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New Delhi: Ten months after the farmers’ agitation began at the borders of Delhi, the Haryana government announced it would repair roads to ensure alternative routes to Delhi became operational.
Farmers protesting at the Kundli-Singhu and Tikri borders of Delhi and Haryana have insisted that it is not them but the government that has blocked approach roads to Delhi and have rejected talks with the government on the issue.
On September 22, Haryana home minister Anil Vij said “alternative routes” to Delhi, in Sonipat and Jhajjar districts, will be repaired and opened at the “earliest.”
At a meeting with officials, Vij said that the Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation roads could be considered alternative paths from Sonipat to Delhi and should therefore be repaired.
Though he said that work in this regard will start soon, the minister did not explain why it took so long to be initiated despite the fact that the protests have been taking place for close to a year now.
‘No talks till farm laws are repealed’
Meanwhile, farmer leaders have declared that they will not relent on their protests till their demands are met. Haryana Bharatiya Kisan Union (Chaduni) chief Gurnam Singh Chaduni reiterated on Wednesday that the protesting farmers will not move from the Delhi borders till the three farm laws were repealed.
Last week, following a high-level meeting called by chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, Haryana had constituted a special committee to begin talks with farmers on opening Delhi borders.
The move came just days before the Supreme Court was to hear a petition on the blockade of the National Highway 44 by protesting farmers. Haryana had stated that the special committee would work in compliance with the August 23 orders of the Supreme Court that had asked the Centre and the governments of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana to find a solution to the issue of the road blockade while keeping the farmers’ right to protest in mind.
The special committee, headed by the Additional Chief Secretary of the Home department was to hold talks with the Samyukt Kisan Morcha – the umbrella body of around 40 farmers’ unions that has been spearheading the protest – at Murthal in Sonipat on September 20.
A statement issued by the Haryana government had stated, “The members of the state-level high-powered committee would hold talks with various farmer organisations. Office bearers of 43 farmer organisations have been invited to attend this meeting.”
However, the protesting farmers refused to meet government officials saying it was the government that had to decide on whether to repeal the farm laws or not. The farmers said that they had already kept one side of the highways open.
One of the farmer leaders, Manjeet Singh, stressing on the fact that a portion of the highway is open, said, “All farmer leaders have decided that they will not be going to the meeting called by the Haryana government.”
‘Misinterpreting’ SC order
Farmers have said that the government was “misinterpreting” the Supreme Court order and “unnecessarily dragging the farmers’ agitation to be a party to the ongoing petition.”
The Supreme Court had while hearing a writ petition filed by Monicca Aggarwal over stated inconvenience being faced by commuters on National Highway 44 (Ambala-New Delhi stretch) due to the protest at the Singhu border, had said:
“We impressed upon the learned Solicitor General that the solution lies in the hands of Union of India and the concerned state governments and they must coordinate to ensure that if the protests are on, at least the inter-state roads and national highways are not blocked in any manner whatsoever so that to and fro on those roads does not cause great inconvenience to the other persons who use these roads”.
The farmers have also accused the Union and Haryana government for the situation. A statement issued by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha coordination committee said as such a decision has been taken to not talk to the Haryana government panel.
“The Supreme Court, in its order of 23rd August 2021 in WP (Civil) No. 249/2021, has impressed upon the Solicitor General of India that the solution lies in the hands of Union of India and the concerned State Governments. SKM re-asserts that this is indeed so. The Government of India has been adamant about not fulfilling the farmers’ rightful demands, and has not initiated any talks with farmers’ representatives after January 22, 2021,” the statement read, while explaining the reasons behind the ongoing protests.
It further accused the government of remaining obstinate despite the deaths of several farmers during the protest.
“The Government does know where the solution lies and has been vengefully obstinate about putting protesting farmers through many hardships, even though more than 600 protestors have been martyred so far. It is shameful that an elected government in the world’s largest democracy is putting its citizens through such a struggle for saving their own livelihoods and future,” the statement added.
‘Farmers have not blocked roads’
The SKM statement further claimed that the farmers had not blocked roads but cleared paths instead.
“Farmers have been prevented by Haryana and Delhi Police which put up barricades and blocked the roads. It is not the farmers who have blocked the roads. In fact, protesting farmers have created clear paths on both sides of the road at Singhu Border as well as Tikri Border for traffic to move, and have been forced to occupy only one side of the road at Ghazipur Border. Same is the situation at Shahjahanpur Border and other morchas,” it said.