SKM’s headquarters are now empty as farmers return home; local traders hope business picks up too- The New Indian Express

Through PTI

NEW DELHI: The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) headquarters in Singhu Border looked deserted on Saturday as farmers protesting the Centre’s farm laws began their return journey after the successful outcome of their sit-in a year.

The SKM HQ, housed in a tile pile along the highway blocked by protesting Haryana Kundli farmers, served as the hub of their movement, hosting countless meetings and press conferences.

The iron gate of the humble structure where SKM volunteers used to screen visitors was opened in complete silence in the morning, with the farmers busy dismantling their tents and other structures and packing their belongings.

Inside, Baliram, who is in his sixties, was having an early lunch.

He worked as a guard at the godown.

“This place used to see so much activity with all the farmer heads that would meet here and discuss things every day. Now see, I’m the only person here,” said the man from Begusarai in Bihar.

The leaders of the agricultural unions of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh held their crucial meetings, including that of last Thursday in which they announced to suspend their demonstration and to leave the highway, at the headquarters of the SKM.

The SKM, an organization that oversees 40 agricultural unions, was born out of protests against the agricultural law against the Center for their demands for the repeal of the three legislations and for the MSP’s legal guarantee on crops, among others.

At their last meeting here, SKM leaders decided to suspend the protest following the repeal of agricultural laws by the Center.

SKM also accepted government assurances to their demands for MSP’s legal guarantee of crops, compensation for relatives of farmers who died during the protest, and the withdrawal of cases registered against farmers during the one-year protest.

Farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, started demonstrating at Delhi border crossings from November 26 last year against the three laws.

Small scrap metal dealers had a day in the field at the Singhu border with a huge amount of remains, including bamboo poles, tarpaulins, pieces of plastic and wood, to grab as protesting farmers returned home Saturday after a successful climax of their one-year siege.

The approximately five-kilometer stretch of highway from the Haryana side to the Singhu border in Sonipat Kundli was a stop for farmers, who had erected temporary structures, including accommodation facilities with toilets and kitchens.

At dawn, hordes of slum dwellers and junkyard workers rushed with men, women and children collecting bamboo sticks, tarpaulins, pieces of wood, plastic and iron bars and reporting on carts.

A few of them even got lucky, with protesters returning to the Punjab giving them blankets, wool, clothes, money and other items of daily use.

Javed, a middle-aged man from Assam, was seen picking up plastic sheeting with his wife and daughter.

“I’m going to sell them. We used to buy langar food here, but it’s over now,” said Javed, who is currently out of work.

Nearby, a group of children were busy picking up bamboo sticks, pieces of plastic, and the like, and tying them into a bundle.

“I received a blanket from an Uncle Sardarji,” said Samee, 14, showing his bag full of old clothes and wool.

Kundli is home to many factories, large warehouses and workshops which employ thousands of migrant workers from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and other states.

Due to the combined impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown that followed, overcome by the year-long siege by protesting farmers, life has been difficult for most of them with a lack of jobs and other sources of income.

“I arrived early and collected some things. It will earn me around Rs 500,” said a woman who refused to reveal her name.

“My husband used to work in a factory and now he works as a laborer,” she said when asked why she collects garbage.

Amid the commotion in Singhu, convoys of tractor trucks, cars and other vehicles carrying protesters descended to various parts of Punjab and Haryana, from where they had reached the protest site in during the last week of November 2020, demanding a repeal of three agricultural laws promulgated by the Center.

Protesters have also been a source of free meals for the poor and needy in the area over the past year.

“The Langar is our tradition and we have fed these children and others. From now on the Almighty will take care of them,” said a protester from Mohali giving Rs 20 to a girl called Priya, who was wearing a bucket filled with oil.

Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body for more than 40 agricultural unions, decided Thursday to suspend the movement for a year, after the Center repealed controversial farm laws.

He also accepted the assurances of the Center concerning his demands concerning the legal guarantee of a minimum support price (MSP) for crops, compensation for relatives of farmers who died during the demonstration and the withdrawal of the lawsuits against the farmers. during the year. long protest.

As farmers protesting central farm laws began returning home from Delhi’s Singh border on Saturday after the climax of their year-long sit-in, traders in the region were hoping for a resumption of business.

Several vendors in the region have said that transporting raw materials is one of the main issues facing the region due to blocked roads.

Gulshan Rathi, owner of a motorcycle shop on the Haryana side of the Singhu border in Kundli, said farmers have never been a problem for them.

“We never had anything against the farmers, but we had our own issues that no one was ready to hear about. We were caught between the farmers and the government.

“It’s a laudable step that the farmers have decided to come back. Now, lives and businesses here will be back on the right track as well, ”said Rathi.

Kundli is an industrial area where there are many factories, vehicle showrooms, warehouses, stores and stores.

Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, had occupied a five to six kilometer stretch of the main Delhi-Chandigarh highway near the Singhu border to assert their claims.

Anupama Devi, 35, who runs a roadside tea stand, hopes his business will be re-established once the farmers leave the stretch of road.

She said that before the agitation started, she was earning about 1,500 a day.

“Since the farmers claimed the street here, the income has dropped to around Rs 1,000 as they usually don’t consume the tobacco products that I sell. I hope now my business will resume,” the woman said, with her one year old. old son clinging to his knees.

A resident of Begusarai in Bihar, Anupama Devi lives in Kundli with her husband Rupesh, who was a factory worker but had an accident.

“After the accident he was fired from his job and then we opened the makeshift tea stand. Our income was decent but it was reduced after the start of the movement. I hope things will improve.” , she added.

She said the farmers never bothered them and even fed them.

Ajay Sharma, who owns an electrical items wholesale business, said supplying goods was the main issue he faced during the protest due to the roadblocks.

“Our goods are coming from Delhi but due to the highway blockade not only have they started to arrive late but they have also become more expensive. Now we expect things to be back to normal. first suffered huge business losses from COVID-19 and then from the unrest, ”he said.

Convoys of tractor-drawn carriages, cars and other vehicles carrying protesters rolled towards various parts of Punjab and Haryana, from where they reached the protest site during the last week of November 2020, demanding the repeal of three agricultural laws promulgated by the Center.

The Center finally repealed the laws on November 29 this year, but the farmers kept the protest going while their other demands, including a legal guarantee on the MSP and the withdrawal of cases against them, were pending.

Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of 40 agricultural unions, was suspended Thursday after a year of protest after the central government agreed to respond to their pending demands.

Balbir Singh, who runs a transport company, said heavy goods vehicles carrying raw materials had to stop far from factories in the area because of the barricades.

“Again it had to be picked up in small batches due to the roadblocks. It not only wasted hours but also increased costs due to extra manpower, extra fuel. and freight costs. I hope business will pick up now, “he said. .

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