Meerut: Farmers evicted from bridge, toll collection resumed

Protesting farmers, led by the Bhartiya Kisan Union, who laid siege to a toll bridge here for almost a month, were evicted on Wednesday and collection of toll resumed with the help of police and musclemen employed by the Western UP Tollway. However, farmers reassembled near the bridge on Thursday to launch a fresh agitation.

The collecting agency had filed a petition in the high court praying that the Uttar Pradesh government be directed to help them in collecting toll. The disruption has caused a loss of Rs 8 crore so far. With the petition to be taken up for hearing on Thursday, the administration swung into action on Wednesday night. Eight collection points were set up after evicting the farmers.

"We handed over the toll plaza to the contractor at around 11 pm. Toll collection has started on the bridge. A heavy deployment of police force has been done to avoid further trouble," said SP (Rural) R P Pandey.

Later, there were alleged skirmishes between truck drivers and musclemen employed by the collecting agency, and over a dozen vehicles damaged when drivers were forced to deposit the toll. The police reportedly resorted to lathicharge on truck drivers.

"We will resort to direct action..our agitation has been peaceful...We will show the government what farmers can do when they are forced to do something against their wishes," said BKU spokesman Rakesh Tikait. Forcible eviction may become a political issue with RLD leader Munna Singh Chauhan saying "unarmed farmers were caned and chased away like trouble mongers". "We will take it up in the Assembly and Parliament."

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