How does Ekta Parishad work?
The two main activities of Ekta Parishad are : dialoguing with the government at the state and national level and mobilizing the villagers for struggle at the grassroots level. On one side we have dialogue and on the other side struggle. Yet both are interlinked: people are struggling at the bottom level and their struggle is supported by a formation of institutions giving them the tools to fight for their rights (using democracy) at the top level, through dialogue. Vice versa, there are supporters dialoguing at the top level to give space for political action or struggle at the bottom level.
What do the grassroots people fight for? Mainly for land rights. Approximately 70% of India’s population depends on access to land and its natural resources for their livelihood. Without any legal claim to these lands, thousands of people are forced to migrate to urban centers everyday where they are left with no choice but to become manual laborers without rights or financial and life security. Thousands of people in India unite to free themselves from the oppressive hold that the land policies of this country have over their lives.
Ekta Parishad thus pressures the top and the bottom of the Indian political and administrative system, which is mainly blocked due to corruption. The latter engenders an inefficient distribution of information and inequitable distribution at the grassroots levels. The people at the bottom level don`t receive what they need to live in a decent way and are powerless. Ekta Parishad helps the people by empowering them in order to defend their rights and provides a platform for people to share their experiences and ideas with the confidence that their voices will be heard.
Ekta Parishad`s structure
Ekta Parishad is a social movement that has forged partnerships with hundreds of other groups in India, including civil society, other people’s organizations. It also has created partners and associates at the international level. Since the movement impacts more than 8 million grassroots people through its different social actions, its structure is essentially decentralized. To capture this decentralized formation diagrammatically in an organogram it is quite difficult. The structure below tries to simplify this complex set of interrelationships in order to help the user understand how Ekta Parishad works.
At the top, you can see the international partners; they help to spread awareness of Ekta Parishad's core issues and they also provide financial support to the movement. The financial support contributed is then filtered into Ekta Parishad’s network, which is divided into 3 main components:
- The institutions or those that provide financial and other support to the activists.
- The activists or those that generate capacity building inputs for the leaders at the grassroots level.
- The leaders or those that develop grassroots’ people's power.
Alliance building comes either from the international or the national network of partner organizations. Today, a total of about 2,000 national institutions all over India support Ekta Parishad directly via joint programs or indirectly by becoming allies to the Jan Satyagraha March - 2012. Some of the institutions are entirely devoted to Ekta Parishad's activities while others have their own types of programs as well. However, all institutions have governing bodies and secretariats which are responsible for the five tasks of: administration, finance, policy, supervision and monitoring. The people working in these institutions are mainly paid office workers. They have several responsibilities, including program planning, reporting, team review, monitoring and capacity building. The goal of their work is to strengthen the activists and to give them support and back-up.
Under the supervision of the institutions, they are the core coordination teams made up of activists that work in the field. They are in direct contact with the local populations. The activists are in charge of three areas of work: a) the economic programs, b) advocacy and c) mobilization of the people. The economic programs are carried out by the Ekta Arthik Manch, and this is composed of various sub programs such as khadi production, quarrying, organic farming, silk production, honey production, and others. The second area, that is, advocacy is comprised of national advocacy (Government level), people's advocacy (at the grassroots level) and international advocacy (international level). Finally, the third area of mobilization, one of the core activities of Ekta Parishad, is composed of mobilization at the village, sub-district, district, state and national levels. Attached to the mobilization are the women's wing and the cultural wings.
The core coordination teams of activists are in contact with the community leaders. The community leaders are the volunteers whose interest is to represent their deprived communities, in a way that corresponds to the six levels of state administration (national, state, district, block, panchayat and village).