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Month on, as protest grows, farmers install CCTVs to keep eye on crowd

Exactly a month on, the main protest stage is now a two-storey pandal — a nearly 30 feet wide platform with barricaded seating for hundreds of people.

Written by Amil Bhatnagar | New Delhi |
Updated: December 27, 2020 12:34:43 pm
Month on, as protest grows, farmers install CCTVs to keep eye on crowdInside the CCTV monitoring room at Singhu.

On November 26, more than 3,000 farmers arrived at the Singhu border between Delhi and Haryana on their tractor trolleys to set up base for a protest against the new farm bills. Within two days, a cardboard base on the side of a truck was turned into a small stage, where speeches were made through a portable mic and speaker.

Exactly a month on, the main protest stage is now a two-storey pandal — a nearly 30 feet wide platform with barricaded seating for hundreds of people. As the scale of the protest grows bigger by the day, so has the paraphernalia around it, with farmer unions even installing eight CCTV cameras to monitor the crowd.

The oft-repeated statement by farm leaders and protesters — that they’re here for the long haul — appears to ring more true today than a month ago. The initial row of tractor trolleys that spread across 3-4 km is more than 10 km long now. And owing to support from nearby areas, daily footfall at the protest has remained in thousands every day. Which is why, farmer unions say, a need was felt to monitor the crowd to maintain the sanctity of the protest and keep anti-social elements away.

“These cameras give us a bird’s eye view of the protest since there are so many people coming in now. We come to know of incidents where people with ulterior motives try to create problems. This way, we can keep a record of what is happening and counter any narrative to blame us for any anti-social activity,” said Gurdeep Singh of Sanyukt Kisan Morcha, who manages the CCTV department.

Some cameras have been placed near steel poles of the stage, while another camera pans towards the langars. The security team did not reveal positions of other cameras. “Our focus is to keep a record of all those places where a large crowd gathers, since the possibility of someone creating a problem in a gathering is high,” said Gurdeep.

Behind the main stage, a trolley with a wooden door has been placed next to the entry barricades. At the further end of the trolley, two 32-inch TVs have been placed, which displays the feed from the eight cameras. At least two people monitor it at all times. There are 15 volunteers in the entire CCTV team who take turns during the day.

Farmers say the equipment has been brought from Delhi through funds pooled in by farmers as well as donations.

The CCTV team is just one example of how the protest has become more organised over the past month. A stage management committee decides who addresses the crowd, donation teams keep track of funds, an ‘IT Cell’ handles what information has to be put out on social media, while volunteers at the site clean roads and dispose of garbage.

Police chief visits Singhu

New Delhi: Police Commissioner S N Shrivastava visited the Singhu border Saturday and met personnel and officers from Delhi Police and CRPF who have been deployed at the site for over a month. He tweeted: “They (Delhi police and central force) are doing a good job regarding farmers’ agitation. Suitable arrangements are in place for their food and protection against cold and Covid”. Police have been guarding Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur borders since the time the protest started. ENS

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