An Ode To Resilience And Perseverance

Honoring the work of the NGO Initiators of Change


November 19, 2021, witnessed what has led to celebrations in the homes and fields of farmers across the country. The day was marked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement of the repeal of the three contentious farm laws. The borders of Delhi of Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur, where the protesting farmers had been camping for the past one year, were marked by joyous faces and celebrations.


Such a similar string of emotions was felt at the medical camp set up by an NGO named Initiators of Change. A Punjab-based, solely youth-led NGO, Initiators of Change (hereafter referred to as IOC) was the first NGO to take note of the urgent medical needs at the borders of Delhi- when the farmers set out to camp in the surrounding areas of Delhi in November 2020.

In picture: Medical camp set-up by Initiators of Change, as it stands after a year of the protests


The descend


A team of urban youngsters, led by Gauravdeep Singh, Founder-Chairman, Initiators of Change progressed with thousands of farmers from Punjab to the borders of Delhi. What started with distributing small emergency based medical kits, subsequently turned into a full-edged medical service camp- which continues to stand even after a year of the protests.


As the news of the arrival of the farmers at the borders emerged, what emerged along with it were distress calls and requirements for medical help. The use of tear gas, water cannons, and other draconian measures by the state machinery left the peacefully protesting farmers gravely injured. That is where IOC’s young leaders realised their moral responsibility and went ahead to answer to the needs of their elders.


Eventually, as it started to become clearer that the protests were not going to end anytime soon, IOC went from distributing simple medical kits to set up a full-fledged camp that catered to not just basic medical needs but even to serious ones. The NGO’s camp also became a distribution spot for warm blankets and clothes through winters and mosquito nets, among other essentials, to battle the unrelenting rains of Delhi.

In picture: Initiator of Change’s medical camp set-up from the first few days of the protest at Singhu Border


Amidst all of the continuous medical service, distribution essentials from one trolly to another, what remained constant was the face of the NGO the urban youngster and the constant spirit for the work-to selflessly serve the elders. Seasons changed and months passed, but there was not a single day that the NGO was not in the service of those our farmers, whose toil puts food in our plates.


The incessant toil


To imply that this period of rigorous selfless service was an easy pathway, would be grossly wrong. This past year was marked by continuous ups and downs. The sudden changes in the weather presented the strongest challenge. Nights were spent under tents that could not sustain the incessant rainwater. December of 2020 was spent sleeping on what were essentially highway roads. On some days it felt better to have more people around, just to battle the nerve-wrenching cold.

In picture: The second stage of IOC’s medical set-up; volunteers spent rainy nights in this camp


The subsequent months presented another challenge- that of procuring water. Multiple organisations, including the volunteers of IOC, were involved in the continues planning to get water once the stock ends. On other days, the issue of internet shutdown was encountered. This also brought significant unrest- especially for those in other parts of the country and the world, who were connected with the protests simply by means of every day updates on social media/news.


Reflections


Now that the government has taken the decision to repeal the three laws, the upcoming days are being marked by reflecting on the past year of struggle, service, and learning. Undoubtedly, the strength behind the protests not only on the borders but at different places in the country were the farmers. But what stood out the most throughout the duration of these protests was the participation of the youth, especially the urban youth.

In picture: IOC’s camp also became a spot for discussions and deliberations on the laws, politics and history


It is imperative that these stories of courage are communicated. They are the testaments of how people with no expertise and no prior experience, but with just sheer determination in their hearts, were able to set up something beyond what they would have ever imagined.


What this piece has tried to present is to first document the courageous work of Team IOC. Secondly, to stress upon the strength of a collective, which only increased multifold when it comprises the youth. Keeping our support or opposition to the farm laws aside, the unceasing service of this team of young leaders, their crisis management, and the response to the call for action is something that deserves recognition from across the spectrum of views.


Ananya Vajpeyi, in her book, ‘The Righteous Republic’, says that every civilisation or community so to say goes through a period of an ‘epistemological crisis’, which if and when it overcomes, leads to important and sustained changes. This period of protests and specially, the service of NGOs like IOC has proved true of this hypothesis. Everything else assured the team of IOC provides us with the hope that with such young energy, charisma and character the future of our country lies in secure and in indeed, selflessly valorous hands.

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