Farmers protesting against the Centre's new agriculture laws blocked national and state highways at several places in Punjab and Haryana in response to the call given by the farmers' unions for a nationwide 'chakka jam' on Saturday.Though the three-hour blockades ended peacefully, yet the commuters faced a harrowing time.However, emergency and essential services like ambulances were not stopped, said the protesters.In most of the toll plazas, one lane for vehicles was not blocked to ensure hassle-free movement of such vehicles.The call for a nationwide 'chakka jam' from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. was given by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM).Carrying the national flag along with their union flags, the protesters started assembling along the highways by parking their tractor-trolleys and trucks, blocking mainly the toll plazas in both the states.Heavy police deployment was in place at various places in Haryana and Punjab to deal with any untoward incident amid the protests. As a precaution, the police also diverted traffic at many places.
At several protest sites, special arrangements were made for holding 'langars' or community kitchens and artistes were entertaining the gathering, comprising women, elders and children.The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), a former ally of the BJP-led NDA government, and the AAP participated in the statewide 'chakka jam' in Punjab.After the blockade was over, protesting farmers at several places were seen allowing the movement of vehicles.On the Rohtak-Delhi highway in Haryana, the farmers even offered food and water to stranded commuters.The Chandigarh-Delhi National Highway number 44 was blocked at several points in Kurukshetra, Karnal and Panipat districts.Activists and leaders of the Opposition Congress, the Indian National Lok Dal and the Haryana Democratic Front participated in the 'dharna' near the Shambhu toll plaza at the Punjab-Haryana border.
Likewise, the protesters blocked the Panipat-Rohtak highway near Panipat, the Hisar-Chandigarh highway at Kaithal and Pehowa and the Karnal-Jind highway near Assandh.
Farmers protesting against the legislations have expressed apprehension that these laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system, leaving them at the 'mercy' of big corporate entities.