On January 2nd 2013, over 200 women attended a Jan Sunwai in Worli, BDD Chawls, Mumbai. The Jan Sunwai was organized by the Worli Committee of Lok Raj Sangathan in the presence of Shri Soheb Lokhandwala, Mumbai based Observer appointed by the Supreme Court Commissioner of Food Security, New Delhi. Also on the dais were Shri Visawker, President Mumbai Ration Siddawatak Karmachari Sangathna (the Union representing State Govt. employees working in the Ration Distribution Sanghathan), Shreemati Malan Sonawane of Jagrut Ghar Kamgar Sangathan and Shi Manoj Singh of SUCI. The local ration officers had been invited to attend the Jan Sunwai, but they refused to attend.
Shri A. Mathew, Mumbai Convenor of Lok Raj Sangathan welcomed all and read out the demand letter of the residents of Worli BDD chawls. The letter described how for the last two years the residents under the leadership of Lok Raj Sangathan had been fighting to improve the quality of their ration. Members of Lok Raj Sangathan had visited the FCI godowns and taken samples of wheat and rice available there. However the quality of the wheat and rice distributed at the ration shops was far inferior to this. Many petitions and demonstrations had been organized to the ration office. But there was no improvement in the quality of food given, at the majority of shops. A few shops did improve their quality after persistent struggle by the residents. Also they were not getting their entitlements of sugar, dal and palmolein oil. The letter also talked of the difficulty faced by the residents of Worli to maintain a ration card. Similarly those who were staying on rent and those who were staying more than one family to a room were left without a ration card.
After this the residents brought their individual written complaints and handed them over the Supreme Court appointed observer. 120 written complaints were handed over with copies of their ration cards. Subsequently one by one the women came forward and spoke out. One lady shouted that the people are not able to make two ends meet and at this time the govt. is further harassing them by raising the prices of Gas. Simultaneously the kerosene quota available was drastically cut down. Then they had to spend whole hours separating all the dirt from the wheat and rice that was given to them at the ration shops. She shouted, what kind of a govt. is this, which treats its working people so cruelly?
Mr. Lokhandwala explained that he was not a Government Servant, but appointed by the Supreme Court. He assured the assembled women that he could be meeting with the Ration Controller of Mumbai and forwarding their demands to him. He asked for a list of 5 names from each Ration Shop and these he would try to arrange that they get an sms as soon as the ration supply leaves the Government Godowns as well as after it reaches the ration shop. He promised to come back and address the people again after two months if the ration situation did not improve. He thanked the women who had come and hailed their initiative in giving so many written complaints.
Shreemati Kusum of Lok Raj Sangathan criticized the big political parties who were not taking up the people’s problems, and that is why the women and residents of Worli had decided to come together and depending on their own unity to form committees and fight for their rights.
The Jan Sunwai was also addressed by Shi Visawkar and Shreemati Malan. It ended on a very positive note with the residents determined that they will continue their fight to ensure that their right, the right to subsidized food, is ensured by the Govt.
LRS Mumbai Correspondent