As dust settles at Delhi’s Singhu border, protest leaves little behind

During a spot check on Sunday, HT found that the main road is littered with some boulders and debris, with scattered potholes where tents were dug into the ground.
Ghaziabad, India - December 12, 2021: Farmers vacated more than half the protest site on Delhi Meerut Expressway at Ghazipur border in Ghaziabad, India, on Sunday, December 12, 2021. (Photo by Sakib Ali /Hindustan Times)
Ghaziabad, India - December 12, 2021: Farmers vacated more than half the protest site on Delhi Meerut Expressway at Ghazipur border in Ghaziabad, India, on Sunday, December 12, 2021. (Photo by Sakib Ali /Hindustan Times)
Published on Dec 13, 2021 12:11 AM IST
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By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

As the dust settles at Singhu border, the evidence of a community of several thousand farmers thriving in the middle of a national highway is not too prominent anymore. With the farmers finally departing for their homes on Saturday morning after over a year, what remains at the border – the site which became associated with the farmers’ protest against the three farm laws — is only a handful of larger tents, the structure of the main stage covered in tin sheets and a few tractor trolleys being loaded with equipment to be sent back to Punjab and Haryana.

During a spot check on Sunday, HT found that the main road is littered with some boulders and debris, with scattered potholes where tents were dug into the ground. However, the area has now taken over by locals busy inspecting the site of the farmers’ protest and what is left behind, as shops around the area begin to open up slowly.

The main highway is yet to be made fully operational, with commuters still having to take detours from inner colony roads on either side of the highway. HT saw several earthmovers and cranes at work, removing and breaking the cemented barricades placed on the Delhi side of the border.

“Both carriageways can be opened up only once all the barricades are removed and the road has been suitably cleared out. This will take a few days,” said a Delhi Police officer stationed at the beginning of the barricaded area.

While the actual site of the protest has nearly been cleared up, among those who have stayed behind include members of NGOs like United Sikhs and the Life Care Foundation – each operating large enclosures with medical facilities and beds for those who became ill over the course of the protest. Meanwhile, only the outer shell of the main stage still stands, with a library and a stall for the Mitti Aid NGO, each of which are likely to be dismantled by Monday.

Avtar Singh, founder of the Life Care Foundation says their 10-bedded facility was able to treat nearly 6,000 people over the past year, including trauma cases.

“We had a high-tech facility, which is why it has taken us longer to return. The medical equipment has to be sent back first. We will send our beds and equipment on several trucks, while the team will leave on Monday for Dera Bassi [a city in Punjab],” said Singh.

Nachhattar Singh Grewal, a popular face in the farmers’ protest is still at Singhu border as well, camped up outside the Mitti Aid enclosure. He says he stayed back to distribute blankets and other items to homeless people in the area.

“We wanted to stay a day or two extra and distribute blankets and other items to the locals here, who would sleep under our tents and feast on the langar service (community kitchen). For them, the end of the protest is a big loss,” says Grewal. But, he says it is time to head back, and will leave for Punjab on Monday.

While he may depart, a group of 10 farmers from Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab don’t plan to. With chains wrapped around their arms and neck, the group says it will sit on hunger strike at the site, until the centre guarantees a Minimum Support Price (MSP).

“Even if the highway opens up, we will sit on one side of the road and continue our protest,” said Sukhbir Singh, one of the 10 protesters, from Hisar in Haryana.

The end of the protest means shops on either side of the highway, some of which remained shut for nearly a year, were opening up once again.

Hansraj, the manager of a government wine and beer shop located at Singhu border was busy ensuring the final touches of a fresh paint are completed before the evening. “We expect the highway to open in a day or two. We will open our shop from Monday and fresh stock has already arrived,” he said.

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