Farmers protest: SC asks Centre, states to ensure agitations don’t block roads | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Farmers protest: SC asks Centre, states to ensure agitations don’t block roads

By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Aug 24, 2021 12:48 AM IST

Farmers have been camping at Delhi’s borders since November in protest against three controversial central laws that aim to liberalise the farm economy, and traffic at many points, including at Chilla border in Noida, have been diverted, adding significantly to commuters’ travel times.

The Supreme Court on Monday said that it is the responsibility of the Centre and the states to ensure that agitations do not block movement on public roads, as it took a grim view of the continuing farmers’ protests along Delhi’s borders with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

Agitators protesting against the farm laws at Ghazipur border in Delhi. (Sakib Ali/HT Photo)
Agitators protesting against the farm laws at Ghazipur border in Delhi. (Sakib Ali/HT Photo)

A bench of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hrishikesh Roy also turned down a suggestion to call upon the farm leaders of the two “prominent” unions, which have been spearheading the protests over three contentious agricultural laws since November last year. It insisted that the Centre and the states should rather put their heads together to work out a solution to road blockades.

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“The solution lies in the hands of the Union of India and state governments. They should coordinate with each other to ensure that if the protests are on, the traffic should not be stopped in any manner so that to and fro for people is not disturbed and does not cause any inconvenience to them,” said the court in its order.

Thousands of farmers have been camping at Delhi’s borders with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh since November in protest against three controversial central laws that aim to liberalise the farm economy, and traffic at many points, including at Chilla border in Noida, have been diverted, adding significantly to commuters’ travel times.

The bench was considering a woman’s complaint that it has been taking her almost two hours, instead of 20 minutes, to travel from Noida to Delhi due to frequent blockades and protests when it called upon solicitor general Tushar Mehta, who was appearing for the Union government and Delhi Police.

“What has been going on Mr Mehta? You have to find a solution. Courts cannot find a solution. There are some courts which have passed certain orders but it will work only if the governments find a solution,” Justice Kaul told the S-G.

Mehta, on his part, suggested that the court may consider calling two “prominent” farmers’ unions involved in the protests to attend the case hearing. The court, however, did not accede to this request, commenting there could be some other unions that may make different claims.

“You have to find a solution, they might have the right to a place to agitate, but the roads cannot be blocked like this,” the bench told the S-G while adjourning the matter to September 20 after Mehta said he will need two weeks to get further instructions.

“We are putting this matter on September 20. That’s enough time. Please work out something,” Justice Kaul told the S-G.

Petitioner Monicca Agarwaal, who works in an information technology firm, has stated in her petition that she needs to commute between Delhi and Noida for work but the travel time has become a “nightmare” for her.

She rued that various directions passed by the top court in several cases, including the Shaheen Bagh protest, to keep public roads clear, have not been followed. Her plea added that the petitioner being a single mother with medical issues was having a harrowing time on account of the failure of the authorities in complying with the Supreme Court’s orders.

During the hearing of this petition in April, the bench had emphasised that protesters cannot block roads and continually inconvenience the public while regretting that despite several judicial pronouncements on keeping public roads free, the situation did not seem to improve.

The Union government and Delhi Police took a stand that the authorities were trying their best to remove blockades and make the commute in Delhi-NCR smooth.

In its affidavit, the UP government said that efforts were underway to make the farmers understand the “grossly illegal act of blocking roads” but most of the protesters are aged farmers. “Diversions have been created to allow for smooth movement of traffic between Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi via the Maharajpur and Hindon roads as NH 24 was still blocked,” the affidavit stated.

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