Farm protests hit political graffiti artists in Punjab
Out of work since the pandemic outbreak, debt-ridden painter Jasvir Singh Kalyan, 48, of Moga had his hopes high with the Punjab assembly elections round the corner, but he was in for a rude shock as protesting farmers allegedly barred him from drawing political graffiti on village walls and along highways.
“I have three family members to feed. Out of work since the Covid-19 outbreak, I am under ₹1.5 lakh debt and have no other source of income,” says Kalyan, who finally got election campaign work from the Shiromani Akali Dal and Bahujan Samaj Party alliance.
“First, my son Gurpreet and I started making graffiti in villages, but the protesting farmers stopped us. Then, we started work along highways, but the farmers again stopped us,” says the painter, who is among scores of graffiti artists who have written a letter to the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, seeking protection of their income source.
“During normal days, we hardly earn ₹10,000-12,000 per month. It is only during the elections that we earn up to ₹30,000 per month,” says Daljeet Singh, 53, another graffiti artist from Moga. “Usually, we get work for painting advertisements of coaching and immigration centres, but due to Covid-19, even that did not come our way. Therefore, election campaigns are our only hope,” he says.
A Ludhiana-based contractor, who did not wish to be named, says election campaigns through wall paintings and graffiti are like the harvest season for painters. “The poor painters wait for five years for this, but now they are being barred from earning their livelihood,” he says.
However, farm leaders deny that there has been any decision on barring painters from making political graffiti. Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan, general secretary, BKU (Ugrahan), says: “If any one of our union members is found stopping the painters, we will take action against him. We request painters to share names and numbers of such union members.”