The day-long Bharat Bandh on Friday called by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha may set the agenda for the future of the ongoing farmers’ agitation against the central agri laws with a union leader listing out three options if the Centre refused to budge from its stance on farm laws.
Rail and road transport services are likely to remain affected and markets closed in Punjab and Haryana as part of the nationwide shutdown called by the Samkyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of protesting unions. The SKM said that 6 am to 6 pm Bandh across the country on March 26 will mark four months of the farmers agitation at Delhi’s borders.
Giving details in Chandigarh, Ruldu Singh Mansa, president of Punjab Kisan Union, which is a member of SKM, said once wheat harvesting is over, farmers will be totally free for two months and will have three options in the agitation. “First, we can continue it [agitation] for a long time. Second is that farmers can clash with government to address the issue once and for all. And third, there could be a non-cooperation movement against the government,” said Ruldu Singh.
“If we start the non-cooperation movement, it would be second battle for independence. We will sit in the villages with sticks. We will not allow them to enter our villages or cut our power connections. We will tell the traders not to pay the taxes,” said Ruldu Singh, adding that the “non-cooperation movement” was his “personal view” and it can take shape only after SKM’s approval.
He said Friday’s Bharat Bandh would be “a different bandh than earlier ones” as various trade and employees unions have extended support to it.
“All shops, malls, markets and institutions will remain closed under complete Bharat Bandh. All minor and big roads and trains will be blocked. All services will remain suspended except for ambulance and other essential services. The effect of Bharat Bandh will be observed inside Delhi as well,” the SKM said in a statement.
In Punjab, there will be road and ail traffic jam at more than 300 places. “This Bandh is against the dictatorial attitude of government for not listening to farmers who are sleeping on roads since mid September,” said Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan, general secretary of BKU Ugrahan.
According to Jagmohan Singh Patiala, general secretary of BKU Dakaunda, and working committee member of All India Kisan Sangrash Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), “ The 32 farmer unions will be staging protests at 131 locations across country bringing to a halt the road and rail traffic. In Punjab, our protests are going on at 68 locations. We have also got support from railway employees”.
Kisan Mazdoor Sangrash Committee (KMSC) general secretary Sarwan Singh Pandher said his union will be organising dharnas at 88 locations in Punjab. “We will take out rallies in markets appealing to the traders to shut their shops and then we will sit at designated protest locations,” he said.
BKU Ugrahan will also be organising protests at more than 90 locations. “We have issued appeals to shopkeepers in 16 districts where our union has a strong presence,” said Kokrikalan.
Dr Darshan Pal, president of Krantikari Kisan Union and coordinator of SKM, said, “Our main demands include repeal of the three farm laws, MSP for all crops, and quashing of FIRs against protesting farmers. We also want that electricity bill and pollution bill should not be implemented. We also want prices of diesel, petrol and LPG reduced”.
Earlier, in a video message, Darshan Pal said supplies of vegetables and milk will also stopped by the protesting farmers.
Farmer leader Abhimanyu Kohar, who is also senior member of SKM, said that the major impact of the ‘Bharat Bandh’ will be felt in Haryana and Punjab. The farmer leader said that in poll-bound Tamil Nadu, Assam, West Bengal, Kerala and Puducherry, the Samkyukta Kisan Morcha has appealed to people to not observe ‘Bandh’ there.
While Beopar Mandal units in several districts of Punjab, wholesalers and retailers and some trade unions, Northern Railway Men’s Union, Punjab Ahrtiya Federation have extended support to the Bharat Bandh, Confederation of All India Traders, which claimed representation of eight crore traders in the the country, said that markets will remain open on March 26 as it is not participating in the shutdown. “We are not going to participate in ‘Bharat Bandh’. Markets will remain open in Delhi and other parts of the country. The ongoing deadlock can be resolved only through dialogue process. There should be discussions on amendments in the farm laws that can make existing farming profitable,” CAIT’s national general secretary Praveen Khandelwal said.
Meanwhile, responding to a question, Ruldu Singh said he is opposed to Centre’s move to deposit minimum support price (MSP) of farmers’ produce directly into their accounts and said the money should be deposited in the accounts of arhtiyas (commission agents). The farm leader called arhtiyas “farmers’ banks”.
Responding to another question on arhtiyas being blamed for pushing farmers into debt, Ruldu Singh, said, “When there is fight with bigger enemy, arhtiyas are our brothers and we are together”. He added that the debt on farmers was not due to arhtiyas, but due to “wrong policies of the government”.
To a question whether farm agitation could benefit Congress in upcoming polls in Punjab, he categorically said no. He also said that “We are not concerned about Punjab politics.” Ruldu Singh said farm organizations had nothing to do with Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, the Badals or Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Referring to a meeting of first time Congress MLAs in Punjab with Amarinder’s principal advisor Prashant Kishor on Wednesday, Ruldu Singh said, “Political partiyan nu raah nahi labhda (Political parties are in a fix).
On a question on Amarinder Singh’s “expertise” in farming, he said, “Captain does not have farming experience, but experience to rule. Seven generations [of his family] have ruled.”
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