Images of youngsters, women, and oldies hugging and shaking hands with Rahul Gandhi in the Bharat Jodo Yatra are going viral. Bharat Jodo Yatra, led by the former Congress chief “to unite and strengthen India against hatred, communal divide, discrimination, inflation, and unemployment,” started in Kanyakumari on 7 September 7. Currently, in Madhya Pradesh, the yatra goes through 12 states to cover 3500 and ends at Jammu and Kashmir.
Youngsters who are depressed over job prospects, farmers who don’t get minimum support price (MSP), females who are worried over poor social security, and many people just to see or meet Rahul Gandhi are participating in the Yatra.
“Rahul Gandhi has embarked on Bharat Jodo to save the constitution while we are participating in asserting our rights on water, land, and forest. Government is snatching our forests and land in the name of development,” says Nuraji Vasavi, tribal from the Nandurbar district of Maharashtra.
Vasavi, a member of Narmada Bachao Andolan, who traveled 450 km to join the yatra, says Indian National Congress developed laws to protect Dalits and tribal while BJP is diluting the same law. He is walking to protect laws meant for tribes like PESA and Forest Right Act.
Mohana Kumari, 65 years old former Air India employee, wanted to hand over a representation to Gandhi. “Air India canceled our cashless health plan for which we have paid a certain amount while in service, which would give us free medical consultation. Air India, without consulting us, forced CGHS, a government health scheme that avails no benefits. How could they deny us our rights? I am participating against this injustice,” Bhatia traveled from Mumbai to join the yatra.
Hundreds of them participate only to see the crowd or get a glimpse of Gandhi. Residents of villages through which the yatra passes can be seen waiting to see the yatra.
Umesh Bhaskar, the software engineer from Mumbai, has participated out of curiosity to see how many people participate and what kind of people join the yatra. “This is a historic yatra in independent India, and I wanted to participate. I am amazed as thousands are participating in the yatra. I am hopeful that people will be united and less divisive,” he said to Maktoob.
Some government employees say they have lost faith in this BJP government and are hopeful about Indian National Congress. “Congress in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh have started the old pension scheme for state government employees. We are hopeful that if congress comes into power at the center, the state will restart this pension scheme that state governments ended in 2005. We also want to congratulate Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh governments for this scheme,” says Abhijit Pande, a 42 years old teacher who walked over 100 km from Nanded to Shegaon in Maharashtra.
Why do youngsters join the yatra?
Youngsters standing along the way waiting for yatra are mostly worried about the lack of job opportunities.
“There are no jobs in my field. I have done pharmacy and was hopeful of getting a job, but no luck. The army was my second option. With the Agniveer scheme where youth get four years job, I am not keen to go for it. Hundreds of youth from villages around have lost hope due to this scheme,” says Anmol Patil from Akola. Youngsters who are preparing for civil services and other government jobs feel hopeless due to the lack of posts and opportunities, Patil alleged.
Rahul Gandhi’s Sabha at Shegaon in Maharashtra saw a crowd of over two and a half lakh, as per police. Gandhi raised the issue of hatred, violence, and fear being spread by Bharatiya Janata Party.
“Opposition parties asking what the need of this yatra is? Yatra is to listen to you, your fears, pain. I feel fear, violence, and hatred divide the country. By listening, love increases. Opposition parties would realise about fears of people if they participate in the yatra,” said Gandhi in his talk.
He also raised issues of farmers’ suicide.
Shoonya Khare, a musician from Mumbai, says, “every city, state, people are breaking into pieces. So many constitutional rights are being played with. With the yatra, people are realizing that there was a gap, and it is being filled with getting together. If not Modi, then who? Now we have an answer, it is Rahul Gandhi.”
Varsha Torgalkar is an indpendent journalist based in Maharashtra.