A one-day workshop on Right to Food was organized for NGOs and Religious of North Bengal on 13th July at Demdima. Around 36 participants (one deacon, 4 brothers, 4 lay persons, 9 priests including 6 diocesan priests, 18 sisters) took active part in it and decided to take this forward in their respective places.
Fr Irudaya Jothi SJ, and Mr Saradindu Biswas, Director and Staff of Udayani-Kolkata, the main resource persons for the workshop invited the participants to look at the need for gathering and sharing information on the various government schemes with the needy people, especially in the tea gardens. Giving an example of how their campaign on “open the locks and give the food”, through the self-help groups (SHGs) worked well in South Kolkata, Fr Jothi urged the participants to conscientize the SHGs, to carry forward the movement and to network with other more experienced local activists as well as people like Ms Anuradha Talwar, Advisor to the Supreme Court on RTF. Mr Biswas gave an overview of the entitlements under different government schemes.
It was emphasized that our goal must be to give the vulnerable people power, capacity, capability, and access to change their lives. One effective methodology to achieve this end is PANEL (Participation, Accountability, Non-discrimination, Empowerment and Linkage to rights groups) and the approach needs to be rights based. Concepts like ‘duty bearer’ and ‘claim holder’ were explained with examples.
After the input we committed ourselves to proceed with RTF campaign in our areas. Concretely the following persons volunteered to animate the local zones: Sr Amala (Cooch behar), Fr Birender (Damanpur), Fr Suman (Hasimara) and Sr Amos (Binnaguri). Besides, Sr Sushila, Sr Teresa, Sr Lalita, Fr Remis, Sr Tarcilla and Mrs Agatha Surin volunteered to be part of this effort in their own local areas.
Fr. Joe Victor, the Coordinator of JESA and the President of CRI Jalpaiguri, the main organizer of the seminar said, “this is an opportune time, when we have a new government at the sate which has promised a new package for the tea garden workers and the central government is going to pass the bill on National Food Security Act in the monsoon session of parliament. Our preparation and action now will enable the poor to get what they deserve.”
(Joe Victor SJ, CSA of Darjeeling JESA)
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