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Bharat bandh: Farmers block highways, roads in Punjab, Haryana

New Delhi: Road and rail traffic was disrupted in several parts of Punjab and Haryana during the Bharat bandh called by farmers on Friday as part of their nationwide protest against the three agri laws though there was partial response to it in other parts of the country.

The Samkyukta Kisan Morcha, which is spearheading the farmers’ stir, termed the bandh a “big success” and claimed that shutdown was observed in many parts of the country, including Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Bihar.

In a statement, the Morcha, an umbrella body of farmer unions protesting the three farm laws, alleged that several of its leaders and cadres were detained by the police in Karnataka and Gujarat during the 12-hour bandh from 6 am that marked four months of the agitation at Delhi’s three borders — Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri.

Farmers blocked national highways and other key roads at many places in Punjab and Haryana, and squatted on railway tracks at several locations.

A railway spokesperson said four Shatabdi trains were cancelled, 35 other passenger trains were detained and the movement of 40 goods trains was affected by the protests.

“Barring some limited number of trains in Punjab and Haryana, the bandh has had almost zero impact across the nation. Other than in these two states, around five to six trains were delayed for some time. Less than 0.5 per cent of trains impacted nationally. Trains are running smoothly,” said Railway spokesperson D J Narain.

Train movement was disrupted at 44 locations that fall under the Delhi, Ambala and Ferozepur divisions of the railways.

Farmers belonging to the BKU blocked all the lanes of the National Highway-9 as part of their nationwide protest. They also obstructed traffic at Eastern Peripheral Expressway – a major road near Delhi.

In Uttar Pradesh’s Ballia, as many as 20 activists of Communist Party of India-Marxist–Leninist, protesting in Sikandarpur township of the district, were taken into custody.

Chamber Of Trade & Industry chairman Brijesh Goyal said there was no impact of the bandh on markets and industrial areas in the national capital. Markets at Connaught Place, Karol Bagh, Kashmiri Gate, Chandni Chowk and Sadar remained open.

“Everything remained opened. The traders are in support of farmers’ demands but they have been accruing losses due to coronavirus. We appeal to the government to resolve the issue as industrial areas in Kundli, Manesar, Sonepat, Gurgaon etc have been affected due to the protest,” he said.

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation had to briefly close the entry and exit gates of the Tikri Border, Bahadurgarh City and Brigadier Hoshiar Singh stations, but after a few minutes, the stations were opened for passengers.

A farmer leader claimed that there were protests in Mayapuri and some other areas where people peacefully staged demonstrations.

The SKM claimed that various farmer organisations, trade unions, student bodies, bar associations, political parties and representatives of state governments have supported the bandh call.

In a statement, the SKM said that farmers at the protest sites around Delhi blocked roads and railway tracks.

“Many other people’s organisations of Delhi along with trade unions and other associations protested inside Delhi. In Mayapuri, Kalkaji and other places, concerned citizens organised symbolic protests,” it stated.

Shops remained closed at several places in Punjab. At a few places in Haryana too, shutters were down in support of the bandh.

Public and private transport remained off the roads in Punjab.

In neighbouring Haryana, State Transport Minister Moolchand Sharma told that Haryana Roadways bus services will be suspended in those districts where it is felt that it is not conducive to operate them in view of the farmers’ protest.

“Bus services are otherwise functional in Haryana,” he said.

Since morning, farmers in the two states gathered at several highways and roads, including in Bathinda, Ludhiana, Amritsar, Patiala, Mohali, Rohtak, Ferozepur, Pathankot, Jhajjar, Jind, Panchkula, Kaithal, Yamunanagar and Bhiwani districts.

Farmer union leaders said they were allowing ambulances and other emergency vehicles as well as marriage processions to pass.

In view of the ‘Holla Mohalla’ festival at Sri Anandpur Sahib, vehicles carrying devotees were being allowed to commute.

The protesters have even arranged ‘langar’ for the devotees at the protest sites.

Haryana BKU leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni, in a video message on Friday, appealed to the protesting farmers to ensure the smooth passage of essential supplies or even sick persons travelling in private vehicles or those travelling in neighbouring areas.

“We have to protest peacefully,” Chaduni said.

In other parts of the country, there was partial response to the bandh.

Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur demanding a complete repeal of the three farm laws and a legal guarantee to the minimum support price on their crops.

So far, there have been 11 rounds of talks between the protesting unions and the government, but the deadlock continues as both sides stick to their stands.

In January, the government had offered to suspend the farm laws for 12-18 months, which was rejected by the farmer unions.