Bharat Bandh: Surface transport hit as farmers block roads, squat on railway tracks in Punjab, Haryana

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Chandigarh, Mar 26 (PTI) Rail and road traffic was hit on Friday in Punjab and Haryana as farmers blocked various highways and squatted on railway tracks at many places in the two states as part of their Bharat Bandh call in protest against the Centre's three farm laws.

Shops too remained closed at several places in Punjab and some places in Haryana in support of the farmers’ Bharat Bandh call.

Both the public and private transport remained off roads in Punjab. There was, however, no impact of bandh in the Union Territory of Chandigarh, the common capital of the two states.

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

SKM leader Ruldu Singh Mansa claimed they got the full support of various sections of the society, which made the Bandh successful.

He said the stir will continue till their demands including that of the repeal of the three farm laws are met.

Sukhdev Singh, Punjab general secretary of BKU Ekta-Ugrahan, one of the largest farmers' outfits in the state, said the Bandh in the state was complete.

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

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

Farmer union leaders said ambulances and other emergency vehicles, as well as marriage processions, had been permitted to pass.

Because of the 'Holla Mohalla' festival at Sri Anandpur Sahib, vehicles carrying devotees were allowed to commute, they said, adding the protesters have even arranged 'langar' for devotees at various 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.

The Bharat Bandh had its effect on rail services as well in Punjab and Haryana.

Protesters squatted on railway tracks at several locations in Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Ferozepur, Ambala, Jind, Jhajjar, Panchkula and some other districts in the two states, leading to the disruption of rail traffic.

Some of the protesters blocked the Ambala-Delhi highway near Ambala Cantonment badly affecting the service on the route.

A group of protesters squatted on railway tracks near Shahpur village, around five kilometres from Ambala Cantonment, due to which all trains running between Delhi and Saharanpur were stranded, railway officials said.

At Karnal railway station, the New Delhi-Katra Vande Bharat Express was stranded due to the blockade by farmers in Ambala.

The agitating farmers blocked several key roads, including Chandigarh-Delhi, Amritsar-Delhi, Hisar-Delhi and Bhiwani-Delhi national highways. They parked their tractors and other vehicles in the middle of the carriageways.

They also blocked the Ambala-Rajpura Highway on the Haryana-Punjab border near the Shambhu barrier and the Ambala-Hisar Highway near Ambala City.

In Punjab's Rupnagar district, farmers also blocked the national highway section from Chandigarh to Mandi.

The protesters, many of them carrying placards, squatted on key roads and raised slogans against the BJP-led central government. There were sit-ins at toll plazas also in several places.

Earlier in the day, Haryana's 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 because of the farmers' protest.

In the Amritsar district, a group of farmers held a shirtless protest and raised slogans demanding the repeal of the farm laws.

In Ludhiana, Punjab's industrial hub, some markets including those on Gill Road, Ghumar Mandi, Clock Tower, cloth market and Akal Market remained shut while in Mohali too, most markets were closed.

The traffic on national highways passing through Haryana, including Ambala and Chandigarh, too was comparatively thin as many avoided travelling during the Bandh hours. However, at many places, long queues of trucks and other heavy vehicles could be seen on roads.

Police personnel were deployed in adequate strength to maintain law and order, officials said.

Farmer leaders in the state appealed to shopkeepers and traders to keep their shutters down during the bandh.

Several unions representing commission agent also extended their support to the protest.

Punjab's main opposition Aam Aadmi Party leader Harpal Singh Cheema said the Narendra Modi government should stop testing the patience of the farmers and accept all their demands immediately.

The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, an apex gurdwara body, has also announced to keep its offices and institutions closed for the day.

Earlier, in view of the Bharat Bandh, Samyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of protesting farmers' unions, appealed to the protesters to remain peaceful.

Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur on Delhi borders, with their main demand being a complete repeal of the three farm laws and a legal guarantee for the minimum support price on their crops. PTI SUN CORR VSD RAX RAX