Over 500 workers from across Tamilnadu participate in the demonstration on 1st March
Unorganized workers from across the state took out a van yatra from 21st Feb to 1st March to highlight the issues of eviction, farm distress, bonded labour, indiscriminate industrialization, encroachment of water ways by real estate and corporate companies, and also to demand that the dalits and the working class be given rights over land acquired under land ceiling acts as well as the lands earmarked during the British administration (Depressed Classes Land).
The Yatra, that covered most of the districts of Tamilnadu, culminated in a massive demonstration in Chennai, were over 500 workers protested the continued denial of land rights to workers and dalits, both in cities like Chennai as well as in rural areas. They also protested against the environmentally detrimental power plants to be set up in agriculturally rich lands of Thanjavur basin. Udhaya Kumar, the leader of the anti-nuclear agitation (PMANE) addressed the workers where he highlighted the government’s utter disregard for the safety and livelihood security of the working people. He, in his opposition to thermal, gas based and nuclear power plants, sought the workers to stand firmly against such large scale projects as they would gravely disrupt their livelihood and living condition. Com. Gabreille Dietrich of NAPM, who had participated in the Yatra, along with R. Geetha of UWF, Leelavathi of Penn Urimai Iyyakam and other leaders from various districts addressed the assembled workers. The chief issue addressed in Chennai, was the systematic assault on slum dwellers and forced relocation to urban peripheries. Geetha demanded that such evictions stop and measures to secure their land and residential rights are initiated such that they are able to gain housing within a short distance from the slums.
The Yatra that had begun on 21st from Thoothukudi, was flagged of to a grand start with hundreds of salt pan workers forming a human chain demanding the end to bonded labour, increased wages and better support for the fledgling salt sector. Two routes were chosen, one traveling along the coast and the other route travel into interior parts of T.N, so as to cover the whole of Tamilnadu. It came to a successful culmination in Chennai on 1st March.
The demands placed by the Yatra include :
- All Central and State schemes that result in forceful acquisition of agricultural land including Special Economic Zones, Neutrino, Methane Extraction Project, Shell project must be cancelled. The GAIL project which impacts 7 districts in Tamil Nadu should be cancelled and Tamil Nadu Government should submit review petition to Supreme Court. Nuclear – Thermal power plants that impact coastal fisherfolks should be abandoned.
- The neo untouchability of evicting slum dwellers from the City and taking them to periphery, thus disregarding their access to livelihood and education, should be stopped. Slum dwellers have to be given housing in-situ or nearby localities.
- The surplus land acquired under Urban Land Ceiling Act in Chennai Metropolitan, Thiruchi, Madurai, Thirunelveli and Salem should be used for housing for unorganized working class.
- The encroached Panchami lands have been to recovered and distributed in 2 acre parcels to disadvantaged Adivasi families.
- The surplus land hidden under benami names to evade acquisition by the State under Ceiling Acts have to be identified and be used for housing and land distribution to marginalized communities. Agriculture and especially organic agriculture should be promoted.
- Quarries should be allotted to released bonded labourer groups, women’s groups and cooperative societies on a priority basis.
- The salt pan land leased by State and Central Governments should be allotted to salt pan labourers on priority basis.
- Forest Rights Act should be implemented and right to land and forest produce should be ensured for tribal communities.
- Fishing rights has to be ensured for fisherfolks upto 12 KMs of ocean. The sea between India and Srilanka has to be made common for both communities.
- A public hearing should be conducted on recent floods in Tamil Nadu, its causes, impacts and natural disaster management plans.
- By ensuring 10cent housing rights for all communities with cooperative management of local watershed and green cover would ensure that such disasters are reduced in future.
Find below the press release about the Yatra with the demands of the workers.