November 30th 2010: YATRA IN HIMACHAL AND HARYANA
We woke up in the Gurudwara that we spent a comfortable night in, in Ponta Sahib, with the Sun rising over the still Yamuna waters streaming down the river bed. The Gurudwara people were very warm and hospitable to us, reflecting a general Punjabi culture. It was probably one of the most comfortable nights in a long time. It was not just the dinner the earlier night that was sumptuous and delicious but also the breakfast this morning – gajar ka halwa served in the morning!
On the program front, it was that part of the Kisan Swaraj Yatra which was very weakly planned and the plans kept changing over the past few weeks – the reason also included the fact that one bridge in the area had collapsed and we had to change the route of the Yatra.
We were informed in the morning that not many farmers are expected since it was marriage season and some were involved in harvesting. However, by around 10.15 am, the farmers started arriving. One of the teams to arrive was representing Himachal Kisan Sabha, which was a non-party-affiliated outfit. This Kisan Sabha has a membership of 40,000 farmers at present. The issue of appropriate pricing was brought up as the main issue here. Further, life and medical insurance for all farming households was deemed necessary. The farmers also felt that shunning of hybrid seeds is very important. A team from Ponta Sahib is now expected to come to Rajghat for the December 11th event.
We then moved on to Pipli village in Kurukshetra district of Haryana. Before Yamunanagar and after, teams of BKU farmers waited for us on the main road, to welcome the Yatra into the state. As is happening very often these days, we seemed to have miscalculated the time it takes to reach the next stop, Pipli. We went into this meeting a full two hours behind schedule – however, it was heartening to see that the farmers were still waiting for us. Here, we were welcomed by Mr Gurnam Singh, the dynamic leader of Bhartiya Kisan Union in Haryana. The team was excited to meet the person who led the effort to stop GM rice trials in this part of the country, a few years back.
In this meeting, apart from the Yatra’s objectives being explained and some of the Yatris speaking, there was hardly any time for interaction with the farmers. Gurnam Singh explained that irrigation water being expensive – nearly six thousand rupees an acre – is a major burden for the farmers in the state of Haryana. He also said that non-implementation of the NCF recommendations for price support for farmers is an issue that BKU has been fighting against for some time now.
He also pointed out that yields in Haryana were coming down even as per official data and that soil has become degraded and infertile. He thought that the requirement to conserve resources in our farming is a real need and appreciated the demand around environmental sustainability in agriculture.
After lunch at around 4 pm, we moved to Mohra village in Ambala district. Our ‘jatha’ was warmly welcomed by the villagers here. Their appreciation of the Yatra and its objectives was probably best reflected in their nods and slogan-shouting through the evening, coupled by the generous donations they gave.