23rd July 2010
Manjha artisans and traders had assembled in Bakarganj Karbala Maidan in Bareilly to jointly decide on a charter of demands on issues concerning the threats to their only source of livelihood- production and sale of indigenously made manjha. This was the last in a series of other meetings which were held with Manjha Workers in Moradabad and Rampur in the month of July.
Around 30,000 families in Bareilly are engaged in the Manjha making trade for generations. These are mainly Muslim families who have no other recourse or option of livelihood – since Manjha making is the only skill they know. Pairvi along with Lokadhikar has initiated a process of collective formation for these artisans who have remained unorganized till now.
Following are the demands which the artisans will pursue with the concerned departments of the Uttar Pradesh and Central Govt.:
The ban on storing and selling of Manjha- implemented by the Delhi Police should be revoked.
The Chinese made manjha be banned from the Indian market.
The artisans’ and their families should be issued the Below the Poverty Line (BPL) and that they are brought under the ambit of the social security net.
The State Govt of Uttar Pradesh should promote and support the Manjha artisans and their trade by initiating events like the Kite Festival (on the lines of how Gujarat Govt has been promoting the Manjha artisans in Gujarat.
Their trade be given the status of a Cottage or a Labour intensive Small scale unit.
Large number of manjha artisans had come to take part in the mass public meeting. These artisans were mainly from the near by area of Hussain Bagh- which is an area largely populated by families in the manjha making business. Mr. Harish Patel, from the UP Coordination office of Lokadhikar was in charge of the over all conducting of this meeting. Com Anil Verma , AITUC leader in Uttar Pradesh addressed the gathering and iterated that the artisans need to come together to “fight” for their rights and securing them. He also said the fight for rights will be a long fight, therefore there is need to maintain the momentum of the collective of the artisans. Further, he said the first in the list of rights that need to be ensured for the artisans – is the right to livelihood. In view of the threat to livelihood of the manjha artisans, the Govt should promptly bring the artisans under the ambit of social security net. How can the government ignore the sad plight of these people who are not able to earn enough to even feed themselves. He ended his address by pledging full support to the cause of the manjha workers. Next Mr. Nathu addressed the gathering. Representing the voice of the manjha workers, Mr. Nathu also emphasized the importance of a collective. He was amongst the few speakers who talked about the key role and contribution of women in the manjha making business. He said that in the fight for rights, women should also be given their due space since they significantly contribute to the business of manjha production. In the end Nathu ji said that the process which has begun should not stop till it reaches its logical conclusion. His address was followed by Mr. Sudhir Vidhyarthi’s – who also pledged his total support to the collective of Manjha artisans. He is a known writer on the subject of societal changes.
Comrade Annie Raja representing the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) addressed the gathering of artisans. She articulated her support to the manjha workers and also committed to mobilizing to ask questions in the Parliament in the upcoming monsoon session.
Mr. Ajay Jha, Director, PAIRVI addressed the gathering, next. Not only did he pledge his support for the collective, he reiterated the demands that were decided upon by the artisans. He said that lives of 30,000 families are at stake, the artisans need to work as a collective to gain access to their right to secured livelihood and the access to social security. He also committed his support to bringing the issues of the artisans before important leaders both at the state and the Central levels of the govt and initiating a dialogue with them.
Ms. Yasmeen was only women’s voice from amongst the community of manjha artisans. In her brief address to the congregation she pleaded that women be given their space in the collective so formed and that the artisans should also recognize the hard work and contribution of women – in the over all production. Speaking on behalf of other women engaged in the business, she said men can still resort to manual labour as another option, what about single mothers who are the sole earners for their families and face far severe circumstances. Another important voice in the meeting was that of Roop Lal ji who was representing the manjha traders. His address had two major highlights. First- being the voice of the traders, he reassured the artisans of their total support. And secondly he re-emphasized the demands for access to social security and the banning of Chinese made, metallic manjha from the Indian markets.
Some of the other speakers who addressed the meeting were Social Worker Mr. Shoaib who- has been working with the manjha workers for the last 7-8 months and Com. Sanjeev Mehrotra from the Bankers’ Union, who has been closely associated with this process since the beginning. They also pledged their support for the collective.
The meeting culminated with handing over of a press – release. The significant achievement of the meeting was to see the sizeable number of media persons- both from the print and various news channels, present at the meeting.
In the follow up to this mass meeting- a state level consultation/ round table is being planned which will have manjha workers from across the state of Uttar Pradesh and important officials of the concerned departments from the State Govt. A written representation along with a meeting with the Commissioner of Police of Delhi is also being planned – to request the lifting of ban on storing and selling of Manjha in Delhi, imposed as recently as June 2010 during peak business season i.e. around Independence Day and raksha bandhan.