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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Joining protest at Tikri: 2,000 women who lost family members to suicide

The women who joined the protest are mostly part of families of small farmers with limited landholdings, including four relatives of deceased farmers from Sangrur district's Jakhpal village.

Written by Sukrita Baruah | New Delhi | Updated: December 17, 2020 10:21:38 am
As protesters settle in, so do cops — with heaters, coffeeThe group arrived in Tikri Wednesday. Prem Nath Pandey

Family members of farmers who committed suicide in Punjab over the years joined the ongoing protest at Delhi’s Tikri border Wednesday, with a few widows and mothers of the deceased farmers saying that they intend to remain at the site for the duration of the protest.

Around 2,000 women — related to farmers who had committed suicide — from various districts had left for the border from Punjab’s Malwa region on Tuesday in 17 buses and 10 tractor-trolleys arranged by Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan). They reached the Ugrahan group’s transit camp, around 7 km from Tikri border, where they carried out a demonstration with pictures of their deceased relatives.

The women who joined the protest are mostly part of families of small farmers with limited landholdings, including four relatives of deceased farmers from Sangrur district’s Jakhpal village.

Among them is Gurmeher Kaur (34), who had lost her husband Jugraj Singh at a young age in 2007 and has been living alone in the village since. “He had 1.5 acres of land and was very stressed about financial problems and debt. When he died, I was very young with two children. I gave my younger son away to my sister as I couldn’t look after him, and my elder son lives with my parents in their village, 10 kilometres away. They are helping him study. After my husband’s death, I gave our land on lease for farming and have been doing daily wage labour, earning about Rs 1,800-2,000 a month. My older son is 18 now and when he finishes studying, he will take over the farming work,” she said.

She said that she receives help from elder women in the village, like Baljeet Kaur (52), who lost her husband Gurcharan Singh in 1999. “We have three acres of land. We can get very little from this much land. He had a debt of Rs 5 lakh and he needed to get his younger sister married… When my children were young, I gave the land on lease, but now my younger son looks after the farming. We are here to join this protest because small farmers like us are the most vulnerable and will lose what little we have,” said the 52-year-old.

While the two women said that they will remain at the protest site “till the black laws are repealed”, others, including another Baljeet Kaur (50) from Ugrahan village, will leave on Thursday morning.

“We have two acres of land on which my husband cultivates rice and wheat. Our younger son, Sarbjit drove a truck to supplement our meagre agricultural income but killed himself at age 26 after the financial pressures of the lockdown,” she said.

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