Amid the continued protests demanding the repeal of the three farm laws, yet another farmer died, this time near the Delhi-Haryana border, because of the biting cold sweeping through north India. This is the 24th farmer death since the protests began on November 26.
The government of India has shown its willingness to keep talking to farmers, but it has refused to scrap the three laws — the only solution the agitating farmers would agree to. Cold, accident, cardiac arrest and suicide are the main causes of deaths.
The 37-year-old farmer, who died on the morning of December 17 due to cold, hailed from Bhatinda in Punjab and had three children aged 10, 12 and 14 years. The report of his death emerged hours after a Sikh priest died by suicide at a village located about 2 km from the Singhu border.
The protestors said the deaths have occurred mainly due to severe cold as farmers have been exposed to extreme weather at Tikri and Singhu borders.
A cold wave has gripped Delhi as icy winds blowing from the snow-covered western Himalayas brought the minimum temperature down to 4.1 degrees Celsius on Tuesday — the lowest in the city this season — the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said. The cold wave is likely to continue in Delhi in the coming days, it stated.
Despite the extreme weather, families of the deceased farmers continue to send other members to the protest site in Delhi. Baldev Singh, a 76-year-old farmer from Punjab, died of cold on December 8. Now, his son Raghuvir Singh is going to join the protest.
Talking to media, Raghuvir said, “My father Baldev Singh died of cold. After Haryana cops used water cannons, he caught a fever and other associated health problems claimed his life. He was brought to the village the same day where he died after some time. My father laid down his life to save the farmers and we are proud of him. I will join the protest after performing his last rituals.”
Pal Singh, a 72-year-old farmer from Patiala, died on November 15 at the Singhu border following a cardiac arrest. Pal’s mother, who is 100 years old, said that she is completely devastated that her son is no more. “My son was a true farmer and I miss him a lot. He gave his life for the entire farming community. I am proud of him,” she said.
Mandeep Singh, Pal’s son, said he will join the protest now that his father is no more. “My father donated his entire savings for this protest. He stood by the rights of farmers. Now my father is not there but I will go and take his place. I will not come until the three farm laws are not repealed by the government. It doesn’t matter if I die.”
Gurnam Singh Chaduni, president of Bhartiya Kisaan Union (Chaduni), said the loss of every single farmer is the loss to the entire community. “The farmers who are giving life for us are martyrs. We are saddened by the fact that farmers are dying every day. We are trying our level best to save our farmers from the cold and giving them medical assistance as well.”
Widows take the lead
At least 2,000 widows of indebted farmers, who had committed suicide in the past, raised their voices against the central farm laws at the Tikri border on Wednesday. Rajdeep Kaur, who works as a farm labourer in Sangrur after her husband committed suicide in 2011, said, “I gave the land on lease and sent my daughter and son to my parents so that they can study. I don’t want them to do farming. Farmers don’t get any benefit from any government, be it the BJP or the Congress. We continue to live in poverty. But the three laws brought in by the Modi government will kill us and take all our land from us. We want these bills scrapped.”
Paramjeet Kaur, a leader of Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan), said, “The government says the laws are good for farmers, but in reality, these are not. Farmers are already in debt and dying by suicide. If these bills are not repealed, more farmers will commit suicide.”