Fact Finding Report

Many of SPSS/MW members have FIRs being filed against them by various state officials. At present, there are 4. A team of members, led by Rajendran N (Asst. Professor, Azim Premji University) conducted a fact-finding mission to understand the causes for these FIRs and see if there was any grain of truth to them. Based on detailed interviews with SPSS members, government officials, police officials and even persons at the district hospital, the Fact-Finding Team produced a 35-page report.

Click here to download the report

Here is conclusion of the report:

The FFT (Fact Finding Team) makes the following observations: One, at least one of the FIRs led against Sanjay Sahni – the most recent one – is wholly false, since there is incontrovertible evi-
dence to suggest that Sanjay was over 400 kilometres away in Ranchi. The others stand
on very weak ground, with the incongruent testimonies of a small set of government of-
cials weighed against consistent accounts of a large number of SPSS workers and other
local actors.

Two, the state has failed to engage with organically formed civil society movements as
partners in the delivery of welfare for all. In fact, the very opposite happens: agitating
citizens – largely Dalit and illiterate women in this context – are seen as impediments to
the natural order of things. There is also a tendency for the higher levels of the state to
privilege accounts of members of the lower bureaucracy over that of the citizens – this only
serves as a means to exacerbate the trust de cit that exists between citizens and the state.
Three, the administrative system engages in acts that stretch, break and surreptitiously
circumvent legal safeguards put in place to ensure the protection of workers’ and citi-
zens’ rights. Furthermore, as the Mahant Maniyari Mukhiya’s testimony shows, the local
players are unabashed about their involvement in these acts and see them as neccessary
for smooth functioning of the state.

Four, the local bureaucracy employs FIRs as a strategic tool to quash and silence people’s
voices and struggles for justice.

SPSS is a unique movement, homegrown and run by largely Dalit and illiterate women.
Let alone celebrate this fact and engage positively with SPSS, the state fails to even be
lukewarm towards the people’s movement. Instead, it engages in a witch-hunt, repeat-
edly ling false FIRs against members in an attempt to quash local struggles. This is
unfortunate and dangerous. Individual members are fearful of more blatant attacks on
their person and seek solace in collectiveness. It is time that sympathetic voices within
the state took rm stands on these issues and trusted evidence provided by workers and
neutral parties. These FIRs also continue to emphasize that civil society movements
across the country need to be vigilant and constantly engage in documenting events to
take charge of the narrative.



A new day, an old struggle


In the first week of February, we were back on strike.

This is not what we wished to be doing: the increased allocation to MNREGS in the budget gave us hope, but our local administrators seem hell-bent on denying us access to what is our right.

Our reIMG_20170208_075759quests are not new: we strike for work, for work in our villages (not in faraway Panchayats), for payments on time, for full payment of wages, for unemployment benefits. 

Do take a look at press snippets – they convey not only our sense of frustration, but also our conviction in out struggles and the faith that our system will, eventually, do us right.



MNREGA Watch’s Indefinite Strike

On the 24th of August 2016, we began an indefinite strike at the District Collector’s Office. We had 5 main demands:

  • Lack of payment of unemployment benefits across Panchayats affiliated with SPSS.
  • Delayed payments of NREGA wages in some Panchayats and lack of new NREGA work.
  • Women workers of Dumri Panchayat, Musahari Block, were paid only INR 91 per day for work done under the NREGA, nearly half the daily stipulated wage. We demanded an investigation and an increase to the stipulated INR 177.
  • Setting up of a ration shop in Mahant Maniyari, after the suspension of the license of the previous PDS dealer, Kedar Ram.
  • Setting up of a ration shop in Ward No. 5 of Ratnauli.

As of today (23rd October), the two demands related to ration shops have been met. Most delayed payments have come through, but there is no talk of compensation for delays, a clause mentioned in the NREGA Act. Two demands – that relating to the under-payment of wages for workers from Dumri and the payment of unemployment benefits have not been met at all.

Here are some highlights:

1. August, 24th: The Dharna begins. 



2. By September 4th, the district administration had taken care of two of our demands, workers celebrated. 



3. By October 1st, we had reached Day 40 and the DDC announced that the workers of Dumri wouldn’t be compensated because the measurements of the road built had not been pre-labeled and that, therefore, it was impossible to take the workers’ word on the fact that they had worked full days.


Day 42 came and we continued to emphasize our other demands – unemployment benefits, compensation for delayed wages.


… Day 45:


4. Finally, on Day 52, we suspended our dharna for 17 days, till after the Diwali and Chhat festivities. 


Corruption Free Campaign

SPSS members

SPSS members unite against corruption

SPSS’ Corruption Free village campaign has been in full swing in the Panchayats of Mahant Maniyari and Ratnauli. The basic objective of the campaign is to rid the Panchayats totally of corruptions – previously, we fought corruption in the MNREGS and have had significant success, now we have slowly extended to other schemes too.

The PDS is an interesting case. Sanjay Sahni, founder of SPSS, believes there are two main forces that contribute to robbing the villagers of nearly  50 % of their entitlements: one, government officials demand commissions from the Fair Price Shop (FPS) dealer. Two, the villagers themselves are forced to donate nearly 2-3 months of ration because the rich believe that the dealer must be adequately compensated. It is only now that we have managed to stand up to the dealer and the rich – we will not donate our rations and claim all 12 months’ worth. This has been achieved by us mazdoors rising as one. This is a continuous process, though – success and failures swap positions fairly quickly and gains are made often to be lost once more.

In the light of these uncertainties, the progress we have made appears to be even more significant – a significant proportion of us get 12 months’ worth grains now. We have also been trying to reduce corruption in the ICDS kendras – the Anganwadis. Corruption is rampant and, once more, the sevikas in the kendra have no choice but to pay commission to members above them (the supervisor/the CDPO). Consequentially, us applying pressure on the sevika results in serious backlash from officials higher up. The police get involved, not on our side, but on the side of the government and threaten us.  Fake FIRs have been filed against some of our members. Crucially, despite all the opposition, SPSS mazdoors haven’t stopped fighting.

Through our Small is Beautiful Campaign, we encourage mazdoors to stand up and be counted: mazdoors understand and live the by the tenet that each one of them is an activist in their own right (the central message of the Small is Beautiful idea) seriously. We have made inroads in a wide range of schemes, as detailed above. We also hope to spread our campaign to other blocks in Muzaffarput. Currently, we have had success in Rampur Mani in Sakra (Humara Ekta Manch) and Kharjam (Mazdoor Kisaan Ekta Manch) in Musahari.

देश में भ्रष्टाचार का लम्बा इतिहास रहा है लेकिन इसी संघर्स में  बिहार
के मुजफ्फरपुर जिला के  रतनौली और महंथ मनियारी में भ्रष्टाचार मुक्त
गांव केलिए संघर्स तेजी से चल रहा है इसी संघर्स में इन जगहों पर मनरेगा
को भ्रष्टाचार मुक्त किया गया है,  और अब इस पुरे  गांव को ही भ्रस्टाचार
मुक्त बनाने के लिए संघर्स चल रहा  है, यानि  सरकार के अन्य चीजो में
भ्रष्टाचार  को ख़त्म करने के लिए संघर्स जोरो पर है , खाद्य शुरछा कानून
के तहत गरीबो को राशन दिया जाता है इसमें पचास प्रतिसत भ्रष्टाचार है एक
तरफ सरकारी अधिकारी डीलर से घुस लेते है तो दूसरी तरफ गांव के कुछ  आमिर
वर्ग   द्वारा प्रति वॉर्स दो से तीन महीने की राशन और केरोसिन  ग्रामीण
से डीलर को दान दिलाया जाता है, लेकिन अब यहाँ के गरीब मजदुर  पूरा राशन
लेने केलिए संघर्स कर रहे है,  इसी तरह के भ्रस्टाचार आंगनवाड़ी में है इस
पर भी लोग संघर्स कर रहे है इस संघर्स से सरकार की भी पोल खुल रही है
केयू की इसकी कमिसन निचे से ऊपर तक जाता है इसी  कारन सरकार और उसके
अधिकारी इस संघर्स में सहयोग नहीं कर पा रही है उलटे डराने के लिए एसपी
एसएस के संयोजक संजय साहनी व उनके साथी को  फर्जी ऍफ़ आई आर कर डरा रही है
लेकिन बिना डरे लोग अपनी बल पर आगे बढ़ रहे है एसपी  एसएस का सोच यह भी है
की जैसे रतनौली और  महंथ मनियारी में मनरेगा में सुधर लाने में बिहार
मनरेगा वाच सक्छम है, उसीतरह अन्य जिलो व गांवो में हो इसके इसके लिए
एसपी एसएस स्माल इस बेउटीफुल कैम्पिंग कर के  लोगो को एकजुट करके उन्हें
भी अपने गांवो में छोटा संगठन बंनाने में मदद करते है जैसे मुजफ्फरपुर
जिले के ही सकरा ब्लॉक के रामपुरमाणि पंचयत में(हमारा एकता मंच ) मुशहरी
ब्लॉक के ख़ारज़म में ( मजदुर किसान एकता मंच ) डुमरी में ( ग्राम परिवर्तन
मंच ) इसी तरह के कई अन्य संगठन बने है जो अपने पैरो पर खरे होकर सरकार
से अपना हक़ लेने में सक्छम है  एसपी एसएस बिना किसी फण्ड के चल रहा है. इसीलिए एसपी एसएस का खर्च सिमित है


Corruption Free Village Campaign

Corruption Free Village Campaign



SPSS is now running a “Corruption Free Village Campaign”  where we encourage persons to stand up and report instances of corruption. In the event that persons find their complaints falling on deaf year, SPSS would help mobilize the community and stand with these village to fight corruption – in exactly the manner that they have done over the years.

Corruption, we believe, is an important element of the poor functioning of public services in and around our parts and, indeed, the entire country. We want to change things and the only way forward is to unite and fight our battles collectively.

A Successful Campaign!

December 2015

img155 img277 img156




In December, after nearly eight months of struggle, our villages have got NREGA work again!

After repeatedly petitioning the PRS, the Mukhiya and the officials at the block and the district levels, we finally decided to go on a strike at the Collector’s office. Hundreds of mazdoors from various villages congregated – some were old, others were sick – at the Collector’s office and refused to leave unless their demands were heard.

In five days of striking – we were granted NREGA work.

It is a pity that in 2015 – a full 68 years after independence, we must still go on strike to get what is rightfully ours.

Intern’s Report – Adhip Amin, SPSS Intern, 2015.

[[Adhip Amin, a recent undergraduate from Christ College Bangalore, lived in Mahant Maniyari at the SPSS headquarters in July 2015.]

After spending fifty – two, interesting and somewhat exhausting hours in a train, from Bangalore, with an ex- Indian Air Force fighter pilot who flew Indira Gandhi, an ex – CBI chief of the South Indian branch who apparently interviewed Rajiv Gandhi during the Bofors scam, and a young engineer about to begin his internship with a microchip company, I arrived in Patna on an extremely hot and sultry afternoon.

The following day, on a windy morning, I travelled to Mahant Manyari village, where the Samaj Parivarthan Shakiti Sangathan (SPSS) has its headquarters (HQ) and where it is most active. Mahant Manyari is 70 kilometres north of the part of the Ganga which hosts Patna on her banks. As is the case with the rest of the Indo – Gangetic plain, the land is flat so much so that distinguishing between land and a water body is hard; the horizon is so clear that one can see an individual walking or farming from probably a few kilometres away – one of my best memories of the village is waking up one morning and walking out to the compound to see a man cycle on a narrow road  between two large trees far enough, but not enough for one to not notice them together, with the morning sun making the image clear to see, difficult to imagine and easy to remember.

Sanjay Sahni, founder of the SPSS, and electrician par – excellence, picked me up from the old and venerable – Mahant Maniyari High School, incepted in 1928. The school serves not only as an educational institution, but also as an important landmark as there is nobody who knows not of the school in the area. After we greeted each other he took me to the HQ. When I entered the premises a few women in the entrance greeted me with ‘’Zindabad!” I responded back feebly and timidly. Living in Bangalore, I was completely unused to this sort of enthusiasm and energy, and the causes of it. As the days went by I would unfortunately and frustratingly let this division come in our way. I would often feel like an outsider.

In the time I was there, my work was rather unstructured. I primarily shadowed Sanjay around, trying to understand the demand for MGNREGA, the sentiments that the program generated, where it went wrong, how the SPSS would mobilize and act in the face of fraud and corruption,  the caste dynamics of the villages and rural economy, and of course what Sanjay and Santoshji thought and felt about all of these issues.

The staff of the SPSS are the beneficiaries, and most of them are women. As Sanjay likes to put it: all of them, including him, are part-timers. He spends 10 out of 30 days in Delhi working as an electrician and the remaining time in the village, and many of the karyakarthas too spend a significant amount of time either in farming or animal husbandry. The prime motivation of the SPSS is to empower society to deal with the state, to act collectively in the face of misappropriation and corruption, in a non – violent, and non – partisan manner.

Here lies the brilliance of SPSS: collective action not only for achieving a political and economic end, but also for self – improvement and for strengthening the individual – to enable each one to stand on her own feet, and be independent. Participation in SPSS in not restricted to only activism but also to teaching and learning. Sanjay believes in constantly talking and persuading people –  “bas mein har roz sirf bolta hun’’ [“I only spend all day talking”]. Time and again, one can hear Sanjay reiterate: ‘’mein sirf rasta dikhatha hun, mein unka kam nahi kartha hun, na karna chatha hun. Mera lakshya yeh hai ki log mere upar depend hi na kare.’’ [I only show the path; I don’t their work nor do I want to. My goal is that people must not depend on me”].This was not simply a political statement,

when I got there, Sanjay was in the midst of reforming and decentralizing the SPSS to smaller and smaller units, a lot of his functions had been allocated to a number of veterans within the organization. His wish was to decentralize it to the level of the individual. This is now called the ‘Small is Beautiful Campaign’ –Har aadmi aapne aap mein ek karyakartha hai.Every person is an independent activist.

While I was there, Sanjay spent considerable energy on the structural change and also on what he does daily: auditing of the MGNREGA. Mazdoors come to the headquarters typically if they haven’t been paid their dues. He compares the number of days that people have actually worked in the scheme with the information available on the website and with wages people have actually got with that what they have been allocated online.  He then writes a letter to the authorities highlighting the discrepancy and request to take action, if this happens on a large scale, usually an andholan is announced.

When I got there the mood was tense and people were quite agitated because no work had been provided for 7 – 8 months. The allocation of work under MGNREGA has reduced considerable due to two reasons: one, a broad, nationwide reason is that the disbursal of funds has reduced considerably since last year and b)  PRS (the panchayat Rozgar Sevak), who are responsible for allocating work, were on strike due to lack of payment.

When I once told them that the delays was probably in preparation for cash transfer because the government thinks that too much money is going into MGNREGA, Lakhi Devi, a member of SPSS, posed a very simple but powerful question: “har kanun mein brashtachar ho raha hai, tho har kanun bandh karegi sarkar?” [“There is corruption in every scheme. Does that mean the government will close all of them?”] She was questioning the ability of the state. Further, one can time and again hear people deeming all politicians as corrupt: ‘’sab chor hai’’, which hits at the legitimacy of the state.

Fieldwork is tough, and especially for somebody coming from the comfort of a nice city with very nice weather, it requires discipline – equanimity of mind and a religious like sacrifice for comfort. But as one goes along, one can see clearly the sheer clamour for thoughtfulness that SPSS appeals to. I realized, with my limited stay there that this not only makes thinking about policy more honest, but also cleanses the intellect of any wanton falsehoods, and hopefully, makes one humble.


— Adhip Amin.

Small is Beautiful Campaign

Women Activists of SPSS.

Women Activists of SPSS.

हर आदमी अपने आप  में एक एक्टिविस्ट है

Every individual is an independent activist.

Our new model of mobilization and development is captured by our belief that every person is an independent activist. In keeping with this, we have decided to focus on smaller and more decentralized units, moving from the Panchayat to villages to, now, the wards. Eventually, we hope to organically arrive at a scenario where every person can function independently.

What do we mean by ward-level mobilization?

  • On an average, we have about 5000 persons in each Panchayat.
  • Usually, at this level, people tend to free-ride – always hoping for someone else to take up the cudgels on their behalf. Even when such a leader or person is found, the population is too large for these leader-activists to handle.
  • By decentralizing to the ward level, we allow people to function in smaller teams, thereby reducing their tendency to depend on others. People tend to take ownership of their teams, since these groups constitute members who are often close, bound by family or community-solidarity.
  • So, the system is essentially self-financing – ward teams collect money from themselves and fund their activities.
  • Our ideology and model extends beyond mere schemes – these ward-level teams are not restricted to working only on state-funded schemes, but in solving any of the issues that arise within these wards. We believe – and indeed, shown – that individuals can be motivated and trained to look out for themselves: the idea is to spread this message and training across villages in the country.

PDS Reform Updates

Women displaying newly procured ration cards

Women displaying newly procured ration cards

We have now successfully ensured that in at least 15 villages, all households avail of their full quota of PDS rations every month. As per most accounts, this is the first time this has happened in these areas in independent India.

Our strategy is remarkably straight-forward:

  • We first mobilize our saathis in the village and surround/gherao the PDS ration dealer.
  • This is a slow process – eventually, with enough pestering and relentless pressure, the dealer relents and no longer makes false promises.
  • What we seem to see is that the dealer is forced to tell his higher-ups that their commission is no longer guaranteed – such grain can no longer be diverted to government officials who sell it in the open market.
  • Eventually, the system stabilizes with the villages getting their full quota of ration without any fuss, every month!

PDS Reform

October 2014


In September 2014, the government replace three corrupt PDS dealers, based on complaints by SPSS members.

 2 dealers in Amrak Panchayat (Kurhani Block, Muzaffarpur); 1 in Dumri Panchayat (Musahari Block, Muzaffarpur) were removed by the District authorities for malpractice.

The dealers were guilty on two counts: they charged high rates, they delayed delivery of rations.

SPSS members had threatened to strike against the dealers. The dealers dared them to do so.

A verbal complaint was lodged in the district office in July 2014. Within a month and a half, the corrupt dealers were replaced.

This comes close on the heels of the dismissal of other corrupt officials: Panchayat Rozgar Sevaks (NREGA officials) from Ratnauli, Harshankar and Mahant Maniyari Panchayats (all in Ratnauli) have been removed.