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Friday, July 30, 2021

Protest site draws ‘sewa’ — medicine stalls, laundry service, temple & library come up

Several farmers at the border said they are unhappy with the government's proposal and have planned to stay put for at least six months. They are now offering "sewa" to help other farmers.

Written by Jignasa Sinha | New Delhi |
Updated: December 11, 2020 6:00:51 pm
farm bills, farmer protest, punjab farmers protest, delhi farmers protest site, farmers protest at delhi border, indian express newsThe two washing machines clean over 500 clothes a day. (Express photo: Amit Mehra)

A dental camp, medicine stalls, libraries, laundry services and a small temple — farmers have made several arrangements at the borders to continue their protest amid the harsh weather conditions, after rejecting the government’s proposals on Tuesday.

At the Singhu border, Prince Sandhu (30), a farmer from Ludhiana, has bought two washing machines for protesters, especially the elderly. “We have been here for more than a week now. It’s cold and we don’t have a lot of clothes. I saw many old men washing clothes on the footpath, so I went back home and bought two machines. We have placed them on the footpath so everyone can use it. A lot of people come here and give their clothes. The machines also have a good dryer so the farmers don’t have to wait for long for their clothes to dry,” said Sandhu, who, along with his friend Amanpreet (27), washes more than 500 clothes a day.

Amanpreet said the machines are operated with batteries and generators from trolleys and trucks.

Several farmers at the border said they are unhappy with the government’s proposal and have planned to stay put for at least six months. They are now offering “sewa” to help other farmers.

Also Read | Centre appeal to farmers: No ego, willing to talk, end stir

A group of them have installed solar plates on their trucks to charge phones and light bulbs. Gurpinder Singh (40), who brought two solar plates from Karnal in Haryana, said: “We mainly use the electricity generated to charge the bulbs because the langar service runs late into the night. My friends also charge their phones using the solar plates.”

The langar also has roti maker, brought from a gurdwara in Haryana, which makes more than 1,000 rotis in an hour. The farmers put balls of dough inside the machine and fresh rotis pop out in 5-10 minutes. Farmers said it runs on batteries stored in trucks or charged by the solar plates.

The site also has over 10 medical camps and medical stores. A dental camp functions from inside a bus, which also has an X-ray machine and other medical equipment. Dr Sunny Ahluwalia from Mohali, who runs the camp with two of his students, said they have been performing tooth retraction and scaling on more than 100 people a day, apart from offering free dental check-ups and other services like tooth filling and cleaning.

Also Read | Govt-farmer standoff: Concessions restore powers to states, water down key clauses

Several students from Punjab and Haryana have also joined the protest to support their families and help other farmers. Among them is Jasveer Singh (29), who has opened a small library with over 500 books on religion, spirituality, fiction and Indian laws.

“I don’t want people to stay here and not do anything. I get around 80-90 readers every day… we want people to learn and grow. This exercise will also help them understand the situation and their rights better,” said Jasveet, who is a research scholar at UP’s Fatehgarh and studies gender rights.

Meanwhile, around meal time, the site rings with music being played on speakers and on a harmonium.

At Tikri, a farmer from Badda village in Haryana’s Fatehabad district handed over a washing machine to the protesters, while residents of Jabta Khera village collected Rs 80,000 for tent material, including 40 mattresses, which they gave to the farmers.

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