AN ESTIMATED 50,000 rural Indians set off on a 200-mile march to
Delhi this week, to demand a fair share of land and resources.
The walk has been organised by a Christian Aid partner, Ekta
Parishad (EP), which has spent a year travelling around India,
persuading people to join in the march. Marchers set off on
Wednesday, many of them barefoot, prepared to spend the month's
walk sleeping on the floor and living off handfuls of rice.
Christian Aid's country director for India, Anand Kumar, said:
"These marchers show tremendous resilience and courage by taking
part; many of them are from the lowest rung of society. . .
"They are marching because, very often, the access you have to
land determines your income and how much you have to eat. In a
country where 42 per cent of the population live below the poverty
line, and at least 20 per cent frequently go hungry, access to land
could lift 400 million Indians out of poverty."
Rural Indians have been forced off their land by the government
to make way for new projects involving mining and sometimes
The founder of EP, Rajagopal - who uses only his first name to
avoid any caste distinctions - said that many of the projects that
drove people off the land came with promised benefits, such as
electricity, jobs, and housing, but these failed to
The marchers will be following in the footsteps of walkers who
in 2007 trod the same route to demand their land rights from the
Indian government. That march led to the creation of the National
Land Reform Committee the next year - but progress has since
This time, demands include the formulation of a land-reform
policy, a law ensuring that every homeless family receives
homestead land, the setting up of fast-track courts to address poor
people's land issues, and equal rights to land for women and
EP has started talks with the government about their demands,
but, at a rally held before the march, it said it was disappointed
by the "vague" promises offered by government ministers.
In October, Christian Aid supporters in the UK will walk in
solidarity with the marchers in India.