Harteerath Singh: When It Rains It Pours
Not all protest sites outside Delhi are equally served. They experience terrible weather, like that of March 9, differently.
March 15, 2021 | 4 min. read
As we have seen over the winter outside Delhi, when it rains, it pours.
I will be honest. Storms like the one we experienced on March 9 impact the morale of farmers protesting at the various border sites surrounding the capital. While we stay in chardi kala, being exposed to harsh elements out in the open is never fun.
Smiles turn into frowns when the first drop of drizzle hits the ground and people rush to take some sort of cover.
You know it is time to pull up your socks the moment it starts raining. There is a lot to do as soon as the shower stops, if it stops at all. Otherwise, as was the case last week, you simply wear your raincoat (if you are fortunate enough to have one) and go out to make sure water does not get into your makeshift homes.
The aftermath of last week’s storm was significant. Countless people are left without a roof above their heads, dry rations used for langar have been ruined, and tents made from tarpaulins, which were constructed with so much of effort by the farmers themselves, are filled to the knees with water. It takes hours to remove the water with buckets, and believe me it is not an easy task. It is a week worth of cardio in itself.
Volunteers that have experience in various relief and disaster missions tend to take the lead and guide everyone else too. The organization I am involved with, Hemkunt Foundation, often plays that role.
The first thing we usually do is ensure all electrical switches are immediately turned off and important equipment is moved indoors or covered. For example, fans are taken inside, and the water RO and chilling plants are covered so water does not seep into the electrical control panel. Everything else can be fixed, but replacing fried electrical supplies can be difficult.
However, not all protest sites are equally served. They experience terrible weather differently.
Planning is key, and makes all the difference.
When it started raining on March 9 I was at Singhu.
There would be no significant damage there as it drizzled a bit in the afternoon and farmers were well prepared for the worst. Also, as the largest centre of the demonstration, it is well resourced with experienced organizations and people power.
I decided that instead of staying at Singhu I will take another team member and go to Tikri and then Shahjahanpur to assess the situation and call our logistics team to come with supplies if needed. I knew we would not be sleeping that night the moment we hit the road.
The trip from Singhu to Tikri is a one hour drive, and then from Tikri to Shahjahanpur another two hour and 20 minutes.
When we reached Tikri we quickly realized the situation was not good. We could see that dry rations would be required, and our logistical team opened their devices to coordinate aid. Soon Bhartiya Kisaan Union (BKU) tweeted that their food supplies had taken a hit. Trucks of supplies were sent immediately.
The makeshift shelters were either severely damaged or nowhere to be seen. We pitched new tents, with backups we always keep at our tent city, before moving on.
We then left Tikri at about 1:00 AM IST for Shahjahanpur.
Shahjahanpur is often the forgotten protest site. It is smaller than other major focal points, and does not receive the same type of media coverage or support from humanitarian groups. Hemkunt Foundation is the only organization regularly active at the site.
While on the way to Shahjahanpur, we called for a truck of tents. Because of our experience in the area, we knew that the structures built there with tarpaulin would not be strong enough to withstand that day’s storm and rain.
We reached Shahjahanpur at Amritvela - around 3 AM IST.
The only shelter still standing here were the ones pitched by Hemkunt Foundation as they were all sturdy hiking tents. The rest of the structures, as predicted, had fallen down. Our tents have a capacity to accommodate 12 people each but there were at least 20 people that night in each of them. When we arrived most farmers were sleeping, cold and shivering.
We got to work quietly.
There was a short circuit in the main line, which had all the fans connected to it, and it caused a small fire. Fortunately the fire was quickly contained. After pitching more tents that had been called in by our logistical team and restocking the Hemkunt Foundation bazaar with new dry supplies, we left at around 5 AM IST.
We called it a night, in chardi kala, as everyone woke up to begin another day fighting for their rights.
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Harteerath Singh is the Community Development Director at Hemkunt Foundation. He has been at the Farmers Protest since its onset. He is active at Singhu Border, Tikri Border, Shahjahanpur and Ghazipur. Some of his brainchild project at the protest are the tent cities and #WiFiLangar. You can find Harteerath on Twitter at @HarteerathSingh.
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