Hundreds of farmers, labourers and members of Dalit organisations Monday took part in a demonstration at Bengaluru’s Anand Rao Circle against the new farm Bills passed by the Centre and land legislations proposed by the Karnataka government.
The protesters then moved to Freedom Park, where a conference was held on these issues.
“Everyone in the agrarian community is against these legislations, including those proposed in the Karnataka Assembly. The Karnataka land reforms amendment Act is not a land reform but a deform,” Swaraj India president Yogendra Yadav said. He added that such protests would grow across the country in the days to come.
With several protesters from across the state marching in groups from railway stations to the protest sites, volunteers were seen reminding them to maintain social distancing in view of the Covid-19 situation.
One such protester, a woman farmer from rural Karnataka, alleged that the government was trying to help private players exploit farmers. “Now that they have plum posts, agriculture Minister B C Patil and the BJP government in Karnataka seem to have forgotten that farmers too need to survive. Those expected to represent the people are now trying to represent only the rich,” she said.
Among others who addressed the protesters were 102-year-old freedom fighter H S Doreswamy and Kavitha Kuruganti of the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture. Protesters assembled under the banner of ‘Aikya Horata’, which translates to United Struggle. The organisations supporting the agitation are the Karnataka Rajya Raita Sangha (state farmers’ association), Dalit Sangharsha Samiti, and 29 other bodies representing Dalits and labourers from the state. The protest was led by Karnataka Rajya Raita Sangha State President Kodihalli Chandrashekhar.
Speaking to Indianexpress.com, Kodihalli Chandrashekhar said the farmers will continue the protest day and night till the completion of the Karnataka legislature’s monsoon session. “Both Centre and state governments are passing policies that are anti-farmer. The proposed amendments by the government will only help the corporate and multinational companies and not the farmers or the agrarian sector,” he said.
Meanwhile, the All India Central Council of Trade Unions wrote to CM BS Yediyurappa, seeking withdrawal of the Industrial Disputes and the Karnataka land reforms Amendment Ordinance, terming them “anti-labour policies”.
“This approach of the government in bringing about ordinances that are blatantly anti-worker is a clear opportunistic use of the Covid-19 crisis situation and is an assault not only on workers but on democracy itself,” a letter signed by AICCTU Karnataka secretary P P Appanna said.
Over 500 police personnel were deployed at Freedom Park, where the agitations culminated.
Protests against the farm Bills were witnessed inside Vidhana Soudha too, where the seventh session of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly is in progress.
Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah termed the passing of the three Bills — The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020; The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020; and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 — the “evilest act to destabilise the foundations of democracy”.
“The decision to pass three Bills related to farmers without adequate consultation of stakeholders and debates in both the Houses is the evilest act to destabilise the foundations of democracy. This is a one-sided policy that threatens the survival of farmers. The BJP government in Karnataka is trying to follow the same steps as the Centre to pass the amendments,” he said.