Farmers' unions observed a Bharat Bandh on Friday to protest two agriculture Bills passed by the Parliament. While Punjab and Haryana have been seeing strong protests against the proposed legislations, movement along highways and railway networks is expected to be hampered as the Rasta Roko and Rail Roko agitations intensify through the day.
The nationwide protest has been called by the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), All India Kisan Mahasangh (AIKM) and Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU). A total of 31 farmers' organisations have extended their support to the call of a Bharat Bandh. As many as 18 Opposition parties, including Congress, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Left, Trinamool Congress, DMK and TRS, are extending support to the bandh.
Ten central trade unions, including All India Trade Union Congress, National Trades Union Congress, Centre of Indian Trade Unions, Hind Mazdoor Sabha, All India United Trade Union Centre and Trade Union Coordination Centre, are also expected join the agitation.
The Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KMSC) has called for a 'Rail Roko', while Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has appealed to farmers to maintain law and order and adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols. No FIR will be registered for the violation of Section 144 during the protest, he added. Shiromani Akali Dal, whose senior leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal resigned from the Cabinet Minister' position over the Bills, has also announced a 'Chakka Jam' for three hours across Punjab.
Fourteen special passenger trains running from the railways' Ferozepur division have been cancelled from 24 to 26 September. The trains that were suspended include Golden Temple Mail (Amritsar-Mumbai Central), Jan Shatabdi Express (Haridwar-Amritsar), New Delhi-Jammu Tawi, Sachkhand Express (Nanded-Amritsar), and Shaheed Express (Amritsar-Jaynagar).
BKU has given a call in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to block highways, while farmers' unions have given a call to hold protests at Delhi-NCR borders. It has given a call for a state-wide chakka jam (road blockade) in UP on Friday. "We have asked workers and farmers to organise a chakka jam in all the districts between 11am and 2pm," BKU state president Rajveer Singh Jadaun said, according to Hindustan Times. Director general of Uttar Pradesh Police HC Awasthy said he had alerted the police department in all districts about the protests. He said the UP police were making necessary arrangements.
Farmer groups in Haryana too have urged residents to observe a bandh from 10 am to 4 pm, but National Highways have been exempted from the bandh call, The Indian Express reported.
The farmers, along with the arthiyas (commission agents at mandis), are expected to join hands to shut markets and hold demonstrations. The districts expected to be impacted the most in Haryana include Kurukshetra, Ambala, Yamuna Nagar, Panchkula, Jind and Kaithal, The Hindu reported.
Delhi-Haryana border is likely to be sealed, even as the Delhi Police remains on high alert, according to a report in Hindustan Times.
AIKS, the 3,00,000-member strong farmers' groups in Maharashtra, will hold protests across 21 districts, while AIKS will hold a mass resistance in West Bengal by blocking roads and highways. The Paschim Banga Khet Mazdoor Samity, an independent union of agricultural workers, sharecroppers, marginal peasants and plantation workers, is also supporting the bandh, according to India Today. The Samyuktha Karshaka Samiti (SKS) will stage protests outside central government offices across Kerala. Farmers's bodies in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have also extended their support.
The protests come amid a three-day rail roko in Punjab and Haryana that began on Thursday. Farmers fear the new bills will destroy the Minimum Support Price (MSP) system and hinder the functioning of agricultural mandis.
The Congress on Thursday supported the "Bharat Bandh" call given by farmer organisations for Friday, saying millions of party workers stand in solidarity with the farmers' cause and will participate in their dharnas. Congress spokesperson Randeep Sujewala said that while farmers and farm labourers fill the stomachs of countrymen with their hard labour, the Narendra Modi government is attacking them and their fields.
Delhi Congress chief Anil Chaudhary said the party workers will take to the streets against the farm bills. The Congress has decided to take out marches in every state after which memorandums will be submitted to the respective governors on 28 September against these farm bills, which it says are against the interests of farmers and farm labourers.
Parliament had passed three farm reform bills " the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, Farmer's Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill " in the Monsoon Session. The acts seek to lift the restrictions on farmers to sell their produce only in government-regulated mandis or APMCs. They also lift the limit on stock-holding. Farmers have demanded that the Centre inserts a clause of guaranteed minimum support price in the Acts.
With inputs from PTI