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He who tills the land: A chance encounter with a small farmer

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ogjatt
ogjatt
The author is an environmentalist and has been working in field of rain water harvesting, water conservation, forestation and afforestation. You can reach out to him on his e-mail [email protected]

On the hot afternoon of 28 Sep 2020 I dropped my daughter for an entrance exam and had to wait for next 2 hours or so till it finished. I never thought that these 2 hours will shake me up and open a new horizon altogether. I started wondering as to how to kill these 2 hours on this sunny and hot afternoon outside the exam centre in open with no waiting facility. I reluctantly sat down under partial shade of a Kiker tree.

Gazing around I saw fields, some with Bajra, Jowar and few barren ones too. At some distance I noticed some people working in a field, so instead of sitting I decided to take a walk in the rustic environment and enjoy the feel of a village and its life. As I reached the field where people were busy harvesting Bajra, one of the person walked upto me and asked kuch chahiye babuji? No, I said, I just came to see around and what he was doing. Taking off his head-cloth, he wiped sweat from his face and arms, and settled under the shade of an Aamla tree.

What gets you here? Are you a vyopari (trader)? he asked, (mistaking me for a land broker). No I said, I was just waiting for the exam to get over. Lot of brokers kept coming to ask for our land that’s why he asked, he said. And we got into small conversation.

“How much land you have?” I asked him. “Little”, he said, “7 bighas”, pointing to his fields. “Why those two fields are vacant”? I asked him. “Paani kahan hai? don’t have water to cultivate all, mostly we depend on rain only”. But I saw a small drain nearby which should be getting canal water, I countered him. “That’s far and water came very rarely”, he told.

I asked about his children. “I have two sons and they go to city to work as daily wagers”, he said. “You must be comfortable with income both from farming and wages of your sons”, I said. He looked in my eyes and said in low deep voice, “bas gujaara ho jataa hai”. I could sense pain in his voice.

“Did you hear about the farm bill recently announced by the Govt and will it be beneficial to you?” I asked. “Yes I heard something about it in village”, he said. He could sell his crop to anyone he wished and get best price, I told him displaying that I know a thing or two about farming. “Humne kon se truck bhar-bhar ke bechne hai? Doesn’t matter to me, we have very little to sell as such. we will give to local trader who comes here and pays us in cash”. His reply actually came as a surprise to me.

“You do not seem to be happy about your situation but you are sitting on a goldmine”, I said; “why don’t you sell your land or a part of it to do something else with that money. I am sure that you will get good price for your land”. “This land is our mother, aur maa ko kaise beche sahab?” he was quick and spontaneous to reply. “But I know that my sons are going to sell this after I die, he said remorsefully. And may be they are just waiting for that day only”.

I asked him why he didn’t educate his sons as there were so many institutes in and around. This would have given them an opportunity to get better jobs. He took a deep sigh and said, “jo hamari kismet babuji?He asked me how many children hd come for that exam? I said, might be close to one thousand. “And did you see any child of a farmer or labour coming for the exam?” I could not answer this for sure because there were probably as many cars and bikes in parking as were the students. There may have been one odd from humble background but that’s all! and I understood the point he was trying to convey.

As I took the walk back towards the entry gate of exam centre, I realized that life of farmer especially a small one is damn difficult; no wonder so many of them succumb to this stress and end their lives. Lack of water for irrigation, small landholdings, high expenses and even higher uncertainty of nature are causes of his misery, I felt. No bill or act will make any difference to guys like him and his agony is bound to continue till he dies.

For most of the urban lads, our knowledge is restricted only to what we see on television or read in magazines. We feel elated when we hear that Govt will double the income of farmers or when they claim that a new act passed will change lives of farmers. But the real picture remains very different. It is very difficult for us to gauge the facts on ground unless we experience it first hand.

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ogjatt
ogjatt
The author is an environmentalist and has been working in field of rain water harvesting, water conservation, forestation and afforestation. You can reach out to him on his e-mail [email protected]
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