New Delhi: Karamjeet Singh rests at his camp, but retains a cautious gaze as he has to take care of the belongings in the tractor while his friends go to the main stage for their assigned duties. Hailing from Mullanpur Dakha in Ludhiana, Singh is part of the All India Kisan Sabha contingent camping with thousands of farmers, demanding repeal of recently enacted farm laws and proposed Electricity (Amendment) Act at Singhu border of the national capital. “More than safeguarding valuables, it is our duty to see that nobody puts anything here that may bring bad name to the movement,” he explains his watchful gaze.
The protesters here appear to be extra cautious ahead of the January 26 parade call given by Samyukta Kisan Morcha, a collective of farmers’ unions. Singh maintained that the farmers are gearing up for the march with renewed energy back in the villages as well. “Most people will come with tractors and other provisions. This apart, there have been agitations underway at toll plazas, shopping malls, etc. In coming weeks, these will intensify,” he says.
Speaking about the possibility of police action at the march, Singh says that the farmers have braved the police lathicharge, water cannons and barbed wires to come to Delhi. “I do not think the government is willing to take any adverse action against farmers. It’s not just a matter of power, but sentiments also. The sentiments of people are in our favour. It can be seen in the support -- national and international, pouring from across the globe.”
At some distance from Singh’s camp, Satinder Singh from Jalandhar says that the campaign in the state [Punjab] has moved beyond the usual methods. “Earlier, the unions went from village to village to make people aware of the laws. That campaign is over now. People are well aware. As far as farmers’ Republic Day march is concerned, I am informed that people will come in trollies on January 24 in large numbers. When we marched to Delhi, people were apprehensive about the stay and food arrangements. Now, they do not have any issue,” he says.
Singh maintains that the parade will remain peaceful even if police initiates any action against the protesters. The insistence on peace and restraint was pressed for in a letter issued to the protesters by one of the chief organisers of the protest, Balbeer Singh Rajewal, who is also the president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Rajewal). The letter stated that the struggle will be fought in various stages and January 26 is not a “showdown moment” for the farmers’ movement.
Camping at the Shahjahanpur border, Satbeer Singh and Nihal Singh from Bhiwani in Haryana suggest that the Republic Day parade is an embodiment of anger piled up over the years due to loss of income. “I am 66 and my uncle is 85 years old. We both came to assert that this indifference is no longer acceptable to us. The level of atrocities is at an all-time high. Modi sold us to corporates. Let me remind him we will not be sold.”
Singh grows a variety of crops on his seven-acre farm round the year. He chuckles when he says that the farmers may even survive the “plunder” around the corner because they know farming. The real casualty will be of the urban residents who will have to pay inflated prices owing to the artificial demand projected through manipulation. He says, “I have been growing crops on 100-acre farms. I own seven acre; whereas, 93 acre land has been rented. Yet, the savings are meagre. If I were to give an estimate, I save about Rs 1,000 per acre when I put all my labour and resources into it without any rest.”
Also read: Not Just Haryana-Punjab: Farmer Protest Gets Cross-Country Support
Explaining the calculations of the sale of mustard in the past year, he says, “For growing mustard, you need to prepare the land for which the tractor owner will take Rs 2,500 per acre. The seeds would cost Rs 450. Fertilisers, pesticides, weedicides take another Rs 3,800. Watering, willowing and cutting increase the cost by Rs 4,500. Gathering the produce, thresher, transportation and electricity charges are an additional burden of Rs 4,400. On the top of that, please reserve Rs 10,000 for rent. Now, the yield we got was around six quintal which I sold at Rs 4,400 per quintal. So, the cost is 25,650 and the revenue is 26,400. A mere profit of Rs 750.”
Talking about the impact of the movement, Singh quips, “[PM] Modi did only one thing right. He united us. We had been fighting over caste and religion before. I am telling you I never travelled out of my state. Here, I am meeting people from Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and even Gujarat. I never imagined that I would see this one day.”
When asked about the January 26 preparations, he tells NewsClick, “There have been mobilisations all across the state. They would be mainly accompanying protesters at one of the borders. It’s become a ‘do or die’ matter. We would like to die for the struggle. If the laws get implemented, we will anyway die.” When asked whether he anticipates a Mandsaur-like firing incident, he said, “The jawans in the police force and army are our sons and brothers. I do not think they will open fire. If they do, we would happily be martyred.”
Sohan Lal from Churu district in Rajasthan is observing a hunger strike at the protest site. Lal suggests that the January 26 parade will be one of a kind. “We are training women to drive tractors. They will join us in this historic moment. The people who cannot come to Delhi have been advised to observe the day at the local level.”
“Through these laws, Modi mortgaged us to Ambani and Adani. We will become labourers in our own farms. I do not know what amount of profit will satisfy them. First, they garnered profit through Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana. For availing the credit service through Kisan Credit Card, you must pay the premium for the scheme. But we never got the benefit. First they [corporates] got their loans waived off. Now, they are eyeing our lands,” he laments.
Sitting beside Lal, P Jyoti from Vijayanagaram District in Andhra Pradesh, said that the farmers’ organisations from his state have given the call ‘Chalo Amaravati’ to observe the day and organise a tractor rally in the new capital. She said, “The struggle is against both the Centre as well as the state government. They supported the Bills in Parliament. They cheated us.”
A similar call has been given for the farmers in Karnataka where they will be leading a tractor rally in Bangalore. “There will be a rally of 1,000 tractors with at least 10,000 farmers from the districts neighbouring the capital,” said Naveen Kumar who has come to Delhi to show solidarity with the agitating farmers.
Camping at the Ghazipur border, Tejinder Singh Virk, president, Terai Kisan Sangathan from Uttarakhand, told NewsClick, “We are primarily focusing on reaching Delhi. We have advised people to reach the national capital on January 24 to avoid any hindrance. What I learned from people is that at least 10 tractors from each village in Terai are coming to Delhi. So, we will have a sizable presence on Republic Day.”
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