Protesting farmers opposed to Covid test, but open to vaccination

Protesting farmers opposed to Covid test, but open to vaccination

Protesters attend dharna at Tikri border on Tuesday. Photo: Sumit Tharan

Geetanjali Gayatri
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, April 20

Farmer leaders camping at the Singhu and Tikri borders in protest against the Centre’s three farm laws are opposed to Health Minister Anil Vij’s offer of sending medical teams to conduct Covid tests, but welcomed his idea of vaccinating protesters.

The Sonepat and Jhajjar district administrations approached the farmers’ unions today after Vij directed officers to hold talks with them regarding testing and vaccination.

The Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) will take a decision in a meeting soon, but farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal from Punjab said testing by health teams from Haryana was unacceptable.

“They (doctors from Haryana) will carry out tests and declare some of us Covid-positive and then force us to wind up the protest. We will not fall in the trap. We have a hospital here and more than 40 doctors are available round the clock. Not one farmer has died of Covid at the Delhi borders. The Haryana Government was not bothered about us all these months. Why are they worried about our health now?” said Rajewal.

Apprehensive of getting tested, SKM leader Dr Darshal Pal said protesting farmers had no symptoms, so the question getting tested should not arise.

Gurnam Singh Charuni, BKU (Charuni) chief, was also against testing.

“Covid is a farce. Testing protesting farmers under the pretext of Covid is a ploy to wind up the protest. The Centre wants to malign the protest in the same manner it maligned the Tablighi Jamaat last year,” he said.

At the Tikri border, Joginder Ugrahan of the BKU (Ugrahan) was also doubtful of the government’s intention of testing the protesters. “No farmer has died of Covid. So, why the need to test them? Having said that, the government’s offer of vaccinating farmers is welcome. The SKM will convene a meeting and take a call,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sonepat Superintendent of Police (SP) Jashandeep Singh Randhawa and Additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC) Ashok Bansal met farmer leaders. During the meeting, the leaders rejected the administration’s offer to call off major programmes scheduled for the next few weeks and “nearly” rejected the RT-PCR tests, but accepted the offer for vaccination, sources say.

The Jhajjar administration led by Deputy Commissioner Jitender Dahiya met farmer leaders from the Tikri border. “We have conveyed our concerns. The leaders want to deliberate on the matter and sought time till tomorrow,” said the DC.

The SKM had, in a statement issued yesterday, said farmer leaders would cooperate with the district administration and sensitise protesters about Covid safety norms.

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