Farmers’ protest: On road but right at home inside their trucks, tractors
A set of wooden planks have been tied together to form a two floor structure inside a large truck parked at the farmers’ protest site at Delhi’s Singhu Border. At night, at least 40 people sleep on the two decks and half a dozen under the vehicle.
Some distance away, three sofas made of hay and placed strategically outside a truck are occupied by farmers discussing the ongoing situation. “We were being criticised for burning hay and causing pollution. So, I purchased a machine to turn them into sofa sets,” said Navtesh Singh, a farmer from Moga in Punjab.
Most of these trucks are equipped with large batteries and charging points to keep the mobile phones of farmers active. Solar-powered lights are put out on the roads for charging. By evening, they’ll be ready to light up an entire truck.
These are only some of the arrangements the protesting farmers have made to turn their trucks, tractors and trolleys into “homes”.
“The trucks are our bedrooms. The road outside is our kitchen. We have also managed to set up temporary washrooms. The only facility we lack is air-conditioning,” said Navtesh.
The farmers have insisted that they are in for a long haul and have food stocks to last them months. While their food stocks and kitchen are there for everyone to see, a lot more preparations are visible when you peep a little deeper.
At both, Singhu and Tikri borders, there are tractors with two trolleys attached to them. Usually, one of these trolleys serve as a bedroom and the other as a storeroom for groceries. And every now and then, there are trolleys stuffed with wood and even cow dung cakes. “If we exhaust our cooking gas, the wood and cow dung cakes will come into use,” said Jasveer Singh, a farmer from Sangrur protesting at Singhu Border.
The tractors and trucks have been specially designed by the farmers to ensure they provide as much comfort as is possible on the road.
Two farmer friends, Ramandeep Singh and Gurpreet Singh covered dozens of trucks in and around their village in Patiala with tarpaulin sheets to ensure they were water and wind-resistant. Some vehicles were also covered with iron mesh for “extra safety”.
“The floors of the trucks are first covered by hay. Then mattresses and bedsheets are laid atop them to ensure warmth. We have brought ample blankets and quilts to ensure no one is cold,” said Ramandeep.
Since bathing and washing clothes is being done in the open, the farmers have fixed strings on their trucks or between two vehicles to serve as clothes hangers. The same mechanism of using two vehicles has also been used to set up tents outside by many farmers.
Some have gone as far as having a separate section for storing footwear, stools for sitting and almost all trucks have wooden or metallic staircases for the elderly to hop into the vehicles with ease.
Exclusive cabins have been made for women which have curtains hanging from strings to ensure privacy. “The hay below and mattresses above them in the truck ensures the sleep is as comfortable as in our bedrooms,” said Amarjeet Kaur, a 52-year-old farmer.
While the farmers have brought in portable and battery-operated speakers to listen to music and hookahs to keep them busy, their day begins with Punjabi newspapers.
“These newspapers land in our trucks by 7am every day,” said Ajeet Singh, a farmer from Moga who is protesting at Tikri Border.