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Thursday, January 28, 2021

Protesting Farmers Are Dying From Bitter Cold, But Modi Defends Farm Laws

Despite reports of protesting farmers dying from cold, the Modi government is doing little to allay their concerns.

Reports have now surfaced that farmers are dying from extreme cold and exhaustion during the ongoing protests in Delhi. However, the Centre remains largely nonchalant about the situation which has started to worsen. Even as the Prime Minister speaks about appealing to farmers with “folded hands”, the Modi government continues to defend the new farm laws, that led to the protests in the first place.

Why are protesting farmers dying?

Early on Thursday morning, a 37-year-old farmer from Punjab succumbed to the freezing cold in New Delhi. For the past 22 days, he was protesting at a site near Delhi-Haryana border, along with thousands of other farmers. He was a father of three children.

His unfortunate death has stirred citizens across the country who are now demanding an immediate solution from the Centre about the farmer crisis. However, this is not the first time a farmer has lost his life during the ongoing protests. In fact, the report of his death made headlines barely hours after a Sikh priest committed suicide while protesting at the same location.

Sanyukt Kisan Morcha, the committee spearheading the farmers’ protests, claims that over 22 protesting farmers have died from biting cold. These deaths have happened at the Tikri and Singhu borders in Delhi in the past 20 days when the regions experienced a cold wave.

Delhi is currently undergoing extreme cold weather with temperatures dipping as low as 5°C. Farmers from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have been protesting for nearly a month against the new farm laws. Many of them have camped indefinitely near the protest sites. Tattered blankets, portable heaters and occasional fires as their only provisions to keep warm. Yet, they have pledged to continue their protest until the government addresses their concerns and repeals the controversial laws.

When will the Modi Government listen? 

It is not just the bitter winter and lack of basic amenities that have claimed the lives of protesting farmers. On December 16, 67-year-old Gurmeet Singh, a farmer from Mohali, died after falling ill at the protest site. Before marching to Delhi for the protest, Singh had told his family that he would return home only after the laws are repealed, or else his body would come back.

In two separate road accidents, four other farmers have lost their lives. In both cases, the farmers were on their way home after attending the protests in Delhi.

Despite emerging reports of farmers dying and despair among their families, the Modi government is doing little to allay their issues. In a recent video conference, PM Modi addressed the Kisan Sammelan and said, “If anyone has any concerns, then with our heads bowed, our hands folded, with humility, we are willing to allay their fears.”

He also alleged that agricultural reforms have been exercised by other political parties in power. He also insisted that the new reforms would not affect the farmers in obtaining any facilities.

The Central Government should take note of the collective angst of the farmers and repeal or alter the farm laws before the situation aggravates.

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