Since most of the protesting farmers do not wear face masks and sit at crowded places, there is a possibility that many of them are already infected and some of them have died with the virus.
By Rakesh Raman
Thousands of farmers from Punjab who have been protesting on the outskirts of Delhi have refused to allow Covid-19 testing at the protest sites. The authorities have been asking the protesters to vacate the area because Delhi is among the worst-affected states and the city is observing a lockdown at least until May 3.
The Sanyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) leaders, who are spearheading the farmers’ protests, said on April 25 that they will not allow the authorities to carry out tests of protesters. However, in view of the raging infection in Delhi, they have postponed their scheduled march toward the Indian Parliament.
Farmers fear that if some of them are tested positive for coronavirus, it will give an excuse to the government to get the protest sites vacated. They have, however, agreed to get vaccinated although it is optional for each protester.
Farmers claim that nearly 400 protesters have died during the past 5 months of their protests around Delhi. But they assert that none of them has died with Covid infection – an assertion which cannot be verified.
Since most of the protesting farmers do not wear face masks and sit at crowded places, there is a possibility that many of them are already infected and some of them have died with the virus. But the effect of the virus at the protest sites cannot be assessed without proper testing.
Thousands of Indian farmers – mainly from Punjab – have been protesting since November 2020 against the new farm laws introduced by the government of Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi. Among other demands, they expect the Modi government to repeal these laws, but the government has refused to accept farmers’ demands.
Although farmers claim that it is an all-India protest, it is largely being run by Punjab farmers most of whom are leaving the protest sites because the government has ignored these handful of protesters who are sitting idly on roads. After holding a few meetings with protesters, the Modi government has not called protesters for any discussion during the past 3 months.
As some farm leaders realize that they have lost the battle, they are not taking interest in the Delhi agitation and spending most of their time in Punjab. Now, there are multiple factions of protesters who have conflicting views that they express openly to discredit their opponents in the movement. [ Click here to watch a related video. ]
With the passage of time, the remaining protesters will also disappear and the protest will die a natural death. Now, if the people of Punjab want to win this fight, they will have to give complete control of the agitation to some youth leaders who have been neglected by the traditional farm unions and old SKM leaders.
By Rakesh Raman, who is a national award-winning journalist and social activist. He is the founder of a humanitarian organization RMN Foundation which is working in diverse areas to help the disadvantaged and distressed people in the society.
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