*    INTRODUCTION
      In this chapter you will learn about some of the ways in which people have struggled against inequality.
1.   The Indian Constitution recognises all Indians as equal before the law and states that no person can be discriminated against because of their religion, sex, caste or whether they are rich or poor. All adults in  India have the equal right to vote during                      elections and this ‘power over the ballot box’ has been used  by people to elect or replace their representatives.

2.    But this feeling of equality that the ballot box provides, because the vote of one person is as good as that of another, does not extend to most people’s lives.

3.    The increasing privatisation of health services and the neglect of government hospitals have made it difficult for most poor people like Kanta, Hakim Sheik and Aman to get good quality health care.

4.    Similarly, the man who sells juice does not have the resources to compete with all of the major companies who sell branded drinks through expensive advertising.

5.    Poverty and the lack of resources continue to be a key reason why so many people’s lives in India are highly unequal.

6.    On the other hand, the Ansaris were discriminated against not because they did not have the resources.
       In fact, despite having the money to pay the required rent, they were not able to find an apartment for over a month. People were reluctant to lease them an apartment because of their religion. Similarly, the main reason that the teachers forced                        Omprakash  Valmiki to sweep the school yard was because he was Dalit.

7.    The work women do is often considered of less value than that done by the men. All of these persons are discriminated against primarily because of their social and cultural background as well as because they are women. Discrimination on the basis of        a person’s religion, caste and sex is another significant factor for why people are treated unequally in India.

8.    Often, poverty and lack of dignity and respect for certain communities and groups come together in such powerful ways that it is difficult to identify where one aspect of inequality ends and the other begins. As you have read, Dalit, Adivasi and Muslim             girls drop out of school in large numbers. This is a combined outcome of poverty, social discrimination and the lack of good quality school facilities for these communities.


*    Struggles for Equality
1.    Throughout the world - in every community, village, city and town-you will find that there are some people who are known and respected because of their fight for equality.

2.    In India, there are several struggles in which people have come together to fight for issues that they believe are important.

3.    The Tawa Matsya Sangh in Madhya Pradesh is another example of people coming together to fight for an issue. There are many such struggles such as those among beedi workers, fisherfolk, agricultural labourers, slum dwellers and each group is                 struggling for justice in its own way. There are also many attempts to form cooperatives or other collective ways by which people can have more control over resources.

*   Tawa Matsya Sangh
1.    When dams are built or forest areas declared sanctuaries for animals, thousands of people are displaced. Whole villages are uprooted and people are forced to go and build new homes, start new lives elsewhere. Most of these people are poor. In urban         areas too, bastis in which poor people live are often uprooted. Some of them are relocated to areas outside the city. Their work as well as their children’s schooling is severely disrupted because of the distance from the outskirts of the city to these                   locations.
2.    This displacement of people and communities is a problem that has become quite widespread in our country. People usually come together to fight against this. There are several organisations across the country fighting for the rights of the displaced. In         this chapter we will read about the Tawa Matsya Sangh - a federation of Fisherworker’s cooperatives an organisation fighting for the rights of the displaced forest dwellers of the Satpura forest in Madhya Pradesh.

3.    Originating in the Mahadeo hills of Chindwara district, the Tawa flows through Betul, before joining the Narmada in Hoshangabad. The Tawa dam began to be built in 1958 and was completed in 1978. It submerged large areas of forest and agricultural             land. The forest dwellers were left with nothing. Some of the displaced people settled around the reservoir and apart from their meagre farms found a livelihood in fishing. They earned very little.

4.    In 1994, the government gave the rights for fishing in the Tawa reservoir to private contractors. These contractors drove the local people away and got cheap labour from outside. The contractors began to threaten the villagers, who did not want to leave,        by bringing in hoodlums. The villagers stood united and decided that it was time to set up an organisation and do something to protect their rights.

5.    The newly formed Tawa Matsya Sangh (TMS) organised rallies and a chakka jam (road blockade), demanding their right to continue fishing for their livelihood. In response to their protests, the government created a committee to assess the issue. The             committee recommended that fishing rights be granted to the villagers for their livelihood. In 1996, the Madhya Pradesh government decided to give to the people displaced by the Tawa dam the fishing rights for the reservoir. A five-year lease agreement
       was signed two months later. On January 2, 1997, people from 33 villages of Tawa started the new year with the first catch.

6.    With the TMS taking over the fishworkers were able to increase their earnings substantially. This was because they set up the cooperative which would buy the catch from them at a fair price. The cooperative would then arrange to transport and sell this        in markets where they would get a good price. They have now begun to earn three times more than they earned earlier. The TMS has also begun giving the fishworkers loans for repair and the buying of new nets. By managing to earn a higher wage as          well as preserving the fish in the reservoir, the TMS has shown that when people’s organisations get their rights to livelihood, they can be good managers.

*    The Indian Constitution as a Living Document
1.    The foundation of all movements for justice and the inspiration for all the poetry and songs on equality is the recognition that all people are equal. As you know, the Indian Constitution recognises the equality of all persons.

2.    The dignity and self-respect of each person and their community can only be realised if they have adequate resources to support and nurture their families and if they are not discriminated against.

 

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