Protesting farmers shut Eastern Peripheral Expressway for five hours
Farmers protesting the Centre’s agriculture laws blocked the Eastern Peripheral Expressway (EPE) affecting traffic for almost five hours on Saturday.
The protesters had announced several days in advance that they would move to block the 135-km EPE on the 100th day of their stir against the central government. Commuters were forced to take alternative routes as police deployed at the EPE entry points diverted them to prevent clogging of the expressway. The result was that other routes, ill-equipped to handle the extra vehicles, suffered traffic snarls.
The main points of the blockade were the eight interchanges on the expressway that connects Kundli-Ghaziabad-Palwal, bypassing Delhi.
Protesters blocked both carriageways at Duhai and Dasna, the two interchanges in Ghaziabad, with their cars and tractors from 11am. This led to arguments between them and commuters.
“Police told us that you have stopped my vehicle... It is because of you that country is suffering huge losses. A death has taken place in my family and I am not allowed to proceed ahead,” commuter Ritu Sharma told the protesters at Dasna interchange. She said that she was travelling from Noida to Ambala.
“I got stuck at Dasna interchange. I was transporting petrol and had to reach Mathura by 6.30pm. But they stopped me midway and gave me pakoras to eat. Half an hour later they allowed me to pass,” said Mohammad Nazim who identified himself as a supervisor of the tanker he was travelling in.
Commuters on the Delhi Meerut Road and NH-9 too were affected.
Protesters allowed doctors, ambulances, police and two-wheelers with women on pillion to pass.
“We offered food and water to the people stuck on the EPE and also used the opportunity to talk to them about the issues we face. We also told them that we were issues like price rise, increase in price rates of fuel that affected them too,” said Jagtar Singh Bajwa, farmer leader from Uttarakhand and member of UP Gate farmers’ committee, said at Dasna interchange. “Many commuters were allowed to pass through. We wanted to tell the government that our agitation is still on and that we had not got silent.”
The farmers lifted the blockade at about 3.45pm and normal traffic on the EPE resumed.
Ramanand Kushwaha, superintendent of police (traffic) said that police stopped commuters at the interchanges. “If we had allowed them in, all would have been stuck at the EPE. It could have disturbed law and order. There were long traffic snarls on parts of NH-9 and Delhi Meerut Road as commuters had to take alternative routes,” he said.
According to National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), about 50,000 passenger car units ply on the EPE.
“Protesters took over all eight interchanges with toll plazas on the EPE. We estimate that the loss for the day could be about ₹40 lakh. Many vehicles were also stuck up at up and down ramps at different interchanges,” said Mudit Garg, project director from NHAI.
The EPE was also shut on January 7 when the protesting farmers took out a tractor rally on it and blocked one carriageway.
The protesters are demanding the repeal of the three central government farm laws and a new law on minimum support price.