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How farmers turned their tractor-trolleys into makeshift camps for ‘Delhi siege’

As temperature continues to drop, the farmers find the much-needed warmth to spend the night on the bed of their trolleys lined with layers of paddy straw brought from their fields.

Written by Raakhi Jagga | Ludhiana | December 4, 2020 12:47:37 pm
Farmers refuse to move, say will intensify protestFarmers’ groups held discussions at Delhi's northern Singhu Border — through which the highway to Haryana, Chandigarh, and onward to Himachal Pradesh and Punjab passes — to chalk out their course of action.

For thousands of farmers from Punjab protesting at the Delhi border, it is the trolleys attached to their tractors that have come up as temporary homes with waterproof covers, makeshift beds, and even charging points for the cellphones. The trolleys also often turn into a makeshift stage from where farm leaders address the gathering with their voice amplified several times courtesy the loudspeakers fitted on the tractors.

While hundreds of such tractor-trolleys are already stationed at the Delhi border, several more are on way to national capital from Punjab. For the Punjab farmers roughing it out at Delhi borders, these rough-and-ready modified trolleys, which take around a day to make, are part of life.

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Sukhjinder Maheshri, a Moga-based farmer, remembers how his parents used to modify the trolleys whenever the family had to travel to attend Mohalla, Gopal Mochan, Maghi Mela or other religious melas where they would often stay for three to four days. “As a kid, I would see my parents and village elders convert the trolleys into room-like structures. I have been doing the same for the the past 16 years. It takes just about a day to get a trolley ready,” says the 36-year-old now camping at Singhu border.

While the “modifications” are temporary, Maheshri says, they are designed to last. It can be gauged from the fact that the covering put up on the trolley as a “roof” is at last three layers strong.

“First a sort of a net roof is created with nylon ropes tied to the iron or bamboo pillars attached to the sides of the trolley. The net is covered with waterproof sheet and fastened in place with more ropes. Then another net of ropes is created and two more layers of tarpaulin or waterproof sheets are added. A final set of ropes comes into play to ensure that the entire contraption holds in the wind,” says Maheshri.

“At least eight people can sleep in an average trolley, which is 11-feet in length and 6-feet wide”, says Lachman Sewewala, General Secretary, Pendu Khet Mazdoor Union.

“In bigger trolleys, upto 13 mattresses can be laid. In some trolleys, an upper bunk has been created. While ration, clothes and others such paraphernalia is kept on the bed of the trolley, mattresses are laid on an upper berth created by fitting an iron(detachable) frame lined with plywood boards,” adds Sewewala.

Maheshri added that the tractor’s battery is being used to charge cellphones and laptops. “A number of farmers are carrying laptops that they use to disseminate information, send pictures and videos of protests. Several non-farmers too are part of the agitation but need to carry on with their office work as well. They too need to charge their laptops and cellphones. Many families have brought inverter batteries too from their homes that we use to light up LED bulbs during night hours,” says Maheshri.

Jasvir Singh Kothaguru, a farmer from Bathinda who is also a part of the morcha at the Tikri border, says, “Some farmers sleep under the trolley and their mattresses soak up the dew. We spread the mattresses under the sun during day hours to dry them up. Several gurdwaras have donated mattresses for the farmers,” he said, adding that a trolley “acts as a dormitory” where eight to thirteen people sleep. “We are used to working in cold water in wheat fields. We are also used to sleeping under makeshift structures in the fields so sleeping in trolleys is not a hassle.”

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