Jalandhar, January 23
It began just as a protest for their rights, free from any political aspirations, for thousands of farmers from Punjab who, riding in their tractors, reached Delhi borders in November 2020 against the three farm laws.
However, many of the farmers from Doaba now find themselves in the midst of hectic political activities ahead of the 2022 election as they have been chosen as candidates for the newly formed political outfit — the Sanyukta Samaj Morcha.
While the SSM along with Gurnam Singh Charuni’s Sanyukta Sangharsh Party (SSP) has so far jointly announced eight candidates in Doaba, The Tribune talked to some prominent farmers who have been fielded as candidates by the SSM...
Jaswinder Singh Sangha (56)
As early as December 28, the Jalandhar Potato Growers’ Association led by Sangha had pledged its support to the SSM. When Sangha was declared a candidate from the pivotal Jalandhar Cantt seat on Saturday, it also meant the tacit support of the 7,000-strong members of the Potato Growers’ Association, which has been firmly backing the Kisan Andolan and the SSM. It is that rare occasion when an influential farmer of Doaba is contesting from a political platform made by farmers and not from a traditional political outfit. Having revolutionised potato farming and industry, Sangha has been very vocal over the years about successive potato gluts and the huge chasm between the consumer and farmers which makes middlemen eke out obscene profits. The candidate of the SSM, he says in part, will address these issues. Jaswinder Singh Sangha said, “The real issues of the voter never take the centre-stage in elections. Our food, water and air are our foremost needs. They guarantee happiness above other electoral issues. But they are never given prominence. With SSM, we would be talking about farmers’ getting their due and consumers no more being duped with hefty prices. Our issues are guaranteed MSP, water, food security. The eventual aim of the morcha is to ensure that the farming sector is so economically viable and self-sustaining that it provides widespread employment and stopping the exodus of youth.” Sangha has been fielded from Jalandhar Cantt where he will be contesting against Congress’s Pargat Singh, SAD’s Jagbir Brar.
Rakesh Kumar (44)
On November 27, 2020, when tractors from Doaba crossed the Singhu border, Rakesh’s tractors were also among the many making it to Delhi borders in protest. Born in Kolkata, Kumar returned to his village Sarmastpur on the Jalandhar-Pathankot highway to pursue farming in his ancestral land. Having been active as a member of the Doaba Kisan Sangharsh Committee to raise the issue of sugarcane farmers since 2015-16, Rakesh has settled back in his village many years along with his family. In 2003, he was his village’s sarpanch, in 2008 a block samiti member and is going to contest his maiden election from Kartarpur from the SSM this year. He has 18 acres and sows crops on 65 acres. He says with the SSM, farmers’ benefit is maximum. Rakesh says, “What does a farmer need. Basic education, health, guaranteed price, the freedom to get proper dividend for his produce. But farmers have been sidelined and ignored by ruling dispensations. I sow wheat, rice and sugarcane on my land. I dream of a future where farmers get proper price for their produce and are financially independent enough to make their own by product for their produce rather than a third party coming and raking in profits. Political parties promise better offers for kids wanting to move out. We want them to stay back and strengthen the system.”
Mandeep Singh Samra (45)
President of the Bharti Kisan Union Rajewal, Mandeep Singh Samra had been active during a series of agitations staged both in Doaba and Delhi (Kisan Andolan) in protest against the three farm laws. Going from village to village to mobilise union cadres, he now finds himself undertaking the same exercise, but this time to seek votes. Traversing villages along with his union members, he says, “Do partiyan to akk chukke haan. Lokan nu hun badal chaida hai (We have become fed up with the two parties. People need change now).” Samra says the constant exodus of youth from the state to foreign countries is very disappointing for farmers. “There is an increase in corruption. Poor people are not given a patient hearing under the current dispensation. That in turn makes going abroad seem like a safer option. Punjab needs a political unit which makes the state seem safer than the option of going abroad once again. People need a political party which speaks for them and provides them respite from corruption and drugs.”
10 in fray so far
- In all, the SSM and its ally SSP (Sanyukt Sangharsh Party) has declared 10 candidates in Doaba so far. Of these, only the Shahkot candidate is from SSP, the rest are all from the SSM
- From Jalandhar Cantt, it has fielded Jaswinder Singh Sangha, from Jalandhar North Des Raj Jassal, from Nakodar Mandeep Singh Samra, from Adampur Purshottam Heer, from Shahkot Jagtar Singh Chandi, from Kartarpur Rakesh Kumar, from Phillaur Ajay Kumar, from Sultanpur Lodhi Harprit Pal Singh Virk, from Kapurthala Kulwant Singh Joshan and from Dasuya Ram Lal Sandhu
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