We left quite early from SWRC campus in Jawaja this morning – hot water was arranged by some of the
Yatris on an open stove and everyone was ready by around 6.30 am; there was a 30-minute break for
breakfast to be packed and brought into the bus. However, the distances and speed were miscalculated
once again and by the time we reached Renwal Station where the farmers’ meeting was happening, we
were late by at least 2 hours!
Here, the mood was somber. While the waiting itself must have tired out the participants, it was a
huge looming problem that was affecting the mood. Nearly 8317 hectares of land in three villages,
for Rohininagar Housing Board in Renwal, in Chittora village and Harsulia village is being acquired and
Section 6 notice has been issued to the people here. What is the point now, said many of them. And that
too in a year where crops are being harvested after 12 long years in some places!
The Yatra and what it had set out to do in its outreach work seemed distant, in comparison to the
immediate and urgent problem staring in the face of the villagers here. In the past, they had gone to
Jaipur in truckloads, to protest and to highlight the injustice of such acquisition. However, there has
been a relentless movement forward on the grabbing of such valuable resources as grazing lands and
right now, everything appeared bleak.
Apart from finding out what the farmers would like to do now, there was not much to be done in terms
of other discussions now, many of us Yatris felt. In any case, we were getting late for our Jaipur meeting
What was inspiring however was that the key leaders of the area chose to come with us in the bus to
Jaipur – they were not ready to give up, after all. Later on, we heard that they were actually inspired
enough by the prodding and urging that went on in our discussions in Renwal that they decided to now
fight it out in a court.
The Jaipur meeting was a citizens’ meeting – it had activists, journalists, students, academics
and ‘common citizens’ coming in to listen to the experiences of the Yatra and take part in the
discussions. Dr Surjeet Singh of IDS spoke about how we need to strengthen decentralized planning as a
way forward out of many problems that we are listing out – he talked about the need to build capacities
for effective use of spaces that are constitutionally and legally present.
He talked about liberalized trade pricing out oilseed farmers in Rajasthan; and that work against free
trade agreements has virtually come to a standstill and that civil society groups should not relax on that
Dr V S Vyas, Vice Chair of the Planning Board spoke next. He said that the yatra appears to be very
encouraging, given its theme of saving farmers and farming. He challenged the notion that many hold
that the State does not need to do anything and that private sector will take care of addressing all issues
of farmers. He said that this is simply not correct. He pointed out that the existing systems of credit,
marketing, extension and research are not doing their bit for farmers and they benefit big farmers, if at
all, whereas 85% of our farmers do not even have five acres of land.
He posed 2-3 main questions to everyone as something to mull over and resolve, for real benefits to
accrue to farmers. 1. What should be the role of State today? How do we address the issue of Seed,
since it is the most essential input for agriculture – private sector will always try to maximize its profits
and will go for those crops where they will have more margins – however, the real needs on the ground
could be different. He maintained that we should be self-reliant when it comes to Seed and that the
State should intervene to take care of input supply and infrastructure. 2. Environmental Sustainability
– the current slogan should be “less input, more output” and alternatives are to be presented. Civil
society should take on the dissemination of innovations as its main role, he felt. 3. Should we ask for
better prices? – He felt that we should not ask for better prices since that will impact food prices for the
poorest but should strive for lesser costs and higher yields through which farmers can benefit.
He concluded by saying that this is indeed the right time for addressing much-neglected issues related to
our farmers since resources are available now for public financing. He said that if we seize the moment,
we could carve out a win-win situation for both consumers and farmers.
Several other speakers including Ashok Mathur ji spoke and this was followed by an intense round of
discussions between the yatris and those present. After a packed dinner was put into the bus, we left for
Haryana and Rewari. Here, we discovered that the RTO official, on the dark and cold highway, charged
us higher than what the receipt actually mentioned! We reached the Khori campus of SCRIA at around
12.30 am and found that Yatris from the other route had already arrived earlier in the night. All of us
back together again, to face the last day of the Yatra before it enters Delhi, on our way to Rajghat.