Our day began with an unexpected discovery – a pair of rats was wreaking havoc with our printed
materials in the bus boot. We had to bring out all the cartons and boxes and then after locating the rats
and removing them, had to put everything back in. Strenuous exercise first thing in the morning. The
Yatris are now getting used to such surprises and work in any case! More so carry them out without any
The day began with a long-winded rally through the streets of Baripada. It appeared as though the
whole town came out to understand what the Yatra was all about and what the messages were.
More than seven hundred people took part in the rally. That is the largest conglomeration till date
in this Yatra. Oriya slogans were interspersed with our regular ones and the whole of Baripada skies
reverberated with them. This was followed by a public meeting where a tribal dance was performed to
welcome the Yatris.
The public meeting was addressed by some tribal leaders as well as Brahmakumaris. The farmers who
attended the meeting took a resolution that they will not use chemicals or GM seeds in their farming.
Then it was time to leave for our next state with real good memories of large participation of people at
all venues of Orissa. Media attendance was high in all places including in Baripada.
The first halt for us in West Bengal was Contai (Kanthi as we were told before) in East Medinipur, WB.
As we crossed the border of Orissa, corrupt and unneeded bureaucracy took over. We were to get
a ‘gate pass’ to leave Orissa but that was not to be issued there, but 2 Kms ahead! The catch is that we
can’t go with the bus but get there somehow, fetch the pass, give it at the border and then leave. How
and why you get there is not their lookout. How sweet, eh? So we did have our adventure of getting a
lift in a truck, fetched the pass, lost an hour in the process and proceeded.
Then there was the border. Once the Orissa border escapade was over, we had our next exciting stop
right on our first few meters in to WB. There is no border RTO on the border of WB like how every
other state would have. So as we are clueless about paying our Road Taxes for this state, we encounter
a bunch of RTO officials of West Bengal, who were out to harass. For the first time, we encountered
blatant corruption when they asked us to pay eight hundred rupees and proceed. This is the fine, they
said. Fine for what? We just entered your state and we are asking you where the checkpost is, why
should we pay any fine, we asked. Will you give us a receipt for that and would that constitute road
taxes for the state, we asked. No, they said brazenly. We started speaking to them sternly in English and
one of them stepped in to say we can leave!
Finally we cross all these hurdles and get to Contai. Would it not need some extra human efforts to
rejuvenate the yatris on their 47th day especially at the fag end of the ‘officially harassed’ day.
And the West Bengal phase began with a bang. It was a dream come true. The enthusiastic group of
people of Kajla Jankalyan Samity, Contai who welcomed us at the town entrance with candlelights and
joined us on a pleasant rally through the streets of Contai energized us.
We were welcomed by the MLA, Mr Ardhendu Maity and the Chairperson of the Municipal Corporation,
Mr Soumendu Adhikari at the end of the rally into their chambers, where they heard from us about the
Yatra and its objectives and demands.
We submitted a memorandum to the two MLAs who joined an interaction with the Yatris (Mr Dibyendu
Adhikary, who joined later) including some WB-specific demands.
All the political leaders in this interaction belonged to Trinamool Congress and they assured us that
their party is with us on all the issues being raised by the Kisan Swaraj Yatra including stopping the
appropriation of farmers’ resources. They welcomed the Yatra and promised to raise the various issues
of the Yatra in the state legislature.
So the special day continued. We move to Kajla Jankalyan Samity where hordes of people were waiting
for us in spite of the inordinate delay. They showered flowers on us (literally) and tons of love and
affection. The whole area was abuzz with action and energy – the stalls for the next day’s programme
were all set up and their dedication was apparent in the attention paid to each detail. Such aesthetics
exhibited for displaying seed diversity….What more to keep us going?
Such well decorated stalls, welcome arches, welcome banners, smiling people, Rabindra Sangeet, skies
filled with sing song slogans..The yatris wished the day never ended..
But it had to, with a sumptuous dinner..
In our dreams we shall fathom what more they can do to outdo our expectations of a great tomorrow.