With farmers from Punjab assembling at Haryana’s border with Delhi on Thursday morning, the police in the national Capital have stepped up their patrol and said that they had denied all requests from farmers’ groups, reported The Indian Express.

On Wednesday, thousands of farmers from Haryana’s Ambala district began a protest march towards Delhi against the Centre’s new agriculture laws. The farmers were undeterred even as the Haryana Police set up road barricades and diversions on the highways to prevent them from reaching the national Capital as part of their “Delhi Chalo’’ march. The protesting farmers have threatened to block all roads to Delhi if authorities stop them during their march.

Delhi Police Public Relations Officer Dr Eish Singhal said they have urged organisations on social media to delay the protest as it was prohibited under the Delhi Disaster Management Authority’s guidelines putting a curb on public gatherings. “We can’t allow this march due to Covid-19,” Singhal told the newspaper. “Protesters and policemen deployed on the road are both at risk. However, we are anticipating protesters at the border and will conduct intensive checking.”

Farmers from 500 groups will march to the Capital through five highways. In East Delhi, local and paramilitary forces will guard major roads and small borders. “There’s heavy deployment at Ghazipur border, DND and Chilla,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (East) Jasmeet Singh said. The police official added that the borders weren’t sealed and they were allowing people to go, and will create traffic diversions for the public.

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation said that no train will cross borders to enter Gurugram, Noida, and other NCR towns till 2 pm on Thursday.

“Due to kisan rally call for Delhi, on the request of Delhi Police and to avoid overcrowding in view of ongoing Covid pandemic, services will be regulated tomorrow from resumption early in the morning till 2 pm through loops,” DMRC tweeted. “After 2 pm, services will run on all lines from end to end.”

Meanwhile, Haryana has sealed borders with Punjab on Thursday and Friday. Security arrangements were put in place with barricades, water cannons and riot vehicles kept ready to thwart the protest march, reported NDTV. Prohibitory orders will be implemented in the state. Bus service going to and coming from Punjab were also suspended for the next two days.

Protestors from Punjab camped at Delhi’s border with Haryana for the night. The farmers, who are carrying ration, wood, vegetables, for the demonstration, said they will hold sit-in protests wherever stopped. BKU (Ekta-Ugarhan) General Secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan said they are “ready for the battle, which may last long”.

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Farmers begin protest march from Ambala to Delhi, police set up barricades and use water cannons

The new farming laws

The three ordinances – Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Ordinance 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment & Protection) Assurance and Farm Service Ordinance 2020 and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 – were passed in September. They were signed into laws by President Ram Nath Kovind on September 27.

Weeks later, protests against the laws continue to be staged in many parts of the country. Taken together, the three legislations loosen regulations on the sale, pricing and storage of agricultural produce. They allow farmers to sell outside mandis notified by the Agricultural Produce Market Committee. They enable contract farming through deals with private sector companies. They take food items like cereals and pulses off the list of essential commodities, lifting stock limits on such produce.

The government claims the new laws would give farmers the freedom to sell in the open market. But farmers disagree. They say the laws will weaken the minimum support price mechanism under which the government buys agricultural produce, leave farmers to the mercy of market forces and threaten food security.

The central government has asked farmers, who want the new farm laws to not be implemented, for a second round of negotiations on December 3. The representatives of farmers’ unions from Punjab on November 13 met Railway Minister Piyush Goyal and Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar after being invited for talks.