGA), to demand their bonded debt of years and decades be waived off and they be given their land occupied by the richer farmers. This summer, 40 Sahariya families in Sunda village in Kishanganj set up a community grain bank with assistance from the NGOs Jagrut Mahila Manch and Sankalp pooling the grain they receive under PDS so they do not have to depend on landlords for monthly wheat rations.
(video by my roommate and friend Hannah Pitt:)

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Away from home

MVI 1856 from Anumeha Yadav on Vimeo.

Families from Chattisgarh and UP say they have been working in bonded debt in kilns in Sundarbani in Jammu and on outskirts of Srinagar since 15 to 20 years. They work in kilns in Jammu for 7-8 months and then are bought by kiln owners in Srinagar for the rest of the year when work closes in Jammu kilns. Naveen Kumar who is working in a kiln at Bhakar near Sundarbani is worked in the kilns in JK many years in is bonded debt of over Rs 1 lakh.

My previous reports on forced labour in Rajasthan, here and here.