At the crack of dawn daily, at least 25 farmers at Ghazipur border walk till boutique owner Meenu and Rajesh Sharma’s home in Vaishali 500 metres away and take a quick shower. The Sharma family has emptied one of their two apartments in the area for farmers to bathe, wash clothes, and charge their phones before they begin their day.
Sandeep Chaudhary (47), a farmer from UP’s Rampur, said it was a chance encounter with the Sharmas eight days ago at the site that led to the family opening their home and hearts to strangers. Meenu told The Indian Express, “Be it day or night, we will help them with whatever they need. If we don’t, despite living so close to the borders, who will?”
At Delhi’s borders, there are several glimpses of camaraderie between locals and protesters, with some residents trying to ensure a comfortable stay for farmers. “Everyone cares about us except this government,” said Chaudhary.
Also at Ghazipur is taxi driver Dalveer Singh (45) from Mayur Vihar Phase III, who is seen walking around the site with a power bank in case anyone needs to charge their phone. He said: “We have food on our plates because of them, so it is our duty to help them when they need us.”
Singh also made arrangements at a gurdwara in Vaishali for at least 30 farmers to bathe every morning: “I could not personally accommodate so many at my home so I reached out to a friend who is a gurdwara pradhan.”
Said Gurpreet Atwaal (26), a farmer from Uttarakhand’s Rudrapur: “Another lady in the area insisted that she would cook for us. She asked me what I like to eat. I told her matar-paneer and the next day, she got it for us.”
Help also reached protesters from Kuldeep Singh, who runs a soap business and distributed 250 bottles of shampoo, soap and detergent at the site. “I realised farmers were not able to wash their hair or clothes because they did not pack these items when they left home. Since I have a soap business, I decided to get these bottles made especially for them. One bottle of detergent liquid will be enough to wash around 30-40 clothes,” said the Delhi resident.
At Tikri border, though, the going is a little tougher. While several locals opened their homes for farmers at first, some reluctance has now set in. Nishan Singh (45), a farmer from Punjab’s Basiyan, said, “The toilet situation is an issue — there are hardly any lodges, hotels nearby. A few locals helped us earlier but now they don’t. We go to empty plots or try looking for factories where they might have toilets. Some people now lock the gates of their factories.”
There’s a porta cabin at the border with five toilets, which are usually dirty and unusable. Gurnaam (50), a farmer from Punjab’s Mansa, said he walks to a gurdwara 6 km away daily to take a shower: “I have my truck here and my friends sleep in it. I can’t take it out daily.” Others find themselves taking a hurried shower on the footpath. “I start preparing meals for my brothers at 5 am, so I fill a bucket with water and take a bath near my tractor… I wish there was a toilet but we have to adjust,” said Jagroop (64), a farmer from Mansa.
AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj, who is looking after arrangements for farmers, said the Delhi government has put up 300 mobile toilets at Singhu and 100 at Tikri.
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