For the best experience, open
on your mobile browser or Download our App.

With Shubhkaran's Final Rites in Ambala, Farmers Put Spotlight Back on MSP

'Without an MSP, farming won't sustain anywhere. If MSP doesn't become a guarantee, there will be mass rural migration. Youngsters from Haryana are trying to find work in foreign countries because there are no jobs or income in rural areas,' said a farmer at the rally.
Farmers' rally in Ambala to pay tribute to Shubhkaran Singh. Photo: Indra Shekhar Singh

New Delhi: On April 1, it was noon when Ambala’s New Grain Mandi was becoming crowded as hundreds came to pay their final respects to Shubhkaran Singh, who died in the Dilli Chalo 2.0 protest.

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (non-political), along with Kisan Mazdoor Morcha and other allied groups, organised a Kalash Yatra across Punjab and Haryana in remembrance of Shubhkaran’s sacrifice, with Ambala being the last stop before his ashes were submerged.

Around 1,500-2,000 people were present at the yatra. Agri-policy analyst and writer Devinder Sharma was on the stage, saying, “Today our farmers are standing on the lowest pedestal. As per the government, in 17 states, farmers are earning about Rs 20,000 a year, which translates to Rs 1,700 a month. In 1,700, you cannot sustain a cow, or if you live in a city, you can’t afford to keep a dog. Nevertheless, the farmers’ families are surviving on Rs 1,700.”

Harinder Kaur, who came from a nearby village, agreed with Sharma. “We are farmers and have to suffer the worst. It is our sons and daughters who have to work to make ends meet. Without a minimum support price (MSP) we can’t survive doing [only] farming. Shubhkaran was a farmer’s son,” she said.

“Meanwhile, they are destroying our villages and stealing our lands,” she added.

I walked around and met with mustard, wheat, paddy and even some sugarcane farmers from Ganganagar in Rajasthan. They all demanded an extension of the MSP system beyond Haryana and Punjab and also asked the government to provide an MSP net for all crops.

While speaking with The Wire, Amarjeet Singh from BKU – Bhagat Singh, one of the principal organisers of the yatra, said, “We have posted photos of people’s warm reception of the Kalash Yatra and have even shared them with the media. We want them [people/farmers] to ask the Bharatiya Janata Party workers and leaders: why was this [Shubhkaran shot during a protest] done? Why was this necessary? Farmers were only asking for Modi to deliver on his promise.”

To get some perspective on what a youngster has to say on MSP, I spoke to Gagandeep Singh, a farmer from Ambala. “Without an MSP, farming won’t sustain anywhere. We have our farm in Ambala district, and with government procurement extending to mustard and other legumes, every farmer will be at a loss. If MSP doesn’t become a guarantee, there will be mass rural migration. Youngsters from Haryana are trying to find work in foreign countries because there are no jobs or income in rural areas. We, village folks, won’t be able to run the household,” he said.

Farmers’ rally in Ambala. Photo: Indra Shekhar Singh

By now, Swaran Singh Pandher, who is spearheading the agitation, was on stage, delivering his message for the prime minister, “Modi ji, you have fooled many people to vote for you, but you haven’t fooled us yet. The more you make the farmers of this country suffer, the worse it will be. When you point the guns at us, remember it’s our sons in the police and at the borders. They all may also revolt for our rights. Modi ji, don’t attack the farmers.”

It was way past 3 pm and the meeting was over. People were eating from the langars.

Amidst the crowd, I bumped into Jagjit Singh Dallewal, the secondmost important leader in the farmers’ agitation. He was originally part of the SKM and later branched out to be one of the founding members of SKM-NP. Speaking to The Wire, he said, “The movement is not only at Shambhu and Kannuri borders. It is also spreading to parts of Rajasthan and Haryana. We have successfully organised support rallies and we are going to take Shubhkaran’s message all across the country.”

As the meeting finished, I joined the convoy to a nearby cremation spot, where Shubhkaran’s ashes were scattered in the water. The sun neared sunset. With verses from the Gurbani, Shubhkaran was finally laid to rest.

Shubhkaran’s ashes were scattered in the water

Kalash Yatra in Ambala. Photo: Indra Shekhar Singh

Shubhkaran’s death has helped galvanise the movement. The Kalash Yatra has successfully added numbers to the SKM-NP ranks. However, can the SKM-NP convert this agitation into a national campaign and sustain the movement? Big questions loom over the Kisan Andolan 2.0.

Make a contribution to Independent Journalism
facebook twitter