Massive traffic jams near Delhi amid farmers' Bharat Bandh
Farmers protesting the central government's three new agricultural laws have called a "Bharat Bandh" or nationwide strike today as part of their months-long agitation. Notably, September 27 marks one year after President Ram Nath Kovind gave assent to the controversial farm laws. The protesting farmers have garnered the support of several Opposition parties, including the Congress. Here are the latest updates on today's strike.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of dozens of farmers' unions, has called a strike between 6 am and 4 pm on Monday. Government and private offices, educational institutions, shops, industries, and commercial establishments will be closed across the country, the body said. However, emergency services such as hospitals and pharmacies would not be affected, the protesters assured.
The Delhi-Meerut Expressway has been blocked near the Ghazipur protest site, affecting the traffic coming from Uttar Pradesh. Delhi Traffic Police also issued an advisory in this regard this morning. Farmers have also blocked the Delhi-Amritsar National Highway at Shahabad in Haryana's Kurukshetra district, ANI reported. Other highways that are blocked include Patiala National Highway near Jind and the Chandigarh-Hisar National Highway.
Farmers have also blocked the Shambhu border between Punjab and Haryana. The Haryana Police had, on Sunday, warned commuters of traffic congestion. In many areas across the two states, protesting farmers have sat down at railway tracks to block them. Several trains have also been canceled. Heavy security arrangements have been made in Delhi, Haryana, and Punjab in view of today's protest.
Further, lengthy traffic jams were reported from Delhi's borders with Gurugram and Noida as the Delhi Police and paramilitary soldiers checked vehicles entering the city today. Ingit Pratap Singh, DCP South West, told ANI that barricades have since been removed and the traffic situation at the Delhi-Gurugram border is now normal. The Delhi Metro tweeted that Pandit Shree Ram Sharma station has been closed.
Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait said farmers are ready to protest for 10 years if the laws are not taken back. "We will not leave even if it takes 10 years," he told NDTV.
The governments of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have extended support to the Bandh. Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi also backed the call. Meanwhile, Congress said the party workers will support the protest. "The farmers of the country do not endorse the three farm laws brought in a hurry by the Centre, and are sad about it," said Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati.
Thousands of farmers have been protesting at Delhi's borders since November, demanding a repeal of farm laws. They say the laws will do away with Minimum Support Price (MSP) and leave them at the mercy of big corporates. The Centre, however, has denied the allegations, saying the laws are beneficial for farmers. Multiple rounds of talks between them have failed to end the deadlock.