Farmers claim success, Bandh evokes mixed response across country

Farmers claim success, Bandh evokes mixed response across country

Bharat Bandh

New Delhi, Dec 8 (IANS): The farmers unions have claimed that the nationwide strike called by them was successful and the people supported their cause while the Bharat Bandh on Tuesday evoked a mixed response across the country. After the bandh the farmers addressed a joint press conference and claimed that they have got support from two more farmers unions and now they are a total of 32 organisations. Farmer leader Gurnam Singh said that the government which said that it will not let the farmers enter Delhi has invited them for talks. The farmers are slated to meet Union Home Minister Amit Shah without any preconditions. The Delhi police on Tuesday said that the situation in Delhi is peaceful and normal life has not been affected by the Bharat Bandh. Senior police officers are patrolling the streets and a constant vigil is being kept at all major points in the capital. "All the markets are open in Delhi and normal movement of public is seen on the roads and traffic on all major roads is plying smoothly. The situation is peaceful in Delhi and under control" said Special CP Law and Order North, Satish Golcha. Gurugram remained calm even as workers of the Congress, AAP, CITU, All-India Kisaan Sabha and Anganwaris joined hands with 360 villages of the Jharsa Khap to stage demonstrations as part of the Bharat Bandh, a countrywide strike call given by the farmers' bodies. With heavy deployment of police personnel across the district, markets, including the Sadar Bazar, food markets and wholesale vegetable markets, remained open. Transport services were also functional and no untoward incidents were reported from anywhere in the city. Activists from various farmer, civil society and employee organisations on Tuesday held widespread protests in Punjab and Haryana against the new farm laws which, they say, will destroy livelihoods. Road networks -- both national and state highways -- were largely impacted in both the states owing to the nationwide 'chakka jam' call from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. In Punjab's Sangrur district, the rail network was hit as protesters squatted on tracks. Heavy police force was deployed in both the states to deal with any untoward situation. However, there was no report of any violence. Even shopkeepers and petrol pump owners in most of the major towns in both the states shut their establishments expressing solidarity with the farmers. Thousands of government employees in Punjab went on mass casual leave, while the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) kept all its institutions closed for the day. The traffic in and around Chandigarh was severely affected. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said on Tuesday that the unity showcased by the farmers through the Bharat Bandh has underscored the need for repealing the laws, followed by a detailed discussion on agricultural reforms. The Chief Minister asked why the Centre could not heed the demands of the farmers, who are agitating across the country to scrap these laws and hold fresh talks with all the stakeholders. "Had I been in their place, I would not have taken a minute to accept my mistake and revoke the laws," he said. Asserting that the whole country is standing with the farmers in their pain and in their fight for survival, Amarinder Singh said the Centre should allow the existing system to continue instead of scrapping the arhtiya and mandi system, as the farm laws are designed to do. In Gujarat, the opposition Congress has claimed that Tuesday's Bharat Bandh in support of the agitating farmers was successful throughout the country as also in Gujarat. While the ruling BJP in Gujarat has claimed the Bandh was a failure in the state, the Congress said that the Bandh had a "huge response" in rural areas, agrarian communities, and associated trades. Over 5,000 Congress workers were detained from various parts of the state who were supporting the Bandh. Most of the leaders like district presidents, district Panchayat presidents from Congress, Tehsil presidents, Tehsil Panchayat presidents were detained or under house arrest since Monday night. Almost all the legislators of Congress, most of them living in urban areas were also under house arrest since Monday. Dhanani was detained by the Amreli police in the afternoon. In Tamil Nadu, the normal life was not affected with state transport buses plying, and hotels and shops remaining open despite the Bharat Bandh call given by the farmers which was supported by majority of the opposition parties. In Chennai, public buses were plying, while hotels and shops too remained open. Similarly, government owned banks and insurance companies functioned as usual though the unions had extended support to the farmers' bandh call. In Maharashtra, all agricultural produce market committees (APMCs) across the state remained deserted without conducting any transactions in the morning, shops and commercial establishments, particularly in cities and towns, remained largely unaffected as the retailers organisations have kept off the shutdown. Though, the Shiv Sena leaders Kishore Tiwari, Sena Minister Abdul Sattar, SSS leader Raju Shetti, NCP leaders Jayant Patil, Congress leader Balasaheb Thorat, All India Kisan Sabha leaders Ashok Dhawale and Ajit Nawale, TUJAC Convenor Utagi, CPI-CPM leaders termed the shutdown as "successful". In Greater Hyderabad, the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) tried to score a political point over BJP by ensuring a successful shutdown in the state during Bharat Bandh called by farmers' groups on Tuesday. From ministers to MPs and state legislators to mandal level public representatives, the entire rank and file of the TRS were on streets to make the shutdown a success. Organising mass protests is not new to the TRS as it led the movement for statehood to Telangana for 13 years but this was the first occasion after formation of Telangana state and the party coming to power in 2014 that it not only extended support to country-wide protest on a national issue but its leaders actively participated in it. Ministers leading road blockades was unprecedented in the state. This also triggered a fresh round of war of words between the TRS and the BJP. Not stopping at Bharat Bandh, TRS declared its intentions to take the protest over farm laws to any extent. "We are ready to go anywhere. Even if they imprison us, we will not stop," said TRS Working President K. T. Rama Rao when asked if his party leaders would go to Delhi to show solidarity with agitating farmers. In Karnataka, the day-long Bharat bandh evoked huge response in towns and villages across Karnataka, as thousand of farmers staged massive rallies and demonstrations against the 3 farm laws the Centre enacted recently and called for their withdrawal immediately. The response to the shutdown call was, however, mixed in cities, as normal life was partially disrupted, with markets and APMC yards remaining shut in Bengaluru, Mysuru, Mandya, Mangaluru, Hubballi, Belagavi, Kalaburagi, Shivamogga, Raichur, Ballari and Bidar. As the state farmers' associations exempted Bengaluru from the dawn-to-dusk bandh, it was business as usual across the city though vehicular traffic was affected due to rallies by various organisations supporting the shutdown. "The bandh was successful, as the response was overwhelming in towns and villages across the state where hundreds of farmers took out huge processions and staged dharnas, raising slogans against the anti-farmer laws," Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha President Kodihalli Chandrashekar told IANS. A cold response was seen in Tamil Nadu while there was growing solidarity for the farmers cause in Odisha and Telangana. In Uttar Pradesh, Samajwadi Party workers stopped the Bundelkhand Express at Prayagraj, leading to a scuffle with the police as Samajwadi Party workers squatted on the railway track. Very few vehicles were seen on the roads in Bihar in the morning as the Mahagathbandhan led by Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav spearheaded support for the 'Bharat Bandh'. Rajasthan witnessed a strong impact of Bharat Bandh called by farmers' organisations against the newly-enacted farm laws as the state Congress government had supported the call. Around 247 grain 'mandis' kept their operations suspended and truck movement also came to a grinding halt. The mini-bus operators supported the bandh call however auto rickshaws, e-rickshaws and low floor buses were plying. Farmer associations took out rallies in different places. State minister Pratap Singh Khachriyawas himself drove a tractor and ensured the shops were closed in the walled city of jaipur. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot's home turf Jodhpur witnessed a mixed response to the bandh as Vyapar Mahasangh here did not support the bandh call. However, mandis' operations remain suspended.

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