I feel so sad…….


I feel so sad, seeing the beggars

as I walk into the temple,

with my diamond earrings.

I feel so sad, seeing young men,

hang out of buses ,

as I overtake them,

in my air-conditioned car.

I feel so sad, seeing the child

sweep the floor,

as I talk to my son,

studying in Cambridge.

I feel so sad, seeing the dirty slums

as I stand by my balcony.

Sorry, I shall be late for cocktails

O can’t miss the meeting of

the Committee for Social Justice,

Our American donors are coming.

You can chose to die in malutrition, hunger

or toxic waste….

AND A ‘ HUMAN RIGHT‘ TO MAKE A

‘DEMOCRATIC CHOICE’

– K.Ashok Rao, a working class leader

A concern– India Shining Campaign


The country is shining, people’s health is declining

Tell me, what is draining my people’s health?

Is it so much poverty despite so much wealth?

They smile and inform us that our country is shining.

But everywhere I look, I see public health declining.

From ordinary ailments, so many infants dying.

To save them, are our rulers really, really, trying?

Losing their own lives, while bringing to life another

Why is it still a hazard, to become a mother?

Ranging from womb to tomb, women facing threats to life.

But for a sterilisation, they always take the wife!

Old diseases spreading, and now infections new,

Outbreaks off and on, maybe an epidemic too.

Malnutrition growing, even deaths by starvation,

Export the grain for pigs abroad, aren’t we a shining nation?

Pepsi and Coke aplenty, bottled water some can buy

But most still lack a safe well, or see their tap run dry.

In the public hospitals, no medicines or supplies.

Ask officials what’s going on, all you get is lies.

Pay at every window, stand in every line,

Quietly buy all your drugs; don’t you think that’s fine?

And if you go to the villages, things may be even worse.

No doctor in the health centre, in the subcentre no nurse.

So you suggest I go to, the private clinic next door?

Pay a hefty doctor’s fee, for tests and drugs some more?

And god forbid, if they admit me, after consultation,

Hospital bills, referrals and scans may cause my ruination.

You ask about our taxes, how public funds are spent?

Not for health, but tanks and bombs, is where our money went.

The time has come to ask, some questions loud and clear.

Why life here is so cheap, why health care is so dear.

Why rulers shrug off their duty, for citizens’ health care

Despite the highest growth rate, why state coffers look bare.

Doesn’t every Indian, rich or poor, have a right to live?

Then as a basic service, health care the state must give.

Bring the ‘public’ into public health, this is the need today.

Make the system answerable; and heed what people say.

We know this country can ensure, basic health care for all,

If rulers cannot meet basic needs, then such rulers must fall.

For now the tide is rising, people beginning to assert

Right to resources, right to food, the basic right to work.

Let’s form a broad alliance, all those facing oppression

The toiling and the marginalised, the great mass of our nation.

Let’s join ranks in our millions, and fight for a better life

To end deprivation, exploitation, and communal strife.

As one step in this struggle, now let’s begin the fight

To ensure health, and make health care a fundamental right!

by  Abhay  sukla

P.S.- Did you know ? Prathap Suthan, national creative director with Grey Worldwide (India) advertising agency. came up with the slogan in December  2003 as part of a Rs 65 crore (Rs 650 million), government-funded campaign to promote India. internationally .’India Shining‘ was originally the theme for a 60-second video made by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government to highlight the steps it says it took to boost economic growth, slash interest rates, stabilise prices, expand road and telecom and health networks, and offer free basic education.

On Death — Kahlil Gibran


You would know the secret of death.

But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?

The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.

If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.

For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.

In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;

And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.

Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.

Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.

Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king?

Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?

And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.

And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.

And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

Poem for Mehdi Hassan by Gulzar


King of Ghazls Mehdi Hassan

King of Ghazls Mehdi Hassan

aankhon ko visa nahi lagta
sapnon ki sarhad hoti nahi
band aakhon se roz main sarhad paar chala jaata hoon
milne ”Mehdi Hassan” se

sunta hoon unki avaaz ko chot lagi hai
ab kehte hain
sookh gaye hain phool kitaabon mein
yaar ‘Faraz’ bhi bichad gaye hain
shayad milein woh khawaabon mein
band aakhon se aksar sarhad paar chala jata hoon
milne Mehdi Hasan se…
aankhon ko visa nahi lagta
sapnon ki sarhad koi nahi…

Listen to Gulzar recite the poem

Invite for Public Meeting to commemorate the Historic textile workers strike


On  Jan 18th at Maharashtra High School Maidan,
NM Joshi Marg, near Lower Parel and Currey Road stations
at 4.30 pm
Dear friends
It was on January 18th,  30 years ago that textile mill workers of Mumbai went on the indefinite city -wide mills strike which turned into a historic battle between the mill owners, government and recognised union on the one hand and the workers on the other. The government and mill owners won that round, but what the world still remembers most is the sheer grit and tenacity of the Mumbai textile mill workers and proud tradition of struggle that they represent.
30 years later Mumbai’s  textie mill workers are still fighting. In a changing metropolis, and a globalised world, textile mill workers are fighting for the right to remain in a city they have played a major role in building, They have established thier right to alternate work and housing in principle and the struggle continues to make this a reality for the workers and their families.
This January 18th, textile workers will commemorate the Mumbai textile workers strike, not as defeat, but as a proud moment in the history of working class struggle, and a symbol of their resolve to continue the struggle.
The meeting will also symbolise the common context and the links between the struggles of the workers and the farmers in Maharashtra, where both are fighting a bitter battle for survival.
Speakers
Raju Shetty, Member of Paliament,  farmer leader, Swabhiman Shetkari Sanghatana
Gajanana Khatu, political thinker, writer
and
Bhushan Samant (President, MGKU)
Datta Iswlakar (President, GKSS)
Please join us, and please forward this message widely.
In struggle and solidarity
Jaiprakash Bhilare, Maharashtra Girni Kamgar Union
Pravin Ghag, Girni Kamgar Sangharsh Samiti

MGNREGA Worker Jagu Bhuiyan’s Suicide case


(Report of the 4 member Fact Finding team from Jharkhand NREGA Watch)

 

Karmatand, Panchayat Hotai, Block Panki, Dist. Palamau, Jharkhand. A 55 year old Dalit man, Jagu Bhuiyan hung himself from a tree in his farm on the night of the 6th of January, 2012. He was a beneficiary of a Well Construction scheme sanctioned under MGNREGA. A well was being constructed on Jagu’s land under scheme number 11/2010-11 in the financial year 2010-11. The labourers who had worked for the well before monsoon, were continuously demanding their wages.

A team of Jharkhand NREGA Watch went to Karmatand on 9th January, 2012 for immediate fact finding of the main reasons for suicide. The team talked to the family members of Jagu Bhuiyaan and other villagers. The salient points of the fact-finding are as under: Jagu’s wife, Kabootri Devi informed that on the night of 6th January, 2012, like every day, Jagu went to sleep at the shed on their farmland. When his children went to the farm on the morning of 7th January, 2012, they saw their father’s body hanging from the Palash tree and then informed the villagers about it immediately. The villagers informed the Panchayat representatives about it, who then informed the Paanki police station through the local guard. His body was then lifted by the police. Jagu’s wife Kabootri Devi, Son Doman Bhuiyan (30), Anu Bhuiyan, Nandev Bhuiyan, Bhola Uraon, Ward member Pratima Devi (ward number 5), labourers and villagers informed in the formal meeting that they had got an order from the block for a well construction.

Work was commenced in April, 2011. 10 labourers had worked continuously till 15th June, 2011 but in the Well Construction Scheme of Jagu Bhuiyan, the labourers got Rs. 14200 in one installment. He sold off one Ox for paying the labourers and distributed the money he got from selling the ox, to the labourers. Despite this, there was Rs. 1720 as pending wages, of Anu Bhuiyan and his wife. 400 boulders and sand has been lifted to the worksite. There is no entry in the Measurement Book for the material and no payment has been made against the above mentioned material. If the labourers who were working on the Well digging are to be believed, the well was dug 28 feet into the ground. According to the model rate, the cost of this is Rs. 43920.

The Nodal Officer found the depth to be 20 feet on 9th of January in his investigation. That the wells constructed before monsoons have been crushed down/damaged by rains is a well known fact, both with the District and State Administration. Even if the costing of the well is to be done at the current depth, it comes to Rs. 18445. Add to that, the cost of the boulders and sand that was lifted to the site. If the total pending wages are calculated, even by the strictest standards, they add up to Rs. 10000. The actual situation in the Hotai Panchayat is worse. All the people working on MGNREGA in Jharkhand must be knowing that the Chief Secretary, Jharkhand state had ordered in March 2011 for construction of 50 wells in every Panchayat. The well construction scheme in Jharkhand has faced controversy since then. Because, under the provisions of MGNREGA, the right to choose schemes rests with the Gram Sabha and not with any minister or political leader.

In Hotai Panchayat, construction had begun on 44 wells around the 15th of April.We also remember that the transfer of funds from the District to the Panchayats accounts took place on 24thJune, 2011, only after the intervention of the MGNREGA Commissioner. The Hotai Panchayat received only one installment, that of Rs. 9,90,000 in the financial year 2011-12. Under the Wage Payment head of Hotai Panchayat’s account for the labourers who worked before monsoons, the balance is only Rs. 500 since July 2011. For all the well construction schemes only that commenced before monsoons, the Panchayat needs Rs. 5,00,000 from the government. The situation is that there have been no efforts since July 2011 to provide any employment to the MGNREGA labourers in Hotai.

The major irregularities in implementation of MGNREGA in Hotai Panchayat

  • There was a dearth of funds since June 2011 in the Panchayat. The Mukhiya (Sarpanch/Pradhan) of the Panchayat sent 5 written requests to the Administration for allocation for NREGA between 2nd June 2011 and 16th December 2011.
  • The labourers have been paid at a rate of Rs. 100 which is lower than the minimum wage in Jharkhand, Rs. 120. And this has been paid “in cash”.
  • None of the labourers have their pass-books, either of the bank or the post office.
  • Rs. 500000 is pending as wages since the past six months in 44 well construction schemes, work on which started in April 2011.
  • Muster Rolls haven’t been maintained properly for any scheme or worksite.
  • None of the labourers’ job cards have been renewed despite the fact that their job cards were valid only till 31st March, 2010.
  • Most of the families dependent upon labour have migrated to other states in search of work.

Be it the beneficiaries of NREGA or the activists struggling against the corruption in welfare schemes, the instances of their suicide and gruesome murder are continuously being reported in Jharkhand. The police haven’t yet solved the case of an RTI activist, Pradeep Prasad’s murder that took place in Pandeypura village of Latehar district of the state on 29thDecember 2011, just a fortnight back. The suicide of Jagu Bhuiyan has proved that the administration is totally insensitive about the situation of NREGA. It should be remembered that after the murder of Subal Mahto in Bokaro district and Niyamat Ansari in Latehar district of Jharkhand, the Central Government had appealed the State Government to prevent such events in future. Also, it had been ordered by the Central Government that under the Pilot Action Research programme, 12 districts of Jharkhand will focus on special thematic areas for better implementation of NREGA. But the District administration of Palamau has been unresponsive to the programme and hence satisfactory results haven’t been achieved. For assistance of the people who were financially dependent upon Jagu Bhuiyan and for the punishment of the people who are responsible for this, we have the following demands from the Palamau District Administration:

  1. According to the order of the Jharkhand government, reference number 4-1010(NREGA)/10/Rural Development-4716 Ranchi/dated 1/8/2011, a compensation of Rs. 75000 should be provided to Jagu bhuiyan’s wife, Kabootri Devi, within the next three days.
  2. A case should be filed against the officers responsible for Jagu Bhuiyan’s suicide under the section 306.
  3. The family should get Rs. 5 lakhs as compensation and a Government job of the 4th grade to one member of the family.
  4. Other social security benefits (under the National Family Benefit Scheme, Widow pension scheme, Indira Awas Yojana and free education for the children) should be provided to the members of the family within a specified time.
  5. To avoid any such event in the future, camps should be organized in every block of the Palamau district and all the cases of pending wages should be solved.
  6. The Government should protect and guarantee the security of the activists and individuals who take up pro-poor causes with the help of RTI or in MGNREGA.

Names of the members of the fact-finding team of Jharkhand NREGA Watch are:

  1. Virendra Paswan
  2. Mithlesh Kumar
  3. Jitendra Singh
  4. James Herenj


The Jharkhand NREGA Watch team met Ms. Pooja Singhal, the Deputy Commisioner, Palamau district on 11thJanuary, 2012 presenting her their fact finding report about Jagu Bhuiyan’s suicide case. They also demanded for essential benefits for the family. The DC discussed and decided action on the following major points:

  1. There are significant similarities between the report submitted by the Jharkhand NREGA Watch team and the administrative team that visited the village. But there are certain things in the case that require further inquiry.
  2. The family of Jagu Bhuiyaan will be provided the following social security benefits: Rs. 10000 under the National Family Benefit Scheme, Rs. 75000 under the scheme for NREGA labourers by Jharkhand Government, Widow Pension and food entitlements.
  3. A strategy will be made for a long-term solution of the institutional problems in the administration for better implementation of NREGA.

A video has been prepared on this suicide case which can be accessed on YouTube through the following link

Opposition to the world’s biggest biometric identity scheme is growing


FOR a country that fails to meet its most basic challenges—feeding the hungry, piping clean water, fixing roads—it seems incredible that India is rapidly building the world’s biggest, most advanced, biometric database of personal identities. Launched in 2010, under a genial ex-tycoon, Nandan Nilekani, the “unique identity” (UID) scheme is supposed to roll out trustworthy, unduplicated identity numbers based on biometric and other data. Any resident who wants one can volunteer. The scheme combines work by central and state governments and a number of other partners—largely technology firms that capture and process individuals’ data. The goal, says Mr Nilekani, is to help India cope with the past decade’s expansion of welfare provision, the fastest in its history: “it is essentially about better public services”.

All that should have been the recipe for a project mired in delays, infighting, empire-building, graft and bad results. Few expected UID to hit its ambitious targets. A year ago, only a few million had enrolled and barely 1m identity numbers had been issued. Warnings about fragile technology, overwhelmed data-processing centres and surging costs suggested slow progress.

Instead this week saw the 110-millionth UID number issued. Enrolments (which precede issued numbers by some months) should reach 200m in a couple of weeks. Mr Nilekani, eagerly hopping about his office to call up data on his laptop, says that over 20m people are now being signed up every month. He expects to get to 400m by the year’s end. That is an astonishing outcome. For a government that has achieved almost nothing since re-election in May 2009, the scheme is emerging as an example of real progress.

By 2014, the likely date of the next general election, over half of all Indians could be signed up. If welfare also starts flowing direct into their accounts, the electoral consequences could be profound. To get a sense of the scale of UID’s achievement, linger at a mosquito-ridden enrolment centre in Uttan Gaon, a coastal village north of Mumbai. Huddled in a damp fire-station a young man connects a laptop, a binocular-style iris scanner and a glowing green machine that records 30 points from a set of fingerprints.

In the gloom, his contraption could be a robot from an early Star Wars film. Employed by Wipro, a technology firm and agent for the UID project, he has to get through 40 to 50 residents a day. His hassles, and those of armies of others deployed all across India, look endless. At times no one comes to enroll. Local government is supposed to run campaigns to lure them in, but indifference, bad weather and non-stop religious festivals keep them at home or partying. Other days, as when a (false) rumour crackles through a nearby slum that 100-rupee notes will be dished out to those who sign up, hordes pour in. Nerdy technicians are ill-prepared to manage frustrated and even violent crowds. To hit his targets, the agent in Uttan Gaon must process each of the residents, who perch in turn on a red plastic chair, in 12 minutes or less. That is fine—but only for the young and educated. The day’s first arrivals are a barely literate rickshaw driver, an elderly couple and a call-centre worker. Each one overruns. By mid-morning a long queue has formed, but the pace picks up. Wipro and the rest work fast, since that is the only way to turn a profit. One of 35 agents active in Maharashtra state, it bid to be paid just 26 rupees (50 cents) for each person processed, with a higher rate in rural areas. It supplies all equipment and staff, and uploads the huge amounts of data to central processors. It also copes with thefts, damp cables that break the iris scanners, and labourers’ fingers so worn that their prints do not show. Still, contractors look far nimbler at solving myriad problems than civil servants, who are still hampered, for example, by rules ordering that all official communication be done on paper (e-mails will not do). Speed matters. An agent hitting targets can bid to take work off laggards.

This flexible “ecosystem”, designed with help from Indians working in Silicon Valley, thus lets the most efficient prosper. To fund it, the central government dishes out 100 rupees, which various partners share, but only once each identity number is issued: “we have built a system where everyone has an incentive to get results”, says Mr Nilekani. And these are striking: Wipro alone has had nearly 6m numbers issued, of more than 22m issued in the state as a whole. As it grows, however, the project is drawing fire. Most pressing, the mandate of the UID authority will expire within weeks—once the 200 millionth resident is signed up. The cabinet has so far failed to extend it, though reformers are keen. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the powerful deputy head of the national planning commission, for example, says he will allocate billions more rupees to UID as “the money will be more than fully covered from efficiency gains from government schemes”.

Total costs are rising as UID expands: its budget has more than doubled from nearly 32 billion rupees ($614m) for the first five years, to over 88 billion rupees for the next phase. But the government’s chief economic adviser, Kaushik Basu, among others, agrees that savings by “plugging leakages”—that is, stopping huge theft and waste in welfare and subsidies—will be “very big, very beneficial”. The real difficulties are political. They fall into two areas. Most immediate is the home minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram, who is blocking the new mandate. He says he worries about national security. He also looks annoyed that a rival biometric scheme to build a National Population Register (for citizens, not just residents) has been cast into the shade. Run by his home ministry, by late last year it had only issued some 8m identity numbers. He also has a longstanding rivalry with the finance minister, Pranab Mukherjee, who is associated with UID. The prime minister, Manmohan Singh, will probably have to tell the home minister to give way. Then officials need to respond to a second, much broader, band of critics. Last month, for example, parliament’s powerful finance standing committee issued a 48-page report attacking UID, calling it hasty, directionless, ill-conceived and saying it must be stopped. Headed by Yashwant Sinha, a stalwart of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, the committee was eager to throw all criticism possible at the scheme. Yet the report contains testimony from a range of experts with legitimate objections. Some were procedural, including a demand that UID be based on law passed by parliament, not, as now, on a mere executive order.

Other worries, such as cost, should abate as the unique identities are tied to bank accounts of welfare recipients, and so help track the flow of public money. The omens are good. Last week Karnataka state claimed that by paying welfare direct to bank accounts it had cut some 2m ghost labourers from a rural public-works project.

Yet there are also tougher accusations from activists and development economists, such as Jean Drèze and Reetika Khera, in Delhi. They worry that the voluntary programme will turn compulsory, that individuals’ privacy is under attack and that biometric data are not secure. Along with others, they also oppose the logical next step in welfare reform that UID enables. Once recipients have bank accounts, India can follow the likes of Brazil and replace easily stolen benefits in kind, such as rations of cheap food and fuel, with direct cash transfers.

Not only do these cut theft, but cash payments also let beneficiaries become mobile—for example so they can leave their state to seek work, while not jeopardising any benefits. Yet Ms Khera is wary of change. She points out that well-run southern states get rations efficiently to the poor, and cites a survey which found many recipients, especially women, would prefer to keep getting rations over cash. They fear money is more easily wasted, say on alcohol. Worse, in the most remote places, cash welfare is no use since food and fuel markets do not even exist. Such fears need answering. India will have to pass a law on data protection and privacy.

A shift to cash welfare would have to ensure that mothers benefit most, not feckless fathers. And perhaps only as Indians grow more urban, mobile and well-connected will they see the full advantage of cash over rations. But for all the headaches, applying the UID to an expanding and reforming welfare system opens the way for profound social change. Indians need to get ready.

source- The Economist

Satara: Dalit woman stripped, beaten


Exactly a month ago, her son left their village home saying he had found a job in Pune. After that she never heard from him. The only thing this 45-year-old Dalit woman heard was taunts and blame from villagers who said her son had eloped with a girl from an upper caste family in the village.

Things went out of hand on Monday, when she was tied to a tree, stripped and beaten up by fellow villagers in Moolgaon village in Patan taluka of Satara — Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan’s home district.
Lying listlessly in Ward No 9 of Krishna Medical hospital in Karad, the woman broke down at the mention of her only son. “Why did I have to see this day?’’ she said on Thursday, surrounded by Dalit Mahasangh activists who have taken up her cause.

For the three days that she has been in the hospital, she has not had a single visitor from her village. She recalled how the neighbours would blame her and threaten her for what her son did. She said on Monday the threats turned real when the girl’s family and other villagers hit her and dragged her across the village. This followed a spat near the village well with the girl’s parents.
“For three hours I was beaten up till one of them said that if they did not stop I would die. I had to drag myself to a rickshaw after I was freed to approach the local police station,” she said.
Five persons from the village were arrested in this connection. On Thursday, a court sent them to police custody for two more days. They have been booked under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
“I have been staying in the village for the last 22 years after my marriage. I lost my husband very early in life and I have been doing all odd jobs to raise my two children. My daughter is married and settled and my son, who has studied till Class X, has been trained in driving. I run a small grocery shop from my own house,” she said.“On December 12, my son left the house saying that he had a job in Pune. I even packed his tiffin. Since then, I have not heard from him,” she said.

She said she did not know anything about her son eloping or his reported affair with the upper caste girl.

Although there were allegations that the Patan police station was initially hesitant about registering her complaint, Superintendent of Police K M M Prasanna told The Indian Express that the police extended full cooperation. “She is admitted to the hospital and we are ensuring that there is peace in the village,” he said.
The villagers are tightlipped about the entire incident.
Despite everything, the woman said after discharge from hospital she wanted to go back to her own village. “I will not be treated well, but I can’t live in fear elsewhere. I would rather die in this village itself,” she said.

CASTE AND CREDIT THE JAI BHIM SAGA


UNDER FIRE Cops at the scene of the riots at Ramabai Ambedkar Nagar in 1997

UNDER FIRE Cops at the scene of the riots at Ramabai Ambedkar Nagar in 1997 .

 

Anand Patwardhans new documentary,14 years in the making,is on the continuing struggle of the Dalit community in Maharashtra

Jyoti Punwani

Garbage,slums,weather-beaten faces talking with pride and anger;above all full-throated songs recounting the life of Bhimrao Ambedkar and all the savagery his followers have faced since Independence in the progressive state of Maharashtra.These are the images that stay with you after watching Anand Patwardhans newdocumentary J a i B h i m C o mr a d e,which has just got a censor certificate with no cuts.

Three and a half hours long and 14 years in the making,the film,which has already won the first prize at Kathmandus Film South Asia festival,looks at the world from the perspective of the Dalitas well as the perspective the other side has of the community.A youngster in a Barista outlet complains about how unqualified SCs ( We hate them, says his female companion) get seats in colleges,making qualified ones wish they were backward too.Would you like to be a Dalit to get that seat asks Anand. No, replies the boy.Their thinking is low,they are dirty. They clean your filth, points out Anand.If thats the job they want,what can I do shrugs the youth.

A worker,ankle-deep in slime at Mumbais dumping ground (a recurring locale in the film,for its a Dalit workplace ),lost an eye when his pitchfork hit him.Forget compensation,even a cap to protect his head from shit isnt part of his contract.Nor is protective gear;the BMC challenged a high court order to provide 2,000 garbage workers on contract with gumboots,caps and raincoats.
The entire SC category is so dirty,you can make out even from far, shudders a Shivaji Park resident.Others complain about how they run,even as far as Dubai,when Dalit hordes descend on December 6 on the park to commemorate Ambedkars death anniversary.You cant compare it to the Ganesh festival, says another,when asked why no one objects to the 10-day mayhem that accompanies Maharashtras favourite festival.

Whose favourite Thats the question Anands film leaves you asking.I was born a Hindu,but I will not die a Hindu, sings Shahir Vithal Umap,one of the many Dalit singers whose songs run like a thread through the film.After our so-called independence,the 330 million Hindu gods didnt get time to free 350 million of us from slavery, says Bhai Sangare,a founder of the Dalit Panthers.So what did we do Made Dr Ambedkar a god and worshipped him.

Sangare mocks this culture of devotion,but when lullabies about Nandlal are replaced with those relating the message of Bhim (Ambedkar ),and folk songs yearning for Kanha are cast aside for those about Ramabai Ambedkar yearning for her husband,one wonders whether such devotion should be mocked.The difference Ambedkar made to his followers comes out best through the words of a labourer whose daughter was raped by their Vanzara landlord: The Vanzaras call us lowcaste Mangs,and we work on their fields;so we also think we are low-caste. No Buddhist follower of Ambedkar would say that.

The ability to look their upper-caste tormentors in the eye and reject them and all they stand forthis quality marks Maharashtras Ambedkarite Dalits,shows the film.This is also the reason their torment continuesbe it Mumbais Ramabai Nagar in 1997,when 11 Dalits were shot dead by the police for protesting the desecration of their Ambedkar statue;or Khairlanji in 2006,when a Dalit mother,daughter and son were mutilated and killed by upper castes.The Sena-BJP was in power when the Ramabai Nagar firing took place;the Congress-NCP did all it could to protect sub-inspector Manohar Kadam,who ordered the firing.Yet,the end of the film shows the leaders of all these parties garlanding Ambedkars statue at Ramabai Nagar,welcomed by the once militant RPI leader Jogendra Kavade.Its 2009;the cooption is complete;the residents weary,not even sure now who was in power when the firing took place.

The Ramabai Nagar firing led Marxist Dalit poet Vilas Ghogre to hang himself.This comrade died with a blue Jai Bhim headband on.Vilas had sung for Anands award-wininng H a m a r a S h e h e r,and his suicide prompted Anand to make J a i B h i m C o m r a d e.The film took so long not only because I wanted to follow the Ramabai firing case;I also wanted to find out why Vilas killed himself. In doing so,Anand found himself following other Dalit musicians and the background that inspired them.The film ends with the talented young singers of Punes Kabir Kala Manch,who have had to go underground after the police labelled them Maoists for singing about the powerlessness of the Constitution to help them.

Of course the police do nothing when Bal Thackeray says human rights activists should be shot with stenguns;when Narendra Modi,sudarshan chakra revolving around his finger,says terrorists must be answered in kind;when Marathas tell their followers they can set their enemies on fire.The film records all these gems.But the best of them all A young Chitpavan telling Anand at a Brahmin rally: Theres a speciality in our genes;we have the genetic capacity to solve the worlds problems.

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