Over the past year, the awareness, skills and confidence of the Sangathan Saathis in Maholi has increased in leaps and bounds. Through pressure from SKMS, the sugar mill in the area undertook a cleanup of the portion of an outlet canal that they have encroached upon. Due to poor maintenance of this canal, 900 acres of fertile land in Maholi were routinely flooded and crops destroyed. The administration also undertook de-silting of this outlet canal through MNREGA, for which many Saathis were employed. The farmers who cultivated the previously affected 900 acres harvested a bumper crop this year. A sammelan was held in Maholi on 8th June, 2012 to celebrate the achievements of the sangathan and plan for future activities.
SKMS continues to ensure the maintenance of the Islamnagar Rajbaha (canal), around which its first campaign was launched in 2005. In October 2011, the Sangathan realized that work had not begun on the cleanup of the canal because no budget was sanctioned for this work by the Irrigation Department. Through pressure from the Sangathan, a budget was prepared and silt cleanup commenced. This ensured that irrigation waters reached the tail end of the canal.
On 16th June, 2012, a public meeting was held in Mishrikh, which was attended by about 500 Sangathan Saathis. The principles of SKMS were discussed and the activities of the past year were presented. The SKMS accounts for the last year were also shared. A plan was developed for the coming year and participants took an oath to honour the values of SKMS.
Awareness and capacity of Sangathan Saathis continues at the monthly regional meetings and the core team meetings held every 2-3 months. In addition, ''goshthis'' – awareness sessions – were organized on the Right to Education (RTE) Act, food security, gender issues etc. to further promote understanding in the group.
SKMS participated in the National Campaigns for Pensions (Pension Parishad) and for a strong Food Security Act (Right To Food Campaign). For each of these campaigns and for the Jan Sansad organized by NAPM, a team of 100-350 Saathis from Mishrikh, Pisawa and Maholi traveled to Delhi. Saathis learnt about the issues, expressed solidarity with other people''s movements and themselves gave speeches at the venue. These trips have served as a valuable learning experience – in fact, some of these have been financed by the Saathis themselves without support from SKMS. For the Pension Parishad Rally in August, about 350 Saathis attended and participated actively.
The Jotbahi (land titles for cultivators) issue was taken up with the district administration. However, the Kisaan bahi card that is supposed to be provided to landholders is not available in the district. A decision to issue them has to be taken at the state level. SKMS is tracking this issue.
Through the continuous pressure of the Sangathan, more than 1300 workers have been able to get 100 days of work through MNREGA. However, late payment of wages continue. In December 2011, SKMS organized a ''Chetawani dharna'' – warning rally on this issue demanding compensation for late payments. In response, the BDOs of Mishrikh, Pisawa and Maholi conducted enquiries and stated that no one was eligible for compensation. SKMS rejected this report and demanded an enquiry with their Saathis present. A district-level enquiry was conducted by the Task Force Officer (TFO) and it was established that payments were late and therefore compensation must be made. But the district administration claimed inability to take action because no notification has been made at the state level. The Sangathan has asked for this statement in writing. The struggle for compensation continues.
Sitapur district borders Nepal and thus is close to the foothills of the Himalayas. The Sharda and Ghagra rivers that flow through the area constantly change course and thus 4 blocks in the eastern part of the district are chronically flood-affected. Even the basic measures of protecting the villages along these rivers, such as de-silting and creating an alternate channel for the river, had not been taken up by the authorities. With help from SKMS, villagers from 5 villages in the area mobilized under the banner ''Sharda kataan roko Sangarsh Morcha''. A rally was held on 14th-15th May in Sitapur on this issue, for which SKMS played a major role. Through this pressure, some work was started on the banks of the Sharda in August 2012. However, this has not been sufficient to prevent flooding again this year. SKMS Saathis will continue to support the Sangarsh Morcha to find a solution to the suffering of the flood-affected communities.
Finally, through their increased awareness and increased incomes, SKMS Saathis are improving their nutrition and standard of living. A number of Saathis have begun growing tomatoes and other vegetables for their household use. Others have bought goats, buffaloes etc. and yet others have leased land for the growing season. There have been discussions of learning organic/sustainable growing techniques and implementing them in the coming years.