Turns out, the greatest worry amongst the leading pop stars, Youtubers, and film actors of a certain genre of the west is the lack of internet availability amongst poor farmers who have travelled all the way from Punjab in their tractors and fancy SUVs.
As per these celebrities, who would tweet out in support for ISIS, if paid generously, India's farmers are suffering under the fascist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
However, the government must not pay heed to these puppets in the west or even the ones cheering them on back home and must continue its pursuit using an iron fist in a velvet glove to reach a resolution with the protesting parties.
As per recent reports, the Delhi Police has increased the barricading after Republic Day's violence on the three major protest sites of Singhu, Ghazipur, and Tikri. Given how the tractors were weaponised on January 26, resulting in a rampage across Delhi, cement slabs have also been installed by the authorities.
Barbed wires have been installed to cover vast stretches along the highways occupied for weeks while metal spikes have been inserted to negate the possibility of any tractors moving forward, as they did on Republic Day.
The barricading has resulted in farmers losing access to basic civic amenities. At Singhu alone, the barricading has resulted in farmers now being unable to access scores of portable toilets, and are thus left with no option but to either queue up for remaining facilities or else relieve themselves in the open fields.
The water supply to the protesting site has also been hit. Electricity too has been disrupted. To top it all, mobile internet has been shut off for good at all major protesting sites. However, this internet shutdown has resulted in major inconvenience for other people in the region relying on the internet for their routine activities.
However, the government cannot be blamed for cutting off these civic amenities to the farmers, nor it can be accused of being fascist for denying these services.
Since early December, the government has been trying to negotiate a truce with the protesting parties. If one goes back to the amendments offered to the laws on December 9, the farmers' major concerns had been addressed there and then.
Following the December 9 resolution, there were many rounds of talks initiated by the government, and all addressed by the highest ministers of the BJP. Even an offer of putting off the implementation of the laws for 18-months was not good enough for the protesters.
However, after the violence on January 26, the government is under no obligation to offer the anarchists a shelter within Delhi. Instead, the government must continue its efforts to isolate the protest sites in every possible manner, even if it warrants converting the entire stretch into a temporary detention centre.
The following reasons warrant the government’s stern crackdown.
Firstly, the Supreme Court, addressing the occupation of Delhi-Noida road during the Shaheen Bagh protest, had already stated that protesters could not occupy public ways and public spaces indefinitely.
The apex court also pulled up authorities for not acting timely to remove the protesters.
Thus, even if the above steps come across as inhumane to some popstars in the West, the government would be well within its power to take them, given enough opportunities have been offered to the protesters to negotiate.
Secondly, the economic loss caused by the blockade. Before the protesters took to Singhu, farmers in Punjab had led a railway blockade, resulting in the cancellation of passenger and goods trains. Between late September and late November, train services were completely suspended in the state.
By mid-November, more than 1.980 passenger trains and 3,000 goods train had to be cancelled or terminated by the Indian Railways. On average, close to 35 passenger trains were cancelled daily during this agitation. The losses for the Railways, recovering from the Covid-19 disruption, were massive, given the two months witness peak occupancy due to the festive season.
The total loss for the Railways alone was close to Rs. 2,400 Crore.
However, that is nothing compared to the losses incurred by the people around Singhu. The area around Singhu, by virtue of being a national highway and the border of Delhi and Haryana, has a lot of petrol stations.
The stations located around Singhu border have been closed since November 26, thus incurring huge losses every day. Near to Singhu lies Murthal, a food hotspot with many famous dhabas and eateries. For the people of NCR, Murthal serves as the much-needed weekday getaway.
The protest at Singhu has resulted in these dhaba owners losing critical business. Trying to bounce back after the Covid-19 disruption, these owners are now staring at 50-90 per cent reduction in sales and footfall.
However, the story of losses does not stop at eateries and trains alone, for the road traffic has suffered, travel of the general public has suffered, and in the larger scheme of things, investment prospects in Punjab have also suffered. One think tank has estimated the Q4 2020 loss for the region at Rs. 70,000 Crore.
Thus, the farmers, who have been encroaching upon the fundamental rights of citizens of multiple states and UTs, have resulted in staggering economic losses for the region, have no moral right to demand internet, toilets, electricity, or any other civic amenities. The government must maintain its current stance and tire the protesters out as the brutal summer heat approaches.
By choosing to cut off the amenities, the government has set the right precedent for the future. Had the protesters conducted themselves in a non-violent manner, had not chosen to vandalise the national capital on Republic Day, and had opted for a designated protest site at the beginning itself, the right to demand civic amenities would be justified.
The farmers, who while begging for MSP and countless subsidies, tried making a statement by getting their own food to the meetings in Delhi should attempt a similar stunt for internet, toilets, and electricity as well. The government has stretched the rope as long as it could and has offered more carrots than it should have.
It’s time for the silent stick. After Republic Day violence, the protesters do not deserve the internet, free toilets or electricity, nor do they deserve our empathy.
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