Despite a warning issued by experts that daily Covid-19 caseload could soon touch 10,000-mark in Punjab, farmer unions have threatened to stage a street protest on Saturday against the imposition of coronavirus-induced curbs, leaving the state administration into a tizzy. These are those farmer leaders who are already protesting against the farm laws.
Moreover, several shopkeeper associations in Punjab have also decided to defy the Punjab government’s order to shut down shops selling non-essential goods.
Balbir Singh Rajewal, a farmer leader, claimed that the Punjab government has enforced lockdown to hide its failure in handling coronavirus situation in the state. “The Samyukt Kisan Morcha has decided to protest against the lockdown where our field workers will come out on streets and ask people to open their shops and not to follow the lockdown guidelines," Singh said. Sanyukta Kisan Morcha is an umbrella group of farmer unions protesting against Centre’s farm laws.
He further said that the union will also hold a nationwide protest against the lockdown if required.
This decision came at a time when Punjab is witnessing nearly 9,000 new infection cases daily. The state on Thursday registered a record 8,874 cases of Covid-19, taking the tally to 4,16,350, while 154 more fatalities pushed the toll to 9,979.
Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh-led government has imposed extensive curbs, in addition to measures like a weekend lockdown and night curfew till May 15 in Punjab to control the further spread of Covid-19.
Reports of shopkeepers protesting against the Covid-induced lockdown and threatening to defy government orders are coming into fore from several parts of Punjab. However, the Punjab government has warned to take strict action against the violators.
“The Covid-19 cases are on a surge. We are also up against shortage of oxygen supplies. Amidst this, when you give a call to people to rush onto the streets and defy lockdown, it is ridiculous. This virus is lethal and these gatherings will only add to the pressure on the health infrastructure when cases start to mount further," said an officer.
Several farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur demanding a complete repeal of the three farm laws and a legal guarantee for the minimum support price on their crops since November last year. Despite numerous pleas by Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and other central leaders to vacate the protesting site amid Covid-19 crisis, the farmers have continued to sit.