Normal life was hit as farmers blocked highways and squatted on railway tracks at many places on the occasion of the Bharat Bandh called on Monday against the three contentious farm laws. The bandh began at 6 am and ended at 4 pm.
BKU leader Rakesh Tikait said, “Our Bharat Bandh was successful. We had the full support of farmers…We can’t seal down everything as we have to facilitate the movement of people. We are ready for talks with the government but no discussions are happening.”
In both Punjab and Haryana, national highways, state highways, link roads and railway tracks have been blocked, bringing road and rail traffic to a halt. In Punjab, farmers protested at over 350 places. In Haryana too, highways were blocked at 25 places in the Jind district alone.
In Punjab, the ruling Congress said it firmly stands by the farm unions’ Bharat Bandh call against the three contentious laws. The shutdown was almost complete in the state, with transport services suspended during the bandh period, while shops and other commercial establishments remained shut at most places. National and state highways in several districts, including Amritsar, Rupnagar, Jalandhar, Pathankot, Sangrur, Mohali, Ludhiana, Ferozepur and Bathinda, were blocked by the protesters.
Vehicular movement was disrupted in several parts of Jharkhand as supporters of the Bharat Bandh blocked roads and highways. Shops were shut in state capital Ranchi. Farmers took out rallies on the major roads and held meetings.
Commercial establishments and local transport were operating as usual and normal life remained unaffected across Maharashtra even as various non-BJP parties held demonstrations and bike rallies in parts of the state in support of the Bharat Bandh. An APMC remained closed in Pune and a pro-farmers’ outfit staged a road blockage in Nagpur, while some protesters were detained at some places and later released, they said.
Meanwhile, Left activists blocked roads and railway tracks across West Bengal in support of the Bharat Bandh. In Kolkata, CPI(M) members blocked roads at College Street, Jadavpur and Shyambazar Five-Point Crossing but were swiftly removed by the police. Road blockades were organised in most of the major towns and cities in the state, including in the district headquarters of Jalpaiguri, West Midnapore, East Midnapore, Hooghly and Coochbehar.
The Left activists blocked railway tracks at Jadavpur in Eastern Railway’s Sealdah division. Reports of rail blockades from the Howrah division also came in.
At several locations, Congress activists also joined the protesters, demanding repeal of the three farm laws.
The ruling Trinamool Congress stayed away from the 12-hour bandh, but it supported the demands of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, which is spearheading the agitation.
Meanwhile, about 25 trains have been affected due to the Bharat Bandh, officials said.
“More than 20 locations are being blocked in Delhi, Ambala, and Firozepur divisions. About 25 trains are affected due to this,” a spokesperson for the Northern Railway said.
Officials said the Delhi-Amritsar Shan-e-Punjab, New Delhi-Moga Express, Old Delhi-Payhajot Express, Vande Bharat Express from New Delhi to Katra, and Amritsar Shatabdi are some of the trains that have been affected.
The bandh began at 6 am and continued till 4 pm.
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 — were passed by Parliament in September last year.
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.