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Farmer leaders postpone Parliament march, but say no to Covid testing at protest sites

Farmer leaders also announced after a meeting on Saturday that they have opened one side of the road leading to the Delhi borders to allow smooth movement of emergency services.

Written by Raakhi Jagga | Ludhiana |
April 25, 2021 10:21:10 am
Farmers raise slogans during a protest in Patiala. (PTI Photo/File)

Looking at the rising Covid numbers in the national capital and other states, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) has announced that farmers will not march to Parliament in protest as was planned earlier. Farmer leaders also announced after a meeting on Saturday that they have opened one side of the road leading to the Delhi borders to allow smooth movement of emergency services. Farmers, however, maintained that they will not agree to Covid testing at protest sites.

Balbir Singh Rajewal, president of BKU(Rajewal) and an SKM member, said, “Farmers are helping Covid warriors in every possible manner to reach their destination.”

Talking about the decision to postpone the Parliament march, which was scheduled for May, Joginder Singh Ugrahan, president of BKU (Ugrahan) and member of the SKM, said: “Looking at the Covid condition, we took this decision in public interest. The fresh dates will be announced shortly.”

Farmer leaders, however, have turned down a proposal by the Haryana government to conduct RT-PCR or rapid antigen tests (RAT) at or near the farmers’ protest sites. However, farmers are ready to get themselves vaccinated.

After a meeting of SKM leaders with Haryana government officials on Friday, Gurnam Singh Chaduni, president BKU (Haryana), had said, “They asked us about getting Covid testing done at protest sites and we have refused. If any farmer feels sick or wants to volunteer for Covid test, he/she can get it done on his/her own. No such sampling will be allowed at our protest sites. However, if anyone wants to get themselves vaccinated against Covid, it is again their own wish to go to any vaccination centre near the protest site.”

Dr Darshan Pal, coordinator of SKM and president of Krantikari Kisan Union, added, “Already, many farmers have got themselves vaccinated at vaccination camps organised near Singhu border.”

Sources revealed farmers fear that if random testing at protest sites results in more than 15 cases, then that site can be converted into a containment or micro containment zone, thus hampering the agitation.

According to SKM sources, already over 1,100 persons from protest sites have got the first dose at vaccination centres near Singhu border, adding that many farmers are reaching Delhi borders after getting themselves vaccinated in Punjab itself.

BKU (Ugrahan)’s entire state leadership has got the first jab and second one is pending around mid-May.

Farmers in Punjab have also categorically refused to get tested after returning from dharnas and have also stated that they will not be following the mandatory 5-days quarantine protocol.

During Friday’s meeting in Sonepat, Dr Darshan Pal had said, “Farmers will support in every possible way the fight against the corona pandemic.” The meeting saw the participation of Sonepat SP, CMO and other officials and several SKM leaders.

SKM and the protesting farmers said that they were committed to causing least inconvenience to ordinary citizens.

Dr Pal, however, maintained, “We had never obstructed traffic even earlier as well, rather barricading was done by the government only. Still we are ready to cooperate even more. While the BJP and the government have accused the protesting farmers of obstructing oxygen supply to the city of Delhi, it has been seen that the police are misdirecting oxygen supply trucks towards the protest sites instead of pointing them to the shortest correct route that needs to be adopted. As pointed out already, it is the government which is to be squarely blamed for barricading the roads and obstructing free passage, whereas in all protest sites, farmers have already left such passage for vehicular movement.”

Farmers, meanwhile, are preparing to come back to protest sites in large numbers. The SKM said that farmers who had gone for wheat harvest are coming back enthusiastically in thousands by themselves.

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