Farmers defy weekend Covid curfew, stage protests across Punjab

As the state continued to report staggering rise in Covid numbers, famer unions across Punjab staged protests violating pandemic
restrictions put in place to break the chain of infection.

The protests were organised in 87 towns across 15 districts of Punjab, farmer unions said. The protests were organised for about 2 hours in different markets, but no FIR was lodged against anyone for violating weekend lockdown anywhere in Punjab till the time of filing this report.

Whiles unions had given a call ‘lockdown todo, bazar kholo’, but hardly any shops opened during the protest time. Farmer unions were seen staging protests in closed market places.

On Friday evening, DCs of all districts had issued instructions for opening and closing of shops in different slots and held meetings
with market associations to ensure that restrictions were not flouted.

The protests were organised by 32 farmer unions of Punjab and members of BKU (Ugrahan). Apart from farmer unions, even khet mazdoor unions and shopkeepers took part in a few districts, but shops did not open.

Sources revealed that this call of Punjab farmer unions had been raised in the Samyukta Kisan Union’s (SKM) meeting as well on Friday, but the proposal to make the protest nationwide was not accepted.

Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan, general secretary of BKU (Ugrahan), said, “Shopkeepers took part in protest dharnas in a symbolic manner. The
idea was to get our demand heard as the government has done nothing to improve health infrastructure and now it is imposing restrictions to affect livelihood of shopkeepers.”

Punjab covid curfew Members of Krantikari Kissan Union hold a protest march against Punjab government over selective COVID-19 lockdown, in Patiala, Saturday, May 8, 2021. (PTI Photo)

Farmer unions claimed markets were opened in villages Hathur, Chakar and Manuke of Jagraon constituency of Ludhiana.

Gurpreet Singh Sadma, district general secretary of BKU (Dakaunda) said, “We got markets in big villages opened to oppose lockdown restrictions.”

During the protest in Patran in Patiala, most farmers came out without a mask and social distancing norms were not adhered to.

In Bathinda too, only a few were seen wearing masks. In Baghapurana area, one shopkeeper opened his shop when farmers came in the market and police tried to take action against the shopkeeper.

“Soon after, we gheraoed the police station. No challan has been issued now against the shopkeeper,” said Kokrikalan. In Talwandi Sabo, a dharna was staged outside police station when two pushcarts were seized by cops, said union members.

Lachhman Singh Sewewala, general secretary, Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union (PKMU) said, “Ahead of our protest, Punjab government gave many relaxations to open the shops of all categories, which can now open from Monday onwards. We call it our first victory which happened much before the protest dharnas.”

Jhanda Singh Jethuke, senior vice president of BKU (Ugrahan), said, “We will also be marching to Delhi borders in big groups from Khanauri border and from Shambhu border on May 10 and May 12. We know that lockdown restrictions are only to target kisan aandolan, but we will move in groups as we were going earlier. Covid is a disease, we need to stay careful but we should not fear it and shut our businesses. Rather, the government should have focused on improvement in healthcare in the past 13 months.”

On Friday, the Sanyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) announced that it has decided to postpone the National Convention of Farmers scheduled on May 10. The fresh date of this convention will be announced after the next meeting, the SKM said.

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