Delhi

Toll gates in Haryana now a rallying point for farmers’ stir

Scene at the Dighal toll plaza on NH-71 in Haryana which has been closed due to the farmers protests across the state on January 24, 2021.   | Photo Credit: V.V. Krishnan

For more than a month, the ‘Khatkar toll plaza’ in Uchana here on National Highway-352, connecting Narwana, Jind and Rohtak, has been abuzz with protesters holding a sit-in against the three contentious farm reform laws and allowing free travel for commuters.

Not just the youth, those coming to this sit-in site at the toll plaza include the elderly, the women and the children from several surrounding villages. The protesters sit through a large part of the day – arriving in the morning and returning to their homes late in the afternoon.

While the male protesters spend their time playing cards and discussing politics over hookahs, it is an opportunity for the women folks to take some time off from the daily drudgery and be in the company of peers. “Many youth from our village have gone to the Tikri border to be part of the agitation, but given the age and weather conditions, it was difficult for me to go. Now I come at the toll plaza every day to be part of this movement,” said 72-year-old Phool Singh, a resident of Karsindhu village.

Local farm activists and politicians address the crowd sometimes, but folk singers and stand-up comedians putting across the message in local dialect are major crowd-pullers.

Binain Khap member Vikas Nain, a farmer rights’ activists from Laun village, said the farmer unions’ call to picket the toll plazas in Haryana in December found a “huge” support among the locals and proved to be a catalyst to spread and strengthen the agitation in the State. “Though the people in Haryana were inclined towards the movement after Khap Panchayats lent their support, the call to picket toll barriers made much difference,” said Mr. Nain.

He explained how the villagers, forced to pay toll tax for travelling even small distances in the vicinity, saw the toll barriers as nuisance, especially with these plazas now coming up across the State and therefore, the call to make them free struck instant chord.

“The sit-ins at the toll plazas across the State attract crowd being close to the villages and gradually became a rallying point for the locals,” he added.

Except in Gurugram and Faridabad, the toll plazas across the State, including Jind, Bhiwani, Rohtak, Kurukshetra, Sirsa and Hisar districts, are shut. Vice-president of All-India Kisan Sabha, Haryana, Inderjit Singh, said that committees, comprising Khap and farmer union leaders, were set up to spearhead the sit-ins at plazas and these also helped in local co-ordination for the movement. Political leaders, not allowed to share dais at the Tikri and Singhu borders, also frequent sit-ins at the toll plazas to extend support to the agitation and cash in on the resentment and anger among the locals against the ruling coalition.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2021 2:53:54 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/toll-gates-in-haryana-now-a-rallying-point-for-farmers-stir/article33651868.ece

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