As Punjab CM Amarinder Singh on Monday ordered that all those attending large gatherings – social, political or religious – should be mandatorily home quarantined for 5 days, farmer unions refused to cooperate while calling the state government’s move a bid to harass farmers.
In Punjab, over 100 pakka dharnas are underway apart from farmers coming from Delhi borders in turns. Buta Singh Burjgill, president of BKU (Dakaunda), said: “Farmers travel via trains, buses and even through private vehicles. Let us see as how they test the whole jatha. We are not going to follow any quarantine protocol of 5 days. Covid is a disease and we need to take care, but it is being projected as a deadly disease which it is not. In fact, all the fresh curbs being issued by Punjab, Delhi, Rajasthan UP or other states to end kisan andolan. More than 350 farmers have died while protesting at Delhi borders and none of them tested Covid positive during postmortem report. So, we fail to understand whether Covid is as serious as it is projected to be?”
Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan, general secretary of BKU (Ugrahan) — the largest farmer union of Punjab — said, “We do agree that Covid is there but as per scientific figures, nearly 2 per cent people die of it if they don’t get themselves tested at an early stage. However, if we stop protesting against these deadly farm laws, 100 per cent farmers will die. So what is more deadly — farm laws or corona? There is curfew in Delhi, Rajasthan, curbs in Punjab, Haryana, UP and almost all other states from where farmers are coming. However, our jathas will go to Delhi as normal.”
Meanwhile, all DCs have been asked to introduce rapid antigen test (RAT) at railway stations and bus stands. Sources said that Covid surge caused by people returning from large gatherings remained a huge concern.
Jalandhar DC Ghanshyam Thori while talking with The Indian Express said, “We will be doing rapid testing at railway stations and bus stands so as to keep a check on people who are coming after attending large gatherings.”
DC Thori, however, did not clarify whether farmers’ will also be tested or not.
Jagseer Singh, a district committee member of BKU (Ugrahan) from district Bathinda, said, “Our women members are going in large numbers to Tikri border from Dabwali, Khanauri and Sardulgarh borders on April 21 and they will come back via same entries. Let us see as to how they test us.
We do take care of our health and if anyone is sick, that person immediately gets examined.”
B Srinivasan, DC Bathinda, said, “We are in the process to depute the team there. We are planning to test maximum people who are coming to bus stand and railway station.”
So far two union leaders have tested positive. BKU (Ugrahan) president Joginder Singh Ugrahan tested positive last month, and has since recovered. All India Kisan Sabha national leader Hannan Mollah tested positive two days ago, and is admitted at a Delhi hospital. Another Punjab farmer union leader’s wife has also been tested positive and he is a care giver to his wife these days in Punjab.
Dr Darshan Pal, coordinator of Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) said, “A compulsory quarantine of 5 days for people attending gatherings sounds strange. What will 5 days quarantine do? Everyone is concerned about their health and they are taking care of it on their own. But instructions of Punjab government are a way to harass the farmers and invite unnecessary clashes as our farmers regularly travel by trains in large groups.”
He added, “Farmers will make strong arrangements to protect themselves from corona on all protest sites. Farmers have also been invited to come back to various protest sites from next week. This strategy was finalised during a SKM meeting on Saturday. For the last few days, there are indications that the government is plotting to end the peasant movement on the pretext of the pandemic. There have been several reports in the media that as soon as the state assembly elections are over, Haryana government and the Centre have planned to attack the protest sites and evacuate them in the name of Operation Clean. SKM has firmly warned the government that farmers will strongly resist any Operation Clean. SKM has urged all the other organisations to make a programme to reach out to their members, and giving them a slogan of ‘Phir Dilli Chalo’ from April 24 when we mark the completion of 150 days of the farmers’ struggle at Delhi borers.”
SKM ANNOUNCES RESISTANCE WEEK
SKM has announced a ‘Resistance Week’/‘Pratirodh Saptah’ that will be observed at all protest sites from Tuesday (April 20) to Monday (April 26), under which the following arrangements will be made:
- Masks will be made available at all protest sites and there will be a drive to promote their use
- Vaccination camps will be started at all protest sites and protesters above 45 years of age can get themselves vaccinated here
- At every protests site, there will be information shared on protective measures to be adopted against the pandemic
- All medical camps will have increased availability of thermometers, oxymeters, masks.
- For Covid protection and treatment, SKM will cooperate fully with local administration.