#11 Dharam ji
(Names have been changed to maintain privacy)
Dharam ji lives in Kharak village, district Bhiwani, Haryana. Kharak has a population of about 20,000 people. About 80% of the village’s population does agriculture. Wheat and sarson are the most commonly grown crops in Kharak. There is a government hospital in Kharak. It has 8 rooms and 2 doctors.
Like most people in Kharak, Dharam ji is also a farmer. He farms the 3 acres of land his family owns and has a crop of wheat standing ready to be harvested. His problem at the moment is, na toh koi mandi khuli hai, anaj bikri karne ke liye, aur na toh koi mazdoor mil rahe hein.
In Kharak most farmers get their crops harvested by machines, or by migrant labour from UP and Bihar. The local labour is too expensive. While migrant labour takes 300-400 rupees dehadi, local labour takes 500. The government has said farmers can get harvesting machines into their villages and fields. There will be no restriction on the movement of the machines and their operators. But this year, wheat in MP, which is usually harvested before the wheat in Haryana, is still standing in the fields. So, let’s see. When that wheat is harvested the machine will come this side. There is a sardarji in Kaithal, some 3 hours away, who owns one of these harvesting machines. Usually Dharam ji and some 10 – 15 other farmers together pay for the machine to come to their fields and harvest the crops. Let’s see when they can get the machine to come to their village this time.
The road from the village to the fields
There is a government patwari in the gaon. He keeps the accounts of the farmers in the village. Because no mandi is open at the moment, the government has told the patwaris to buy anaj from farmers and give them receipts. The government will then put money in the farmers’ accounts based on these receipts. For now, any large structure in the village is used as a storehouse, either the panchayat ghar, or some other place. When the lockdown will be lifted, the government will come and pick up the grains. Prices have not fluctuated because of the lockdown. Farmers are getting the price fixed by the government, in fact, the government is saying this time they will get a bit more.
The government has transferred money into the accounts of local labourers. To some 3000, to others 4000, for everyone it is different. 10-12 migrant labourers from Bihar are stuck in the village. These labourers are ready to work in the fields and begin harvesting crops, but they are not being given permission by the government. The DC or someone else has refused the permission. The government has said no one can get any work done by migrant labourers because if they fall sick, if they get the virus, sarkar kya jawaab degi? It will become difficult for the government to answer.
While the migrant labourers are stuck in Kharak, unke liye hum gaon se hi ekkatha karke de rahe hein. The government is not extending any help for them. Gaon ka sarpanch apne ghar se paise laga raha hai. Uska kya hai ki, usne bol diya hai ki bhai panchayat ka ek paisa nahi lagega iske andar. Apne ghar se lagao jo bhi lagana hai. Later if the government gives any money, you will get it, otherwise nahi. So now someone in the village is giving wheat, another person is giving rice, another dal, another ghee, tel, whatever they have. If someone can’t give grains and so on, they have given money. Everyday Dharamji and his father go to the place where the migrant labourers are staying and oversee the preparation of food. Daily check-up bhi hota hai unka. Aur unke saath, humara bhi.
One of Dharamji’s relatives provides an essential service and is working during the lockdown. While at work she had an altercation with a lady. The lady said she is infected and tried to spit on his relative. The lady is muslim. Both, the lady and Dharam ji’s relative have tested negative, but they are thermal scanned every day. His relative is at home now, he takes her for the daily check-up. So far, she is feeling fine. The doctors who do the check-up are all wearing masks and gloves and have sanitizer with them. Those in the city hospital in Bhiwani, 17 kms away, wear the entire PPE from head to toe. If someone tests positive, they are taken to the hospital in Bhiwani by these doctors. One man tested positive in Hindol, near Sanwar. He had attended the markaz. He was staying with another man, who is from Kharak. But the latter had not come into Kharak village. He was quarantined from Hindol itself. A few people who attended the markaz had also come to Kharak, but the authorities were immediately informed, and the police took them away. So far no one in the village has tested positive, aage pata nahi. If one person gets it in the village, toh samajhlo pura gaon khatam hai.
To make sure no one, no muslim, comes into the village from outside, and no one from the village goes outside, 20-25 young boys of the village take turns to patrol the village at night.
In the village the economic difficulty is not so much. It is more in the city. People in the village know each other and take care of each other. Gaon mein pata hai kya hai, everyone knows ki mere ghar mein ye ye log hein. People hardly go outside the village, and we aren’t letting anyone from outside enter. So, people are a bit at ease with each other. But everyone is following the lockdown. No one goes to each other’s house. They talk from a distance, and from a distance they ask each other ki kaise ho. Milna jhulna bahut kam hai, bahut hi kam.
It’s a good thing that the lockdown was imposed. Italy hai, America hai, these countries said they will not shut down companies, they will protect their economy. Now they are suffering because of this. We shut things down early. If these muslims had not congregated, nothing would have happened in India. It is because of them that there are so many cases in India.
Dharam ji says every pensioner has received 2 months’ pension in their accounts, and they have also received 5,000-10,000 rupees extra. At ration shops 2 months extra ration was given free of cost. What else the government can do to help depends on a person’s economic situation. For his village, if the government can help the migrant labour from Bihar reach their homes, it will make things easier for the village as well, since people in the village are personally bearing the cost of the labourers’ meals.
PC: Dharam ji
Views expressed are those of the interviewee only. I did consider editing some parts of our conversation out of the summary, but finally decided against it. The purpose of this blog was to bring stories to myself and others, and all elements of this conversation are part of this story.