The movement of tractors from Punjab and Haryana to Delhi borders that began Friday for the January 26 ‘tractor parade’ continued on Sunday with more than 10,000 farm vehicles taking over the highways to the national capital.
Farmer leaders from Haryana said they are expecting movement of over one lakh tractors from the state to Delhi while another 80,000 from Punjab have either reached the national capital’s borders or are on the way.
The numbers, however, are disputed by the intelligence officials who estimate movement of around 50,000 tractors to Delhi from Haryana and Punjab. They confirmed huge traffic jams on national highways, state highways as thousands of tractors from Punjab too entered Haryana on way to Delhi.
On Sunday, a 60-km cavalcade of tractors was observed between Delhi’s Tikri border and Haryana’s Rohtak on Delhi-Hisar national highway. Officials believe the farmers are likely to occupy 70 km long stretch of this highway between Tikri border to Rohtak in next two days. The farmers have already spread in the area of almost 40 km. Similarly, they are likely to occupy almost 50-km stretch on Delhi-Ambala highway in next two days with the agitators already sitting on a 20-km stretch towards Panipat from Singhu border.
In an official communication sent to the Haryana government, Sonipat deputy commissioner Shyam Lal Poonia admitted presence of around 45,000-50,000 farmers from Punjab and Haryana only at Singhu border. “Almost 20,000-22,000 of them are youth while 450-500 are Nihang Sikhs with their traditional weapons who are with their 65-70 horses. From them, the farmers on 9,500-10,000 tractors will participate in the tractor parade,” Poonia said in the letter adding that the number of vehicles and farmer supporters may increase in coming days. The deputy commissioner has appointed 46 duty magistrates to maintain law and order apprehending the anti-social elements may try to disturb the traffic and law and order during the stir.
Meanwhile, union leaders from Punjab said that most of the tractors left for Delhi on Saturday, followed by more on Sunday. The tractors, sporting union and the national flags moved out of Punjab from Bathinda-Dabwali, Khanauri-Jind, Sardulgarh-Fatehabad, Lalru-Guhla Cheeka and Shambhu- Amabala borders.
“Punjab has more than 12,000 villages and our union is sending approximately 40,000 tractors from nearly 1,250 of them. Of these, nearly 30,000 left on Saturday, and 7,000 on Sunday while another 3,000 will be leaving on Monday morning,”said Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan, general secretary BKU (Ekta Ugrahan).
Satnam Singh Pannu, president of Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KMSC), said, “Around 5,000 tractors reached Singhu on Saturday-Sunday and we are expecting another 1,000 on Monday. People are coming on their own”.
All India Kisan Sangrash Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) member Jagmohan Singh Patiala said “around 30,000 tractors will reach Singhu and Tikri borders”. “Many are delayed as all roads are clogged with tractors marching towards Delhi,” said Jagmohan Singh, who is also BKU (Dakaunda) general secretary.
Tractors are also moving in from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
Manjinder Singh Kang, who quit the BJP in solidarity with farmers last year, is in Madhya Pradesh where he is mobilising farmers from Gwalior, Ashok Nagar, Morena, and Shivpuri to take part in the tractor parade. “ More than 1,000 tractors are on way to Palwal border from Madhya Pradesh. Nearly 500 tractor-trolleys are already stationed there for more than a month now. On January 26, more than 10,000 tractors will take part in a parade in Gwalior. The farmers from Madhya Pradesh will be extending support to the Delhi march from Gwalior,” he said.
Another farm activist Harkirat Singh said farmers from Rajasthan under the banner of Ganganagar Kisan Samiti have reached Haryana’s Daruhera on Sunday afternoon. They hail from Ganganagar, Hanumangarh, Boondi, Barah, Kota and Gharsana districts. “We will be part of the tractor parade on January 26 in coordination with Sanyukta Kisan Morcha. Tractors have reached Shahjahanpur border too from Rajasthan.”
There is overwhelming response to the call of tractor parade from Haryana villages with the farmers equating the ongoing agitation against three farm laws with “freedom struggle”.
There was traffic jam like situation at many places on Ambala-Delhi highway because of movement of tractors to Delhi from Haryana and Punjab. A BKU leader from Karnal Jagdeep Aulakh claimed a cavalcade of 20,000 tractors have moved to Delhi from Karnal on Sunday. “Almost 50 km long cavalcade of tractors from Karnal has moved to Delhi via Ambala-Delhi highway. We plan to halt near Murthal. From there we will move to Delhi on Tuesday. We expect one lakh tractors from Haryana, which has around 7,000 villages. We have reports of movement of 10,000 tractors from Kaithal district, 5,000 from Panipat, 7,000 from Ambala and 5,000 each from Kurukshetra and Yamunanagar districts,” Aulakh claimed.
However, a police official claimed that only 293 tractors can be accommodated in one km stretch of road as the farm vehicles are, on an average, nearly 3.4 metres long. “Only 15,000 tractors can be accommodated on 50 km-long road. If they make formation of four queues, then 60,000 tractors can be accommodated. A tractor needs at least five feet space to move on the road,” added the official.
Farmers from distant districts of Haryana like Fatehabad, Bhiwani, Sirsa and Hisar have already moved to Delhi Sunday while those from neighbouring areas like Rohtak, Panipat, Sonipat and Jhajjar plan to move to the national on Monday and Tuesday. Heavy rush of tractors was witnessed on Jind-Delhi highway too on Sunday.