For over two weeks now, farmers have converged in and around Delhi, protesting against three recently passed Acts. Several rounds of talks have not provided concrete results, and it appears unclear exactly how the deadlock can be overcome.
Visuals shared by news agency ANI on Friday showed the protesters camped out at the Singhu and Tikri borders, even as security officials keep watch.
Protests set to intensify
While the government insists that the door continues to be open for talks, the agitating farmers have announced their intention to intensify the protests. Rejecting the government proposal on Wednesday, they had announced that they would intensify their agitation by blocking the Jaipur-Delhi and the Delhi-Agra expressways by Saturday, and escalating it to a nationwide protest on December 14. The protesters had also said on Thursday that they would block railway tracks if their demands are not met by the government.
On December 9, the union leaders had said that a new 'Delhi chalo' ' call is being given to all farmers in the north India for December 14, while those in the South will be asked to protest at district headquarters.
They said all toll plazas across the country will be made toll-free on December 12. Police vigilance has been increased in anticipation of more people joining the protests on Friday.
An ANI update indicates that members of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangarsh Committee have begun their journey to Delhi to join the ongoing farmers protest against the new agriculture laws
"Around 700 tractor trolleys are moving towards Delhi's Kundli border," SS Pandher, Kisan Mazdoor Sangarsh Committee was quoted as saying.
The threat of COVID-19
While the protesters have to contend with the winter chill, there is also the persistent threat of COVID-19 looming. Amid heavy deployment at the Singhu border area, two of the Indian Police Service (IPS) officers who led the force where the farmers' protest is ongoing against three farm laws, have tested positive for coronavirus. According to the Delhi Police, both the officers are currently under home isolation.
While the protesters are aware of the virus, reports quote them as being of the opinion that the farmers "cannot afford to be afraid of coronavirus". Thousands of farmers camping at the borders can be seen going about their activities without masks and the like.
“The government has already tied a noose around our necks with these laws… we cannot afford to be afraid of coronavirus," a PTI reports quotes Gagandeep Singh, a farmer from Bhatinda in Punjab as saying.
What does the Centre say?
The Centre insists that talks with farmers can still take place. "'The government has no ego. The government was, is and will always be open to dialogue,” Agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar said on Thursday.