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Ghost Tent City of Burari: Spectacle of Wastage of Government Funds

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By Sidharth Mishra

There is subtle political message going out from the Kisan (farmer) agitation on the borders of the national Capital. It has to do with politics of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, which is refusing to playout inside the national Capital. The decision of the agitating farmers to lay siege of the national Capital by staying put on the borders and not entering the national Capital has poured hailstorm on the plans of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government to liaison with the farmers for 2022 assembly polls in the three northern states of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

First to show solidarity with the farmers, the Delhi Government refused to notify the huge stadiums in Delhi as makeshift jails, forcing the centre to turn the DDA grounds in Burari into open jail for the farmers. As mentioned in these columns earlier, Delhi government machinery thereafter moved with alacrity to make these farmers ‘comfortable’ in the Burari grounds, and a huge tent city was set using public funds for the purpose.
 
But alas! it has been ten days and the camp city on the huge Burari ground has turned into a ghost city (see pic), as the farmers have refused to move in. The ghost tent city at Burari today stands as spectacle of monumental wastage of government funds to espouse political motives.
Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who had masterminded the event of Anna Hazare protest of 2011, failed to gauge the true nature of Kisan protest of 2020. The Anna Protest of 2011 was completely politically motivated to discredit the government of the day and thus those participating looked for ‘allowances’ to be part of the agitation. It’s not the same this time.
 
The Kisan Protest of 2020 would be remembered in history as battle for ensuring bread for the coming generation of the farmers. They are here in the Capital to fight not just for economic sustenance but also the dignity of the community. When they have refused hospitality of the Centre, with whom they are negotiating, what made Mr Kejriwal feel that they would eat from his hands.
 
The lack of clarity of the AAP leadership on line to be taken vis-à-vis the farming community was also evident in the notification of the Central farm law by the Delhi government even as in public they took a pro-farmer line. And when the news of this notification came into public domain, AAP’s media strategists ran helter-skelter blaming Punjab chief minister Amrinder Singh of having sold farmers’ interest to the BJP.
 
The Delhi CM could take a leaf or two out from the strategy which his Punjab counterpart has followed in addressing the issue so far. One Singh has remained steadfast not just on the issue of farm laws but has also spoken in defence of the ‘parali’ burning farmers of his state who have been blamed by Delhi government for never-ending pollution in the city.
 
Second, when Mr Kejriwal was busy setting up tents for farmers in Punjab, Singh in a statesman like move, came to Delhi, met Home Minister Amit Shah requesting the government to start a dialogue with the farmers. Thus, the credit for the initiation of the ongoing talks has solely gone into the account of Punjab chief minister.
 
Leaving politics aside, the more important question is when the Delhi government is unable to pay salaries to its staff, was is administratively prudent move to spend so much money on setting up the tent city. Who is going to foot the bills for the same, certainly not the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which wished make a political harvest by extending hospitality? 
 
(First Published in Morning Standard: https://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/delhi/2020/dec/07/the-ghost-tent-city-of-burari-2232826.html ) 
 

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