Bharat bandh: Farmers block highways, roads in Punjab, Haryana; rail services hit; partial response elsewhere

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New Delhi/Chandigarh, Mar 26 (PTI) Road and rail traffic was disrupted in several parts of Punjab and Haryana during the Bharat bandh called by farmers on Friday as part of their nationwide protest against the three agri laws though there was partial response to it in other parts of the country.

Farmers blocked national highways and other key roads at many places in Punjab and Haryana, and squatted on railway tracks at several locations.

The Samkyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), which is spearheading the farmers' stir, called for the bandh from 6 am to 6 pm to mark four months of the agitation at Delhi's three borders -- Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri.

A railway spokesperson said four Shatabdi trains were cancelled, 35 other passenger trains were detained and the movement of 40 goods trains was affected by the protests.

Train movement was disrupted at 44 locations that fall under the Delhi, Ambala and Ferozepur divisions of the railways.

In Uttar Pradesh's Ballia, as many as 20 activists of CPI (M-L), protesting in Sikandarpur township of the district, were taken into custody.

The bandh had a minimal impact in Delhi. Markets at Connaught Place, Karol Bagh, Kashmiri Gate, Chandni Chowk and Sadar remained open.

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) had to briefly close the entry and exit gates of the Tikri Border, Bahadurgarh City and Brigadier Hoshiar Singh stations, but after a few minutes, the stations were opened for passengers.

A farmer leader claimed that there were protests in Mayapuri and some other areas where people peacefully staged demonstrations.

The SKM claimed that various farmer organisations, trade unions, student bodies, bar associations, political parties and representatives of state governments have supported the bandh call.

In other parts of the country, there was partial response to the bandh.

Shops remained closed at several places in Punjab. At a few places in Haryana too, shutters were down in support of the bandh.

Public and private transport remained off the roads in Punjab.

In neighbouring Haryana, State Transport Minister Moolchand Sharma told PTI that Haryana Roadways bus services will be suspended in those districts where it is felt that it is not conducive to operate them in view of the farmers' protest.

'Bus services are otherwise functional in Haryana,' he said.

Since morning, farmers in the two states gathered at several highways and roads, including in Bathinda, Ludhiana, Amritsar, Patiala, Mohali, Rohtak, Ferozepur, Pathankot, Jhajjar, Jind, Panchkula, Kaithal, Yamunanagar and Bhiwani districts.

Farmer union leaders said they were allowing ambulances and other emergency vehicles as well as marriage processions to pass.

In view of the 'Holla Mohalla' festival at Sri Anandpur Sahib, vehicles carrying devotees were being allowed to commute. The protesters have even arranged 'langar' for the devotees at the protest sites.

Haryana BKU leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni, in a video message on Friday, appealed to the protesting farmers to ensure the smooth passage of essential supplies or even sick persons travelling in private vehicles or those travelling in neighbouring areas.

'We have to protest peacefully,' Chaduni said.

Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur demanding a complete repeal of the three farm laws and a legal guarantee to the minimum support price (MSP) on their crops.

So far, there have been 11 rounds of talks between the protesting unions and the government, but the deadlock continues as both sides stick to their stands.

In January, the government had offered to suspend the farm laws for 12-18 months, which was rejected by the farmer unions. PTI TEAM ZMN