By Shilpa CB | Place: Bangalore | Agency: DNA
They converged in the state capital, and they had a confirmed appointment with the state’s rural development minister, Jagadish Shettar, who also holds the panchayat raj portfolio. Nearly 3,800 labourers from 19 districts gathered at 11 am to demand work and fair wages, to which they are entitled under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. No one but the honourable minister could have ignored such a large gathering.
“An appointment with the minister was taken before the date of the rally was fixed. Thousands of poor labourers waited on the streets, but the minister could not find time to meet them,” said one of those participating in the march in support of the labourers.
Among the marchers were member of the National Advisory Council, Aruna Roy, RTI activist from Rajasthan Nikhil Dey,and IIMB professor Trilochan Shastry. Many NGO workers and sex workers joined the labourers, as they marched from Chikkalalbagh to Banappa Park, many of them barefoot, in the heat of afternoon.
At Banappa Park, a huge contingent of policemen, who arrived in ten vans, threatened to forcibly disperse the crowd. HS Doraiswamy, 90-year-old freedom fighter, intervened to explain that this was a non-violent protest, and things stayed calm.
The marchers moved onto Race Course Road, and wound their way to Shettar’s residence. Late in the evening, the minister condescended to meet the crowd, the biggest non-political gathering witnessed by the city in recent times.
“We worked for 45 days from October 16, 2009, and have received no payment for that work till now. We wrote to Union minister Veerappa Moily and MLAs, and we have been approaching different officials, but in vain,” said S Subhan Sabi from Maragunte Village, Bagepalli Taluk, Chikkaballapur district. Another labourer, Sharada Subhash, said, “Officials cheat us of our money. If we question them, they threaten us.”
Later, the rallyists submitted a memorandum to minister Shettar, who promised to meet members of the Grameena Coolie Karmikara Sanghathanein soon, and also visit a few districts, once the assembly session was over, to get first-hand insight.