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With comforts of home in place, farmers ready to continue Delhi siege

Poornima Joshi /AM Jigeesh Ghazipur/Tikri Border (New Delhi) | Updated on February 25, 2021

(Clockwise from top left) Daily gathering at Tikri site; toilet, borewell, water heater are in place for the protesters.

Borewells, water purifiers, coolers, solar power to help them weather the summer

In the three months since November 26 when Delhi borders were sealed by agitating farmers from across Punjab and Haryana, demanding the repeal of the three central farm reform laws, the protest sites have been converted into semi-permanent townships.

At Tikri and Singhu where the protesters are far from their homes in Punjab, logistics are being worked out to brave the summer with borewells drilled and equipped with RO filters to make the water potable. More toilets are being built and arrangements for water coolers and solar panels for regular electricity supply being made.

Rotation charted

At Ghazipur, neighbouring western Uttar Pradesh, groups have been constituted in villages to take weekly turns at the protest site. The gathering is decidedly thinner, given that sugarcane planting is under way as also preparations for mustard harvest. But that is no indication of the protest petering out. As Madan Pal, a farmer from Kanchanpur Ghopla village in Meerut district boasted, they can gather a crowd of a lakh farmers at a few hours’ notice.

“Right now, we have made teams of 20 people in the village who take weekly turns at the protest site. There is, of course, the harvest and sowing and everything to account for. But the media are planting false news about the protest petering out. At a few hours’ notice, we can gather here in lakhs. But we know it is a long struggle. This is a government insensitive to us, they do not care. They have not increased a paisa in the State Advised Price for sugarcane even this year and do not pay us even though this is a statutory requirement. But they mistake our patience for cowardice. They have not understood our resilience. We will not return or withdraw till these black laws are taken back,” said Madan Pal.

At Tikri where the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan) is in charge, the bid is to negate the narrative about the protest petering out as harvest season and the prolonged struggle take a toll. The BKU (Ugrahan) has made sure that fresh energy is pumped in with 200-250 tractor trolleys arriving to the site every day for the past few days. It began as a gathering stretching for about 15 kms. Now people are sitting in a radius of 27 kilometres on the Delhi-Haryana Border near Tikri towards Rohtak.

Poles are new milestones

The protestors have created a system of their own to address civic issues. For example, the langar near electric pole number 90 along the Delhi-Rohtak Road takes care of the complaints regarding toilets and water supply. “We ask the protesters their nearest electric pole number. We make necessary arrangements to address their problems,” Santa Singh, a farmer from Sangrur said. He jokes that some of his friends have even gained weight after joining the protests. “We are happy here. The Centre should not underestimate us. The media should tell the people the truth about the protests. Day by Day, our strength is increasing,” Balwinder Singh added.

New borewells, water filters, toilets, air coolers, tents and water tanks with capacity of at least a thousand litres are being brought to Tikri. Farmers say they have already received donations to the tune of ₹25 lakh to fit water filters. Protesters from Mehlal Chowk village in Sangrur, Punjab recently constructed eight toilet seats near their trolley. There are 120 protesters, including 50 women, from the village in Tikri.

For the coming summer months, about 4,000 water coolers are being organised. One RO water filter is provided for each group of 50-75 trolleys. To ensure water supply during summer, about 100 borewells have been sunk. The protestors plan to use solar panels for their energy demands. “We have generators here in case the power supply goes. But we plan to shift to solar power to not depend on the power supplied by Government agencies,” said Sukhwinder Singh, another protestor.

Published on February 25, 2021

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