Bharat Bandh on Tuesday called by agitating farmer unions to press for repeal of the Centre’s agriculture laws is likely to have an impact in some northern states after several trade unions extended support to it even as the farmer leaders said that no one should be forced to join the shutdown.
With almost all opposition parties too backing the ‘Bharat Bandh’ and many announcing parallel protests in support of the farmers, the Centre has issued an advisory directing all the states and Union Territories to tighten security and ensure peace is maintained. The railways too asked its personnel to step up vigil saying protesters may organise rail blockades in 16 states.
Appealing to everyone to join the “symbolic” bandh, farmer leaders said they will block key roads during their ‘chakka jam’ protest from 11 AM to 3 PM as part of their stir, which has drawn people from northern states especially Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi since the last 12 days.
“Our bandh is different from that of political parties. It is a four-hour symbolic bandh for an ideological cause. We want that there should be no problem to the common people. We appeal to them not to travel during this period,” farmer leader Rakesh Tikait said. “We also urge shopkeepers to shut their outlets during this period,” he said.
Delhi: Transport services and supplies of essentials like vegetables and fruits are likely to be affected in the national capital, even as Delhi Police warned of strict action against those trying to disrupt the movement of people or “forcefully” shut shops in the city. Some taxi and cab unions, including those associated with app-based aggregators, have decided to join the strike called by farmers organisations demanding the repeal of three new farm sector laws.
Farmer leaders on Monday appealed to their affiliates to not force anyone to observe the shutdown. Bharatiya Kisan Union spokesperson Rakesh Tikait said that the ‘bandh’ will be observed from 11 am to 3 pm and emergency services like ambulance and others will be allowed. “We will also allow wedding functions. People going to attend such functions can easily be recognised by their attire and invitation card. We will not disturb their movement during ‘Bharat Bandh’,” Tikait told PTI.
Farmers leaders said that ‘chakka jam’ will be done from 11 am to 3 pm on Tuesday. In Delhi, the work at major wholesale vegetable and fruit markets is likely to be hampered with a section of traders favouring the farmers’ demands. “I have received calls from several traders’ associations for strike on Tuesday. I believe the mandis at Ghazipur, Okhla and Narela will also be closed due to the ‘Bharat Bandh’ called by farmers,” Adil Khan, chairman of Azadapur Mandi, said. Khan said he has appealed to people from all walks of life to support the farmers who feed the country. Chairman of Ghazipur wholesale mandi for vegetables, fruits and poultry and meat said many traders’ association in the market have said they will join the strike.
Some auto and taxi unions in the city have also decided to join the ‘Bharat Band’ on Tuesday. Kamaljeet Gill, president of Sarvodaya Driver Association of Delhi, comprising mainly drivers working with cab aggregators, said drivers will not run their cabs associated with Ola, Uber and other app-based aggregators on the day. President of Delhi Taxi Tourist Transporters’ Association Sanjay Samrat, in a statement, said several unions, including Delhi State Taxi Cooperative Society and Kaumi Ekta Welfare Association, will join the strike.
However, many other auto and taxi unions have decided to continue normal services despite their support to the demands of the agitating farmers.
Rajender Soni, general secretary of Delhi Auto Rickshaw Sangh, and the Delhi Pradesh Taxi Union said “important” auto, taxi and last-mile vehicle driver unions will not join the strike. Chandu Chaurasia, vice president of Capital Driver Welfare Association, said the demands of farmers need to be met by the government but it should not be achieved by causing inconvenience to ordinary people.
Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) and All India Transport Welfare Association (AITWA), in a joint statement, said trade and transport sector will function normally despite the ‘Bharat Bandh’ call.
“No farmer body has contacted us or sought our support with regard to the ‘Bharat Bandh’. So trade and transport service will continue normally in Delhi and other parts of the country,” the statement said.
West Bengal: The ruling TMC in West Bengal on Monday decided to extend “moral support” to the nationwide strike and in solidarity will stage sit-ins in various parts of the state for the next three days. Senior TMC leader and MP Saugata Roy said the party will not enforce the strike called by the farmers as it is against “bandh culture”. “We support the issues raised by the farmers and will hold protest programmes and sit-in demonstrations. But we are against shutdowns and the bandh culture and will not enforce it in the state,” Ray told PTI. “The farmers have our moral support and we will do everything to fight for their cause,” he added.
Earlier in the day speaking at a rally in West Midnapore district, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who is one of the most vocal critics of the saffron party, slammed the BJP-led government at the Centre for its “arrogance and indifference” towards the plight of farmers who are protesting against the new agriculture laws.
Left Front chairman Biman Bose urged the people of West Bengal to make ‘Bharat Bandh’ a grand success. Making the appeal on behalf of 16 Left and associate parties, Bose said that the farmers’ protest demanding withdrawal of the agriculture laws and the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2020 has turned into a historic movement. He requested the people of the state to support the cause and “make this movement by the country’s food providers successful”.
Gujarat: Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani on Monday hit out at the opposition party and said state’s farmers will not back a ‘political agitation’ being organised against the Narendra Modi government in their name. Rupani claimed the Congress has lost support of people across all sections of the society and pointed out that in the past the party had promised to make changes in agri rules that are covered under the new farm legislations.
Rupani accused the Congress and other opposition parties of using the name of farmers to organise the bandh against the Modi government. “Opposition parties have called for the Bharat Bandh tomorrow (Dec 8) in the name of farmers. It is clear that farmers are only used as names, and the opposition parties, including the Congress, have come together to join the Bharat Bandh only to show their existence,” Rupani said.
“This is a political agitation in the name of farmers. Farmers in Gujarat are not dissatisfied and are therefore not supporting the agitation,” he said. “We will ensure that law and order is not affected in the name of bandh. Strong action will be taken against those who indulge in illegal activities during the bandh,” the chief minister warned.
Maharashtra: The ruling Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress are among the key parties from Maharashtra to support the ‘Bharat Bandh’. Speaking to reporters here, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut urged people to take part in the “non-political” bandh to support farmers. “People should willingly take part in the bandh. This will show true support to the farmers. This is not a political bandh though several parties have decided to take part in it,” Raut said. “This is not the bandh for raising demands of a political party, but to strengthen the voice of farmers of the country,” the Rajya Sabha member said.
Strict action will be taken against anyone trying to force shops and other establishments to down shutters during Tuesday’s ‘Bharat bandh’ called by various outfits and political parties against the Centre’s new farm laws, Mumbai police officials said.
Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) buses will ply as scheduled during ‘Bharat bandh’, a senior official of the state-run undertaking said. MSRTC managing director Shekhar Channe told PTI the buses will ply unless there are law and order problems due to the shutdown.
Meanwhile, the All India Motor Transport Congress, an apex body of trucker outfits, said it would “join the Bharat bandh and suspend their operations on December 8”. “Transportation of essential commodities like milk, vegetables and fruits have been excluded from the bandh,” said Daya Natkar, secretary of Maharashtra Rajya Truck Tempo Tankers Vahatuk Sangh. Veteran taxi union leader AL Qaudros said taxis would ply in the metropolis as the coronavirus outbreak and the lockdown had already hit the sector severely.
Uttar Pradesh: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Monday came down heavily on opposition parties for “politicising” farm bills, alleging that they were using the innocent farmers to serve their petty political interests. Alleging that the political parties, which have decided to back the ‘Bharat bandh’ call of farmers on Tuesday on the issue of three farm bills, had backed them during the UPA government in 2010-2011, the chief minister referred to a letter written by the then agriculture minister Sharan Pawar to the chief ministers of different states on the issue.
“During the Congress-led UPA government, the then agriculture minister Sharad Pawar had sent a letter to different states that APMC needs amendment and GoI is preparing a model act for the purpose,” Adityanath said expressing surprise how the Congress, NCP and the parties which had supported them then have now gone back on it. “It is an example of their double character and how they are firing from the shoulder of innocent farmers to create anarchy and disorder,” he said, adding that opposition parties are betraying spirit of values, ideologies and principles in politics by unleashing anarchy in the name of opposing farm bills.
Haryana: “Opposition parties are doing petty politics in the name of farmers, it’s condemnable. Public and farmers should understand that there is no harm in implementing the laws that have been enacted for the progress of farmers. PM has assured that MSP will continue,” said Haryana CM ML Khattar.
Dismissing reports that the JJP is facing pressure to withdraw its support from the M L Khattar-led Haryana government, a key party leader said on Monday that stage has not yet come. Jannayak Janata Party’s senior leader Digvijay Singh Chautala said Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala, his elder brother, is regularly talking to Union ministers and the party has urged the Centre to resolve the farmers’ issue at the earliest. “We want farmers’ concerns to be addressed so that they return to their homes. Whatever the Centre may need to do, like summoning Parliament session or whatever they feel may be required, they know it better but we want that the issue should be resolved,” he said.
Bhartiya Kisan Ekta Sangathan president Jagjit Singh Dallewala asked farmers to maintain peace and not to try enforce the shutdown. He said emergency services will be exempted during the bandh. The leader also claimed the bandh will be effective across the country. “The Modi government will have to accept our demands. We want nothing less than a withdrawal of the new farm laws,” farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal said.
The Centre and the farmer unions are slated to hold the sixth round of talks a day after the bandh as previous discussions failed to end the deadlock. Targeted by the opposition parties, the BJP hit back and accused them of “shameful double standards”, claiming many of them had endorsed these reforms when in power or had supported them in Parliament.
Senior BJP leader and Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the opposition parties have joined the agitation in a bid to save their existence after being repeatedly rejected by people in different elections across the country. Prasad said a section of farmers has fallen in the grip of some people with “vested interests” and asserted that the government was working to address their misgivings about the reforms. He appreciated the protesting farmer unions for not associating their stir with any political parties.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and former Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis also slammed the opposition. The agitating farmers have drawn support from various quarters including artists, sportspersons and workers’ and students’ groups. Tuesday’s strike could impact the transport of goods as the All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC), the apex body of transporters representing about 95 lakh truckers and other entities, said it will suspend operations in the entire country to support the bandh. The Railways’ two biggest unions, AIRF and NFIR have extended their support to the bandh and are planning to hold rallies and demonstrations in their support.