Delhi BJP workers on Monday staged a “chakka-jam” protest against the city government’s new excise tax policy and blocked roads in several locations in the national capital, leading to traffic congestion in key areas, including the ITO, in the near Akshardham Temple and on the Ring Road.
Responding to the protest, Delhi’s deputy chief minister, Manish Sisodia, said BJP leaders are “disturbed” as the new excise tax policy aims to curb the illegal sale of liquor.
The protest near Akshardham Temple was led by Delhi BJP President Adesh Gupta.
“The Delhi government is illegally opening liquor stores across the city under its new excise policy. Shops are opening near residential areas and religious sites. Our protest will continue until the policy is reversed,” Gupta told reporters.
He said liquor stores are not allowed to operate near religious sites, schools and residential areas.
Senior Delhi BJP leader Kuljeet Chahal led the protest at ITO.
Mr Sisodia said BJP leaders are “confused” with the new excise tax policy as the government of Arvind Kejriwal has “stopped the theft” of Rs 3,500 crore (which used to be obtained through illegal sale of liquor).
“Now this money goes to the government to carry out welfare work. Previously, this money went to BJP leaders and the drink mafia,” the deputy prime minister said in a tweet in Hindi.
Commuters had a harrowing time with the traffic congestion caused by the protest on major road sections.
Major roads affected by the protest include ITO crosswalk, Vikas Marg from Laxmi Nagar to ITO, Akshardham Temple road, National Highway 24, Noida-Delhi Link Road, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, Mother Dairy Road and the Signature Bridge road.
One commuter who got stuck on NH-24 said: “There is a heavy traffic jam on NH-24. Most roads have been blocked by the protesters and it is causing inconvenience to people like us who have to get to the office on time. Asked about the commuters who are experiencing difficulties as a result of the protest, Gupta claimed it is a public movement and people are willing to put up with it to get rid of the new excise policy of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government. .
People turned to Delhi Metro to avoid the roads, leading to huge crowds at the metro stations in the morning hours.
“There were no auto rickshaws or taxis available and there were huge queues outside the metro stations. There were coaches with many passengers,” said another commuter.
However, the traffic police insisted that the congestion on important routes had been cleared.
A senior traffic police officer said: “The situation is now normal. There was heavy congestion at two main points. One near Aksharsham and another near ITO. Traffic movement was affected for some time but it is now flexible.” The officer added that the traffic movement had been normalized with the help of the local police and the protesters were being removed from those locations.
Traffic quarrels were also visible on the NH-9. Both NH-9 and NH-24 have been cleared for smooth car traffic, another police officer said.
The “chakka jam” protest is being conducted at 15 locations, including near the Akshardham Viaduct, at the Car Bazar in Vikas Marg, NH-24, Dayaram Chowk, ITO, Ring Road, near the Signature Bridge and Civil Lines.
The protesters raised slogans against the city government and its new excise tax policy.
They also made repeated announcements that all emergency vehicles should be given priority and that no damage would be done to public property.
Under the new excise policy, 849 premium beverage vending machines will be opened across the city. The policy has been implemented in the city from November 17, 2021.