The future course of farmers' protests in Punjab remains unclear as the state government on Tuesday announced fresh restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings, authorising deputy commissioners to put in place night curfews from March 1. The move comes amid growing concern over an upswing in the number of coronavirus cases in the state.
Thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at Delhi border points for nearly three months to press for the repeal of the three agricultural laws enacted in September last year and a legal guarantee on the minimum support price (MSP). Protests have been taking place in Punjab as well.
Last week, protesters sat on tracks at many places on the Delhi-Ludhiana-Amritsar railway route in Punjab as part of the 'rail roko' protest. Security was tightened in the state, with personnel of the government railway police and the state police forces being deployed.
According to a government statement on Tuesday, a total of 100 people are allowed indoors and 200 people allowed to gather outdoors. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh directed that wearing of face masks and social distancing norms be strictly enforced, with testing to be ramped to 30,000 a day, it said.
Health officials said 200 people are currently allowed to gather indoors and 500 people outdoors, while 20,000 to 22,000 tests are conducted every day. Chief Secretary Vinni Mahajan ruled out the closure of government schools again and said the department is taking all steps to ensure the safety of students.
While issuing directions for increased testing, Singh also ordered mandatory testing of 15 contacts per positive test, with monitoring to be done by CPTOs (COVID Patient Tracking Officer) and review to be undertaken by the Health Department. Singh minister also took stock of the vaccination status, underlining the need to carry out a campaign to promote 100% coverage of healthcare and frontline workers.
Punjab's main opposition party AAP had earlier said it will organise a "Kisan Mahasammelan" in Moga district on March 21 in support of the farmers' agitation. Party's national convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal will address the event, it said.