Moving bumper-to-bumper from different directions, emerging from Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan on Sunday, tractors and trolleys of farmers have been approaching Delhi for the demonstrators’ planned Republic Day rally in the national capital. Tractors made what appeared a never-ending serpentine queue on stretches of the NH-44 between Haryana’s Ambala and Sonipat.
Loudspeakers blared songs of protest rendered by popular Punjab singers as flags of farmers’ unions fluttered atop tractors headed for the Singhu-Kundli and Tikri borders. However, Samyukta Kisan Morcha, the rag-tag coalition of the 40 odd protesting unions of rich and broker-infested farmers, has issued a statement saying it would not allow flags of political parties in the rally and that every tractor must carry the national flag too.
In its assurance to Delhi Police, which gave the unions permission to hold the tractor rally after the Supreme Court said it would not tell the department what it ought to do to maintain law and order, the umbrella outfit of farmers has promised that it would not raise provocative slogans either.
Unlike on 26 and 27 November, when Haryana Police had erected barricades at various locations to stop the crowd of farmers proceeding towards Delhi, the police’s role appeared restricted yesterday to regulating traffic at bottlenecks created by convoys of tractors. “In a bid to ensure smooth passage, we had started from Jalandhar around midnight on Saturday. To our surprise, there were still a lot of vehicles,’’ said Zorawar Singh, who was at the wheel of a tractor carrying 15 people from his village in Punjab’s Jalandhar.
Some farmers attached three to five tractors or trolleys to one another to save on fuel. In some places, modified jeeps could be seen on trolleys tethered to the tractor in front. Curiously, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha has said this would not be allowed during the rally either!
“When we all have to reach the same destination, why not have one tractor pull the rest? We are doing this by turn. It’s quite cost-effective,” said Harbhajan Singh, a young farmer from Punjab.
The beeline of tractors left hardly any space on the road for other vehicles to move beyond Murthal in Sonipat. This prompted the police to divert traffic bound for other states much ahead.
From Jind alone, 6,000 tractors, with more than 500 of them led by women farmers, reached the Tikri border yesterday. About 5,000 farmers going towards Jaisinghpur Khera brought along payloaders to remove any blockade put up by the police.
President of the Kandela khap Tek Ram Kandela said, “Around 2,000 tractors left from our khap and thousands more from other khaps of the district.”
Bharatiya Kisan Union state chief Anil Yadav has claimed that around 1,500 tractors from Rajasthan will join the farmers’ rally in Delhi and over 50,000 farmers from Madhya Pradesh have reached Delhi already to take part in the Republic Day rally.
Earlier last week, the farmer unions had rejected the government proposal to postpone the implementation of the agricultural reform laws for up to 18 months.