21-Hour Haryana Highway Blockade Ends After Farmers' Demands Met

The state government has said it will start moving paddy from grain markets, though October 1 will remain the official procurement date.

The state government has said it will start moving paddy from grain markets.

Chandigarh:

Haryana farmers who had blocked a key national highway for over 21 hours demanding early procurement of paddy have lifted the blockade after the state government relented. The protest had caused huge traffic disruptions on National Highway 44 around Kurukshetra.

The state has now said it will start moving all paddy stored in grain markets, though official purchase documents will be processed on October 1 as announced earlier, Gurnam Singh Charuni, whose organisation Bharatiya Kisan Union-Charuni was leading the protests, said. It's their headache now where they are going to store it, he added. 

The state has also increased the cap on procurement in five districts that see high yield of the crop -- from 22 to 30 quintals per acre, he said, adding that in several other districts, it has been increased to 28 quintals per acre.

The Haryana government relented soon after being pulled up by a court for failing to anticipate a breakdown of law and order. The court told them that the highway must be kept open for free flow and movement of traffic without any hindrance "so that the public at large is not put to inconvenience".

In a midnight hearing, the Punjab and Haryana High Court said the district administration should have immediately taken steps to prevent the situation. Directing the state to prevent further deterioration of law and order, the court also advised caution. "Resort to the use of force should be the last option, and that too unless the administration has no other way out," it said.

Kurukshetra Superintendent of Police Surinder Singh Bhoria said all diversions have been removed and traffic has started moving now. We resolved the matter amicably with the farmers, he said.

Protesting farmers feared humidity and rain will spoil the grain. They also said they don't have storage space, hence the state government should advance the date of procurement.

The protesters have said hundreds of quintals of grain got destroyed in the grain markets in Ambala, Kaithal, and other districts, due to increase in the "moisture content", which is also a measure of the paddy's quality before purchase.

The official procurement begins from October 1. However, several farmers sowed the crop early or have used early-maturing varieties.

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