‘Choking Water Supply At Singhu Was Mindless, Heartless’

Wazihul, 19, describes the humanitarian and health crisis caused by hasty barricading of farmers protests sites at Singhu and Ghazipur borders. But protesters were not disheartened, he says

I am an engineering student and I feel strongly about the ongoing farmer protests, which is why I ensure that I extend my support to them whenever and wherever possible. Sometimes I go to the Ghazipur Border, which is closer home and sometimes to the Singhu Border, to express my solidarity with the farmers. Post the turn of events on Republic Day and in anticipation of the Chakka Jam on February 6, the government decided to barricade the farmers wherever they were positioned.

The hasty barricading was done using nails, concrete and barbed wires at the Ghazipur site and blocking even water tankers at Singhu. Clearly, not much thought was put into it. Which is why for many days the farmers couldn’t make use of portable toilets at Singhu Border. This was no less than a humanitarian and health crisis.

Barricading the protest site triggered a crisis

Even the policemen on duty and the public which had come in to extend support to farmers, were using whatever few facilities were functional. I leave it to your imagination to understand the situation created by the heartless and mindless decision. Women were having the most difficult time because of the lack of public facilities. Some were forced to relieve themselves in the open.

In times like these, when the pandemic hasn’t yet subsided (and even otherwise) hygiene is of paramount importance, the basic facilities should have been taken care of.

One of the things which I noticed was that the langar sewa, a lifeline of sorts for the protesting farmers, was also affected because of the protest sites being turned into literal fortresses. Perishable grocery items were difficult to reach because of the bandobast.

ALSO READ: ‘Providing Food To Farmers Is Sacred Act’

Earlier, we could access the main protest site directly, but later we had to take a long detour to reach the spot. Needless to say that this path was full of mounds of waste materials and one needed to be extremely careful while entering and exiting the protest site.

Even though the farmers and their supporters were disappointed with the measures in place, they were certainly not dispirited. In what can be said to be an extremely impressive step, as far as marks of protest go, the farmers planted various saplings of flowering plants as well as vegetables etc. Talk about keel ka jawab paudhon se dena (a fitting response by planting saplings to defy steel spikes).

Farmers planted saplings in response to spikes and barricades

The whole world is watching us and I feel that the way the government is treating the farmers is not in good taste. I hope the farmers remain optimistic and the government, a bit considerate and the matter gets resolved soon in favour of the farmers.

Watch – ‘We Feel Blessed By Serving The Farmers’

As farmers from Punjab and Haryana camp at Singhu border to demand rollback of three Agriculture Laws, members of the Sikh community have come out in support of the demonstrators. Many of them are providing free ‘Seva’ in the form of piping hot tea, fresh snacks and other food items to keep the protesters warm in the cold weather.

LokMarg this week spoke to several such ‘sevadaars’ who have set up langars that provide ‘Badam Chai’, an almond tea with snacks, and healthy snacks 24×7 to the protesters. These service providers say the facilities will continue as long as the farmers are stationed at the Singhu border. There is little doubt in their minds that the Centre will have to roll back the ‘black laws’ in the interest of the farmers.

Watch the full video here

Watch – ‘We Have Faced Colder Nights In Our Fields’

Even as cold wave sweeps north India and mercury dips close to 1 Degree Celsius, farmers protesting at various Delhi borders have dug their feet in. LokMarg speaks to several farmers camping near Singhu border as to what keeps them going despites such cold weather.

Most farmers make light of the biting cold, saying that they have faced colder nights working in their fields. They also reiterate that till the Centre repeals the ‘black laws’ they are not going anywhere, weather be damned.

Watch Full Video Here:

‘Protest And Studies Both Important For My Future’

Jarmanjeet Singh, 21, son of a farmer from Amritsar is camping at Singhu border to protest against the farm bills. When he is not agitating, Singh is attending online classes in computer applications

We have been told by the Union leaders to stay here till the newly inducted farm bills are not repealed. Many of us have been relay protesters, who camp at the protest site for 15 days then head back to tend family and household matters for the next 15 days. This cycle has to be maintained to strike a balance for our present as well as our future.

We are a family of farmers. We have fields at the outskirts of Amritsar. While I regularly work at the farms to help my family, I am also pursuing my post-graduate diploma in computer applications (PGDA). My parents have high hopes for me. They want me to get a good job since farming is no longer a profitable vocation. For this reason, I have brought my study material to Singhu border as 15-day is a long period and I shall not want to miss my online classes.

ALSO READ: ‘Providing Food To Farmer Is Sacred Duty’

I am not a student of economics, but it is easy to understand why the farmers are agitated. It takes months of hard work and patience to grow a crop and we never get the right price for the product. If a person creates a product, he or she has to decide the price of the product in the market; however, this is not the case with the farmers.

Singh brought his study material to the protest site at Singhu border

We produce crops and the adhatiyas decide the price. The government’s promise of minimum selling price (MSP) is rarely followed. And when this system has established well, the government wants to bring in corporates to fix the price.

ALSO READ: ‘This Govt Underestimated Farmers’ Grit’

Very often, the farmer is not even able to extract the input cost of the farm produce. For, it is not in our hands to determine the market price. The demand and price fluctuate at an alarming level and in a bad season, we are unable to meet our basic necessities.

The growth in farming has virtually stopped and that is why my parents don’t want me to take up farming. Therefore, I am trying my best to strike a balance between my studies and the agitation. The agitation is as important as studies for a farmer’s family like ours. One holds our present, another our future.

I am a student and my parents are bearing all of my expenses. If the only source of income to my family is threatened, what shall I do? I will go home in some days and then will return after spending 15 days there. I have no idea how long the agitation will go but I am prepared to stay with my fellow farmers for a long haul.

‘Govt Wants Farm Sector To Go Telecom Way’

Dr Sumit Kaur, a 24-year-old dentist from Jalandhar, Punjab, tells LokMarg why she took time off from her practice to lend her voice in favour of farmers at Singhu-Tikri border

You know why farmers are drawing increasing support from national and international groups? That’s because their fears and demands are valid. People across the social spectrum are lending support to this movement because it would completely change the way farmers have lived their lives so far. The very dialogue that the government is having now could have been held before when the Bill was being drafted.

Once farmers give in, we fear things will go from bad to worse. I am a dentist living and practising in Jalandhar (Punjab) and I took leave from work to register my voice at the protest site. I reached the Singhu Border on Delhi outskirts on the night of December 5 and protested with the Kirti Kisan Union at the site. If the protest ‘needs more teeth’ I will ensure that it happens with my voice.

We are a family of farmers and thus consider this to be a landmark moment for us. Many people are not realising what has been going on, but they will understand it when due to these laws, the prices of food items shoot up. The new laws allow stocking of essential commodities and that doesn’t bode well for the poorest of poor.

ALSO READ: ‘Not Afraid Of Police Baton Or Water Cannon’

Does the government and those who question farmers ever pause and think why people are putting their lives at risk and choosing to protest the Bills even during the pandemic? It really must mean so much to people that are choosing to come out on the streets.

A protester at Singhu border holds a placard that says farmer is the backbone of a nation

Few realise that the agriculture sector will soon go the telecom way if the government implements these laws. Like (Reliance) Jio, they will first give lucrative deals to the farmers and then when they have a solid client base, the corporates will create a monopoly to impose their will. In India the land holdings are anyway too small and large families depend on small pieces of land. If the safety net of even the MSP is taken away, where will the poor go? And at a time when most migrant labourers have returned home in wake of the pandemic and there are no jobs in sight, what can an average person do apart from farming?

I am glad so many people, including some world leaders, are supporting the farmers. They are in fact supporting the soul of India. I do feel saddened by people who are trying to tar this movement with separatism. There wasn’t a single anti-national or separatist slogan chanted during the protests and I was a witness to it. Then we have Bollywood celebrities like Kangana Ranaut who has a take on every matter. She said, “ ₹100-100 me protesters available hain.” She should watch her words.

WATCH: ‘Shoot Us In The Chest, We Won’t Turn Away’

The agricultural sector needs serious structural changes but not in the areas that the government thinks. These reforms should be disucussed with agriculture experts, senior farmer leaders and also ordinary citizens at every level.

Some critics say that the protest is untimely as the country is already reeling under the pandemic crisis. I wish to tell them: Vaccine ke bhi pehle roti chahiye. Vaccine asar kare uske liye bhi roti chahiye. (You need food before the vaccine. You need food for the vaccine to work). Everyone needs farmers in order to simply exist. It’s time the government in power and the average man learnt to respect farmers. They are the backbone of this beautiful country!

Dr Sumit Kaur at the protest site on Delhi border