‘Gaadi kab chalega?’ Reaping Punjab’s golden harvest, eager to get home to Bihar

Written by Man Aman Singh Chhina
| Chhapar Chiri |

Updated: April 29, 2020 6:57:51 pm

Around a dozen farm labourers from Bihar’s Saharasa district are harvesting wheat within the fields of Chappar Chiri. (Express photograph)
Gaadi kab chalega? Hum ko ghar jaana hai (When will trains run? We need to go home),” says 20-year previous Ashish Kumar, of Puraini village in Saharsa’s Bihar, at the moment caught in Mohali.

This will not be Ashish’s first time in Punjab – he has been to the state twice earlier, to harvest wheat after which keep again for paddy transplantation. However, this time, he doesn’t need to keep.

Ashish is a part of a gaggle of 12-odd farm labourers from Saharasa district harvesting wheat within the fields of Chappar Chiri. They are working within the shadow of the Chappar Chiri struggle memorial – constructed to commemorate the fierce battle between Sikh and Mughal armies in May 1710, when the Governor of Sirhind, Wazir Khan, was given a powerful defeat, thus sounding the loss of life knell of Mughal rule in Punjab. But for Ashish and his fellow labourers, the battle is in opposition to starvation.

“We came to Punjab five days before the lockdown. Aur bas phass gaye (And just got stuck here). We have not been getting any jobs either. Today is just our third day of harvesting and by tomorrow, we will be free from this too,” says Ashish.

Making round Rs 400 per day on a median, the group members say they make nearly sufficient to cater to their wants.

“We have gotten virtually nothing from the government. Only 4 kg rice was given to us, many days ago, for all 12 people. After that, nothing. We told the sarpanch of the village to give us ration the government is distributing, but received nothing,” says Bimal, one other from the group.

The lockdown due to COVID-19 and the fixed fear of members of the family makes them need to head home as quickly as doable.

Hum majboor hain. Paidal bhi to nahi jaa sakte ghar. Station, station par rok rahi hai sarkar aur vahin baitha deta hai (We are helpless.We can not even return home on foot. At each station (city), govt is stopping individuals on highway and making them keep there),” says Mukesh.
Punjab Harvest, Migrant Workers, Farm Labourers, Chappar Chiri War Memorial The labourers are working within the shadow of the historic Chappar Chiri struggle memorial, whereas battling starvation. (Express photograph)
This 12 months, the variety of labourers coming to Punjab for work throughout the harvesting season has been far smaller, and people right here need to return. Farmers are fretting they don’t have sufficient labourers for the work.

However, agriculture and meals specialist Devender Sharma dismisses the notion that the scarcity of farm labourers will critically have an effect on the wheat harvesting or subsequent transplanting of paddy.

“Present experience has shown that farmers have been quick to adapt to the situation. Their family members, who had stopped working in the fields, are now harvesting. Youths who were driving Ola or Uber cabs are also working in the fields because they cannot drive now. The same will happen during paddy transplantation. The farmer has no other alternative because wheat and paddy is what he earns his living from,” says Sharma.

The labourers say they’ve been beset by telephone calls from their family again in Bihar. “Sab keh rahe hain wapis aa jao. Par gaadi chale tab na,” (everyone seems to be saying come again. But the trains ought to run for that) says 20-something Vikram.

A number of hundred meters away, close to the 328-foot ‘Fateh Burj’ (Victory Tower) erected to commemorate the victory over the Mughals within the battle, one other group of Bihari labourers is busy filling sacks of grains within the makeshift grain market – additionally waging a battle in opposition to starvation, and longing to go home.

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