India sees nationwide bandh from farmers' unions, political parties and media personalities extend support

Farmer unions imposed a nationwide bandh to protest against the three farm bills passed by the parliament in September.

India sees nationwide bandh from farmers' unions, political parties and media personalities extend support
Photo Credit: The Financial Express

December 8: A nationwide bandh was called by farmer unions on 8th of December, 2020 from 10 am to 3 pm having rejected the centreʼs proposal to amend three contentious agriculture laws and to demand total repeal.

The Union government is empowered to make laws related to interstate trade and supply of agricultural produce. On September 27, 2020, the parliament passed three bills, namely: Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act. 

The government says that this was done to implement One Nation One Market ecosystem in the country, offering a wider choice to the farmers to sell their produce beyond the state-regulated APMC (mandis). It would empower farmers for engaging with processors, wholesalers, aggregators and large retailers. It aims to transfer the risk from farmers by ensuring assured market. The laws have been seen as catering to the government commitment to the Ease of Doing Business parameters rather than farmer welfare.

States like Punjab and Haryana have a higher dependence on MSP procurement through mandis. Farmers thus have been demanding statutory status for MSP, Repeal of Farm laws in totality and removal of government proposed amendment to Electricity (Amendment) Act 2020 which would possibly remove free power subsidies. 

Bharat Bandh today has been supported by Congress, Left parties, DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam),TRS (Telangana Rashtra Samithi) and other opposition parties countrywide.

Protesting farmers have threatened to block key roads and occupy toll plazas as part of their call for the bandh. Essential services have exempted.

The impact of the protests was felt around the country with total bandh being observed across Telangana with the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in the forefront to make the protest successful. Meanwhile, in Hyderabad, fuel stations were open, but shops and banks were closed and autorickshaws were off the road. Metro services were functioning. Normal life was affected in Assam as commercial vehicles were off the roads and most shops and business establishments were closed due to Bharat Bandh. Supporters of the Left parties tried to block suburban railways by throwing banana leaves on the overhead railway lines in Kolkata. 

The bandh call evoked total response in Odisha. Roads wore a deserted look while vehicles were off the road. Social activist Anna Hazare sat on a day-long hunger strike to support agitating farmers who have called Bharat Bandh demanding a repeal of the Centre’s agri laws. Mr. Hazare also said the agitation should spread across the country so that the government comes under pressure to act in the interests of cultivators. Punjabi artistes Diljit Dosanjh, Ammy Virk, Gurdas Maan and others have extended their support to Bharat Bandh.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has issued an advisory to all States and Union Territories that no untoward incident should occur during Tuesday’s all-India strike called by farmers’ union.

How the government reacts to this nationwide dissent is to be seen in coming days. 

By Kunga Lendup Sherpa

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