Landless labourers set for grand march to Delhi

More than 50,000 landless labourers from 26 different states today gathered in the Madhya Pradesh capital, Gwalior, and began a 300-km trek to New Delhi in a 'jan satyagraha' (people's movement) seeking a piece of land that they can call 'home'.

The protesters, mostly rural labourers from backward castes and tribes, are demonstrating under the banner of Ekta Parishad, a non-governmental organisation headed by P V Rajagopal. They are demanding a national land reform policy.

They plan to present a memorandum to the union government highlighting the troubles of landless people.

The government has appointed rural development minister Jairam Ramesh and minister of state for commerce and industry Jyotiraditya Scindia (a scion of the erstwhile ruling family of Gwalior) to hold talks with the protesters.

The two ministers flew to Gwalior on Tuesday and sought to convince the organisers to call off the march and accept the government's written assurance that a draft national land reform policy would be prepared within six months.

Ramesh also invited the Ekta Parishad, a land reform movement, for a meeting in Delhi on 11 October. The protesters have agreed to attend the meeting, but they will nonetheless carry on with the satyagraha, expected to reach the national capital by 29 October.