Increased police blockades cut protesters off from toilets, water
The rampant fortification of farm protest sites in Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur has restricted access to toilets, sanitation facilities, and water, agitators at the three border spots have said, alleging that the Delhi Police are intent are cutting off basic facilities to quell the stir.
Since January 29, when a group of persons, claiming to be locals, entered the Singhu border agitation and clashes with farmers despite police presence, the number of barricades at the spots has been increased and alternate routes have been cut off. This means farmers spread across the eight-kilometre-long protest area have to now often travel long distances to reach toilets or access drinking water.
While supplies coming from Punjab and Haryana at Singhu have not been affected so far, since the barricading and blockades are on the Delhi side, access to toilets and water tankers provided by the Delhi government has been severely disrupted.
Jasvir Singh, a farmer at Singhu border from Punjab’s Tarn Taran district said, “By installing barricades, the police are trying to cut off supplies and intimidate us. Older farmers are being forced to relieve themselves in the open or take a longer route to reach the toilet near a petrol pump. The Delhi government toilets, which are installed only a few metres from here, are now beyond reach.”
Earlier, farmers could access the various mobile toilet facilities around the entrance to the Singhu border agitation site and washrooms set up at the nearby Guru Tegh Bahadur Memorial. Farmers spread over the eight-kilometre-long protest spot had access to mobile toilet stations set up by NGOs, welfare groups as well as Haryana authorities.
A senior police official, requesting anonymity, said, “Not all routes have been closed. We have kept one side open for them and farmers can move between the two stages using inner lanes and use toilets which have been moved in that area.”
Sukhwinder Kaur (44) a disabled person from Punjab’s Jalandhar district protesting at Singhu, uses a wheelchair, and said her family members now have to carry her till the toilets. “It is difficult, but I wanted to come here and protest with the farmers as the government has done every possible thing to break the spirit of the movement,” Kaur said.
Protestors at Tikri said after the security forces shut off access to the site, basic amenities such as access to toilets have been an issue, especially for women protestors. However, local residents and several NGOs and startups have pitched in with makeshift facilities.
On Sunday, Basic Shit, a start-up that has been installing low-cost urinals across Delhi, conducted a do-it-yourself workshop for protesters, to help them build toilets and urinals around the agitation areas. The first batch of these has been installed near gate number three of Pandit Shriram Sharma Metro station.
Local residents have also been providing access to the toilets in their houses and shops for farmers.
“The people around us have been extremely supportive. They have allowed women and senior citizens to use their personal toilets. We are also contacting NGOs and startups to help us raise money to build makeshift toilets. The public toilets have been blocked and that is a problem,” said Chaudhary Ranjit Singh, one of the organisers at Tikri border.
At Ghazipur border, farmers had access to toilets, some of which have been set up by the local administration and some of their own. Here, none of these basic amenities fell on the Delhi Police’s side of the barricades.