IT HAPPENS ONLY IN INDIA,
GREAT JOB MR. PARMAR
it is good to eat as many as vegetables and fruits (totally vegetarian), but my aurvedic doctor asked me to stop eating every...
KUSUM ARUN SALVE
Mahatma Phule Samajik Shikshan and Sanshodhan Sanstha
Sugar isn't sweet
Persuasive, emotional and strong-willed, Kusum Arun Salve has been fighting for sugarcane workers' rights in Maharashtra's Beed district for over a decade. A labourer herself before joining the Mahatma Phule Samajik Shikshan and Sanshodhan Sanstha, she fights for recognition of the sugercane workers as regular mill workers. "A family with two adults working in sugarcane fields for six months generally gets about Rs 20,000. But the middleman earns in lakhs. He prospers even as the worker toils in the fields year after year," she says.
From October to March every year, cane cutters migrate to cane plantations where they camp in makeshift tents for six months. A typical cutter's day begins at around 4.00 am and continues till late night. Most of the day is spent in the fields cutting and collecting about two to three tonnes of sugarcane for crushing, and awaiting their turn in front of the mills with loaded bullock carts. It is not uncommon for an entire family or even a village to migrate during the season. Children also join in; there is no school to go to and more hands mean more income.
The Sanstha wants middlemen to be done away with and workers be treated as regular mill employees. "Sugarcane workers have the right to a monthly salary (depending on the quantity of sugarcane they transport to the mill), provident fund, accident insurance and health benefits like any other mill worker," asserts the determined activist. Since workers migrate every six months, their children cannot enroll in a school. They are demanding a flexible system so that children can attend schools near the mills during those six months. Electricity and proper health facilities are other key demands.
Her constant fight has started showing results: in over 25 places, schools for children and health facilities have been provided, according to Kusum. She feels a platform like the World Social Forum (WSF) will help in promoting the cause of sugarcane workers.
As told to Neelam Singh
This was a big victory for the Kenya Alliance for Advancement of Children, which advocates empowering children. An astute move, for high adult mortality from AIDS has made children the majority in Kenya.
"Empowering children would help in identifying the issues that affect their community. And then give them the right to change the things that affect them directly, improve their world," says Kenneth O Ambetsa.
The organisation tries to increase the child's sensitivity to environmental, social and development issues that affect them. "It is important to ensure that the children know what to demand," says Ambetsa. Children are taught to be rational and demand only what is justified. In the process the children also become better citizens, says Ambetsa. Using strategies like inviting government officials to school functions, the organisation is slowly but surely making children Kenya's foremost decision-makers.PHAN THI PHI PHI
War's toxic trail
For 30 years Phan Thi Phi Phi, a doctor with the Hanoi Medical College, has been fighting relentlessly to clean up the toxic trail left by Agent Orange (AO), used by the US army during the Vietnam War. For 14 years, 49 million litres of AO was sprayed and it has crippled three generations. "More than three million people have been affected. It will be a problem in the near future also because there is new exposure, and the genetic make-up is affected. I have studied not only the war veterans and local people, but also two generations after. I have come across many reproductive abnormalities," she says.
Like US soldiers, the Vietnamese have not been paid any compensation. But " US soldiers were exposed for hardly one year. But we have been exposed for the last 40. Hence we are suffering from more than the 13 recognised diseases. For instance, I have come across not only cases of spina bifida but also mental retardation, cerebral plasy, abortions, stillbirth, premature delivery, and many forms of cancers."
She says new exposure areas keep getting identified. Remaining stocks have already leached into groundwater. "There is no detoxification, which needs very expensive technology. Only epidemiological studies are being conducted. We have a national programme for detoxification and are also working in collaboration with US, Canada, Japan and Germany. But all that is not enough."
As told to Nidhi Jamwal
New law of the land
Krola village's struggle began in 1993, when villagers found signboards posted along the village road, staking claim to their land. The signboards had been put up by business people from Ban Lung, the urban centre nearest to Krola. They wanted to convert the land as well as the neighbouring forests into palm plantations, as the area's soil was very fertile.
To save their land, the community took the only action they could think of. They removed the signs and resolved to say a firm 'no'. An internal policy was formulated, forbidding the sale of land to outsiders. Any member who sold land would be disqualified from clearing new area for cultivation, and would be forced to place the proceeds of the sale into the communal village fund.
Due to such measures, business sharks were unsuccessful in their attempts to grab the land. However, they started logging the forests. For years the devastation continued; in 1997, left without any other alternative, representatives of the village approached Norodom Sihanouk, the country's king. He urged the government to protect the country's hill tribes from environmental and cultural erosion by granting them legal rights over areas they inhabit.
Since the government had to 'oblige' the king, it granted permission to the Krola communities to prepare a plan as to how the rights would be granted. In August 1998, a provincial working group (including representatives from the departments of agriculture, forest, environment and land titles) presented a 'request' to the governor of Ratanakiri (the province in which Krola exists) and the national land titles department to proceed further. The lack of a national legal framework that recognises land rights of indigenous communities was cited as the major obstacle in granting rights to the community.
Following this, a national conference was organised in March 1999, during which the minister for the council of ministers, H E Sok An, promised the inclusion of a section, dealing with such rights, in the new land law being drafted. A survey was conducted thereafter to know the communities' opinions on the new draft section. Its results were used by the council of ministers in redrafting the content of the section. Then the new land law, with provisions of communal land titling, was passed by the National Assembly. "But this is just the beginning. Even after two years, there is no political will to enforce the law. Hence the communities have to fight to ensure that the law is implemented. It is an endless struggle, but one which can bear fruit. It certainly proves that another world is possible if the communities empower themselves," says Gordon Paterson, of Non-Timber Forest Products Project, a non-governmental organisation based in Ratanakiri.
As told to Ritu GuptaSHAFIQ BUTT
Punjab Lok Sujag, Lahore
Milked but alive
The Punjab Lok Sujag, a Lahore-based non-governmental organisation, has been struggling for years to end the exploitation of rural milk producers of Pakistan by multinational companies (MNCs). The struggle is of great significance, as the country is the fourth largest producer of milk in the world (30 billion litres in 2002). MNCs, especially Nestle, have gone to any length to capture the market, because the country's per capita milk consumption is one of the highest in the world -- 440 millilitres per day.
Traditionally, urban centres bought milk from peri-urban and rural sellers. But in the 1980s, municipal authorities decided to boost up packaged milk (primarily Nestle). Among other things they telecast a 10-minute documentary, showing local sellers getting milk from sick animals, and mixing dirty pond water in milk. In contrast, the companies were portrayed as all-good. Lahore's corporation even declared all milk animals as public hazards and obstacles in making the city clean.
Such a campaign made it impossible for rural and peri-urban milk producers to remain in business, and by the mid-1990s they had lost most of their customers. They even had to shift their animals out of the city. Nestle took over the market. It started buying milk from 'middlemen' as well as directly from rural sellers, now forced to sell at unjustified prices. To date, the system continues. The companies exploit farmers as much as possible. It has even manipulated the country's Pure Food Law of 1965, as per which cow milk should have 3.5 per cent fat and 8.5 per cent solids non-fats (SNFs); buffalo milk should have five per cent fat and nine per cent SNFs.
The companies have arbitrarily set the standard of six per cent fat and 15 per cent total SNFs. This way the farmers are exploited -- despite the farmers' milk being pure, its declared adulterated. 100 litres of buffalo milk with five per cent fat fetches the price of only 83 litres, as per the company's rules.
This is not all. Companies pay farmers only Rs 11 for every litre of milk purchased. Then they take out a hefty 31 kg of fat (desi ghee) from 1,000 litres of the pure milk and sell the remaining low fat milk after processing and packing at Rs 32 per litre. This generates a margin of Rs 24.66 per litre for the companies. This way everybody in the milk business is rich expect for the one who actually produces it.
Why do the farmers keep getting exploited? Fact is, they have to sell to survive. "The only way out for them is to form a diary cooperative like the one which was formed in Gujarat, India," says Shafiq Butt, executive member of the Punjab Lok Sujag, that now has done a study to prove their point.
As told to Ritu Gupta