NEW DELHI: A nationwide strike called by farmer unions against the Centre's agri laws was underway on Tuesday with rousing speeches and sloganeering at Delhi's border points amid tight security arrangements, even as most of the city's markets remained open.
Protesting farmers have threatened to block key roads and occupy toll plazas as part of their call for a 'Bharat Bandh' to press for repeal of the new farm laws.
A senior police official said patrolling was being carried out in the city's market areas, including Chandni Chowk and Sadar Bazar, to maintain law and order.
Praveen Khandelwal, general secretary of the Confederation of All India Traders, claimed transport services and markets functioned normally in the national capital and other parts of the country, and that the 'Bharat Bandh' had no impact on such activities.
The waiting time for app-based cabs was found around 4-5 minutes for multiple locations in Delhi and to neighbouring Gurgaon between 10 am and 12.30 pm.
Shops near the Tikri border, where hundreds of farmers have been staying for the last 13 days, remained open amid heavy police deployment.
Chants of "Jai Kisan", "Humara bhai chara zindabad, Kisan ekta zindabad", "Tanashahi nahi chalegi" could be heard.
Calling on his farmer brothers, a BKU leader said, "This is the last leg of our 'andolan', and it is important that we remain disciplined to make our protest successful."
More farmers from Punjab and Haryana trickled in at the Singhu border with tractor-trolleys packed with supplies, while those already protesting stayed put at the site, relishing langars and firming up their resolve.
"We start each day with renewed enthusiasm and vigour. More farmers are arriving every day. This fight is ours to win," said Rajinder Singh Kohli, a farmer from Mohali.
Adil Khan, chairman of APMC Azadpur Mandi, said the mandi is almost closed.
"Many wholesale trader associations have joined the 'Bharat Bandh'. Some trucks loaded with vegetables and fruits arrived, but no work is being done there," Khan said.
S P Gupta, APMC chairman of Ghazipur Mandi, said the market was open but many traders have closed their shops to support the strike.
Trading is negligible because there are no customers, he added.
Shopkeepers at Delhi's Sarojini Nagar market tied black ribbons around their arms to express solidarity with the farmers' demand for repeal the new agri marketing laws.
All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) general secretary Hannan Mollah called the 'Bharat Bandh' is a show of strength by the farmers, and said their legitimate demands have found support from people across the country.
Agitating farmer unions have threatened to block national highways and occupy toll plazas across the country during their 'chakka jam' protest from 11 am to 3 pm as part of their stir.
Emergency services will be exempted during the bandh.
"We are standing by our demand that we want a complete repeal of the three laws and will not accept any cosmetic changes.
The nature of these laws are such that amendments will not make any difference.
"Today we have called a bandh, and if our demands are not met, we are ready to take our agitation to the next level," Hannan Mollah said.
In view of the nationwide strike, the Delhi Police beefed up security at all border points and made arrangements to maintain law and order across the city, including market places.
"The security across the national capital, especially on bordering areas, has been beefed up," a senior police officer said.
He said there is maximum deployment of Delhi Police personnel in the city to ensure normal movement of people on the roads so that no one faces any kind of inconvenience.
Taking to Twitter, DCP (traffic western range) said, "Tikri, Jharoda Borders, Dhansa are closed for any Traffic Movement.
Badusarai Border is open only for light motor vehicle like Cars and two wheelers.
Jhatikara Border is open only for two wheeler traffic @dtptraffic.
" In another tweet, the police said available open borders to Haryana are Daurala, Kapashera, Rajokri NH 8, Bijwasan, Palam Vihar and Dundahera.
On Monday, Bhartiya Kisan Ekta Sangathan president Jagjit Singh Dallewala appealed to farmers to maintain peace and not to enter into any scuffle to enforce the bandh.
"The Modi government will have to accept our demands. We want nothing less than withdrawal of the new farm laws," farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal said.