Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sangharsh, producer-consumer links and chaat

23rd - 26th April 2008

The days after we returned to Sitapur was taken up by discussions about the vision of SKMS and in writing up project proposals for funding. Dwiji was heading to Delhi on the 26th to participate in Sangharsh 2008. This was an event organized by NAPM to highlight the issue of displacement, land rights and proposed changes to the Land Acquisition Act that would further water down the compensation that displacees are eligible for. A number of groups representing people whose land was under threat of acquisition were congregating in New Delhi to protest and mobilize. Dwiji would be there to lend a hand where necessary and to interact with the activists and organizers assembled there. I had a different plan.

Richa had been invited by Mahila Samakhya in Nainital to conduct a training on NREGA for their staff on April 28th, 29th and 30th. I planned to tag along. But this trip was thrown into uncertainty because of the investigation committee's work. Following the Pradhans' protest, extra efforts were being made to get them to testify before the committee. A notice was sent to all Pradhans in the Mishrikh and Pisawa block asking them to set a date for testifying before the committee. The deadline for this was April 30th and there were rumours that the Pradhans would turn up on that day itself.

On the 26th, Dwiji and I headed to Lucknow to spend a day shopping, visiting friends and satisfying my chaat cravings! Dwiji would head off to Delhi and I would return to Sitapur. We first met Madhavi Kuckreja, a veteran in women's groups and rights work in Uttar Pradesh. Her newest endeavour is setting up a shop – Sanatkada – that stocks products made by NGOs, people's movements etc. The shop is located in a residential area off the main road and is on the second floor of a house, so first off, the location was not ideal. But once inside, it was worth visiting. Clothes from the Northeast (the ant) and Rajasthan, material from Andhra (Dastkar), decorative pieces, jewellery, folders, stationery and more – the shop was a veritable treasure trove. Through mere word of mouth, Madhavi is managing to sell more than Rs. 1 lakh worth of items a month. However, the shop is still not yielding a profit and that is something she and her team need to figure out if they want to stay in business – all the best to them.

After the shop, we headed out for some 'pet puja', which Lucknow is well equipped to provide. While out on the streets, we got a call from Sitapur saying the Nainital trip was on – whew!

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