Opposition parties back call for Bharat bandh
A raft of political parties, from the Congress to the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), have backed the call for a Bharat bandh (shutdown strike) on Tuesday in support of farmers who have massed at Delhi’ borders to protest against three farm laws introduced by the Centre, as the city’s traffic police braced for potential chaos on the roads in the days ahead.
The proposed nationwide strike also has the support of the Left parties, Trinamool Congress (TMC), Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). Farmers have been protesting against the three laws since November 26, demanding their repeal. Talks between the farmers’ unions and the central government have failed to produce a breakthrough. Another round of talks is scheduled on December 9.
The recent reforms in the antiquated farm sector allow businesses to freely trade farm produce outside the so-called government-controlled mandi system, permit private traders to stockpile large quantities of essential commodities for future sales and lay down new rules for contract farming. Farmers fear the reforms could pave the way for the government to stop buying staples at federally fixed minimum support prices (MSPs), erode their bargaining power and leave them at the mercy of private buyers.
The Congress plans to hold demonstrations at its party offices, district and state headquarters in support of the farmers. The party has been vocal in backing the farmers, with former party chief Rahul Gandhi attacking the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government.
“I would also like to announce that the Congress party extends its wholehearted support to the Bharat Bandh on December 8,” party spokesperson Pawan Khera said.
The M K Stalin-led Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) also appealed to farmers’ unions, traders’ bodies, government employees’ associations, labour unions and others in Tamil Nadu to extend support to the strike and make it a success.
AAP national convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has also extended his party’s support to the farmers. ”The Aam Aadmi Party fully supports the Bharat Bandh call made by farmers on December 8. AAP workers across the country will support it peacefully. There is an appeal to all countrymen that everyone should support the farmers and participate in it,” Kejriwal tweeted.
The Mamata Banerjee -led TMC has extended “moral support” to the nationwide strike. Telangana chief minister and TRS chief K Chandrashekhar Rao on Sunday also extended support to the Bharat Bandh. Rao appealed to party workers to make the bandh successful. He said the TRS rank and file would actively participate in the bandh.
RJD has also extended its backing for the bandh. “All workers of the party, along with farmers’ unions, will work to make the bandh a success,” RJD tweeted.
With the farmers’ protests intensifying in Delhi, Delhi traffic police advised commuters moving in and out of the capital to use alternative routes to avoid traffic snarls. Commuters are likely to get caught in long traffic snarls because many of the city’s borders will remain shut for traffic movement, the traffic police warned.
Delhi traffic police officials said that even though the situation was under control at the weekend, commuters are likely to be caught in long traffic jams starting on Monday, especially around the city’s borders.
The traffic police department informed commuters about alternative routes open for travelling to the neighbouring states of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.
“Those commuting to Delhi could take the Delhi-Noida-Direct Flyway instead of the Noida Link road. Chilla border on Noida Link Road is closed for traffic from Noida to Delhi due to the farmers’ protest near Gautam Budh Dwar,” the traffic police said in a post on Twitter.
It added, “The Ghazipur border on NH-24 is closed for traffic from Ghaziabad to Delhi due to farmers’ protests. People are advised to avoid NH-24 for coming to Delhi and use Apsara, Bhopra and DND for coming to Delhi.”
The borders that are completely closed are Singhu, Tikri, Auchandi, Jharoda, Piao Maniyari, and Mangesh in outer and south-western parts of the city and the Chilla border, connecting Delhi and Noida, in east Delhi.
Apart from the seven, the Delhi-Meerut expressway at Ghazipur-Ghaziabad (UP Gate) border is closed for vehicles coming to Delhi from Ghaziabad, while the opposite carriageway through which vehicles move towards Ghaziabad is open. The service road of NH-24 at the UP Gate border is also closed as the protesting farmers have occupied it for the past 10 days.
The Chilla border remained closed on Sunday as well. Many motorists going to Noida were confused as the carriageway was closed with barricades at the start of the flyover near the Mayur Vihar-1 extension.
“I had travelled to Noida through this road on Friday and the road was open. Today (Sunday), the road is closed and I am stuck here near the border. No policeman was present at the flyover where the road has been closed to guide us about the alternative route. I have to ask other commuters for the open borders through which I can enter Noida,” said Akash Kumar, a commuter.
Deputy commissioner of police (traffic, east) G Ram Gopal Naik said the traffic police has been issuing alerts and advisories on social media on the closure of the borders and the alternate routes that commuters can take to travel between Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. Since the Delhi-Meerut expressway carriageway entering Delhi from Ghaziabad is also blocked, the vehicles are entering the national capital through Bhopra, Apsara and Anand Vihar borders, he said.
About the possibility of traffic chaos on Monday, which is a working day, DCP Naik said that the presence of traffic personnel would be reinforced during the morning and evening peak hours on the routes where the volume of traffic remains heavy compared to the afternoon and night.
“We will deploy 12-15 traffic personnel at the main congestion points mainly at the borders to manage the traffic. The first three-four traffic signals from the congestion points are important and we will increase our presence to regulate the traffic manually. Regular traffic updates are posted on social media and we use the platform to communicate with people who post queries regarding the traffic updates. The traffic helpline is functional 24x7,” said Naik.
To make matters worse for commuters, repair work being carried out near NH-24 by the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) might also lead to traffic jams on the stretch. On Sunday, to speed up work, the traffic police diverted traffic from the portion of road. DJB said that a pipeline which was around 25 feet below the highway had burst and the work might go on for a few days.
“Due to heavy leakage in water pipeline on NH-24 near Nizamuddin Khatta, NH-24 from the Ring Road will remain closed for traffic today (Sunday). However, NH-9(Meerut Expressway) will remain open. Motorists coming from Pragati Maidan side are advised to take the second left turn instead of the first. Motorists intending to go towards Akshardham, coming from Ashram or Barapullah side may take the road up to Nizamuddin Khatta instead of Sarai Kale Khan flyover and then turn right under the flyover,” the police said.