Singhu, Ghazipur: As the second wave of Covid-19 continues to sweep Delhi, the Singhu and Ghazipur borders have come under sharp focus again as farmers continue to camp there to protest against the Narendra Modi government’s three farm laws.
When ThePrint visited the two sites Thursday, there was little adherence to Covid-19 protocols among the protesters even as the pandemic rages in Delhi.
At the Singhu border, connecting Delhi and Haryana, ThePrint found no social distancing, no masks and no testing at the site, while the protest site at Ghazipur, which connects Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, had volunteers distributing masks.
Protesters at both sites, however, continued to deny the dangers of a raging virus, terming the pandemic “a conspiracy of the Modi government”.
ThePrint asked DCP (Outer Delhi) Gaurav Sharma if any action has been taken against the farmers for violating Covid-19 norms, but he refused to comment.
ThePrint also contacted the Delhi government’s Director General of Health Services Nutan Mundeja, Ghaziabad DM Ajay Shankar Pandey and Ghaziabad DCP Gyanendra Kumar Singh through phone calls, but did not get any response from any of them.
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Crowds dwindle but social distancing still amiss
While there used to be thousands at these two sites after the protests started in November last year, the crowds have since dwindled at both borders.
The farmers, however, explained that this was not because of the pandemic, but because of the wheat cultivation season that is underway.
“Wheat cultivation season started on 1 March and will go on until 1 May. That’s why there is less crowd now but it’s just a matter of 10 (more) days,” said Mahinder Singh from Punjab’s Nabha who was at the Singhu border. “Tents are here and people will return.”
The farmers also said they can continue to protest because they have distributed their field work to ensure the protest is not affected. “Our women and children back home are taking care of the fields,” said Kulwant Singh from Amritsar, who too was at the Singhu border.
“We also take turns in tending to the fields, so if one group comes to a protest site another goes home to tend to fields and this way we ensure both get done.”
‘Covid is Modi’s conspiracy’
A lot of the protesters that ThePrint spoke to said the virus is nothing to worry about.
“We are not scared of the virus. We have been sitting here through the harsh winter and will continue to sit here in the sweltering heat. We are strong so Covid doesn’t affect us,” said Daljit Singh from Hoshiarpur who is protesting at Singhu border.
At Ghazipur too, the farmers said their culture of toiling in the field has made them immune to the virus.
“Did people not suffer from cough and cold earlier? This corona is a sickness of the urban rich who never come out of their air conditioned rooms,” said a Nihang protester at Ghazipur, who did not wish to be named. “They eat too much fried food and spoil their bodies, which is why they’re dying…”
The protesters at both sites also dismissed the pandemic, terming it a conspiracy by the Modi government.
“Don’t people die of cancer, heart disease, and other illnesses? There’s just this corona-corona hype,” said Balbeer Singh, from UP’s Lakhimpur, at Ghazipur. “It’s just a means for Modi to impose a lockdown so people can’t gather, and to disperse the protest.”
While there are multiple medical camps offering free medicines and check-ups to farmers at both sites, there is no facility for Covid-19 testing.
“There have been no Covid cases here. If anyone suffers from a cold or has a fever we give them normal paracetamols and they get better,” said Sadhna, a paramedic operating a medical camp at the Singhu border. We don’t do Covid testing because Covid is just an excuse by the Modi government to make us end our protest.”
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Masks at Ghazipur, none at Singhu
ThePrint found volunteers at Ghazipur distributing masks. “People aren’t willing to understand the gravity of the situation. I have lost two relatives,” said Deepak Singh, a volunteer with the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee. “The situation in the capital is evidently too distressing, but none of the protesters wants to understand.”
Over at the Singhu border, there was no such mask distribution, and ThePrint did not spot any protester or union leader in masks.
“We used to cover our faces when we would work on the fields and use fertilisers or deal with stubble. But at that time police would come and ask us to remove our face covers. Now they want us to wear masks,” said Jasbir Singh of Hoshiarpur. “Why should we do as they say?”
The farmers also justified the lack of masks saying the protest sites have become their homes. Narendra Jeet Singh Sidhu, the Rampur district head of Tarai Kisan Union, said at Ghazipur: “We’ve been here for six months. This is our home now. Do you wear masks at home?”
Mixed messaging from leaders
Amid the pandemic, union leaders have now decided to start awareness campaigns.
“We have urged the Haryana Police to do a sanitation drive at the border. We are also spreading the message of vaccinations,” said Jagmohan Singh Patiala, general secretary, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Dakonda).
After a meeting between agitating farmers and Haryana government officials Thursday, agitating farmers sitting at the Singhu border refused to get a compulsory Covid-19 test done but “allowed” the Haryana government to accelerate its vaccination drive at the protest site.
Over at Ghazipur, while union leaders are spreading the message of hand hygiene from the stage, the Covid-inappropriate actions of those leading the protest here have come under scrutiny.
On 21 April, Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait held an Iftar party at the protest site, where about 1,000 farmers joined him.
His son, Saurav Tikait, said they had tried to follow Covid protocols. “There were a limited number of participants and we followed social distancing and mask wearing to the best of our abilities. We’ve also been distributing masks, sanitisers,” he told ThePrint.
Ambulance, oxygen movement allowed
While there had been allegations that the farmers were not letting medical oxygen carriers into Delhi, ThePrint found that at both the protest sites paths had been cleared for movement of cars.
Farmers said this was to allow movement of ambulances and oxygen carriers. “These roads have been cleared for over a week now so that ambulances can pass and oxygen supply is not affected,” said Jasbir Singh, the farmer from Hoshiarpur. “The government accused us of halting oxygen trucks but why would we do so? You can see vehicles are passing easily here,” he added.
“BJP wants to hide the fact that it is the one promoting the black marketing of oxygen. It also failed to ramp up health infrastructure in the past 14 months, which has left many gasping for air,” said Dr Ashish Mittal, national president, Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Mazdoor Sabha. “To escape scrutiny, BJP is looking to blame farmers so nobody asks them any questions.”
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)
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Any logical conversation with any sikh & sikh Farmer end with MODI, AMBANI, ADANI & SHAH . Totally duffer.
What idiots. Morons lead by even bigger retards.
Would have been funny if the situation wasn’t so grim.
This shows the mind set and standard of intellect, not of farmers but their Advisors like Yogendra and Company.
where is Punjab CM, Kejriwal, Rahul Gandhi now ? do they NOT have a responsibility to request these people to go home ? Of course, when Shekhar Guptajee himself, does NOT talk about this, in his cut the clutter on Virus, what else can one expect from politicians trying to get some votes.
Why have the authors of this article not interviewed that fake farmer Shri Yogendra Yadav on this?
It is time for the law to come down hard on these China funded rascals.
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