India

Protesting farmers say won’t take vaccine till farm laws are junked

Samyukt Kisan Morcha – an umbrella body of 40 farmers’ bodies protesting at Delhi’s borders– on Sunday announced a tractor parade on Outer Ring Road on January 26, a day before the Supreme Court hearing on seeking injunction against the proposed march.

“This will be a peaceful parade. No disruption will be caused to official Republic Day celebrations or provocative speeches will be made. The national flag will be placed on all tractors,” farmer leaders said during the press conference.

Farmer leaders said they will urge the Haryana and Delhi Police to cooperate. “There will be no threat to any national heritage sites, or to any other site. The vehicles in the parade will consist of tableaus and floats that will reflect the agricultural reality of different states in addition to showcasing historical regional and other movements. No political party flags will be allowed,” said farmer leader Darshan Pal.

Meanwhile, a day after India kicked off its vaccination drive against Covid , farmers protesting at Delhi’s borders maintained that they would not leave the capital to go to their home states to get vaccinated before the three contentious farm laws were repealed.

Though the first round of vaccines have been reserved for health care personnel followed by front line workers, the elderly – considered to be at risk – will be next in line to get the vaccines administered. This is crucial as a sizable number of farmers protesting at the national capital’s borders are above 50 years of age. On Sunday, Chamkaur Singh, 63 and his friend Dabinder Singh, 61, from Moga district of Punjab, were among the several at the protest site who said they will not return to their villages to get vaccinated unless the three new contentious farm laws were repealed.

“We have heard many doctors say that Covid-19 existed earlier as well and affected people with less immunity. There are thousands of poor people living on the streets here, who have no means to wash their hands or wear masks. How are they managing? We believe the lockdown was just a ploy of the government to get the [farm] laws passed without any resistance,” said Chamkaur Singh, who hails from Dhudike village in Moga district, and is a member of Kirti Kisaan Union.

Dabinder added, “We will get vaccinated only if we have the disease. Not otherwise.”

Several others in the crowd added that they did not trust the government’s claims on the fatality rate of Covid-19 disease. Balpreet Singh, 28, a farmer from Marur village in Firozpur, said, “We have been here since day one and it has been impossible to maintain physical distancing. Yet, we are yet to encounter any Covid-19 cases in our group of 100-200 people. The fear of the disease is more fatal than the disease itself.” “What will we do with the vaccine if we lose our lands and homes eventually due to the farm laws? This fight will continue and we are now looking forward to the tractor march on Republic Day,” he said.

However, not all protesters were against taking the Covid shots. Kuldeep Kaur, 68, a farmer from Chamkaur Sahib in Rupnagar district, said, “Though we don’t have Covid-19 cases in our village, I will get vaccinated when I return to Punjab and the vaccine is made available to us. I will not get vaccinated here though.”

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