Protest, blockades: Locals have to take long way home
On Wednesday, Pooran Singh, 32, a resident of Sonipat’s Biswamil area, about 10 kms from Singhu border, was walking with his wife Sapna and two children, precariously on the nearly two-foot-wide dirt track near the farmers’ agitation spot, which runs adjacent to a large drain.
The dirt track, which widens to up to five-foot as one moves closer to the Singhu border protest site, is one of the two routes that locals have been using for the past one week to cross the protest site. Residents are also using another route via Narela and Singhu village, which means a detour of several kilometers.
Heavy barricading by police near the protest sites at Ghazipur, Singhu and Tikri is inconveniencing the local residents, who are now taking detours to cross the intercity borders.
“Earlier, we could take shared vans to reach Azadpur where I work. But due to the increase in police barricading, there are only a few routes left. The shared vans have also hiked their fares. The nearly 30km journey from my home to work has become difficult. So, I am bringing my family and will stay at temporary accommodation in Azadpur till the barricades are removed,” Singh, a mason, said.
E-rickshaws and other last-mile connectivity options ferrying people between Sonipat, Panipat, Bahalgarh to Kundli have doubled their fares. Vehicles stationed at the first police barricade — around 1.5km away from the main stage — were charging people ₹160 instead of the earlier ₹80. Arun Nishkarma, 40, who drives a van, said he increased the fare from ₹30 to ₹50 to ferry people between Sonipat and Kundli border.
Along with six-layer concrete barricades set up on both carriageways of GT Karnal Road, police have also installed iron nails, made concrete walls, set up concertina wires, put containers filled with cement, and blocked most of the alternative routes. Locals said the move has heavily affected their movement – more than the agitation did in the past two months.
Sonipat resident Sanjay Sharma, 40, who procures material from a garments’ factory in Kundli industrial area and supplies it to different parts of Delhi and Haryana, had been facing problems while commuting on his motorcycle since December.
“The police barricades make it look like the people here are living in jail. It used to take around 30 minutes to travel from Kundli industrial area to my home in Sonipat. Now it takes me around two-and-a-half hours,” he said.
Sharma said, “The farmer volunteers had ensured smoother movement of vehicles during the agitation. They do facilitate movement. But the police barricades and the personnel posted here do not let us cross these barricades and they have also blocked alternative routes.”
On Wednesday, police officials used iron frames to block another dirt track leading to the main highway barely a kilometre from the main stage.
No one except police personnel was allowed to go beyond the second barricade installed at this spot. Until Wednesday, media persons were allowed to walk till the Singhu toll border around 400 metres away.
At Tikri, local residents are forced to take longer route for their daily commute.
“My shop is near the main (Rohtak) road but because of the protests and the police closing off the entire area, now my workers and I have to take the longer route,” said Sisupal Singh Channa, who owns a garments shop near Baba Haridas Park.
Hathram Pal, who owns a mobile repair and recharging shop near the protest spot at Tikri, said his business had taken a major hit because of the internet services being cut-off by the administration.
“These farmers have been here for nearly two months and we have not faced any problem, the issue started when the government started getting involved and cut off electricity and internet,” Pal said. Mobile internet services were suspended at the protest spots following the Republic Day violence.
Chinmoy Biswal, Delhi Police spokesperson, said, “The barricades are set up as a preventive measure. We are trying to ensure as little inconvenience to the public as possible in the given circumstances.”
Senior farm leader Darshan Pal said the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) has taken note of the transport-related problems He said, “SKM intends to resolve the problem as far as possible.”
(With inputs from Shiv Sunny)