Jaipur: We all are aware of Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s Gaurav Yatra, which is now being followed by Rajasthan’s Congress president Sachin Pilot’s Sankalp yatra. However, not many would be aware of a yatra called– Khet Bachao Kisan Bachao spearheaded by social activist Nagendra Singh Shekhawat to highlight the plight of Rajasthan’s farmers.
Singh, a 42-year-old activist had also played a pivotal role in spearheading the farmer agitation in Nindar village, where the farmers had protested in ‘half-buried’ condition for days against the forceful land acquisition by the Jaipur Development Authority (JDA). The innovative way of protest had caught the attention of international media too. However, after some time, Singh along with several farmers were put behind the bars for the protest.
Yatra with a difference
Singh’s Khet Bachao Kisan Bachao (Save Farms Save Farmers) Yatra is an indefinite journey and he has visited 250 villages in and around Jaipur within 47 days of it being flagged off.
“After the ‘neck-deep’ protest of the farmers in Nindar, we realized that there was a need to make the farmers realize their rights and the need for them to get more connected with each other. The farmers need to understand that they need to support farmers in other areas when they are protesting for some of their rights. At present, they don’t bother to participate or support, if some protest take place outside their areas. We have initiated the Khet Bachao Kisan Bachao yatra for the awareness of farmers,” Singh told eNewsroom.
Not just land acquisition, problems galore
Besides creating awareness, the yatra is also a campaign designed to force the government to return back the forcibly acquired land of the farmers, avail better pricing for milk and vegetables, demand for an increase in Minimum Support Price (MSP) for crops, and farmers pension.
“During this journey, we have realised that there are several other major problems that the farmers are facing. Electricity bill is one such issue. Earlier the farmers had to pay electricity bills once every two months. Now they have to pay every month. Another important aspect of farming—irrigation, is getting difficult for farmers every passing day. The availability of irrigation water has decreased drastically for farmers, and the government has no policy to tackle it,” he said.
Govt making no effort to help the farmers irrigate their farms
Singh rued about the absence of irrigation policy in Rajasthan. “There is no government policy to tackle the irrigation water issue for the farmers. If this situation continues for a few more years, then most of the land will turn barren. And it seems, this is what the government wants, as acquiring barren lands will be easier for the government,” he added.
He cited an example to explain the situation of JDA, “A newspaper report had mentioned that since its inception JDA has acquired over 30000-hectare lands for real state works. However, 95 per cent of the acquired land is lying vacant with no developmental work being done on these acquired land. The work of JDA is not focus only on real estate development, but the over all development of the city.”
Farmer loss to double by 2022
On being asked how the yatra was progressing, he quipped, “After visiting hundreds of villages and meeting thousands of farmers, I also realized that there has been no increase in the income for farmers here. In fact, their loss is drastically on the rise. And if it continues this way then by 2022, it is not the income but the losses incurred by the farmers will double up.”
Rajasthan has witnessed some major peasant agitation in last two years, led by Amra Ram and Pema Ram in Shekhawati region, both were MLAs and members of CPIM
Singh, a doctorate from the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) had independently contested election, in the 2013 assembly polls. He could not win it though.
A yatra with no political agenda
“But our yatra is apolitical. We always tell the farmers that they can vote for any political party that they want to vote for but they should know their rights. And it is the government, against which our fight is. Whoever forms the government, we have to take our rights from them,” said Singh.
In an assertive tone, he pointed out, “The governments should know that, when a farmer does not want to give land, no one can take or acquire it.”
The activist who loves to wear jeans and tee-shirt is a doctorate in International Relations and is quite active on social media, especially Facebook and Instagram.
Singh has also been the President of Student Union, Rajasthan University and State Secretary, Vichar Vibhag, Rajasthan Congress. However, he now has no plans to contest in the upcoming assembly polls.
Summing up his discussion about his indefinite journey which aims to cover all 2000 villages of Jaipur district the activist added, “The yatra will continue till it takes the shape of a movement.”