The First Phase 1999-2005

The 1st phase extends through the formative years of JMS, viz. 1999-2005. The goal of the massive ground level mobilisation was to ‘organise’ Dalit women and ‘conscientise’ them in order to ‘resist’ the systemic discrimination and exploitation that they faced. Organising women on the axis of class identity, i.e. as agricultural labourers formed a key organising strategy. Agricultural labour was the primary work that the landless communities engaged in. In the feudal setting of Raichur, where most of the Dalits were absolutely landless, the wages in the peak season of work (about 3 to 4 months a year depending on the rain and other factors) was about 80 rupees per day and in the lean season (about 4 months) would be Rs.20/- for women and Rs.30/- for men. People did not have any work in the rest of the months. The zamindars and big farmers resorted to rampant mechanisation of harvesting during this time even as drought was hovering over labourer’s lives. The struggles of people were multiple in this phase that included – struggle for the payment of pending wages, equal wages, stopping mechanisation in harvesting, demanding drought relief work and its effective implementation, fight against corruption in these schemes. JMS also undertook land-development programme of the lands of Dalits (1 to 1.5 acre) lying fallow for decades in a village (Devipura) with the government funds.


Pending Wages

JMS documented cases of pending wages in 10 villages, held protests in front-of the land-lords forcing them to talk to women. In some villages, paments were pending over two years. All the pending wages were recovered to Dalit women.


JMS filed several petitions for drought-relief work for people. In Pothnal and Muddanagudi, for example, more than 500 people got work for over 7 days. However, JMS also had to fight against the engineers who quantified the work through their measurements and discriminated against women and paid less wages. A fierce fight against a junior engineer who refused to pay equal wages to women was finally resolved through the intervention of the local legislator (MLA) after which the people let the junior engineer go.

Protest against harvesing machines Successively:

for three years, 2002, 2003 and 2004, JMS took delegations of women leaders to ban harvesting machines in agriculture. One harvester completed one hectare of harvesting in an hour thus displacing 50 women’s work for two days. The contract-rates per acre had come down to Rs.500 per acre of harvesting, effectively reducing number of harveting days to less than a month. In 2004, in the peak of the third year of successive drought, a massive rally of over 2000 women was taken in Raichur district headquarter and a sit-in dharna in front of Deputy Commissioner’s office. It resulted in a government order banning the machines in Raichur district. With this massive victory, the contract rates per acre jumped to Rs. 2500/- and people all over the district got work for over three months. The vigilance against the entry of machines and mobilising people and police to trace the machines is a legend in JMS’ history.

Land Development of Marginal Dalit Farmers

In collaboration with Hyderabad-Karnataka Development Board, JMS piloted the land developemnt of 28 Dalit-Madiga households in Devipura village (Manvi Taluka). Though the one to one-and-a-half acre land was allotted to them in 1970s, it was lying fallow as it was not surveyed, bunds were not marked and needed heavy investment to make it cultivable. The land was cleared of thorny busehs, surveyed, bunds were formed, water-harvestig ponds were made and organic maure was supplied to make them cultivable. The Community took full responsibility for this. In the successive years of drought, these lands produced grains, fodder for animals and water for the grazing animals in the agricultural ponds.