Bharat Bandh: Protesting farmers block Delhi-Meerut Expressway for five hours
Protesting farmers on Tuesday completely blocked the Delhi-Meerut Expressway at the Ghazipur-Ghaziabad (UP Gate) border connecting Delhi and Ghaziabad for five hours after calling for a nationwide bandh. While the farmers allowed traffic to resume on one carriageway (from Delhi to Ghaziabad) of the highway after five hours, the highway passing through Chilla border, connecting east Delhi and Noida, remained completely blocked for the fourth consecutive day.
The blockade caused heavy traffic jams on alternate routes through which the police had to divert commuters. As many as 4,000 traffic policemen were deployed on Delhi’s roads throughout the day to ensure smooth vehicular movement.
Apart from the Delhi-Meerut Expressway, seven other borders that remained completely closed on Tuesday due to the farmers’ protest are Singhu, Tikri, Auchandi, Jharoda, Piao Maniyari, and Mangesh (in the outer and south-western parts of the city) and the Chilla border.
Until Monday night, only one carriageway of the Delhi-Meerut Expressway at Ghazipur-Ghaziabad (UP Gate) border was blocked; the service road of NH-24 at the UP Gate border has been closed for 10 days now. But around 10.50am on Tuesday, farmers at the Ghazipur border blocked the other carriageway as well.
This prompted the Delhi Police to divert traffic towards Ghaziabad from Delhi via the Anand Vihar railway station. The traffic on the other carriageway (that is shut since Wednesday last), is being diverted through Apsara border, Bhopra and Anand Vihar.
Himanshu Kumar, a resident of Gurugram who was travelling to Ghaziabad with his wife, was stuck on the Delhi-Meerut carriageway as the protesting farmers stopped his motorcycle and forced him to return.
“The police on the Delhi side did not stop us as the strike was to start at 11am. The roads were already blocked before 10.54am. I requested the protestors to let us pass, but they paid us no heed. We have no choice but to return and take the alternate route, which must be congested because of the diversion,” said Kumar.
Another commuter, Sunil Kumar, who was travelling to Meerut (UP) with his family, said that he had to take detours several times due to the barricading. “It took us an hour or so to reach Ghazipur border from Lakshmi Nagar due to barricades, only to be disappointed as the border was closed. We will now search for another road to enter UP,” he said.
The Delhi-Ghaziabad carriageway was, however, reopened by the farmers around 2.45pm, restoring vehicular movement to normal. Framers had also kept a passage open for emergency vehicles throughout. A video of the farmers making way for a hearse van and vehicles accompanying the van at Ghazipur border also surfaced on social media.
One of the few roads blocked by the protesters was NH-44—outside a gurdwara and a few kilometres before the Singhu Border—by a group of young men who included mostly Delhi residents and a few from Punjab. The blockade, however, did little to disrupt traffic as the motorists were diverted to an adjacent service lane by the police.
Delhi Police also issued traffic advisories on social media to make the commuters aware of the affected routes and the diversions available. In one of its tweets, Delhi traffic police said, “Available Open Borders to Haryana are following Borders — Daurala, Kapashera, Badusarai, Rajokri NH 8, Bijwasan/Bajghera, Palam Vihar and Dundahera Borders.”
In another tweet, the police said, “Singhu, Auchandi, Piau Maniyari & Mangesh borders are closed. NH-44 is closed. Please take alternate routes via Lampur, Safiabad, Saboli & Singhu school toll tax borders. Traffic has been diverted from Mukarba & GTK road. Please avoid Outer Ring Road, GTK road, NH-44.”
While arterial roads at Delhi’s borders were affected due to the bandh, senior traffic officials said that traffic was lighter than usual on Tuesday within the city too.
Officials said that the number of cabs and private vehicles, especially on arterial stretches, was lower than usual on regular weekdays. “On traffic-heavy stretches such as Dhaula Kuan, South Extension, Lajpat Nagar and Moti Bagh, there were fewer vehicles. The peak hour traffic rush was also under control. This was mainly because there were fewer cabs. Worried about being caught in jams, people also preferred to use their private vehicles only if necessary,” said a traffic police officer requesting anonymity.