Thousands of farmers took to the streets on Friday amid a call for a “Bharat bandh” given by a wide coalition of farmer outfits to protest against the three farm Bills recently passed by Parliament.
Farmers blocked rail and road traffic, held sit-ins at many places and shouted slogans against the BJP-led government at the Centre, accusing it of implementing “anti-farmer” policies.
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Much of the action was concentrated in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
Normal life was hit in Punjab, where over 30 farmer outfits had given a call for a complete shutdown. Shops and commercial establishments remained shut in many parts.
Shops and commercial establishments remained shut in many parts and protesters held sit-ins on key roads, including national and State highways, severely disrupting vehicular traffic.
Farmers blocked railway track at a few places in Amritsar, Ferozepur, Barna and Patiala, and announced that the “rail roko” agitation would be stepped up further across the State from September 26. They also announced stoppage of rail traffic indefinitely from October 1, if their demands were not met.
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Participating in the agitation on the Delhi-Amritsar national highway at Rajpura, Gurdev Singh, 60, a farmer from Fatehgarh Sahib, said his greatest fear was that private players would take over the agriculture trade completely and the government would stop purchasing wheat and paddy from farmers.
“Once the government stops purchasing wheat and paddy, it’s evident that the Minimum Support Price regime will get eliminated. Where will a small farmer like me go then? It’s a conspiracy to phase out farmers from agriculture and let big corporates take over gradually,” said Mr. Singh, who has cultivated paddy in his five-acre farm.
Jagmohan Singh, general secretary, Bhartaiya Kisan Union (Dakaunda), said protests were held at over 150 places in Punjab. “Besides starting an indefinite rail roko agitation from October 1, a resolution will be passed by the gram sabha of each village to cancel the agriculture Bills and [Punjab] Chief Minister Amarinder Singh would be urged to convene a special session of the Assembly and pass a resolution not to implement the agricultural laws in Punjab,” he said.
BJP’s alliance partner, Shiromani Akali Dal, also staged protests across the State as part of its ‘chakka jam’ programme. The party asked Captain Amarinder Singh to call an immediate Cabinet meeting and pass an ordinance to declare the entire State as one ‘mandi’ (principal market yard) to ensure that the Central agricultural Bills are not enforceable in Punjab.
Captain Singh said he hoped that “the pain of the agitating farmers, who braved the pandemic and the heat to protest against the agriculture Bills, will reach the Central government, and it will gracefully back off from destroying the farm sector with such ruthless disregard for the farming community.”
In neighbouring Haryana, peaceful demonstrations were held across the State, with Kurukshetra, Ambala and Yamuna Nagar bearing the maximum impact. Though commercial establishments and transport services remained unaffected, protesters sat on roads at several places, including State and national highways, disrupting traffic. Besides Delhi-Hisar, Ambala-Kaithal and Jind-Patiala highways, farmers blocked internal roads in Kurukshetra, Sirsa, Ambala, Kaithal and Jind.
Bharatiya Kisan Union workers sat on railway tracks in Yamuna Nagar, disrupting traffic.
BKU Haryana president Gurnam Singh Charuni, speaking to mediapersons at a protest site in Panchkula, said people in power took donations from big corporates for election and made laws to suit them. “Both the Congress and the BJP have exploited farmers. But I would like to say that the BJP is doing so four times faster than the Congress,” said Mr. Charuni, denying allegations of any understanding with the Congress.
Jam on U.P. border
Farmers massed on the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border, squatting on NH-9 and disrupting traffic. Protests in Shahjahanpur, Muzaffarnagar, Shamli, Bijnor, Saharanpur, Ghaziabad, Noida, Aligarh and Mathura led to long traffic jams across western Uttar Pradesh. Protests were also held in Rajasthan.