Chandigarh, May 8
Despite appeals by farmers who took out protest marches against the weekend lockdown imposed by the state government, shopkeepers in Punjab kept their shops shut on Saturday.
Punjab's 32 farmer unions, protesting the Central farm laws, had announced to hold street protests against the lockdown in the state and had urged shopkeepers to defy the restrictions.
Amid a second wave of COVID-19, farmers took out protest marches at several places, including Moga, Patiala, Amritsar, Ajnala, Nabha, Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur and Bathinda.
Carrying flags of their unions, farmers, including women, took out marches in the markets and appealed to shopkeepers and traders through loudspeakers to open their shops.
However, the shopkeepers kept their shops closed.
Police personnel in adequate numbers were deployed across the state in the wake of the protest call by farmers.
“We told farmers that we will not go against the law and order of the state and whatever the government decides, we will go by that,” said Punjab Pradesh Beopar Mandal general secretary Sameer Jain.
Another Ludhiana-based trader, Sunil Mehra, said shopkeepers will continue to raise their voice in a democratic way.
“How could we open shops when there is a weekend lockdown in the state,” asked Mehra.
Some traders said the district administrations had also assured them to find ways for the opening of shops dealing in non-essential items next week.
"We appealed to shopkeepers to open their shops. We told them that we are with them," said Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan in Moga.
"The lockdown is not a solution to deal with the COVID-19 crisis,” he said, alleging that shopkeepers were forced to shut their shops.
Khokrikalan also accused the government of doing nothing to improve the health infrastructure despite being well aware of the second wave of COVID-19.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday had directed the state DGP to strictly enforce the weekend lockdown in the state and deal stringently with any violation in view of the farmers' call for the protest.
The state government has imposed extensive COVID-19 curbs in addition to measures like the weekend lockdown and night curfew till May 15.
In Amritsar, a farmer leader said if the state government wanted to impose a weekend lockdown, then it should give ration to shopkeepers and waive their electricity bills and other taxes.
A police team took out a flag march in a market in Ajnala with officials saying nobody will be allowed to violate the curbs.
Earlier this week, shopkeepers in Punjab had held protests against the state government's order of the closure of shops dealing in non-essential items.
The chief minister on Friday had authorised the deputy commissioners to take any decision on the opening of shops or private officers on rotation, after taking the local MLAs and other stakeholders into confidence. — PTI
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