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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Dharna with distancing: Farm body adds free jabs to demands

The dharna comes close on the heels of the May 26 Black Day, which too was observed with limited crowds under the shadow of Covid.

Written by Raakhi Jagga | Ludhiana |
May 29, 2021 3:32:25 am
BKU (Ugrahan) protesters seated in the PUDA grounds Friday.

Punjab’s largest farm union BKU (Ugrahan), known for throwing caution to the wind at its crowded protests, started a dharna in the hometown of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday with Covid protocols in place, and also inserted better sampling and vaccination in its charter of demands.

Carefully marked circles on the three acres of Punjab Urban Development Authority (PUDA) grounds in Patiala that comfortably seat over 20,000 people ensured that the 2,000-odd protesters sat at a considerable distance from one another, with many of them wearing masks.

The dharna comes close on the heels of the May 26 Black Day, which too was observed with limited crowds under the shadow of Covid.

Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan, general secretary of BKU (Ugrahan) said, “Punjab CM was asking us not to organise this dharna due to the pandemic, but we have shown that a dharna can be organised following all Covid norms…we will also highlight the gaps in healthcare.”

Underlining that farmers are part of the war on the pandemic, Kokrikalan said, “Our dharna is focused on demanding more facilities for people to battle Covid. Instead of imposing lockdowns or taking steps that hurt livelihoods, state should provide us better healthcare.” Besides demanding the repeal of the three agriculture laws, the union on Friday urged the state government to strengthen healthcare for Covid patients by ensuring free tests and vaccines for all.

Manjeet Singh Ghrachon, Patiala district president for the union, said they will also highlight issues such as lack of adequate health facilities in government hospitals, fleecing by private hospitals, and shortage of vaccines.

“We are aware of the spread of Covid in rural areas, but we have to protest for our rights…Hence, we are holding this social distancing dharna…We also understand the importance of vaccination and are encouraging our cadre to take the jab, but we can’t force anyone,” he added.

Leaders at the site pointed out how patients suffering from other diseases are being neglected. Jaswinder Singh Brass, another BKU leader, fumed that patients are being referred to private hospitals which charge hefty fees. “In this pandemic, they should all be under government control so that their treatment is affordable.” Kokrikalan called the door-to-door Covid survey in villages a “face-saving exercise” by the government.

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