Community Voice

Wednesday, 29 June 2005

15th Aasaarh (Samvat 537 Nanakshahi)

UNITED SIKHS Calls on Sikhs to Join the "Make Poverty History" Campaign

UNITED SIKHS, the only Sikh partner of the Make Poverty History (MPH) coalition, is calling on Sikhs to join an estimated 1 million supporters for the Make Poverty History march in Edinburgh on 2nd July 2005. Students and supporters representing the Sikh community from Glasgow, Edinburgh and across the UK, will join UNITED SIKHS representatives, thirty Sikh London-based university students, to provide an essential community support for this national and international campaign. Click here for more details on the march and other events including a 'Live Aid' concert taking place in the UK and throughout the world. The rally starts at 11am and supporters are encouraged to wear white. By mid afternoon, supporters will have circled Edinburgh city centre and a white circle will be visible (due to supporter's clothing).

The march is being held to demand that the G8, a coalition of the world's most powerful countries who are meeting in Scotland next week, help eradicate poverty by making trade fair for poor countries and producers, dropping the un-payable debts of the poorest nations, and increasing aid and ensuring it is better used.

The MPH (www.makepovertyhistory.org) coalition is a group of individuals and organisations that aims to change international policies to help people escape from poverty, while creating greater numbers of educated and committed development activists among the public. UNITED SIKHS' role in the coalition is to educate minorities, specifically those with South Asian heritage, about poverty issues. This is especially poignant because of many poor people in states such as Panjab, who are often overlooked by various development agencies and funds.

As part of the MPH campaign, UNITED SIKHS is planning a pilot project in Panjab called "Adopt a Village". After further researching the current shortlist of poor villages in Panjab, UNITED SIKHS will highlight the needs of the villagers and work to eradicate the poverty that exists. Such villages exist in unfortunate abundance in the region due to organisations such as the UK Department for International Development not allocating funds for Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) working in Panjab, due to a misguided belief that the region is 'not poor'. The "Adopt a Village" pilot project aims to shatter this myth, highlight the poverty, and show how it can be effectively tackled," says Meerat Kaur, Director of UNITED SIKHS' International Civil and Human Rights Advocacy Directorate, who is leading the project.

According to studies carried out by Inderjeet Singh Jaijee, the Convenor of the Movement Against State Repression, 75% of Panjab farmers live below the Indian national poverty line, but this information is not acknowledged by national statistics and is being artificially suppressed. The global call for "Justice not Charity" which is an integral part of the MPH campaign, is therefore very relevant to South Asia, as it is essential to tackle the extreme poverty by actually acknowledging it exists, and carrying out further research in this region.

In his letter to the Prime Minister of India, Mr Jaijee wrote "An important fact to consider is that 94 per cent of all the state's farmers work small or marginal holdings. According to the former chief minister of Punjab, their average daily earning is Rs 39 (50p) as against the minimum wage of Rs 69. Given the current level of input costs, crop prices, and credit conditions, these farmers are doomed to a hand-to-mouth existence at best. It is time to rethink what constitutes poverty and the poverty line."

The poverty in Panjab is especially apparent in villages where there is no presence of Non-Resident Indians (NRIs). NRIs tend to directly and indirectly support their villages, but the villages that are more reminiscent of those seen in poor parts of Africa are those with no NRI connections. These villages have incredibly high suicide rates among farmers and labourers who despair because they are struggling to earn enough for themselves and their families. Until such facts are acknowledged and tackled, justice will continue to be denied to the poor in Punjab.

For further information, or if you can help, please contact ichra@unitedsikhs.org

Our Mission

To transform underprivileged and minority communities and individuals into informed and vibrant members of society through civic, educational and personal development programs, by fostering active participation in social and economic activity.

UNITED SIKHS is also an avenue for networking between like-minded organisations to establish and nurture meaningful projects and dialogues - whether social, cultural or political- to promote harmony, understanding and reciprocity in our villages, towns and cities.

UNITED SIKHS is a coalition of organisations and individuals, who share a common vision based on the belief that there is no greater endeavour than to serve, empower and uplift fellow beings. The core of our philosophy is an unwavering commitment to civic service and social progress on behalf of the common good.

Accordingly, UNITED SIKHS has sought to fulfil its mission not only by informing, educating and uplifting fellow beings but also by participating in cross-cultural and political exchanges to ensure that the promises and benefits of democracy are realized by all.

We at UNITED SIKHS believe that the development of enlightened and progressive societies can be made possible by socially conscious groups of people who make a commitment to develop and direct human potential. Our work, efforts and achievements stand as a testament to our faith in this vision.