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Not even fear of COVID-19 can disrupt protest, say agitating farmers

Farmers protest against the new farm laws, at the Singhu Border in New Delhi. (ANI)Premium
Farmers protest against the new farm laws, at the Singhu Border in New Delhi. (ANI)

  • Multiple health camps have been arranged at the protest site so that immediate medical assistance can be provided to farmers in case of emergencies
  • The national capital on Thursday showed a massive spike in Covid tally by recording close to 7,500 cases in a single day

The severe cold in December, the sweltering April heat, not even the fear of Covid-19, nothing could break the morale of the farmers who have been protesting against the three farm laws since the last week of November at the Delhi borders.

Over the past four months, the farmers devised many ways to deal the day-to-day issues. During the cold, they wrapped themselves heavily. For the rains, they elevated their beds. For the Delhi heat, they started arranging for ACs, coolers and fans. And now they say, tackling the second wave of COVID-19 won't be very different.

Pointing out that the farmers are taking necessary precautions, Lakhbir Singh, vice president (Punjab) of All India Kisan Sabha, said, "We have been making announcements from the stage at the Singhu border about the necessity of wearing masks, and washing hands frequently. We are also encouraging the protestors to get vaccinated."

Also, multiple health camps have been arranged at the protest site so that immediate medical assistance can be provided to farmers in case of emergencies. General secretary of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Dakaunda) said, "If somebody has fever or cold, or any other COVID-like symptoms, then the doctors here take a call. The patient is either admitted to a hospital, or sent back to their village for 8-10 days."

The national capital on Thursday showed a massive spike in Covid tally by recording close to 7,500 cases in a single day. This was the highest one-day spike this year. For the last two days, Delhi recorded over 5,000 new cases daily.

Owing to this sudden surge, Swaraj India president Yogendra Yadav said "farmers do treat the pandemic with a certain indifference", but further mentioned none of the protest sites were COVID-19 hotspots either, making it difficult to challenge the farmers' attitude.

He said, "If you would notice, each of these places has doctors, clinics. They are not doing COVID testing, but if many people are reporting fever and so on, they would get to know because qualified doctors are there in every single morcha."

"Some of them have proper hospitals. If there was a surge in fever and breathlessness that would have been noticed immediately," Yadav added.

Yadav noted that while social distancing is something difficult to achieve in such a massive gathering, the farmers adhere to the habits of wearing masks and washing hands.

Last year, the protesters in Shaheen Bagh were forced to go amidst the rise in Covid cases putting an end to their agitation, but Yadav says things are different this time. He said "That time, there was a sense of doom, a sense of 'you don't know what would happen' with corona. It was just the beginning… we didn't know anything at that point."

"Now, that unspecified sense of doom is not there, and therefore, while at that time the government could use that as a pretext to get the protestors to move away, using that now would be utterly cynical," Yadav further noted.

Thousands of farmers from different parts of the country have been protesting against the three farm laws since the last week of November, 2020. While the government has been projecting these laws as major agricultural reforms, farmers have expressed apprehension that the move would lead to the elimination of the Minimum Support Price system, and leave them at the mercy of big corporates.

Yadav said, if the government uses the coronavirus as an excuse to remove the protesting farmers, it would only expose their hypocrisy owing to the fact that the ruling party have been campaigning heavily in poll-bound states with a massive footfall.

"In that case they should ban election campaigning in Bengal. The first thing they should do is to ban BJP's own rallies, where the home minister is addressing the crowds. The hypocrisy of that would obviously be seen," Yadav concluded.

(with inputs from agencies)

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