Intensifying their protest against the Centre’s new agriculture laws, farmers took over some toll plazas in Haryana on Saturday, not allowing authorities to collect fees from commuters, PTI reported.

More than 100 farmers led by Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leaders Malkit Singh and Manish Chaudhry gathered at a toll plaza on the Ambala-Hisar highway, around 15 km from Ambala city. Toll plaza employees allowed vehicles to pass through without paying any charge, amid deployment of large number of police personnel.

Farmers also did not allow the collection of fees from commuters at Bastara and Peont toll plazas in Karnal, according to PTI. While the Bastara toll plaza is located on NH-44, the Peont toll plaza is located on the Karnal-Jind highway.

Meanwhile in Punjab, toll charges are not being collected from commuters as farmers have been staging sit-ins at toll plazas since October 1.

The farmers are also expected to hold agitations on the Delhi-Jaipur highway as well. “On December 12 [Saturday], we’ll block Delhi-Jaipur road,” Balbir S Rajewal, Bharatiya Kisan Union chief told news agency ANI on Friday. “On December 14, we’ll stage sit-in protest in front of DC offices, houses of BJP leaders and block Reliance/Adani toll plazas. No program to stop trains.”

Security arrangements have been intensified in light of the agitation. In Gurugram, District Magistrate Amit Khatri has appointed 68 duty magistrates at multiple locations to ensure adherence to law and order situation, reported Times Now.

A statement by the Haryana Police said that 3,500 police personnel will be deployed at five toll plazas in the area to protect toll booths and ensure smooth flow of traffic. The state government said the police will keep a close watch on protestors, “who may disrupt law and order under the guise of the movement” at the Badarpur Border, Gurugram Faridabad, Kundli-Ghaziabad-Palwal, Pali Crusher Zone and Dhauj toll plazas.

Station house officers and the Police Reserve Force of the respective police stations will also be deployed and personnel will be equipped with anti-riot equipment, the statement said. “We respect everyone but if law and order is breached in any way, strict action will be taken by the police,” Deputy Commissioner of Police Arpit Jain said.

Gurugram Deputy Commissioner Astha Modi told The Hindu that 2,000 police personnel have also been deployed at five strategic points, including at the Kundli-Manesar-Palwal intersection near Panchgaon, to prevent the agitating farmers from blocking the Delhi-Jaipur highway. Additional police forces were also deployed at the Kherki Daula toll plaza, one of the busiest in the country, she said.

The call for a fresh wave of protests came as multiple rounds of talks between farm leaders and the Narendra Modi government have failed to break the deadlock. Tens of thousands of farmers have blocked key highways on the outskirts of Delhi for over two weeks.

Though the government said they will not repeal the laws, it has offered a compromise, by agreeing to amend some contentious provisions of the new farm laws, which ensure minimum support crop pricing. On Friday, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said that the proposal sent to farmers was still with them and the protestors have not responded to it.

But farmer leaders have unanimously rejected the offer, saying they won’t nothing less than the scrapping of the legislations. They have also complained that the government – in its multiple offers and round of talks – has failed to provide the farmers with a “concrete proposal”.

Farmers prepare food at Singhu Border on Friday amid protests against Centre's new agricultural laws. [Credit: PTI]

Thousands of more farmers march to Delhi

Thousands of farmers continued to stream towards the Delhi borders on Friday and Saturday, intensifying pressure the government to strike a deal.

“More farmers have now joined the dharna sites at Singhu, Tikri, Ghazipur and Palwal,” said a statement from the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee. “Farmers from Tamil Nadu have arrived and groups of farmers from almost all states of India shall be arriving to join the Delhi protest soon.

Over 1,500 vehicles, including about 1,300 tractor-trolleys, from nearly 1,000 villages in seven districts on Punjab were on their way, reported The Indian Express. The Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee leaders told the newspaper that the convoy will replace the first batch of protestors that reached the border along Kundli on 100 tractor-trollers two weeks ago.

KMSC leaders estimated that the convoy is carrying about 30,000 protestors on tractor-trolleys, with another 1,000 in cars. “There is a huge gathering already at Delhi’s borders, but we will find a way,” said Satnam Singh Pannu, KMSC president. “If we don’t get space, we will stop wherever we can.”

Baljinder Singh Sandhu, KMSC press secretary, meanwhile, said the new convoy was in for a “long haul”. “We are going with rations, quilts, clothes, LPG cylinders, buckets, etc,” he told The Indian Express. “Our trolleys are covered with waterproof sheets and we are prepared...”

Sarvan Singh Pandher, general secretary of the Punjab unit of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, told The Hindu that the aim was to “not let the agitation on Delhi border lose its momentum at any cost”.

Farm law protests

The Parliament had passed 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 – in September. They were signed into laws by President Ram Nath Kovind on September 27.

Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting at key entry points to Delhi for the last 16 days against the laws. The farmers fear the agricultural reforms will weaken the minimum support price mechanism under which the government buys agricultural produce, will lead to the deregulation of crop-pricing, deny them fair remuneration for their produce and leave them at the mercy of corporations. The government, on the other hand, maintains that the new laws will give farmers more options in selling their produce, lead to better pricing, and free them from unfair monopolies.

Opposition parties have also criticised the reforms, saying they would benefit big business and not farmers. They have also urged President Ram Nath Kovind to ask the government to accept farmers’ demands.