As the mercury drops in the national capital, farmers protesting at its borders say they are more than prepared to brave the cold and protect senior citizens among them.
On Tuesday afternoon, 82-year-old Chandar Singh from Haryana’s Sonipat district had set out a folding chair in the middle of the blockaded at G.T. Karnal Road and sat on it soaking in the sun as the protest buzzed around him. “I’m very comfortable, I’m not feeling at all bothered by the cold,” he said. That morning, the temperature had dipped to 4.1 degrees Celsius.
Across the tractors and trolleys currently housing the protesting farmers at Delhi’s Singhu border, people said camping out in the cold in the Delhi winter does not affect them much.
“We are used to being out in the open in the winter. At this time of the year, every night we go to our fields to irrigate our wheat crops since we get the electricity for irrigation at night. The cold of being out in the open field late at 12 or 2 in the night is far more intense. And our elders are even more tough than us because when they used to work in the fields, there were far less facilities to ease their work,” said Dalveer Singh (22) from Punjab’s Patiala district.
Most farmers have come equipped for the winter from their villages. Gurpreet Singh (44) from Ludhiana district explained arrangements for sleeping at night in his tractor trolley.
“We brought our mattresses and blankets from the village. We have covered the top of our trolley with two layers — one a canvas sheet and over that a tarpaulin sheet — to insulate it from rain, dew and cold. When we sleep at night, we pull these sheets over all sides of the trolley to completely shield it and since 10 of us sleep together, it gets warm,” he said.
He said they wake up early — before 5 am — and make a bonfire to warm themselves in the cold of dawn, and put it out around 9 am. For this, his group had left their village with around eight quintals of wood.
Others have also brought “desi geysers” from their villages to heat water for washing utensils and bathing.
“It’s like a tandoor. It is filled with 40 litres of water and it is heated with firewood. Once it is heated, it runs through the day and when you pour cold water into it, hot water pours out of the outlet. Yesterday, the committee in our village sent a fresh supply of around 10 tonnes of wood,” said Amarinder Singh (29) from Punjab’s Ferozepur district.
Khalsa Aid has also installed 12 such ‘geysers’ in the bathing area attached to its 350-people capacity shelter home for protesters.
Apart from that, winter supplies are currently among the most sought after items they distribute through the day. At their tent, they have a time-table for distribution. In this, the most popular currently are tarpaulin sheets which they distribute between 3-4 pm. They also distribute shawls from 4-5 pm, and warmer inners from 8-10 am and 5-6 pm.
At the medical camps across the protest site, volunteers state that they are yet to see many cases of people reporting health complications caused by the cold.
“We have been getting plenty of donations in the form of medicines and we are trying to cure those who are coming to us. Most of these are elderly people, and among the common issues are hypertension or people with health issues such as high blood sugar who have left their medication at home. However, the prevalence of illness is far less than could have been expected from a gathering of this nature, and this could be because plenty of blankets and warm clothes are being distributed, things like dry fruits are being handed out, and food is plenty and of good quality,” said Dr Anshuman Mitra at the Medical Service Centre.
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