Nikhil Dey, one of the founding members of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan talks to Prasann Pranjal about MKSS’ birth, its popularity and areas of influence, its mission and future goals
How did the idea of working for labourers and farmers came into being?
The condition of farmers and labourers in Rajathan was very miserable three to four decades ago. In the Sonegarh region, a powerful landlord illegally possessed government land. In connivance with the Patwari, he had seized and hidden the possession letters of the land. He used to do whatever he wanted. To free villagers from the clutches of the landlord, we started a demonstration. After some time, in order to protect the rights of labourers and farmers of every region, I along with Aruna Roy and Shankar Singh founded Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan. The idea came from thousands of like- minded people and not from any individual. Common people formed this organization for equality and social justice. For the last three decades, this organization has been relentlessly working for equality, justice and right of labourers and farmers. Farmers got the possession of land and freed themselves from the clutches of landlords. For employment, NREGA was passed and implemented. It has provided employment to millions of people.
How did you take up the idea of the Right to Information while working with and for labourers and farmers?
While fighting for the right of labourers and farmers at Sonegarh, we experienced a great deal of difficulty in procuring the required documents and information. Labourers were not getting even the minimum wages. Somewhere else, government officials were usurping the funds meant for them. Such sort of corrupt practices prompted us to think about the ‘right to know’. From this point, the demand for the RTI took a definite shape. We all collectively worked for it and its outstanding outcome is before us.
In your opinion, what role has MKSS played in social change?
We have encouraged the society to march on the real path of progress. We have endeavoured to removed the false notions of development. Our whole team has worked unitedly for NREGA, RTI, social audit, education etc.
We have been working for strengthening of medical facilities, making government more responsible and trying to stop unnecessary expenses in marriages and post-death rituals. We are constantly trying to build a sense of equality in society. The demonstration was started in a rural area but it led to a significant change across entire India. We don’t want to be in power. Social change is our motto.
Social change is your goal. What kind of difficulties you faced during the last three decades?
In the beginning, people were raising questions with regard to our commitments and credibility. People were of the opinion that corrupt practices will prevail in our oraganisation like other NGOs. People were pessimistic. But we worked with courage and commitment. In the initial days, we faced a lot of difficulties. But after the success of our two or three protests, people began to get associated with us.
People often ask regarding the credibility of NGOs. What is your take on the rampant corruption in NGOs?
There are some NGOs who have got a bad name due to corruption. But all NGOs are not corrupt. In fact, NGOs have become responsible to their financers instead of their areas of work. They should be responsible to the community. That’s why, we want to bring NGOs and political parties within the ambit of RTI Act.
What are your future plans?
We get information from RTI. But there should be a law on accountability of those government officials who didn’t perform. This is our next goal. We are working for this. A 100-day journey was organized in Rajasthan. Our demonstration will continue until this law becomes a reality.
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