New Delhi, December 10
Not everything comes with a price tag. Not love, not respect and not the sweaters and jackets that Shakeel Mohammed Qureshi gives away free to protect farmers protesting at the Singhu border from the biting cold.
Around 8 am everyday, Qureshi starts setting up his roadside stall, from where he sells locally-manufactured warm clothes for free to the farmers protesting at the Delhi-Haryana border against the Centre’s three new contentious farm laws.
The 35-year-old man, whose father is a farmer in Uttar Pradesh’s Baghpat district, has distributed around 300 jackets and sweaters for free among the peasants. On an average, he used to earn a profit of around Rs 2,500 daily by selling the winter wear.
“My father is a farmer, too, so I know that their life is very tough,” says Qureshi, who lives in Narela in north Delhi with his wife and children. “Farmers don’t ask for much from the government, except a fair price for their produce.”
Unwilling to talk about the price, Qureshi says: “This is my contribution to a good cause. That’s all.”
Help has been pouring in from different quarters for the protesting farmers at the border. While some individuals and NGOs have been organising langars (community kitchens) and distributing items of daily need, others have set up free medical camps. Many have volunteered to clean utensils, collect garbage, charge mobile phones and wash clothes.
The farmers have been protesting at several border points into Delhi for the past two weeks over their demands to repeal the new legislations, which they claim would benefit the corporates and end the traditional wholesale markets and the minimum support price regime.
The union leaders had rejected a government proposal on Wednesday to amend the new legislations and announced that they would intensify their agitation.
Most of the farmers have come prepared, but a few need support to keep fighting, according to Qureshi, who hopes to have a merchandise store of his own before he turns 40.
His head held low, Qureshi smiles when a protesting farmer, who just got a free jacket from his stall, said: “The god will give you a fortune in return. You have a small shop, but a large heart.”
As dusk settles, a group of Nihang Sikhs approached the Samaritan, but he has run out of stock.
Assuring the band of armed Sikh warriors, Qureshi said: “I will be back with jackets for you tomorrow morning.” — PTI