Other States

Bharat bandh elicits robust response in rural Maharashtra

The APMC market at Vashi in Navi Mumbai wears a deserted look on Tuesday, in view of the ‘Bharat Bandh’.  

The shutdown called by the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee against the Centre’s new farm laws received a robust response in Maharashtra’s rural hinterland on Tuesday, with shops downing shutters and bus services suspended.

The protests, spearheaded by outfits like Raju Shetti’s Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) and the Left-affiliated All-India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), with support of the coalition parties in the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, saw agitators burn copies of the new laws, stage roadblocks and raise slogans against the Union government.

Agriculture Produce Marketing Committees (APMCs) remained shut in most places across the State.

“The shutdown has received an overwhelming response in the rural areas, where the agrarian population is concentrated. Today’s bandh has made a mockery of the Centre’s claims that the protests are only limited to a couple of States…it has demonstrated that the agitation has thesupport of the majority of farmers and commoners across the country,” said the SSS chief.

Mr. Shetti said that a face-off between farmers and the Centre might have been averted if the Modi government had shaken off its intransigent posture and parleyed with farmer outfits with an open mind instead.

Dr. Ajit Nawale, State Secretary, AIKS, appealed to the Centre to take cognizance of tremendous support for the farmers by all sections of society, including labour outfits and traders’ associations.

Anti-graft activist Anna Hazare, too, endorsed the agitation by going on a day-long fast in his native village Ralegan Siddhi in Ahmednagar district.

Mr. Hazare said that the agitation should spread across the country and create pressure on the Centre to act in the interests of cultivators.

In a recorded message, Mr. Hazare said he approved of the farmers’ protests outside Delhi, remarking that they had been peaceful during the first ten days of the agitation before the Delhi police attempted to break it up.

“In order to create pressure on the government to repeal the farm laws, farmers need to hit streets. But no one should resort to violence,” he cautioned.

In contrast to rural areas, the shut down received mixed response in the urban pockets where transport was largely unaffected. Even so, protests by the ruling parties were held across cities.

In several places, Congress and NCP ministers and leaders including Ministers Jayant Patil and Nawab Malik wore black armbands to show solidarity for agitating farmers.

Supriya Sule, the NCP’s Lok Sabha MP from Baramati (in Pune district) exhorted the Centre to engage in dialogue with farmers.

“Farmers are the ones who provide food… It is the government’s moral responsibility to resolve an issue through dialogue if there is anger in this or among any section of the society,” Ms. Sule tweeted in Marathi.

In Aurangabad, Shiv Sena leader and Maharashtra Minister Abdul Sattar led the protest in Sillod, while warning the Centre that Sena activists would march on Delhi if the government did not rollback the agriculture laws.

“The Centre ought to scrap these laws immediately. A special day-long Parliamentary session must be called immediately by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and fresh laws must be created by taking farmer outfits and agricultural experts into confidence,” Mr. Sattar said.

Pune City Congress general secretary Ramesh Iyer said that the contentious laws failed to assure farmers of a Minimum Support Price (MSP) and appeared to throw them at the mercy of big corporates.

“The BJP-ruled Centre claims to eliminate the middleman and weed out corruption in the APMCs with the new farm laws. But in doing so, it has merely substituted the corruption in the APMC for corporate greed. At least, the poor farmer has some appellate body in the APMC system to secure justice in the form of the MSP. But, how is he going to appeal to an unfeeling corporate entity?” said Mr. Iyer, speaking during a Congress protest in Pune city.

Mixed response in Mumbai

Mumbai and neighbouring areas witnessed mixed response to the bandh call.

The bandh however did not affect suburban local trains and BEST buses. Parts of Mumbai, such as Dharavi and Mankhurd however, witnessed an agitation by a group of Sikh protesters. They held a protest near Mankhurd after police allegedly stopped them from going to Azad Maidan in south Mumbai.

The Shiv Sena had appealed to the people to voluntarily support the bandh. While extending support, NCP state president and Irrigation minister Jayant Patil wore a black band as a mark of protest. The Mumbai NCP presdient Nawab Malik held a rally in support of the bandh, while State Congress president and Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat held a demonstration outside party headquarters in south Mumbai. Protests by different rights groups supporting farmers were held in Matunga, Worli, Thane, Kalyan, Ulhasnagar. The Aam Adami Party also held a protest at Azad Maidan where sons and daughters of farmers arrived in bullock carts.

In neighbouring Navi Mumbai, the Vashi APMC was closed in support of the bandh.

“We kept the entire APMC closed today supporting the bharat bandh call given by farmers protesting in Delhi. The laws were passed by the Centre without holding discussions based only on the majority it enjoys in Parliament. This cannot be accepted. All traders, porters, and farmers participated,today to keep the APMC closed,” said NCP leader and MLC Shashikant Shinde.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2022 11:35:20 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/bharat-bandh-elicits-robust-response-in-rural-maharashtra/article33283582.ece

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