Members of BKU (Ekta-Sidhupur) during Bharat Bandh protest against farm Bills in Bathinda on Friday


DW BUREAU / Chandigarh Farmers in Punjab and Haryana on Friday took to the streets in protest against the contentious farm Bills passed by Parliament recently. In Punjab, where the "bandh" was near total, the "rail roko" agitation was extended by three days till September 29. Earlier, a farmers' body had announced to block trains from September 24 to 26. Shops, commercial establishments, vegetables and grains markets remained shut at almost all places with farmers' bodies describing it as an "unprecedented" support for their cause. Meanwhile, compared to Punjab, a mixed response was witnessed to the "Bharat bandh" call in Haryana. The "Punjab bandh" call got support from government employees' unions, singers, commission agents, labourers, religious organisations and social activists. Agitating farmers blocked roads, including national highways, to press the Centre for the withdrawal of the legislations, which are yet to get the assent of the President. Road blockades caused hardships to commuters in both states. Krantikari Kisan Union president Darshan Pal said they received an "unprecedented" response from every section of society. "Every section of society supported farmers. Youths came in large numbers to extend their support," said Pal, adding that protests were held at over 150 places across the state. Buses of state-owned Pepsu Road Transport Corporation (PRTC) remained off road in Punjab as 31 farmers' bodies came together for a complete shutdown of the state. Among farmers' unions supporting the 'bandh' were the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, Kirti Kisan Union and factions of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU). Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh expressed hope that the pain of the farmers, who "braved the COVID pandemic and the heat to protest the agriculture Bills", will reach the Centre and it will gracefully back off from "destroying" the farm sector. While the ruling Congress and AAP supported the protest, the Shiromani Akali Dal held a 'chakka jaam' (road blockade) at many places in Punjab. Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal drove a tractor while his wife and former Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal sat beside him in Muktsar district. Sukhbir led a "tractor march" from his residence in Badal village to Lambi where the party had organised a protest against the Bills. Prominent Punjabi singers, including Harbhajan Mann and Ranjit Bawa, took part in a farmers' protest in Nabha. Farmers at several places in the state started gathering on roads to stop the movement of traffic in the morning. A protest was held at Shambhu barrier near Ambala-Rajpura border with protesters including Punjabi artistes. Women protesters under the banner of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee took out a protest march in Amritsar. In Barnala, a tractor was set on fire by protesters against the farm bills. Punjab farmers blocked several roads, including the Sangrur-Patiala, Chandigarh-Bathinda and Ambala-Rajpura-Ludhiana and Moga-Ferozepur roads. Meanwhile in Haryana, commercial establishments and transport were not affected though some grain markets wore a deserted look. Farmers held protests at several places and blocked a few roads, including Karnal-Meerut national highway, disrupting vehicular traffic for some time. They also blocked the Rohtak-Jhajjar and Delhi-Hisar roads. Police personnel in strength were deployed across the state to maintain law and order, said officials. The protesters expressed apprehension that the Centre's farm reforms would pave a way for dismantling of the minimum support price system and they will be at the "mercy" of big corporates. The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill were passed by Parliament recently. In neighbouring Haryana, farmers blocked the Karnal-Meerut, Rohtak-Jhajjar and Delhi-Hisar and other roads. Apart from Noida and Ghaziabad which border New Delhi, there were scattered farmer protests in western Uttar Pradesh and in districts like Deoria, Kushinagar and Maharajganj districts. The Samajwadi Party said its workers held protests in all UP districts, submitting memorandums addressed to the Governor to the district magistrates. (editor@dailyworld.in)




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