A day after the Punjab government appealed to farmers to downsize their protests in view of the raging pandemic, 32 farmer unions of the state have indicated that they will trim the size of their dharnas besides introducing Covid protocols at the Singhu, Ghazipur, and Tikri protest sites.
The state governments of both Punjab and Haryana have imposed limited lockdowns to halt the transmission of the virus. As of now the farmers are sitting at 108 spots such as petrol pumps, shopping malls, toll plazas, and railway stations etc in Punjab. Dr Darshan Pal, president of Krantikari Kisan Union and a spokesperson of Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) said, “We can think of reducing the strength of protesters at various sites in Punjab as people are already mobilized, but we will maintain our strength at Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur.’’
He said the unions are instead planning to introduce Covid-appropriate behaviour at these three sites. “While speakers will continue to address protesters from the main stage, farmers can listen to them from the comfort of their trolleys instead of flocking to the main tent. Our public address system is very effective in a large radius, so we can avoid crowding at the pandal.”
The farmers, he said, are beginning to get themselves vaccinated and treated. “We have given them steamers, immunity booster kits, besides asking them to gargle regularly and wear masks,’’ he said, pointing out that they’ve distributed masks with the slogan ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’.”
Pal admitted that the two state governments have been urging them to stay at home. “We have made temporary homes at the border, we will stay there. We understand the urgency of tackling Covid-19, and we will cooperate without compromising on our struggle.”
Pal said had the government been serious about the physical well-being of its people, it wouldn’t have introduced the new laws in the middle of this pandemic. “We can choose to die but we will never come back till the laws are repealed.”
Jagmohan Singh Patiala, general secretary of BKU Dakaunda and a member of SKM , also said they will change their mode of protest to make it more Covid appropriate, but the protest will continue. “Political parties should also follow suit,” he added.
While members of the 32 unions have already slashed the strength of their workers at various protest sites, BKU, Ugrahan, general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan said they have no such plans. “However, we have told farmers to get themselves vaccinated and tested if they are developing any Covid symptoms,” he added.
Farmers to focus on UP
Buoyed by the TMC victory in Bengal where they had campaigned, the SKM leaders said they will now focus on the states of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. SKM member and president of BKU, Rajewal, Balbir Singh Rajewal said, “UP is going to polls next year, we plan to visit each and every village in the two states to relay our message.”