After almost a year, roads blockaded by protesting farmers at Singhu border have been vacated; however, it will be some time before they become fully operational for all vehicles
On December 15, around 10:00 pm the porous border between Delhi and Haryana, near Singhu, was reopened. This came close on the heels of the protesting farmers vacating the protest site after a successful campaign against the three contentious farm laws.
However, despite the farmers vacating the area, the roads near the border, which had been closed for around a year, still bore the signs of the protests. Holes in the middle of the road, ditches, barricading and cement blocks.
While work was in full swing to reopen roads from Haryana to Delhi for vehicular movement, the road on the Delhi side (Singhola) was still blocked. Cranes had been deployed to demolish the cement blocks and remove the barricading that had been erected at the height of the protests to keep the farmers from entering Delhi.
At Sonipat- Delhi Border, we met Ashish Kumar, an engineer with Welspun Group, which had been tasked with making the roads motorable again. When we asked Ashish about the opening of the road for commuters, he said “Today evening roads from Haryana side will become functional”. Responding to the query of why it was taking so long to reopen the roads for commuters despite the farmers vacating the spot, he informed us that “There were nails cemented on the ground, big cement blocks were erected and trenches were dug to stop farmers from entering the national capital. We have demolished cement blocks and filled the trenches, but it will take time to completely reopen the road”. In the meantime, he informs, that the road has become serviceable for small vehicles but heavy vehicles have to use alternative roads, the Nathupur and Jati roads, which commuters were using during the protest”.
However, the alternative route from Singhu to Narela, used by people to enter Delhi, is in a deplorable condition. The narrow streets are packed with vehicles, with traffic moving at snail’s pace.
Mani Ram Shukla, a auto rickshaw driver stuck in the traffic, despite the cacophony of blaring horns, seemed to be happy. Asked about this, he said, “Now that the farmers have vacated the site, our work which was badly affected for the last one year will again shoot up. I was making Rs 400-500 a day, while the road was blocked, but now I earn around Rs 1,000 a day”.
He went on to explain that the protest had brought his work to a standstill, and though he thought the farmers’ fight was important, the continuous traffic jams lasting two to three hours, coupled with waterlogging and pothole-ridden service lanes, had made driving an uphill task. But “With the farmers having left, we can drive on the main road, which is smooth as compared to the side road” he said.
Sandeep, another commuter says “It was hard for people living near Singhu Border, but the protesting farmers were helpful, labourers and daily wage earners like us were having a three-time meal at langar”.
However, not everyone was happy about the protesting farmers occupying the roads near Singhu border and were relieved that the protests were finally over.
Kake, who runs a grocery store on the alternative route used by commuters says, “For the past one year, we have been suffering, I want to thank god that all this has come to an end. The constant honking of vehicles had made our life hell and pollution was also increasing. Due to the protest, our work was also not going well but now I think my sales will come back to normal”.
At around 4:00 pm, DC Sonipat, Lalit Siwach, reached Delhi-Haryana Border to officially open the road for commuters; while interacting with media he said, “Only three lanes will be operative for now, only light vehicles are allowed. I am requesting people to keep their speed slow, NHAI and administration have done a tremendous job and in 48 hours we have made the road motorable, which was occupied by the farmers for the last one year. We hope that people will support us and soon the road will be opened for heavy vehicles.” However, he did not disclose the exact date when the roads would be fully operational for all vehicles.
With inputs from Kshitij Kumar Ojha
(Cover: Heavy machinery is deployed to reconstruct the road from Singhu border PHOTOS: Anmol Nath Bali)