June 04, 2023
Maha: AIDWA Holds Big Rally and Gherao of Palghar District Collectorate

Prachi Hatiwlekar

ON May 24, 2023, over 12,000 women from Palghar district led by the AIDWA Thane-Palghar district committee led a massive march and gherao of the Palghar district collectorate on the burning issues of ration, employment, water, and health. The administration and the police, who were caught totally unprepared, did not know what had hit them! 

Most of the women in the march were tribals, but there was also a fair share of non-tribal women from different walks of life. They hailed from all eight tehsils of Palghar district – Talasari, Dahanu, Jawhar, Mokhada, Vikramgad, Wada, Vasai and Palghar. 

All officials and journalists admitted that this was by far the largest protest action by women in the last 10 years after the new Palghar district was carved out of Thane district in 2014. 

Giving resounding slogans on their demands, the huge mass marched right into the collectorate and gheraoed it. It was only then that the administration swung into action, mobilised the officials, and held a three-hour discussion with the AIDWA delegation. 

The delegation comprised AIDWA state secretary and district president Prachi Hatiwlekar, district secretary Lahani Dauda, district treasurer Sunita Shingda, and other district leaders Savita Davre, Sangeeta Ozare, Lata Ghorkhana, Mary Ravte, Tai Bendar, Girji Kanal, Rama Tarvi, Aarti Davre, Sangeeta Khanjode, Manisha Budhar, Sunanda Patil and Sanjana Surve. 

Two days later, on May 26, 2023, the AIDWA Thane-Palghar district committee held a 1500-strong women's sit-in dharna on the Thane district collectorate in Maharashtra, on the same issues that were raised in the Palghar rally. Women had come from Thane, Kalyan, Bhiwandi, Ulhasnagar, Shahapur and Murbad tehsils. 

After a demonstration, the district collector invited an AIDWA delegation for talks. All officials of the concerned departments were also called. A good discussion took place, and the collector gave concrete assurances on most of the issues. 


For the past several months, the BJP central government has stopped giving additional ration at Rs 2 and Rs 3 per kg and has continued free distribution of the same. Since it is for free, the ration shopkeepers give it like a favour, it is not even full 5 kg, and its quality is very poor. If the original ration card is divided into separate family cards, you do not get ration on it. It takes several months to make a new ration card, so the agents are charging in the range of Rs 7,000 to 10,000 for every card, that too with no guarantee of getting ration on it. Moreover, the central government is planning to ban the distribution of grains in the PDS and start direct bank transfer (DBT), which is not acceptable to women at all.

The water problem has worsened in both the districts. Water does not come for days; there is no fixed time and duration of it, though these districts have maximum number of dams. In MGNREGA, which is considered to be the best employment for poor rural women, work is not available, Rozgar Sevaks bully the women, don’t mark their attendance due to the newly introduced online system, wages are not paid for the work done for months.

The public health system is in doldrums, medicines are not available in PHCs, no hygiene is maintained in government hospitals, in many places patients have to clean the area themselves, no sonography is done in government hospitals forcing women to pay in four digits for it in the private hospitals.

On the one hand is rising inflation and lack of employment, and on the other hand is this sheer neglect towards the basic needs like ration, water, and health. This is making women suffer miserably. These are the reasons why thousands of women responded to the AIDWA call in both the districts and came out on the roads in such large numbers in the scorching sun.

All the above issues were highlighted in both the rallies by AIDWA leaders, who also came down heavily on the policies and practices of the BJP-led central and state governments.

In both the meetings with the officials at Palghar and Thane, two major decisions were taken. 

1. Tehsil level camps to solve all the issues related to ration (PDS) were fixed, in which government officials and AIDWA leaders would both be present. This was a very important step, since it opened up the possibility of solving many of the PDS and food security-related concrete problems of women at the village level. 

2. On the other serious issues of water, employment, and health, both the Palghar and Thane district collectors would soon convene separate meetings of all officials with AIDWA, in which concrete decisions to solve these problems would be taken.

CPI(M) MLA from Dahanu, Vinod Nikole, was present in both the above talks. 

Before both the actions, AIDWA activists had led a 15-day campaign of filling in thousands of forms on the PDS issue, and these were submitted to the authorities and official receipts were taken. Hundreds of activists of AIDWA worked hard for the success of these actions. They were helped by fraternal organisations like AIKS, CITU, DYFI, and SFI in both the districts.