Reethu, a story teller, a person often found between the pages of a book or contemplating the nuances of life.
Amid a dozen farmer organisations taking out a tractor march across Punjab on Monday, July 27, to protest against Centre's three farm ordinances, a 17-year-old girl, led the tractor march in Bathinda's Mehma Bhagwana village with other farmers following her in their vehicles.
"My grandfather and grandmother used to go in kisan union dharnas on a regular basis. I have always been inspired by them. So, when I heard that a tractor march was scheduled, I decided to be a part of it," Baldeep Kaur, who recently passed her Class 10 exams with 85 per cent marks, told The Indian Express.
"I have driven a tractor inside our fields a number of times before. But this for the first time, I have driven a tractor from my village to Bathinda city on my own. It was a 19-km ride and so many elders followed me," she added.
On Monday, members of as many as 10 organisations, including Bhartiya Kisan Union (Dakonda), Kirti Kisan Union, Krantikari Kisan Union-Punjab, Punjab Kisan Union, Jamhuri Kisan Sabha, Kul Hind Kisan Sabha-Punjab, Kisan Sangharsh Committee Punjab, BKU (Ugrahan) and BKU (Krantikari), took part in the protest, according to All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordinating Committee Punjab convener Darshanpal.
Several farmers joined the march that was held at more than 50 places across the state, including Ludhiana, Moga, Muktsar, Phagwara and Hoshiarpur.
The protests demanded the repeal of the three ordinances - the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance and the Electricity Act brought by the Centre besides a rollback of the fuel price hike.
The farmer leaders said that the ordinances were aimed at handing over procurement of crops to corporate hands.
"Just as these three ordinances pave the way for the marketing of crops to be handed over to corporate houses, the government will abolish the minimum support price," Darshanpal claimed, according to Hindustan Times.
"These ordinances are not farmer friendly. We are already under losses and the government will further take away our right to cultivate our fields as corporate sector will be allowed to take over agriculture sector. Already due to rising prices of diesel and petrol, our finances have taken a hit," said Baldeep.
The class 11 student has also been regularly helping her father in the fields.
"After coming back from school, I go to the fields to work with my father. Some days, I even have to miss school if work in the fields is more. I had readied paddy saplings ahead of the transplantation season. I help my father in ploughing the fields, harvesting and I even go to the mandi for procurement," she said.
Sukhjeevan Singh Babli, a farmer from the village, said, "Eh sade pind di beti hai…sanu maan hai es te (she is daughter of our village, we are proud of her)," and added that Baldeep is an inspiration to youngsters who are running away from farming.
The 17-year-old said that she decided to support the cause after seeing the hardships her father go through as a farmer.
"I have seen the hardships a farmer goes through. As my grandparents are part of the union, I decided to be part of the protest. Youngsters must come in farming to bail out elders as governments are not helping us," she said.
The teenager plans to do B.Sc (Agriculture) to learn farm practices.
Meanwhile, Jagseer Singh, a Bharti Kisan Union (Ugrahan) leader, said that now girls are coming to the forefront to take care of farming.
"Boys are either going abroad or are falling prey to drugs. So, now girls are coming at the forefront to take care of farming. Daughters are coming to rescue their fathers who are in debt as government is totally indifferent," he said.
He added that a 22-year-old girl, from village Jhumba, had also taken up farming to help her family.
"That 22-year-old can ride a scooty, but can't ride a tractor, so she did not come for today's march. Her family has two acre land, they can't even afford a tractor. Otherwise, she does all farming by herself. She goes to the fields even in night hours to water them, does all manual work. Her elder brother had died in a road accident, after which she decided to help her father Bora Singh in farming," he said.
During the protest, the farmers protested outside the residences and offices of Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP MPs and MLAs, including SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, and senior party leaders Adesh Pratap Singh Kairon, Sikandar Singh Maluka and Surjit Singh Rakhra.
Meanwhile, officials said that an adequate number of police personnel were deployed in across the state in view of the protest.
In Amritsar, around 1,000 farmers took part in the tractor march. Around 500 tractors had also taken part in the march that started from the Company Bagh and culminated at the deputy commissioner (DC) office, according to Jamhuri Kisan Sabha vice president Rattan Singh Randhawa.
While in Bathinda, farmers went at Harsimrat Badal's office, in Phagwara, farmers moved from the grain market to the residence of Union Minister of State Som Parkash. However, in Mansa, farmers were not allowed to march ahead towards the city area as police stopped them in outskirts. At some places, such as Moga, farmers also flouted COVID-19 social distancing norms during the protest, according to reports.
Meanwhile, Satnam Singh Sahni, General Secretary Doaba Kisan Union, has urged Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to convene an emergency session of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha for adopting a unanimous resolution against these ordinances.
The protests happened despite the CM appealing to the farmers to postpone the agitation against the ordinances in view of the restrictions in place to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The farmers have also said that a countrywide protest will be held against the ordinances on August 9.
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