Protesters agitating against the three farm laws sit on railway tracks at Devidaspura village in Amritsar, in support of 'Bharat Bandh' called by farmer unions on September 27. (Image: ANI)
The ten-hour-long ‘Bharat Bandh’ called by farmers protesting against the three agri laws under the aegis of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) began at 6 am and its impact was seen in different parts of the country.
“It was on September 27, 2020, that President Shri Ram Nath Kovind assented to and brought into force the three anti-farmer black laws last year. Tomorrow, there will be a total Bharat Bandh observed around the country from 6 am to 4 pm,” the SKM, which is an umbrella body of over 40 farmer unions, said in a statement on September 26.
In Punjab, a complete shutdown was observed at several places, and farmers blocked highways and other roads. According to a PTI report, the protesting farmers blocked the Moga-Ferozepur and Moga-Ludhiana National Highways. The Bathinda-Chandigarh National Highway too was blocked by farmers, it said.
In Haryana, there were reports of protesters blocking some highways, including in Sirsa, Fatehabad, and Kurukshetra. There were also reports of farmers squatting on rail tracks at a few places in the two states.
A massive traffic snarl was seen at the Gurugram-Delhi border as vehicles entering Delhi were being checked by the Police and paramilitary force due to ‘Bharat Bandh’, reported news agency ANI.
Many non-NDA parties have extended support to the nationwide strike including Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, Samajwadi Party, Telugu Desam Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Left parties, and Swaraj India.
Congress general secretary (organisation) KC Venugopal had earlier said that the party and its workers will extend full support to the peaceful 'Bharat Bandh' called by farmer unions.
On the day of the strike, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted that the farmers' non-violent 'satyagraha' is still resolute but the "exploitative" government does not like this and that is why a 'Bharat Bandh' has been called. He used the hashtag 'IStandWithFarmers' with his tweet.
BSP chief Mayawati tweeted, "The farmers of the country do not endorse the three farm laws brought in a hurry by the Centre, and are sad about it. They have been protesting for the past 10 months in the country and aggressively, especially around Delhi. They have given the call of 'Bharat Bandh' and BSP supports its peaceful organising."
The SP also tweeted about extending support to the strike, saying: "The Samajwadi Party supports the 'Bharat Bandh' called by protesting farmers against the black farm laws of the BJP government. The anti-farmer black laws must be withdrawn by the government."
The farmers have been protesting against the three laws -- The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020 – which were passed by Parliament in September 2020.
Farmer groups have alleged that these laws will end the 'mandi' and the MSP procurement systems and leave the farmers at the mercy of big corporates, even as the government has rejected these apprehensions as misplaced and asserted that these steps will help increase farmers' income.
The government and farmer unions have held 11 rounds of talks so far, the last being on January 22, to break the deadlock and end the farmers' protest. Talks have not resumed following widespread violence during a tractor rally by protesting farmers on January 26.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court had in January stayed the implementation of the three laws till further orders and appointed a panel to resolve the impasse.(With inputs from PTI)