A month ago, when Jagjit Singh (40) hurriedly left his village in Punjab’s Bathinda for Delhi, he only packed one pair of socks, which are now torn and dusty. “It takes very long for them to dry after I wash them because there’s no sun at all some days. Nights are the hardest, it’s too cold,” said Jagjit.
On Wednesday morning, when he heard about ‘Kisan Mall’ being opened up by Khalsa Aid India, an NGO, at Tikri border, where he has been camping since November 25, he immediately asked if they have any socks. “I was so relieved when they gave me a pair. Apart from this, I took vaseline, vests, undergarments and a muffler,” he said.
It was day one of the Kisan Mall at Tikri border, and at least 350 people picked up items of daily use they had not been able to access in the last few weeks, said Amarpreet Singh (32), director (Asia-Pacific), Khalsa Aid India.
The ‘mall’ is open from 9 am to 5 pm, and the racks are stocked with toothbrushes, toothpaste, soaps, oil, shampoo, vaseline, combs, mufflers, heating pads, knee caps, thermal suits, loi (shawls) and blankets, among other things. While it’s a mall, all items on the racks are free of cost.
“We have been at Singhu and Tikri borders for a month now and understand what people need. We have a warehouse each at the two borders, where we are storing all these items that have been donated to us. It’s about dignified distribution of donations,” said Amarpreet.
On Wednesday morning, the Khalsa Aid India volunteers went around tractors parked at Tikri border with tokens and a form that lists all the items they have at the Kisan Mall.
Gurwinder Singh (57), from a village near Ludhiana, said he returned to the tractor with a soap bar, a thermal, one loi, three blankets and a tarpaulin. “There is no market nearby, and we are not familiar with the area either. While there are things that well-wishers are donating, they were not streamlined like this. The mall is helpful,” said Gurwinder.
Sarabjit Singh (35) from a village in Barnala, picked up a mosquito-repellent spray. “It is impossible to eat or sleep some days. This spray is the first thing I picked up,” said Sarbjit.
Amarpreet said there are 20 volunteers who are taking suggestions from protesters on the things they need. “We got a lot of requests for undergarments for women, so we will immediately stock that,” said Amarpreet.
Amarpreet said there is no plan yet to start a similar mall at Singhu border.