Locals and traders living around Singhu border heaved a sigh of relief on Friday after the government's announcement to repeal the farm laws, hoping for revival of their businesses and getting their lives back on track.
They have been affected due to road blockades by farmers staging the agitation for over a year. Thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, under the aegis of various farmers unions, have been protesting at the borders of the national capital since November 26 last year demanding repeal of the three farm laws.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday announced that the Centre will repeal the three farm laws, marking a climbdown by his government to meet the unrelenting demand of farmers protesting in several states against the reform measures.
Sandeep Lochan, who runs a shop of construction work at Singhu border, said the business has gone down to 10 percent. "First, coronavirus hit the business. From past one year, my business has further suffered due to the farmers protest. The business has gone down to 10 percent from what we used to earn earlier. This was a very busy route before the protest started. The business will take around six months to one year to come back on track," Lochan, a resident of Sonipat, said.
Jaipal Sharma, a resident of Khatkad village near Singhu border, said due to increasing traffic in internal areas, the roads have got damaged. "The traffic has increased in nearby village area as people are taking alternative routes due to the closure of the border. People get stuck in traffic for hours. The roads in village areas have got damaged. General store owners were somehow managing to procure things. After the announcement of the repealing of the farm laws, we are hopeful that our lives will get back on track soon," Sharma, a retired Delhi Transport Corporation employee, said.
Several shops near the border are closed, with a thick layer of dust settling on their shutters. Meanwhile, celebrations broke out at the Singhu border protest site soon after PM announced repealing the farm laws, but some farmers said the agitation will continue till the parliament repeals the legislations, and their other demands are also met.
Amit Gupta, who runs a bike spare part shop near Singhu border, said he had even thought of changing the location of his shop. "I had closed my shop for two months when the protesters came and stay put here. Later, I started opening my shop for one or two hours a day. I gave the rent of six months of the shop from my pocket. However, after the (COVID) second wave, we started our work from scratch. I had also thought about shifting my shop to another location," Gupta, a resident of Narela, said.
Another local, Manoj said, "The fare of a tempo has been increased from Rs 10 to Rs 30 to Rs 50. We are not being able to get the facilities. We are facing difficulty to reach hospitals.
"There are many factories here and the labourers live on rented accommodation. As the factories have been closed, the labourers have also left the area and the locals are bearing that loss also. We have suffered a lot during the protest," he lamented.
Rajesh Kumar, who has been running a fruit shop from last 26 years in the area, said the pandemic did not hit the business, but the farmers protest has given it a dent. He buys fruits from Azadpur market and sells them near Singhu border. "Everything has changed since the protest started. I visit Azadpur market on a regular basis, but due to the road closure, the distance has been increased. The road is not good due to which the fruits get damaged and their prices automatically get reduced. The fare has also been increased enormously. After the announcement made this morning, we are hopeful that 'acche din' (good days) will come," Kumar said.
Vedpal, a resident of Pritampura village near Kundali-Manesar-Palwal Expressway, said his income has reduced by 50 percent. "I transport goods to different locations. Many factories have been closed and my earning reduced to Rs 500 per day from Rs 1,000. Every single person here at Singhu border is in trouble," he said.