Swaraj Bihar

Bihar has evolved from the word ‘Vihar’. This word itself has originated from the words “Boudh Vihar”. Bihar has had a glorious history as could be ascertained from ancient Indian Literature and Archeological Findings. It is the place where Gautam Buddha attained true spiritual knowledge. It also the birthplace of Mahavir, the propagator of Jainism and Seeta, Karna, Vishwamitra, among others, are the great names associated with its Golden history.

Bihar has been the initiator of change. The credit for establishment of Political and Democratic institutions goes to Bihar. The Lichchavis of Vaishali established the “Vajji Sangh”. This was the first republican concept to be implemented. The region was once ruled by Chandragupta Maurya, the first Emperor of India and was the area where the early economist and political scientist Chanakya lived and taught kings and emperors. The Capital of Magadh Kingdom, Pataliputra, is situated in Bihar. Bihar has been the land of social change and has shown the direction in which that social change should take place, since the times of the Guptas, Mughals and British Imperialist days.

In recent times, the people of Bihar have seen and participated in the Champaran Satyagraha that Mahatma Gandhi led of the Indigo Cultivators in the late 30’s, the “Quit India” Movement of 1942, The “JP Movement” and the “Bihar Movement” of the ‘70’s. These and other struggles and movements have brightened the image of Social Change and Sacrifice of the people of Bihar.

Bihar, which has had unique relations with Indian Cultural Heritage, has two geographical distinct features – north and south Bihar. North Bihar is agriculturally advanced, while South Bihar, known as Jharkhand, has minerals and forests.

The vision of the political leadership at the beginning of Independence was the establishment of “Temples of Modern India”. The first examples of these included the Damodar Valley Project in Jharkhand and the “Koshi Barrage” on the Indo-Nepal Border. In fact, there were more such were ‘Temples’ established in Jharkhand, in the shape of Koel-Karo, Mayurakshi and other such projects. At the same time extraction of minerals from the region was undertaken at break-neck speed. As result of these so-called development projects, the adivasis of Jharkhand who formed the majority of the populace were being shunted into minority positions. They are today struggling for their self-hood and defending their culture.

In North Bihar, the network of rivers Ganga, Koshi, Gandak, Bagmati and others are causing chronic floods and each subsequent flood is widening the area being waterlogged. This has been the result of efforts of the dominant development lobby, which has in reality attacked the natural resources and their flow. This lobby has ignored society and its culture and nature, while thrusting towards creation of “Temples of Modern India”. Every year more and more area, more and more people and more and more animals are adversely by floods for an average of six months a year. Crores of rupees worth of crops, animals, land and other property are destroyed every year. Lakhs of people get permanently displaced and migrate to far off places in the search of work and a living. Those who remain behind, survive in inhuman conditions.

As a result of the adverse impact of the current development model, lack of political will, intrusion of globalisation in all spheres of life resulting in increasing consumerism, the people of Bihar are at the mercy of the dominant classes/castes in society. The farmers of Bihar, who have contributed so much for agricultural production, have now become migrant labour searching for work elsewhere in India. Bihar, which had such great universities as Nalanda and Vikramshila, is now an illiterate state. A state that had seen the apostles of peace such as Gautam Buddha and Mahavir is now reeling under murders and violence.

Big projects in the region have destroyed traditional farming practices. Pastoral and fishing communities have been impoverished. Increasing consumerism is destroying cottage industry and the folk culture.

Official development statistics have been proved to be false. Hundreds of voluntary organisations and people’s organisations are trying to bring succour to the common people in a decentralised manner. However, the problems created by floods, water logging, salination, unsafe drinking water, inhuman living conditions, illiteracy, migration in search of work, taking resort to sex working, inequality, crime, child labour and the like, make it impossible for them to surmount the difficulties.

It was in these circumstances that Kumar Kalanand Mani attempted to bring together under one platform, the voluntary organisations and people’s organisations in the Koshi and Gandak Valleys/Basins. In 1993, he gathered together organisations in the Koshi region under the banner of Koshi Consortium and in 1997 he gathered together organisations in the Gandak region under the banner of Gandak Consortium.

The ideology behind the formation of these consortiums was to make an organised democratic effort to find an alternative development model for regional development. Similar efforts were made in Son and Ganga Valleys. All issues in these valleys/basins were sought to be resolved on the basis of Gandhian thought and ideals.

On 27th and 28th November 1996, “SWARAJ” Forum was established after discussions at a Seminar in Mumbai. Activists from Bihar along with seven other states joined the Forum. The consortiums were the first members of SJ-Bihar.

“SWARAJ” Forum later decided to apply the PSP Process to achieve the goals of Gandhian thought and ideals. SJ-Bihar undertook the implementation of the process in 617 villages. The first activities under the process were over and on 3rd and 4th June 1999. The document in this regard was adopted at the State Convention. Grassroots level activists participated in the Convention in large numbers. They indicated the direction of the work to be undertaken in Bihar as a whole, while participating in the discussions at the Convention.

The enthusiasm, the co-operation and the alertness of the participants was an experience, which showed that the people of Bihar are moving towards social change.

PSP Process in Bihar

PSP process in Bihar was carried out in four river basins of Koshi, Gandak, Son and Ganga. Eleven activists from these river basins participated in the Durgapur Workshop. Thereafter, Introductory PSP Workshops were organised at the state level to introduce PSP among the grass-root organisation and to select the competent activists for National Level Training (NLT). Thus twenty-two selected activists from the state, participated in the National ‘Training of Facilitators’ and National Workshop on PSP held at Goa in the month of May 1998. Then a State Level Team of Facilitators was formed, which trained a total of 130 Facilitators at Consortium and District Levels. These 130 Facilitators in their turn trained the Village/Community Level Facilitators.

Then the PSP Processes were taken to 617 Villages/Communities of 24 districts, through 126 organisations. The total population of villages was 5,20,162 including, 2,76,964 males and 2,43,198 females. Of these, 1,31,672 persons belonged to Schedule Castes (SCs), 2,73,273 belonged to Other Backward Classes (OBCs), 31,693 belonged to Minority Communities and 8,371 belonged to Scheduled Tribes (SCs). From the total population, 94,907 males and 50,447 female were literate. Of the total population 18,521 participated in the PSP process.

Community and Organisation Level Documents were compiled and presented in the conferences organised by Koshi Consortium (KC) and Gandak Consortium (GC). The documents of the river basin were put together and SJ-Bihar came up with a State PSP Document, which was presented and adopted at the State Convention held at Bhagalpur on 3rd & 4th June 1999.

During the PSP Process there were many instances of joy and pain. In the beginning, people said that this process was nothing but another way of talking of development as propagated by Politicians, Government Officials and Development workers of NGOs also. However, in a number of villages, efforts were made to take up the local burning issues for analysis and immediate interventions.

For instance, in Mokahana village of Bhagalpur District, participants of PSP tried to restore communal harmony. At Chanapatia in West Champaran District, the villagers during the PSP Process renovated the basic education schools, which had been conducted in line with ‘Gandhian Nayee Talim’. They are now organised and are demanding their right and funds from the State for continuation of these centres. Many such result-oriented processes brought hope and happiness among the participants.

Following are the measure Critical Issues came before SJ-Bihar-

1.     Alcoholism

2.     Atrocities against Women

3.     Big Dams

4.     Casteism

5.     Child Labour

6.     Communalism

7.     Consumerism

8.     Criminalisation of Politics

9.     De-culturisation

10. Deforestation

11. Displacement

12. Dowry

13. Exploitation of Adivasis

14. Gender Inequality

15. Health Hazards

16. Lack of Drinking Water

17. Lack of Moral & Basic Education

18. Lack of Village & Cottage Industries

19. Man-made Floods

20. Migration

21. No election to Panchayat Raj Institution

22. Poverty

23. Unemployment

24. Water Logging

 

 

The Strategic Issue were selected from the with help of some criteria such as – interrelationship among the issues, related to peoples aspiration and ability of the organisation to take the issues; the synergetic impact of certain issue on many other issues;

STRATEGIC ISSUES

1.       Man-made floods (including big Dams, Water Logging, Displacement, Migration

2.       Lack of moral and basic education

3.       Poverty, Unemployment, (lack of Cottage Industries)

4.       Political Instability (including Criminalisation of Politics)

5.       No election to Panchayati Raj Institutions

6.       De-culturisation (including invasion of western culture, consumerism)

7.       Deforestation (including Exploitation of Adivasis)

8.       Gender Inequality (including Dowry, Atrocities against women)

 

STRATEGIC THRUST-

By following criteria such as- people’s and organisational capacities, synergetic effect, relevance to Gandhian values, the following Strategic Thrust were selected:

  1. Strengthening peoples movement against man-made floods, big dam, displacement,
  2. Struggle for self rule,
  3. Restoring moral and basic education,
  4. Restoring eco-system and
  5. Empowerment of women, adivasi and dalit.

 

AREA OF OPERATION

NAME OF CAMPAIGN

DISTRICT

BLOCK

VILLAGES

ACTIVE

CONTACT

ACTIVE

CONTACT

ACTIVE

CONTACT

GANDAK

03

03

08

21

35

107

KOSHI

05

06

       05

N.A.

25

201

GANGA

02

NIL

05

N.A.

25

135

Total

10

13

18

21

85

443

 

ORGANISATION STATUS

NAME OF CAMPAIGN

NO OF FELLOWS

NO. OF VILLAGE COMMITTEE

NO. OF DISTRICT COMMITTEE

Gandak

04

35

03

Koshi

03

25

05

Ganga

05

25

02

Total

12

85

10

 

THE MAIN INITIATIVES / ACHIEVEMENTS

The main achievements as per the planned activities based on their strategic thrust are as follows-

§     Awareness about man made floods, big dams and displacement.

§     Awareness about 73rd amendment act about Panchayati Raj. People’s participation in Panchayati Raj election to elect good representative. Regular meeting of gram Sabha. Development of understanding about ideology of Gandhi and Jayaprakash about self-rule.

§     Awareness about    basic education based upon ‘Nai- Talim’ people’s participation in proper funcining of basic schools. People’s participation in reconstructing of old building of basic schools. People voice for betterment of basic schools by government increasment in enrolment of children in school.

§     Awareness about protection   of land, water and forest. People efforts to protect rivers from pollution. People participation in social forestry.

§     Awareness among women adivasis and dalit about their rights. Formation of self – help groups.  Awareness among women adivasis and dalit representative in Panchayati Raj system.