Protesting farmers occupy one more border point, supplies running short in Capital
The traffic police had to close the Delhi-Noida border at Chilla on Tuesday after more than 300 farmers blocked both carriageways of the Delhi-Noida Link Road even as the ongoing agitation stayed peaceful at both Singhu border and UP Gate with the police ramping up security in view of the talks between the farmers and the government.
The farmers are demanding the Centre to revoke three contentious laws approved by Parliament in September. The laws essentially change the way India’s farmers do business by creating free markets, as opposed to a network of decades-old, government-controlled agricultural markets.
At Chilla border, the farmers used nearly 15 tractors to block both the carriageways and sat on the road, prompting the Delhi as well as Noida police to place barricades and deploy personnel in large number on both sides to prevent the farmers from entering Delhi. Since the protest began during the evening rush hour, it led to massive traffic jam on the key route connecting Uttar Pradesh with Delhi.
Officials, however, said that the traffic in other parts of the city, including DND was normal.
“The traffic at the other roads is being managed. We will keep updating the commuters about the situation at the Chilla border,” said Ganesh Saha, DCP Traffic, Noida. The Delhi traffic police also tweeted advisories, alerting commuters about the traffic snarls.
This is the fourth border point that has been closed due to the farmers’ agitation. While vehicular traffic has been completely halted at Singhu and Tikri borders, traffic movement is being allowed towards Ghaziabad on one carriageway at Ghazipur-UP Gate.
“Between 5pm and 5.30 pm, the protesting farmers assembled at the Chilla border and blocked the two carriageways using tractors. The border has been closed for vehicular traffic movement. We have deployed our personnel in adequate numbers. Also, talks with the farmers in coordination with Noida police are on,” said Alok Kumar, joint commissioner of police (eastern range).
Earlier in the day, a group of farmer leaders left Singhu border for Vigyan Bhawan under heavy police escort to hold talks with the Centre. A senior police officer said while the farmers continued with their peaceful protest, number of paramilitary and Delhi police personnel deployed was adequately stepped up just as a precautionary measure.
At UP Gate, the police added another layer of barricades to prevent the entry of farmers in Delhi after a group of protesters dismantle barricades by tugging them to a tractor. Heavy police and paramilitary were deployed at the border point, with senior police officers being present at the spot.
Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad and Bihar’s Jan Adhikar Party (JAP) president Pappu Yadav joined the protesters at UP Gate to extended their support. “Farmers are protesting not only at UP Gate but in every corner of the country. They are agitating today as they are feeling helpless. They have been forced to accept the (farm) laws that they do not want,” Chandrashekhar told reporters.
“About 500-700 people had gathered there as Bhim Army supporters had also arrived. However, they returned after meeting farmers. The traffic diversions were already in place and there was no untoward incident. We already have police personnel deployed at the spot,” said Gyanendra Singh, superintendent of police (City 2).
Drop in arrivals of fruits and vegetables in Delhi’s agriculture markets have forced traders to cater only to local supplies for now.Several traders across wholesale mandis in Delhi told HT on Tuesday that they have stopped sending fruits and vegetables to other states for now in the light of the shortage and that they were focussing on local supply which has kept wholesale and retail prices stable in the capital.
However, they apprehended that another 4-5 days of short supply due to blockade could lead to shooting up of both wholesale and retail prices.
In Azadpur mandi, which accounts for a large share of fruits and vegetable supplies across the city and several other states, 6,062 trucks had arrived on Tuesday, as against an average of 11,000 truck for this time of the year, said Adil Khan, chairperson of the agriculture produce market committee (APMC) in Azadpur, adding: “The central government must engage with farmers at the earliest and resolve the issue.”
Green peas, tomatoes, potatoes and several varieties of apples and oranges have been in short supply for the past 3-4 days.
“Right now, traders in Azadpur have temporarily stopped sending fruits and vegetables to other states – from Madhya Pradesh to Karnataka. They are only focussing on local supplies and that is the reason why wholesale and retail prices have not witnessed steep increase in Delhi-NCR so far. However, they are running out of stock. If supply continues to be low, there will be a shortage in Delhi-NCR too and prices will go up,” said Anil Malhotra, a wholesale trader based in Azadpur.
Green peas from Punjab, the Himachal variety of oranges and apples from Jammu and Kashmir -- which largely arrive from the northern states through the border points that are blocked -- are some of the items that have witnessed the sharpest dip in arrivals, said Rajesh Yadav, a wholesale trader based in Delhi’s Ghazipur mandi.
As on Tuesday, in the three agriculture markets, green peas were sold between Rs 30-40 per Kg and Jammu apples at around Rs 750 per crate, which the traders said were stable wholesale rates for this time of the year but things would have been different if they had been exporting to other states.
AAP youth wing protest
Meanwhile, the youth wing of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Tuesday staged a demonstration in Connaught Place in solidarity with the groups of farmers protesting against the three farm laws.
While there were around 100 protesters who had gathered between blocks A and B of Connaught Place around noon, the police briefly detained 15 of them, including the party’s Punjab in charge Jarnail Singh. The others had dispersed when the police arrived, said the police.
“We told the protesters to take the demonstration to the designated location in Burari, in the light of legal prohibitions against large gatherings applicable in the concerned area,” said deputy commissioner of Police (New Delhi) Eish Singhal.