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Union continues sit-in at toll plaza

Sanjay Pandey, Lucknow, Nov 18, 2012, DHNS: 1:08 IST

Hundreds of farmers led by the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) continue to hold the toll plaza to ransom at Meerut-Dehradun national highway for past 19 days as the kisan mahapanchayat (farmers’ meet) to discuss the issue remained inconclusive.

Another mahapanchayat of the farmers would be held on December 18 to discuss the matter, the BKU chief Rakesh Tikait said after the meeting.

Hundreds of lathi-wielding farmers have been sitting on a dharna on the toll plaza for around three weeks to exhort their demands that also included waiving of toll charges for the farmers’ vehicles.

Tikait threatened that the farmers would close the highway and destroy the toll plaza completely if their demands were not met by the government. He also refused to call off dharna unless the demands were fulfilled. The farmers had earlier held a mahapanchayat
a fortnight ago and had decided to intensify their agitation.

So far, the farmers have opened one side of the highway to let the traffic pass. Since the toll employees have been shooed away from there, the vehicles are passing without paying any toll.

Several rounds of talks have been held between the government officials, toll company and the farmers’ representatives but the matter could not be resolved.

“So far crores have been lost,” the officials said, while referring to the loss accruing owing to free passage at the highway. Prima facie, the government does not want to invite the farmers’ wrath, as they are being been wooed aggressively. But the dilly-dallying could have serious repercussions on the state government’s attempt to project UP as an attractive destination for investment, the officials added.

UP government has initiated several farmer-friendly steps in past few days. To appease the farmers, chief minister Akhilesh Yadav also assured that his government would consider waiving of toll charges on the Yamuna Expressway connecting Noida and Agra.

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