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Farmers across India erupt over Agri Bills

In a first-of-its-kind show of solidarity, 31 farmer organisations in Punjab announced a joint protest

Friday September 25, 2020 10:18 AM, ummid.com with inputs from Agencies

Bharat Bandh Sept 25

New Delhi: Angry over passage of Bills in the Parliament that they believe will push Agriculture sector into the hands of corporate, hundreds of thousands of farmers all across India have begun their day-long protest amidst the call of Bharat Bandh supported by various organisations including the opposition parties.

Friday's protest, set to kickstart a long battle for days to come, has brought together various farmers groups against:

1. The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020,

2. The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, and

3. The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020,

passed by the Parliament during the curtailed monsoon session that ended on Wednesday.

"First-of-its-kind Show of Solidarity"

The flashpoints of protests are Punjab, Haryanad and Uttar Pradesh where farmers are protesting against the Bills cutting across party lines. Even shopkeepers in most of the major towns in these states shut their shops expressing solidarity with the farmers.

In a first-of-its-kind show of solidarity, 31 farmer organisations in Punjab announced a joint protest. Several trains have been suspended since Thursday as farmers began a three-day 'rail roko' campaign against the Bills.

The Ferozepur Railway division decided to suspend operation of special trains till September 26 in view of the safety of passengers, a rail official told IANS.

Three-day Rail Blockade

Besides Friday's Bharat Bandh, a three-day rail blockade is also being organised in Punjab that will continue until Saturday to protest against the bills that the government says will liberalise agricultural trade but farmers allege will promote corporate interests over their's.

Many Punjabi singers have extended their support to the 'bandh' call given by farmers. Popular Punjabi singer and actor Harbhajan Mann in a tweet said he along with several other artists would be participating in the protest.

In Haryana, activists of the Bharatiya Kisan Union activists along with sacked physical training instructors showed black flags to Agriculture Minister J.P. Dalal on Thursday in Mudlana village in Sonepat district.

"Bihar Bandh"

Raising strong objections against the farm Bills, the opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) has called for a Bihar 'Bandh' on Friday.

Party leader Tejashwi Yadav has asked supporters to hit the roads in each of the 38 districts headquarters of Bihar and register strong protests against the Bills.

Punjab Farmers Protest

"The farmers of Bihar are already distraught. The agri Bills will make them completely helpless. These Bills will allow industrialists to take over the agriculture sector," he said.

Taking a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, he also said that if RJD supremo Lalu Yadav would shake hands with the BJP, he would be seen as "Raja Harishchandra" and the fodder scam or "Chara Ghotala" would be converted into "Bhaichaara" or brotherhood.

"Biggest Ever Act of Betrayal of Farmers"

Farmer leader Naresh Tikait said cultivators in western Uttar Pradesh on Friday would "aggressively" participate in the Bharat Bandh and will block the movement of traffic in their strongholds.

The Samajwadi Party has asked its cadres to support the protests against the farm bills by submitting memoranda to the Governor though the district magistrates in every district.

In a statement, Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav asked farmers and labourers to come together on the occasion but maintain social distancing during the agitation.

He said that while the farm bills would force the farmers to sell their produce at throwaway prices, the amendment in the labour laws would allow companies with 300 employees or less, to lay off workers.

Why farmers are angry

The Uttar Pradesh unit of the Congress has also announced state-wide protests from Friday to October 31 in support of the farmers. UPCC president Ajay Kumar Lallu said that Congress workers, along with farmers, will gherao Vidhan Sabha on Monday.

He said that the farm bills passed in parliament without debate is the "biggest ever act of betrayal of farmers, who have now been left at the mercy of market and capitalist forces".

"One Nation, One Support Price"

He said that there is no mention of the minimum support price (MSP) in all the three laws, which will ring the death knell for the vegetable and fruit growers and farmers who will be compelled to sell their produce at the rates decided by capitalists.

By destroying the existing system of grain, vegetable and fruits market, the government is hell bent upon crippling the farm ecosystem to benefit capitalists. He said the 'mandis' ensure proper rate and weight for farmers, which the BJP wants to dismantle.

The Congress party has demanded that under the 'One Nation, One Support Price', one rate should be fixed for grains, fruits and vegetables for the state and the whole of the country as well. The provision of the MSP should be incorporated in new legislation and should be ensured that farmers do not get less than the MSP against any of their produce.

In India's South, members of Karnataka State Farmers' Association are protesting near Bommanahalli on the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu highway against the passing of the Farm Bills in the two Houses of Parliament.

Police personnel have been deployed in the area to ensure law and order is maintained and coronavirus protocols are followed during the protest.

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