Amid raging heat and lingering hopes, protesting farmers dig their heels in on Haryana-Punjab borders : The Tribune India

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Amid raging heat and lingering hopes, protesting farmers dig their heels in on Haryana-Punjab borders

Amid raging heat and lingering hopes, protesting farmers dig their heels in on Haryana-Punjab borders


Tribune News Service

Neeraj Mohan

Khanauri/Shambhu, June 18

At 2 pm, with temperatures soaring to a blistering 46°C, gusty hot winds laden with dust from the tilled fields whipped across the temporary sheds over trailers along the blocked Khanauri-Narwana highway at the Haryana-Punjab border. Despite the harsh conditions, a group of elderly farmers emerges from their shelters to partake of langar arranged by local farmers.

Protest Hurting Locals and Traders

  • “They have blocked the highway, which is the lifeline for hundreds of people like us. This protest has turned us idle,” said Meeta Singh, a young man, who runs a truck spare-part shop on the highway with his younger brother. “Our earnings have been hit badly because there are no trucks on this highway and we don't get any customers,” he added.
  • Balbeer Singh had to shut down his dhaba near the Khanauri border and is now running a tea shop. “We are not alone, there are several others who have lost their jobs due to this protest and are uncertain about their future,” said a young boy, who assists his brother at a roadside shop and is planning to go abroad

Farmers pin hopes on coalition govt

  • Even, as the government is mum over the issue and there is no response from the government since February 18, the protesting farmers claim that the BJP had to pay a heavy price for ignoring the farmers and failing to secure a simple majority in the Lok Sabha elections
  • A section of farmers also sees a ray of hope in the formation of a coalition government at the Centre, believing that the alliance partners may pressurise PM Modi to take a favourable decision for farmers. They view the upcoming Assembly elections in Haryana in October and the BJP's recent setbacks as advantageous.

Led by founders of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (Non-political), these farmers have been camping at the Punjab-Haryana border since February 1 after the Haryana Police blocked the highway, preventing them from entering Haryana. They are protesting against the Central Government, accusing it of failing to honour the promise of a guaranteed minimum support price (MSP) on all 23 crops made during the culmination of the year-long protests of 2020-21.

We can’t go back now. Baldev Singh, An elderly farmer

“There is no way back. Either we will move forward with our tractors or the government will accept our demands. Peeche tan hun jaa ni sakde (We can’t go back now),” said Baldev Singh, an elderly farmer from Kot Khalsa village in Amritsar district, sitting on a cot under a tent set up just a few metres from the barricades erected by the police.

“This is the spot where Shubhkaran, a 22-year-old farmer from Bathinda, was killed in the alleged firing by the police. The blood of the young farmer keeps us motivated and that’s why we cannot return empty-handed,” Singh added, pointing to a poster of Shubhkaran.

Nearly 120 km away, the scene at the Shambhu border mirrors the Khanauri protest site, where a large group of farmers continues to camp in tents, pressing for the same demands. Over the past four months, the number of protesters has dwindled significantly. Many young farmers, who initially led the convoy from various districts of Punjab, have returned home. Although most farmers took their tractors back, they left the trailers at the protest site to signal that the movement is ongoing.

During their four-month stay at the Shambu border, the protesting farmers have created a well-equipped living environment. They have installed air conditioners, refrigerators, washing machines and LED TV sets, all powered by free electricity. Additionally, they have set up their own water supply, using submersible pumps. Since February 13, they have also been providing free langar to the farmers camping at the site, ensuring no one has to cook their meals as food is served twice daily.

“Women prepare prashada (food) everyday and in the morning and evening, we serve to all protesters. This is our routine for the past four months and we will continue our service until they are here,” said Avtar Singh, a farmer from Shambhu Kalan village.

Gurmej Singh, a farmer from Mucchal village in Amritsar district, explained the community-driven financial support behind the protest. “We collect money from the farmers as it costs around Rs 5,000 to Rs 8,000 per farmer to stay here per month. If a farmer is unable to come, he can contribute financially to support someone who can,” he said.

Narendra Singh, another farmer from Amritsar, emphasised their preparedness for a prolonged stay. “This is home and we don’t know how long we’ll have to stay here. That’s why we’ve installed two transformers for electricity supply and two tubewells for drinking water with all other facilities needed to survive under this harsh weather,” he said.

To maintain a steady presence at the morcha, farmers from Amritsar district have organised themselves into three zones, with around 300 farmers ensuring their presence in rotations. They hire private buses for commuting, collecting Rs 300 to Rs 500 per farmer to pay around Rs 14,000 per trip to the bus owner.

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The Tribune News Service brings you the latest news, analysis and insights from the region, India and around the world. Follow the Tribune News Service for a wide-ranging coverage of events as they unfold, with perspective and clarity.


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