A DAY before the first anniversary of pakka dharnas in Punjab against the Centre’s three farm laws, BKU Ugrahan on Thursday started week-long dharnas outside five more branded stores.
“Three of these stores are located in Zirakpur, Amritsar, Jalandhar and two are in Ludhiana.
Administrators of a branded store at Bhucho Mandi in Bathinda have fired a few employees because a pakka dharna was going on outside their store for the past one year. The dharna began October 1 last year.
This is an effort to start a confrontation between employees and farmers. Hence we have started dharna outside five more of their stores, asking them to hire these employees back,” said Shingara Singh Mann, senior vice-president, BKU Ugrahan.
He added: “For the time being, we will stage dharnas outside the stores for a week and if needed, we will extend the same as well.”
On October 1, 2020, the farmers’ protest had entered phase 2 — indefinite dharana mode. On Friday, they will be completing one year of these pakka dharnas.
They started with pakka dharnas at 33 locations including on rail tracks, nearly 30 petrol pumps, five malls and outside residences of seven BJP leaders. While the rail dharnas were lifted on November 21 last year, pakka dharna sites at other locations kept on increasing over the months. As of now, pakka dharnas are going on at 113 locations in Punjab. These include railway parks, petrol pumps of corporate houses, a dry port of Adani, toll plazas and corporate malls.
On Thursday, pakka dharnas started outside five branded stores of Punjab, thus increasing the dharna sites from 108 to 113.
Adani Logistics Services had closed down its operations at a dry port in Kilaraipur village of Ludhiana last month, citing indefinite dharna by farmers as the reason. A number of stores of a corporate house have also been closed due to dharnas. Sources said the stores have shifted their delivery work to online but on the ground, many lost their jobs, a few lost rent of those stores which companies were giving.
Saudagar Singh Ghudani, president of BKU Ugrahan, Ludhiana unit, said, “Corporates are eating business of small shopkeepers. So we are supporting the small shopkeepers and of course the farmers.”
Protests against farm laws had started on June 6 last year, while pakka dharnas started on October 1. From November 26 onwards these pakka dharanas extended to Delhi borders. “Earlier also we had organised pakka dharanas for 30-40 days at times over various issues but unions could organise them individually. However, now these dharnas have completed one year in Punjab, a record of sorts and that too by all 32 farmer unions of Punjab, BKU Ugrahan and Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KMSC) together. We had not expected that protest will last so long, but the government is refusing to budge,” said Narain Dutt, from Inqlabi Morcha, who has been at Barnala railway station since October 1 last year.
The only change at these protest sites is the reducing strength. Earlier, most dharnas would go on day and night. But now a number of sites have protest dharnas for 4-5 hours in a day and after that, a handful of people just manage the protest site. For example, at Barnala railway station, the protest dharna goes on from 11 am to 3 pm now, unlike the 24 hours dharna earlier. A pakka morcha outside MBD Mall in Ludhiana has only few persons during the whole day and 1-2 persons at night.
“It is a long haul, so strength may reduce a bit but not the spirit. Protest against farm laws is as strong as last year,” said Shingara Singh Mann, senior vice-president, BKU Ugrahan. On October 1, completion of one year of dharnas will be observed at all 113 protest sites in Punjab, said SKM.