In Panchkula, Housing Board chowk a hotspot for protesters
In the past one year, Panchkula has witnessed over 68 protests. What remained the common factor among them was the protest site -- the Housing Board chowk. Instead of using the designated dharna ground, the protesters chose the chowk – the main connecting point between Chandigarh and Panchkula – leaving hundreds of commuters a harried lot.
The city, which has Haryana government offices, witnesses people from across the state coming together to raise their demands. According to the data shared by police, 68 different outfits have protested here since 2021, of which farmer unions agitated 36 times, while the remaining protests were by different employee associations.
Water cannons were used at least eight times on the protesters near the Housing Board chowk. One such incident was on March 1, when police resorted to spraying water on protesting lecturers as they tried to move towards Haryana Vidhan Sabha in Chandigarh in the favour of their pending demands.
It is a common practice for unions to gather in Sector 5 from where they take out a protest march towards the Housing Board chowk, blocking the entry passage to Panchkula. Here, they often end up in a scuffle with police, at times facing water cannons and lathis or spending sleepless nights on the road. However, residents and commuters are the ones who end up bearing the brunt of such tussles between the government and the protesters.
“We have one major access point to Chandigarh and Mohali, which is the Housing Board junction. Whenever there is a protest, we find it too difficult to commute. We have to take a longer route, which also tends to become congested and is prone to accidents,” said SK Nayar, president of Citizens Welfare Association. He said at times, protests continue till late night, causing more trouble.
In November last year, hundreds of Anganwadi workers had launched a stir, wanting their demands be met by the government. They slept on the border after the police barred them from marching towards the CM residence in Chandigarh.
Panchkula, in fact, has a designated protest site, but protesters say it lacks any facility and no one hears their pleas from there. It was in 2018 when Panchkula residents had approached the administration regarding inconvenience caused by protesters, following which a piece of land measuring almost half an acre was earmarked as ‘dharna ground’. Its location – Sector 5 – is near all main offices and bus stand, but a visit to the place shows a barren land, with a few groups sitting inside tents.
“There are neither washrooms, nor drinking water or electricity arrangement. Daily, 100 to 150 people sit on protests but no one listens to us. No officer comes to meet us. Who will listen to our demands here?”, asked Manju, a leader of door-to-door garbage collectors’ union.
Currently, five organisations are protesting at the dharna ground, including physical training instructors, who are on an indefinite strike since June 2020. Haryana Roadways contractual employees are on a strike since December 2021 regarding reinstatements. Door-to-door garbage collectors have been sitting outside the MC office since May 6.
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