Other States

A field day for Rakesh Tikait

Rakesh Tikait (on tractor) at the Delhi-Ghaziabad border.  

His nonchalance while addressing the media and negotiating with officials is noteworthy. Rakesh Tikait saunters beneath the Delhi-Meerut flyover on NH 9 like he is strolling in his fields in Sisauli village in Muzaffarnagar. The national spokesperson of Bhartiya Kisan Union is one of the many farmer leaders participating in the ongoing negotiations with the government. He is the younger son of Mahendra Singh Tikait, who once made the BKU the voice of farmers in north India. Today, it has been fragmented into 50 odd factions with the Tikait group holding on to its influence on farmers in west U.P.

Well-informed

Well-informed about the demands of the electronic media, he keeps shifting on tractors to give bytes to newspersons. And when the Ghaziabad officials arrive to negotiate, he educates them on where Delhi ends and Uttar Pradesh begins. He tells the Additional District Magistrate to get the walls of the flyover painted as Kisan Kranti Gate-2018 in the memory of the clash between the BKU farmers and the police in October 2018 at the site.

Many see him close to senior BJP leader Rajnath Singh. When one asks whether he was disappointed that Mr. Singh was missing from the government panel, Mr. Tikait nods.

‘Long struggle’

“It’s the government’s decision. He might join at a later stage. Abhi to lamba chalega (It will go on for a long time),” he predicts. He quickly clarifies that the BKU was not speaking for the government. Many of us might have voted for the BJP in the elections but they haven’t lived up to the promise made to the farmers,” he says.“It seems the government is paving the way for agro-industries and is looking at farmers as labour. We are staring at the privatisation of agriculture,” he says. “The government is trampling on what is essentially a State subject. When we talk of writing minimum support price in the law, we are told MSP is a separate issue.”

‘Vast difference’

He says when the PM talks about one country, one market he should know that the inputs costs of farmers in different States are different. “There is a vast difference in electricity rates in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, both ruled by the BJP.”

He maintains there is coordination between different groups. “If somebody goes out of the movement of farmers of the country, it won’t be acceptable to farmers who are now coming out in large numbers.”

On the slow mobilisation in western U.P. in comparison to Haryana and Punjab, Mr. Tikait says, the tractors are still busy unloading sugarcane at the mills. “In Haryana and Punjab, farmers are comparatively freer during this period as paddy has been harvested and the wheat is sown. Also, the lack of rail transport has resulted in slow mobilisation.” says the BKU leader.

On the funding of the protest and the increase in the number of SUVs at the protest site, Mr. Tikait reasons they are of those who have agriculture as the secondary source of income. “Those who are wholly dependent on agriculture could only have two square meals a day,” he says.

‘Funding the protests’

Interestingly, he adds, the farmers are funding the protests themselves. “They are coming on their own, paying for their travel. That’s why you can sense a feeling of pride and freedom in them. It is not like political parties where they see it like a chore,” says Mr. Tikait.

As one rises to leave, a fogging machine arrives from one side of the U.P. Gate, and from the other, a Samajwadi Party worker comes with food packets. In between, Mr. Tikait is telling the officials the exact point where he wants the graffiti. “If you find it difficult, tell the electricity department to send a crane to fix a light. We will get hold of the crane to spray paint the graffiti.”

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2021 11:25:38 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/a-field-day-for-rakesh-tikait/article33260761.ece

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