Bihar: Gram Raksha Dal Workers Protest for Honorarium, Regularisation; Mount Pressure on Tejashwi
Patna: Ignoring the morning cold, hundreds of Gram Raksha Dal members, including a large number of women, staged a dharna on Tuesday in Bihar’s capital city, demanding a daily allowance, honorarium and job regularisation. This is the fourth time in two years that they have staged a protest in support of these demands.
With posters and banners in their hands, Gram Raksha Dal members, also known as Police Mitra in rural areas, staged a protest hours before the winter session of the Bihar Assembly began in Patna. They have chosen to protest in front of the former Chief Minister Rabri Devi’s official residence on 10, Circular Road, where Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav also resides. It is also an address
linked to Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad, a powerful man in the state as his party is the main ally of the Mahagathbandhan
government led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. This high-security residence signifies the decision-making “power” in the state.
The Gram Raksha Dal is a semi-government body, and it has nearly 20,000 members. Most of the members are engaged in safety and security work at the panchayat level in rural areas.
“In the past, we had protested several times, but nothing happened because then CM Nitish Kumar, who is still the CM, ignored our demands. But Tejashwi Yadav, as the leader of the Opposition, had always supported us and promised to help us. Taking this into view, we have staged this protest to remind Tejashwi Yadav, who had assured us to fulfil demands if he comes to power. As he is now the Deputy Chief Minister, we have full faith in him to provide us a daily allowance, a monthly salary and regularise our jobs,” Suresh Rai, one of the protesting Gram Raksha Dal members from the Vaishali district, told NewsClick.
Another protesting Gram Raksha Dal member, Lakshmi Devi, echoed similar views. “Our last hope lies with Tejashwi because he had promised us two months ago to look into our demands, and earlier, he had also supported our demands. Tejashwi should regularise our jobs as grade-four employees, adding to his announcement promising to provide 10 lakh jobs in the state,” Lakshmi, who hails from Bhojpur district, said.
“Nearly two thousand Gram Raksha Dal members from hundreds of villages spread in different districts across the state have come here to draw the attention of the government,” she added.
Hari Kishore Shah, another protester from Banka district, expressed dismay over the government’s attitude towards them. “I have been working as a Gram Raksha Dal member for nearly ten years, doing everything, including providing timely information to the local police, helping and protecting villagers. But I get nothing in return. At least the government should give us a daily allowance, monthly salary and regularised jobs.”
Shah said they are part of the rural security system and ensure peace in the villages, and minimise law and order pressure on the regular police force. “The government provides us with little. We are fighting for survival and we want a decent daily wage and other facilities,” he said.
According to Sikandar Paswan, the state president of Gram Raksha Dal cum Police Mitra, “most of the protesting members belong to marginalised and backward communities and deserve the government’s help.”
“We have demanded today that Tejashwi ji ensure his seriousness to fulfil our demands by putting it before the ongoing Assembly session. If he does not take up our matter, we will intensify our protest as the next course of action,” Paswan told NewsClick.
Paswan also said that the Gram Raksha Dal members have not demanded anything special or extra. As they are doing security work at the ground level in villages, the government should take care of them, he said.
He recalled that in March 2022, hundreds of Gram Raksha Dal members had taken out a protest march demanding the government to fulfil their demands. However, the police lathi-charged protesters despite the Budget session of the Bihar Assembly being on. “After police action against the protesters, the then Opposition Mahagathbandhan, including Left parties’ MLAs, raised the issue and their demands in the state Assembly. We hope that as Mahagathbandhan is in power this time, it should fulfil their demands and not neglect them.”
For several years, the Gram Raksha Dal members have been staging protests to make the government take heed of their demands. In 2018, Gram Raksha Dal members staged a 154-day dharna in Patna in support of their 11-point demands. Later, they also protested in 2019 and 2020.
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