A solo march against farm laws

Nagaraj Kalkutagar walking on a road in Hassan on Friday.   | Photo Credit: Prakash Hassan

Nagaraj Kalkutagar, a 39-year-old former techie, has begun a 6,000-km-long march to Delhi to protest against the controversial farm laws. An activist against corruption, atrocities on women, and illegal mining for the last five years, Kalkutagar plans to reach the national capital before the end of July this year, by walk. As he reached Hassan on Thursday evening, he had completed 1,230 km, covering 13 districts. Representatives of many pro-farmer organisations welcomed him.

Nagaraj, who hails from an agricultural family of Bagalkot, obtained M.Sc. and M.Tech. degrees and worked for tech companies as a geospatial engineer. The turn of events in 2012 following the Nirbhaya case in Delhi and the corruption cases against the UPA government prompted him to join India Against Corruption (IAC) movement and later Aam Admi Party. He worked as Bagalkot district convener of AAP and also contested for Bagalkot Assembly seat in 2018.

“During my days in Bagalkot, I involved in struggles against illegal sand mining and led many protests. I did gram vastavya (village stay) in 25 villages of the district in 2016-17 to understand the problems of the farming community. There I understood the importance of minimum support price and other issues”, he said. He has been in touch with psephologist-turned politician Yogendra Yadav. Recently, he took part in the activities of Karnataka Rashtra Samiti, a political party led by Ravikrishna Reddy.

Nagaraj wanted to join the farm protest in a different way. “Instead of straightaway going to Delhi, I decided to communicate with people along the route. Hence started the padayatra – Delhi Chalo”, he said.

Nagaraj began the march at Male Mahadeshwara Hills in Chamarajanagar district on February 11. He has a backpack with two pair of clothes and other essentials, besides a couple of books. With a bottle of water in his hand, he walks. He uses his tab to look for directions. His wife and children stay put in Bengaluru.

“By and large my journey has been on foot so far. Sometimes, I had to travel short distances by vehicles as per the advice of local police. While I was walking near Udupi, the police insisted I take a bus suggesting that crossing forest areas would be risky”, he said.

He enjoys discussing minimum support price and other issues at least with 50 people a day. “Many days I have met more than 100 people. Some people argue with me and some get convinced and extend support. A few have offered me financial help to support my journey”, he said. Along the route, many strangers have helped him stay at their places and offered him food. He would like to end his march mid-way if the Central government agrees to the farmers’ demands.

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Printable version | May 17, 2021 7:51:27 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/a-solo-march-against-farm-laws/article34282161.ece

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