Enthusiasm, passion and service; the three words sum up the tractor rally by farmers which began from the Singhu Border near Delhi this morning and concluded at Tikri Border where other farmers have been camping.
The rally, which took place at the Eastern Peripheral Expressway, saw a sea of people and tractors. Waving the flags of their organisations and raising slogans, the farmers asked for a repeal of the recently-enacted Farm Laws and the proposed Electricity Amendment Act. The rally, also called a ‘mini -Republic Day parade’ by farmers unions, had been postponed twice, due to talks with the government and on account of rough weather.
Baldev Singh Latala from Ludhiana had joined the rally with his son and grandson and expressed his anguish about the way in which the movement was met with hostility by the Centre. “Well, it is quite clear that Modi is under immense pressure from corporates to shove the laws down our throats. I came here with my son and grandson because it’s a fight for them. Everyone should participate in the struggle. We are a middle-class family and agriculture is our only means of survival,” he said.
When asked how the youth were attracted to the movement, Latala said: “Punjab has been a rich province historically. We were mainly dependent on agriculture because it reaped us good returns. Agriculture was not as developed in other states and since India was newly independent, it needed employees for newwer sectors. We did not give it much importance and the youth kept joining agriculture. Some of those who educated themselves did move abroad to earn a living but the majority remained here. However, the tables soon turned. A corrupt polity made it impossible for them to join the service without taking bribes. Thus, agriculture became the last resort for survival for them.”
His grandson interjected, saying that “people fantasise about moving to America and Canada but can all of us move there? No. And life is not much happier there either. Who wishes to live far away from one’s family for five to ten years!” he added.
Jagsir Namol, district president, Krantikari Kisan Union from Sangrur, said that the rally “energised the youth who have been disappointed with the pace of negotiations with the government. The rally was just a trailer. We will show our strength on Republic Day. Our leaders have already said that we will enter Delhi if our demands are not met.”
Namol is also enthused by the fact that the youth has become a part of the movement. “I have been active in student politics. When we asked students to hold union flags, they were hesitant; but times have changed. The same youths now snatch flags from us. They like taking photos with the union leaders as if they are celebrities,” he said.
Commenting on the talks, Namol said: “Talks are important because a solution will only come from it. We are more than willing to talk with our adversaries... Guru Nanak said ‘Kuch Kahiye Kuchh Suniye Nanak. However, it is for the Centre to understand that farmers will not return until the laws are repealed.”
Baljeet Singh Grewal from the All India Kisan Sabha maintained that the rally was a symbol of the unity among farmers from across the country. “The farmers are camping today at all the borders of Delhi. The Centre has been trying to push the narrative that only farmers from Punjab are here but we are getting a tremendous response from all states – Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and even Modi’s home state of Gujarat. So it is wrong to say that its a Punjab-only protest. It is for Modi to understand our sentiments and withdraw the acts immediately.”