Special Reports

Leadership Development Workshop

By Afroz Alam Sahil

Mumbai: Movement for Peace and Justice (MPJ), Maharashtra, organised a two-day leadership development workshop in Mumbai. The aim of the workshop was to build up excellence and confidence among MPJ cadre by focusing on Public Distribution System (PDS), health care and Right to Information Act (RTI).

Public Distribution System: The Right to Food figured prominently during the workshop. India has one of the worst records of malnutrition. More than 47% of children are malnourished in India as compared to Sub-Saharan region, which has 27%. More than 55% women suffer from anaemia while 57% of the pregnant woman, who are more prone to this disease, suffer from anaemia. It is even higher among adolescent girls with 90% suffering from it.

The workshop advocated the universalization of the PDS. The MPJ supports many fair price shops across Maharashtra which facilitate access to food for the poor and needy. Many slum dwellers in cities do not have BPL cards. Such unorganized labour force needs BPL cards. MPJ is running a campaign for these groups to enable them get BPL and Antodaya cards. Justice Wadhwa patiently interacted with MPJ cadres who believe that the government's plan to directly transfer cash to the needy would not be successful. “The PDS should be based on provision of protein-energy so that edible oil, pulses, millet and sugar are included in the diet of the poor.” They also want that in rural areas  slums, Aganwadis should be set up based on population size for proper uptake of children and pregnant or lactating women.

Health care: A cause of concern at the workshop was the recent Maharashtra government decision to hike the fees of hospitals attached to medical colleges. The hike varies from 100 to 300% for diagnosis, case papers, medical tests, surgeries, medicines, etc. The government aims at generating revenue. MPJ demands that this hike should be withdrawn as it will only leads to the agony of the poor and creates more hurdles in health care access. MPJ also argued that emphasis should be laid more on clean drinking water, sanitation, hygiene and diet in all poor localities of the state. "Accountability and transparency should be made especially in areas of health care system".

MPJ has appealed to the government to "universalize PDS and healthcare so that leakages are plugged and there is no exclusion among the poor."

MPJ also emphasized on awareness of the Right to Information (RTI) as an important tool to empower people in getting their due rights. Encouraged by its success, MPJ is planning many similar programmes in several parts of the state in the near future. (beyondheadlines.in)

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 May 2011 on page no. 17

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