CHANDIGARH, Punjab—Participating in the ongoing parliamentary elections is the last thing on their mind. Evicted from their land, and facing continued hostility from the village governing panchayat, hundreds of Sikh families living in Kupian Palt, near Pehowa, in Haryana’s Kurukshetra district have decided to boycott the election on April 10, 2014.
It has been six months since the Haryana Government formulated a policy to rehabilitate Sikh farmers who were evicted from the panchayat land that they had been cultivating since 1952 on a 20-year lease under the Union Government’s scheme of “Grow more food.” Despite the Vidhan Sabha passing a law, the policy is yet to be implemented.
Around 150 families living in the area owned by the Kara Sahib panchayat in Kaithal subdivision are the worst affected. They have survived the last six months on rations worth ₹ 200,000 per month provided by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) after their plight was highlighted by the media. Mostly engaged in agriculture, their lands have been taken away, and they have exhausted all their savings.
“Our electricity connections were cut for non-payment of bills, school fees for most children runs into arrears of over ₹ 20,000 each and we survive each day on the rations supplied by the SGPC, and the DSGMC.
In such a scenario, when surviving each day is a struggle, the election is the last thing on our minds,” says Bhola Singh, a member of a committee that has been pursuing the case of these villagers with the government.
Maktool Singh, a village elder, says no politician has visited them for votes although the affected farmers, and their families have about 800 votes altogether.
“We are grateful to the Hooda government for making a policy to rehabilitate us, but everyone here is up in arms as the land is lying barren while most families are starving,” he says. Perhaps the fear of an unwelcome reception has kept away sitting Congress MP Naveen Jindal, and other leaders from campaigning here.
President of the affected farmers’ committee Harpal Singh said no one wanted to boycott the poll, but when their families went without food, there was a constant threat of their children being thrown out of colleges, and school,s and there was no money to meet medical expenses, participating in the elections was the last thing on their mind.
At one stage, desperate Sikh families even pooled in ₹50,000 each and gave ₹15 million to a local revenue official who had promised to put the land in their names. That official got transferred, and the families lost their money. “We hear these elections are being fought on the issue of corruption, but no one has got us our money back despite several complaints,” says Naib Singh, another villager.
Villagers say that the checks promised by the SGPC to these farmers for meeting pocket, and other expenses, have been held back. The reason being, the coming into force, of the model code of conduct. Some persons, however, feel this could be a deliberate step on part of the SGPC, which is controlled by the Shiromani Akal Dal (SAD), so that there is resentment against the incumbent government, and the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) benefits.