Super diffuser protest? As Experts Worry About Covid, Farmers Say New Laws Are Greater Threat to Their Survival | India News
As thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, but also from Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, protest at the border points of the national capital and in the Burari field of north Delhi for a fifth day on Monday, Covid-19 continues its spread. There have been few signs of social distancing during the protests that began last week with farmers, grouped under various organizations, leaving their homes and heading towards Delhi.
“A protest is a mass gathering and therefore, from a public health perspective, I would recommend protective and preventive behavior against the spread of the coronavirus infection, otherwise an over-spread event could occur,” the Dr. Samiran Panda, Chief of Epidemiology and Communicables. Indian Council of Medical Research Division of Diseases.
Seeking strict compliance with the rules, he said that it is important to note that SARS-COV-2 is an efficient transmission virus and that such gatherings are conducive to its spread.
Many of the farmers, who threatened to block the five entry points to the capital, said they are aware that the infection still continues, but that the Center’s new agricultural laws are a greater threat.
Gurmeet Singh from Faridkot in Punjab, for example, has been in the Burari field, one of the largest in the city, for three days and counting. And he has no intention of moving.
For him, and hundreds of other farmers in the North Delhi field where they were allowed to meet, the three controversial farm laws are a major disease.
“We can even survive the crown, but how will we survive this cruel law that will take away our bread and butter?” Gurmeet told PTI.
In another corner of the sprawling field, a team of seven government doctors from the Delhi AAP has screened more than 90 farmers for Covid-19 since Nov. 28.
“There has been nothing positive so far,” said a doctor who requested anonymity.
“We tested 40 people on the 28th, then another team took over and today we have tested 50 people so far,” the officer said.
Several e-rickshaws roamed the ground to raise awareness about the disease and the need to wear masks and maintain hand hygiene. But the message seemed to be drowned in slogans, protest songs, and speeches.
Gursharanjeet Singh from Bilaspur, Uttar Pradesh, said his family is completely dependent on the produce from his six-acre farm.
“If we are careful we will not get crown, but if we do not protest against these agricultural laws and this government, we will definitely starve,” he said.
Their desperation finds resonance at the Singhu and Tikri border points, where farmers have been camping in large numbers.
Some volunteers were distributing masks to protesting farmers.
As the farmers, many of whom came in trailers and trucks in preparation for a long journey, continued their protest, two doctors, Sarika Verma and Karan Juneja, were in Singhu, urging them to wear masks and maintain social distancing.
“We are also offering treatment if someone faces a problem or injury,” Verma said.
Delhi has already witnessed an increase in Covid-19 cases after the Diwali celebrations and with a rise in pollution levels. On Sunday, the city recorded 4,906 new Covid-19 cases and 68 deaths, bringing the total number of cases to 5,66,648 with 5,22,491 recoveries.
The number of cases in India is 94,31,691 with 38,772 new infections, according to data from the Union Health Ministry on Monday.
Dr. KK Aggarwal, president of the Confederation of Asian and Oceania Medical Associations (CMAAO) and former president of the IMA, said the government should not have allowed the agitation of farmers.
Politics should never take precedence in a pandemic, he said.
“The government has the powers under the Disease Epidemics Act to take control of any situation that may spread the infection,” he said.
“The agitation of the farmers will end in wide-spread events that will not only be a danger to Delhi but also to the entire country,” he said.
While experts worry about the lack of safeguards to prevent the infection from spreading, Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) President Joginder Singh Ugrahan said farmers fear losing their livelihoods.
“The new agricultural laws presented by the (Narendra) Modi government are a greater threat than the coronavirus,” the peasant leader told PTI by phone.
Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee Secretary General Sarwan Singh Pandher asked why the coronavirus posed a serious threat to life only during the farmers’ turmoil, and not during the recent Bihar assembly elections.
“When the elections were held in Bihar, where was the Covid-19? When any political meeting takes place, where is the coronavirus,” he asked, in an apparent reference to the election rallies.
He claimed that the problem arises only when farmers start an agitation for their rights.
A spokesperson for the BKU’s Haryana unit led by Gurnam Singh Charuni said that farmers are doing everything they can to keep Covid-19 at bay.
“As much as possible, we are trying to follow the guidelines. But right now thousands of farmers are saying that getting the Center’s farm laws repealed is the first priority, as it will destroy them anyway,” he said.
He said that it is now up to the Center to accept their demands.
When asked if they fear the infection will spread because thousands of people have gathered in a large area, he said: “No farmer is afraid of this disease right now. All they have in mind is to roll back these laws.” .
At the Sonipat border, an official from the Haryana Health Department said they have so far distributed 5,000 masks to protesting farmers.
“Also, after every kilometer we have parked an ambulance,” he said.
‘They have come to Delhi for a decisive battle’
Meanwhile, farmers protesting at the Delhi border points said they had come to the national capital for a “decisive battle” and said they will continue their agitation until their demands are met.
At a press conference on the Singhu border, a representative of the protesting farmers said they wanted Prime Minister Narendra Modi to hear their “mann ki baat.”
“Our demands are non-negotiable,” he said, asserting that the ruling party “will have to pay a high price” if it does not address their concerns.
“We have come here to fight a decisive battle,” he said.
Union Interior Minister Amit Shah had appealed to the farmers to move to the Burari field and said that the Center was ready to hold talks with them as soon as they moved to the designated location.
A meeting of more than 30 farmer groups on Sunday rejected Shah’s offer to hold talks before the December 3 date and demanded an unconditional dialogue.
Thousands of protesters refused to give in and spent another night in the cold at the Singhu and Tikri border points.
His representatives had said that Shah’s condition to change the protest is not acceptable and claimed that the Burari land is an “open jail”.
Mobile toilets have also been installed at various points and sanitation is carried out regularly, he added.
The contentious laws are the Trade in Agricultural Products and Trade (Promotion and Facilitation) Act of 2020, the Agricultural Price Guarantee and Services (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of 2020 and the Essential Products (Amendment) Act of 2020.
Unions have expressed fear that new agricultural marketing laws enacted in the Center will lead to the dismantling of the minimum support price (MSP) system, leaving farmers at the mercy of big business.
However, the government says the new laws give farmers options to obtain higher prices for their crops and that the MSP regime will still continue.